Thursday, June 28, 2012

'Magnificat' stories

Mama Mary. That is how she is fondly called by many Filipinos who have a special devotion to her. Frankly, I don’t know how the name came about or who started it. I did not hear anyone calling her Mama Mary 25 years ago. She was called The Blessed Virgin, The Blessed Mother (with or without “The”), Mother Mary, Our Lady and Santa Maria with their equivalents in Filipino languages and dialects, Birhen Maria among them.

As it is used now, the Mama in Mama Mary would translate as Inay or Nanay (Mother), which is more intimate than the titular and honorific Ina (ng Awa, or Mother of Mercy, for example). Ah, but the Bicolanos would protest because Ina, as they refer to the Virgin of Peñafrancia, is not merely a title but a claim, a declaration that she is their mother.

I spent some quiet time figuring out the semantic loads of the maternal titles used to describe Mary. I then sort of realized that Mama Mary is a Filipino coinage. Or is it? Anthropologists, sociologists and even the language police might know the answer.

Now most Filipino Christian Catholics (sorry, I’m not comfortable with the word “Roman” before “Catholic”) call her Mama Mary in whatever language or dialect they are speaking. They can’t sound more intimate than that. The convict in prison, the penitent, the supplicant, the prostitute, the sinner, the saintly, doting mothers, macho fathers, irrepressible sons and daughters—you hear them whisper, cry out or affectionately utter the name Mama Mary. How personal, like the way the neighborhood tambay (bum) would say “bahala na si Lordin referring to the compassionate God next door. So, si Lord at si Mama Mary. How Pinoy.
If I am waxing Marian it is because the book “Magnificat: Mama Mary’s Pilgrim Sites” (167 pages, published by Anvil) will be launched on Saturday, June 30, 3 p.m., at Powerbooks in Greenbelt 4, Makati. The book (price: P295) contains 24 essays by devotees on their experiences in Marian pilgrim sites in the Philippines (eight in this book) and in other countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, India, Mexico, Poland, Potugal, Spain, Turkey and the United States). Also included are short write-ups on other international Marian pilgrim sites. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle gave the book an imprimatur.

The book editor, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, collected the stories. Brainard is a writer and editor (19 books and counting) known in both Philippine and Fil-Am communities.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Woman theologian stands up to Vatican

A lively exchange of comments online ensued among readers after last week’s column, “Face-off between women religious and Vatican.” The column was about the Vatican patriarchy, particularly the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, accusing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States of “corporate dissent” and pursuing “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” Other “damning” accusations were promoting “a distorted ecclessiological vision, and (having) scant regard for the role of the Magisterium as the guarantor of the authentic interpretation of the Church’s Faith.”

I purposely did not comment much and left the readers to form their own opinions.

Call it ESP but after writing that column and just before clicking “Send,” I received an e-mail from a respected Filipino woman Catholic theologian—Harvard-trained, if I may add—who shared with me stuff on a related issue. I know Sr. Amelia Vasquez, RSCJ well not only as an intellectual but also as a woman steeped in prayer. She has been involved in spiritual formation for years.

Attached to her e-mail were news reports on the Vatican’s denunciation of the book “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics” by moral theologian Sr. Margaret Farley of the Sisters of Mercy and the support she received from the Catholic Theological Society of America.

Sister Amelia also added a note to say that she had invited Farley to speak in several Filipino theological and spiritual formation institutions where she had taught some years ago. “Margaret Farley is a friend… she is a most respected and admired theologian, religious woman, spiritual companion—top caliber in every way. She initiated a big project in Africa to mobilize and educate the nuns to work in a pro-active way in the AIDS crisis. The Vatican keepers of the gate have inferior knowledge of the whole living tradition compared to her! And she lives it totally!”

Farley was instrumental in the founding of the All-Africa Conference: Sister to Sister (AACSS). The project “offers a process to empower African women to more effectively address HIV and AIDS issues and to bring new information and hope to every village and hut in the sub-Sahara.” Check out the website (http://allafrica-sistertosister.org) and be inspired.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

FAce-off between women religious and Vatican

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Clash of the titans. Crackdown. Chastisement. War on nuns. It’s been called all sorts of names. But what is it, really? The answer depends on which side of the debate (or the divide) you support.

The tension between the Vatican and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the United States has generated all kinds of reactions. Among the protagonists’ supporters and observers, a duel has ensued in social media networks.

As if the Vatileaks of secret documents and the resulting scandal were not enough, now this. At the heart of the debate is the Vatican’s April report on the LCWR that has been described as “damning.” News stories said the Vatican report had accused the LCWR of “corporate dissent” from the Church’s teachings against homosexuality and claimed it was pursuing “radical feminist themes.” The nuns vehemently denied the harsh accusations.

The report said the LCWR has shown “a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration which leads, in turn, to loss of a ‘constant and lively sense of the Church’ among some religious.”

The nuns were said to have been stunned and stung when accused of promoting “feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” and being “silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.”

Other accusations: promoting “a distorted ecclesiological vision, and [having] scant regard for the role of the Magisterium as the guarantor of the authentic interpretation of the Church’s Faith.” The LCWR had been under Vatican “assessment” for three years.

The Magisterium refers to the church leadership (the Pope and bishops), which is the official teaching authority of the Catholic Church. Ecclesiological has to do with the church’s nature and functions.

According to its website, the LCWR is the association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. It has more than 1,500 members who represent more than 80 percent of the 57,000 women religious in America. Founded in 1956, the LCWR assists its members to collaboratively carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today’s world.

The LCWR’s Philippine counterpart is the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (one for women and one for men), which had its share of Vatican sanctions during the martial law years. I don’t have the time now to dig up the documents on how AMRSP heads Sr. Christine Tan, RGS, and Fr. Benigno Mayo, SJ, were separately summoned to Rome for a chastisement (by a Cardinal Tabera, if I am not mistaken) during the last years of Pope Paul VI’s papacy. They and their ranks were deemed too involved in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. But that is another story.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Romancing the land

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) is unfinished business.

Two years ago, in June 2009, the Senate passed the bill extending for another five years the CARP or the government’s land acquisition and distribution program. The budget was P147 billion.

The cry of the farmers and other CARP advocates at that time was Carper. The last two letters stood for “extension with reforms.” It’s been three years since the extension, and two years since President Aquino became President. The 5-year extension will run out in two years.

The CARP farmer-beneficiaries are marching again, from different parts of the country to Metro Manila, then on to Malacañang this weekend, coinciding with the CARP’s 24th anniversary. Time to again take stock of the land that its tillers and rightful owners hunger for. Land is, indeed, a hunger.

The land will feed us, we always say. It is our mother. It will suckle and nourish us. It will give us strength and vigor. Generations who will inherit the earth will look upon it and embrace it with gratitude.

At a time when millions around the world, Filipinos among them, are without jobs because of economic crises, when industries are closing down, streamlining operations and using lean work forces, we think of the land.
But can jobless Filipinos really say, to the land we must go home again? We imagine them beholding the waiting vastness. We imagine the landless poor romancing the land, at last, and turning it productive for their communities and for the rest of us who must eat during hard times and good times.
But how sad that it is those who have the means who acquire farm lands that they can call their own, farms that they could turn into pieces of paradise where they could retire and produce healthy food for themselves, enjoy the pureness of the air, gaze at the trees and feed on the plants that yield flowers and fruits. These newbies love to call themselves farmers, weekend farmers to be precise. And why not? At least they are showing the art of romancing the land. I say this not in a pejorative sense but in appreciation of those who have learned the essence of land and slowly, yes though slowly, internalizing it.

Real, productive farming may be hard work, but it is also poetic, romantic, spiritual. Those who have known only poverty and debt because of so-called bondage to the land cannot say the same. No wonder many would rather go away and be second-class citizens in someone else’s country.

For the landless poor who have tilled the land for generations, the waiting continues. And the strong among them must continue to march in order to possess, at last, what had been decreed to be theirs. Why is it taking so long?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Santa Rosa: From the enchanted kingdom to the enriching past

There is definitely more to Santa Rosa, Laguna than just being the much touted gateway to Calabarzon, that burgeoning industrial zone and magnet for investors that straddles the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon. Younger folk too can find much more to this town than just the giant ferris wheel of the Enchanted Kingdom.

Waiting to be explored is the old historic Santa Rosa that has been preserved through the years. It is guarded and celebrated by Rosenios whose lives have been touched by history and in whose veins run the blood of the freedom fighters of yesteryears. This once bucolic town in Laguna, now a chartered city (since 2004), is the place of their affections.

To experience and see Santa Rosa through their eyes one has to go past giant shopping malls and the gleaming techno-hubs that now occupy what might have been rice fields just a decade ago. One must look beyond new residential enclaves with storybook houses in ice cream colors, and take the old, narrow roads leading to the old market place, so to speak.

Built in 1877 and declared a historical marker in 2005, Cuartel de Santo Domingo could easily be a history buff’s delight. A written account in “Tristes Recuerdos” describes the Spanish-era adobe structure as an advance post of the Guardia Civiles meant to deter brigands from Cavite from entering Laguna, particularly the Dominican haciendas in Santa Rosa and Biñan. But it served other purposes, among them being a source of the Spanish offensive against Filipino forces under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.
Notes Nonia D. Tiongco, a Santa Rosa City historian and resident: “This mute sentinel challenges us to peer into the past, (for it) to be appreciated in the present and safeguarded as a legacy for all time. Cuartel de Santo Domingo evokes a quiet strength and historicity yet to be fully told, the steadfastness of whoever held the ground there.”
It does not take long for one to find the ruins and the “mute sentinels.” Have interest, will discover. Soon one walks on ancient ground littered with history and partakes of tales of battles, family secrets and even romance in the time of revolution. Then there are the turn-of-the century homes with scrumptious art noveau interiors, rare artifacts and photographs of scenes past.