Thursday, July 31, 2014

The tripping point

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

Salivating with delight, their eyes moistening and pupils constricting/dilating, detractors of President Aquino and his administration who have been wishing to see him fail since Day One are now seizing the moment to make good their ultimate yearning. They are calling for his ouster, impeachment, resignation—whatever form it will take—so that they can put in place their own agenda and have the last laugh.

I am not talking here of those who air constructive criticism and even utter dismay over commissions and omissions that have delayed or derailed expected services from the government. There will always be hits and misses and the government needs to be criticized for its misses especially when it concerns the teeming poor, they who are being constantly used and abused and have rightfully become a demanding lot. But the former kind—the salivating, heckling kind—simply want to see the President fall flat on his face.
The motivations are varied: They want to promote their own agenda or ideology, get even (for having been exposed, deposed or left behind), or just sow chaos so that this country would be back in square one. Nothing, but nothing, is good enough for them, and the sooner this country is thrown into disarray the better.  
The President’s State of the Nation Address last July 28 became a “point in time” (pardon the cliché so often used by politicians) for his ill-wishers to rally their forces and create a tipping point, if not a “tripping” point. Now is the witching hour, that moment between day and night when rapacious creatures roam the land and their powers are said to be at the most destructive.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

'Raining humans'

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

If I may borrow a line from a song and turn it around, rainy days do not always get me down. But these past days and weeks of July have been particularly trying on the nerves, what with a bombed commercial aircraft raining humans and debris from the Ukrainian sky and onto fields of sunflowers and roofs of homes; what with bombs raining on Palestinian children who cower in fear in makeshift shelters because of hateful adults on both sides of the conflict.

Hereabouts, we have verbal missiles of the political kind crisscrossing our narrowing horizon and, just recently, two typhoons crossing the Philippine area of responsibility. (We’ve gotten used to saying “PAR” now and we know what it means, thanks to the weather warning experts. But we don’t get warned about the fallout from other national disturbances.)

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that got shot down last week while it was cruising 33,000 feet above a Ukrainian disputed territory (being defended by Ukrainian troops from Russian-backed and -armed Ukrainian separatists) was among the latest big casualty of war between people of the same homeland but with an external power being part of the mess. International TV news channels have been airing leaders of nations’ belligerent and damning words and showing the accused parties’ cold and intransigent stance. All these and more while the families of victims from many countries were left to themselves for many days with no idea about where to find answers and how to recover their loved ones’ remains.

The Ukraine-Russia border area where MH17’s wreckage lay was a no-man’s-land for some time, except for the rebels who reportedly carted off their finds, the plane’s two black boxes among them. (The black boxes were turned over to airline officials two days ago.)
Many are in finger-pointing and “finger-printing” mode, with the Russian-backed separatists of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” becoming the prime suspect for blowing MH17 out of the sky. The bomb, some experts say, was Russian-made, but Ukraine might also possess such a weapon. No side has yet confessed to releasing the missile that killed 298 persons on board MH17.  
International media are now on the scene and we get to see faces and hear voices of ordinary people on the ground, they on whose village MH17 and its passengers fell. One of the interesting things I read was about the residents of the Ukrainian hamlet who experienced the “raining humans.” News Corp Australian came out with the story “MH17: Inside Ukraine’s ‘village of the dead’ and the tragic tale of body number 26.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Revisiting GK's Enchanted Farm

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

If you’re tired of the endless political bickering, mudslinging and other destructive maneuvers that aim to set back this country many years or stop its growth dead in the tracks, take a day off and spend time at the Gawad Kalinga (GK) Enchanted Farm in Barangay Encanto in Angat, Bulacan.
I did two weekends ago.

I had been there in 2011 and wrote a feature on it for the Sunday Inquirer Magazine, so I had an idea of what to expect. But this time, I was dumbfounded by what I saw and experienced. The farm has indeed metamorphosed into something even more beautiful and impressive. I am not talking here only about the structures and the scenic lay of the land but also of the human component—expertise, dedication, creativity and passion—that continues to develop and transform the place. The farm—the land, the community—just keeps evolving. As one of our guides said, you just have to keep coming back.

GK founder and driving force Antonio Meloto (Tito Tony or Tatay to countless GK volunteers and farm workers) was not there on my second visit as he was on a speaking tour abroad. But it was just as well, because one could see that the farm continues to take on a life of its own in the hands of the dedicated young people who are working it.

The Enchanted Farm is GK’s platform to raise social entrepreneurs, help local farmers and create wealth in the countryside. A nongovernment organization that pioneered in fast-tracking massive housing projects for the poor, GK believes that providing homes is merely a beginning on the road out of poverty and that the country’s wealth of resources can be harnessed so that every Filipino may live a life of dignity.  

Set on 14 hectares (maybe bigger now) of verdant, undulating terrain, the farm is a home, village and “university” rolled into one, where people’s dreams and ideas are tested, nurtured and turned into reality. It is rapidly transforming the Angat landscape by being a sustainable community and a place of learning, creating and, most of all, sharing. It is exactly what its more daunting name—Center for Social Innovation or CSI—connotes, a place for daring and creativity. Living the CSI way is for the big of heart, not the faint-hearted.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

'The grace to weep. to be ashamed'

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

Pope Francis stirred our hearts once again when he addressed victims of sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy. His words could very well be for many other clerical transgressions that diminish human beings.

His opening lines conveyed pure pain: “The scene where Peter sees Jesus emerge after a terrible interrogation… Peter whose eyes meet the gaze of Jesus and weeps… This scene comes to my mind as I look at you, and think of so many men and women, boys and girls. I feel the gaze of Jesus and I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons.”

The biblical scene that Pope Francis used to depict betrayal and shame I now juxtapose with a recent shameful incident involving a priest in Cebu who publicly humiliated a 17-year-old single mother who was having her baby baptized. In front of a small crowd he shamed her by saying that the baby was a product of sin and that, though innocent, the baby will bear the result of the parents’ sinful act, and so on and so forth. The other disgusting things he uttered I don’t want to repeat here. Spoken in Cebuano (which I understand), the shaming was so shocking I wished I were there to defend the teenager.

While the priest was trashing the young mother, everyone in the baptismal party remained calm and humble. To describe the priest as bastos is to make an understatement. If I were to defend the teenager I would not do what the priest did; I would not shame him publicly right there and then though the temptation would be hard to resist. I would go after him when the baptismal rites were over and tell him off gently while his gaze met mine.

My mouthful: “But didn’t Jesus forgive the woman caught in adultery? Didn’t he challenge her stoners? Why would you humiliate a young mother, not out of her teens, in front of people during a sacramental rite? What do you know about the circumstances of her pregnancy? She’s young, she made a mistake. Didn’t Pope Francis show compassion when he baptized the baby of an unwed couple?”

I will hold my tongue and not tell him off that there are priests who fornicate.

Well, the teenager’s family knew the perfect way of getting even, if not seeking grievance. That very night last Sunday, the grandmother, Jievelyn Gonzales, 37, uploaded the baptismal video on Facebook. It went viral, with more than 30,000 shares as of two days ago. Netizens were enraged.

Follow-up reports revealed that the young mother had wanted to end her life at some point. She was depressed and distraught when she realized that she was pregnant. Despite the emotional state she was in, she decided to keep her baby. The teenager said she wished the priest had talked to her privately instead of publicly berating her. Forgiveness was a difficult thing to do, she said.

The offending priest is Fr. Romeo Obach, CSsR (Congregation of the Holy Redeemer founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori in 1732). The Redemptorist Fathers run Baclaran Church, to where countless Filipinos flock to seek the intercession of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

A footnote: The late good Fr. Louie Hechanova was a Redemptorist who held a high position in the congregation. He wrote a book on the historical, cultural and spiritual significance of the Baclaran Marian devotion. (I wrote a review of it.) Fr. Rudy Romano, who was abducted by Marcos elements and who remains missing to this day, was a Redemptorist. Brother Karl Gaspar, a theologian and former political detainee, is a Redemptorist. I know the contemplative Redemptoristine nuns. A friend of mine who was once a political detainee, and who spent decades in development work among the poor, became a Redemptoristine.

Priests make mistakes and they, too, get to taste humiliation. Getting bashed on the Internet by tens of thousands of netizens is no joke. But we do not know where he was coming from, what personal issues he was grappling with at that time, whether he had a hidden antipathy for pregnant women, etc. Clearly, the priest needs healing himself.

Here is Father Obach’s apology: “I am now making a public heartfelt apology to the mother of the child and her immediate family. The words I said and the rude attitude that I showed before I performed the rite of baptism last Sunday at the Sacred Heart Chapel was indeed unbecoming.

“I deeply regret that I have done this. I only later realized how cruel my ways to educate and impart lessons for the said event. I am deeply sorry to the mother of the child, her relatives, the sponsors and witnesses of the incident. I am sorry to the Internet viewers, to media listeners and viewers for the mistake I personally admit. I am deeply sorry and I humbly ask your forgiveness.”

Obach’s superiors have temporarily barred him from publicly performing his priestly duties and are trying to make it up to the offended family. Yes, there’s more to be done by members of the clergy and the religious. Right now, the Association of Major Religious Superiors of Men in the Philippines is holding its regular conference in Bohol.

I have asked the Office of Women and Gender Concerns (I am in the board) of the Association of Major Religious Superiors (of Women and Men) in the Philippines if we can take up this issue. There is so much that we Christians—of the Catholic kind, especially—can learn from this incident of cruelty.

Like Pope Francis, we pray for “the grace to be ashamed” and “that the remnants of the darkness which touched you may be healed by the embrace of the Child Jesus, and that the harm which was done to you will give way to renewed faith and joy.”#

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Frat torturers and their victims are weaklings

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

Servando being dragged by his frat brods-to-be. Courtesy of ABS-CBN
I’ve said it before, I say it again now. It is stupid, katangahan and kabobohan to allow your body to be beaten to a pulp by so-called brothers who had you convinced they will care for you the rest of your life.

Another life, a young and willing victim, has been snuffed out because of fraternity hazing. Guillo Cesar Servando of De La Salle-College of St. Benilde succumbed to body trauma caused by severe beating inflicted by Tau Gamma Phi fratmen in whose exclusive brotherhood he had hoped to belong. Fraternities are banned in the school.

Thanks to a building’s CCTV footage, we got to see the hazing victims staggering in a corridor and dragging on the floor and out of a condo unit their fellow neophyte who was in the throes of death. It was heartbreaking to behold, especially for the families of the tortured, and most especially for the family of Servando who was down on the floor and breathing his last.

I hate to say this to the families who are in shock, but this is how your loved ones who chose disobedience look like. They and their torturers were weaklings pretending to be strong and pretending they didn’t know it. Who taught them that brotherhood is proven by inflicting and receiving cruelty? I am being hurtful and tactless.

Servando could have been saved had his brods brought him straight to the hospital instead of someone’s condo unit where he died. Too late was the call made to Rescue 117 and, as the recording revealed, the caller was far from truthful. They had a drunken spree, he lied.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

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