Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Gaping Disconnect I See

                                                                 Trump Papal Visit 
Each morning I ease myself in front of my little computer desk, reflexively picking out 2 of 3 small books on the attached little shelf, to be read as the central core of my daily devotional rote.  The dog-eared Imitation Christ by T. a’ Kempis and Jesus Christ Son of God by Fr. A. Goodier, SJ, both holdovers from my ancient days in high school, surviving all these years in spite of daily use. Two aged books which unrelentingly and without tamed excuses depict the extreme vicissitudes and the coarse simplicities, which characterized the entire life of Christ, and His equally difficult admonitions and demands for those who dare to follow him.  I tell you reading and perpetually re-reading  these on a daily basis has brought me deeply-furrowed wrinkles and troubled soul way beyond anything that could be considered normal, albeit that I now have already advanced terribly in years.

On the other hand, the linked article and a covey of similar stories, which pseudo-politely tries to explain why the Trump ladies are dressed in black in a visit to the Pope, who we Catholics reverently declare as the Vicar of our Jesus Christ, Son of God.  And by the way, they detail further that there are certain ladies from European royalty who are allowed to wear white.  Blest with special privileges for being devoted followers of Christ. Bless their benign souls, birthright has its privileges.  And another item thinly disguised as impartial takes a snipe sidewise at the somber look that the Pope had during the pictorial commemorating the Trump visit.  Implying a look of sadness and displeasure, having to deal with a head of state with coarse manners and one who made bad martial decisions, and of course, a current wife who had such a less than stellar prior life  as scantily-clad model.

Given the labored respectful tone that several articles postured in narrating this particular visit and the details provided, one, or maybe just me, may be disposed to think that the Pope may have been “enslaved” by archaic  pomp and heraldry.  Chokingly bound not just with cumbersome niceties, but with a whole host of nuanced protocols he has to religiously follow as Vicar of Christ.  Indeed, the papal office especially for this kind of visitors must weigh heavy on him.  And what about all those pompous ceremonies he has to observe with other important heads of state and global dignitaries, etc.?

Observe the disconnect?

Jesus Christ, the overarching potentate, albeit mystical, in the midst of all this, could not have been more diametrically different, and a way out of place stranger in all these circumstances and retelling.  One could not find anyone more unconcerned and uncaring about such silly protocols and such petty or maybe hypocritical observances.

His lifelong association was with the poor, the sinners, the disenfranchised, the simple and the pure of heart. He sincerely and truly felt more at home and at ease with them, rather than with those who presumably hold temporal powers and influence in the world. Shying away from the more cultured and supposedly refined and sensitized ones. He avoided like the plague practices and beliefs steeped in petty ceremonies.  Stayed away from those who represented temporal power and wealth and instead proudly walked with the simple and fish-smelly folks.

Thus, some are wont say that if Christ were to come back and relive his mission, he would not recognize those who carry and supposedly honor his name and represent his kingdom.

And neither would they also recognize him, much less accept him.  A stranger in his very own country.

Ironic shades of his original visit?  A gentle leader despised and finally butchered and sacrificed in the altar of misplaced correctness, and dogma.

 So be it.




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Down Memory Hole: Spending 3 Years in Old Manila


The 60’s ushered in a number of propitious events that electrified the world’s collective attention.  But for a wide-eyed probinsiano like me, the ensuing decade marked only unwanted changes that on the surface would be quite alien to the idyllic existence lived in a sleepy town.

I was abruptly moved to Manila from Cagayan de Oro to live with my father’s family on the latter months of 1959.  Just out of high school and having earned a year of college, I was set to continue my interrupted studies in fabled Manila.

For the trip, I was tasked not only to take care of myself but also of a younger sister who needed medical attention in Manila.

Since it was my first trip to Manila, there was obvious unease and discomfiture during the trip.  The 3-day boat trip did provide sufficient idle time to mull over the coming new existence.  On arrival, only a few moments of apprehension were expended since my older brother did arrive on time to fetch us.  After a  confusing jeepney drive through unfamiliar streets, I found myself at my father’s rented flat nestled in old Malate, a quiet bedroom-community, which formed part of old Manila.

That would be home for me for the next 3 years in which time I would earn my first bachelor’s degree.  This labored recollection then is about this inauspicious place of existence which grudgingly does have lasting impressions on me, not so much for its grandiosity and grand experiences, but as testament to how humanity can live, or survive, which is the more apt term, with so little of the usual amenities many families take for granted.

For a start, here are three coarse sketches to enable one to zero in on where exactly is this place.  Looking at any map of old Manila, one easily finds the district of Malate, being only several kilometers from downtown Manila going south.  Its street names were mostly those of US states, and this we learned that that was because during the American occupation, mercenary troops from different states encamped in the same areas.  Many of the street names have been changed in the interim.

My father’s rented flat was inside a fenced compound, which was bounded on two sides by two streets.  One side faced or opened into noted Remedios St. which to this day I hear continues to be a popular avenue to visit. Based on today’s standards, its rows of about ten two-storey timber houses would be considered as decrepit and low class.  Aged in looks and short on maintenance.

Our flat was on the ground floor of the elevated building, which stood on exposed timber posts atop concrete piers.

It was partitioned in a typical fashion, 3 bedrooms with one closet that could double up as ironing room, or even sleeping room.  And only one toilet and bath and whatever leftover space as living/dining room.

I recall to add needed space, my father had spent a little sum to add an outside open terrace on the side, where chairs could be located.  And we could hang out during warm nights

The entire place as described would be at any given time home to at least 12 people, and at times as many as 18 people.  While the number may surprise people, those who lived on it know exactly how we all fitted in doing everything needed, like a place to sleep, to eat, to converse, to watch tv, and yes, even to attend to bathroom needs including taking a bath or shower.

Whether because there was just too many of us, or maybe because the place was just too old and in neglectful disrepair, we had always experienced clogs in the sole toilet and bath that needed assistance coming from the compound’s office.   No doubt, we had become friends with the people sent to our place, given the number we had had to deal with them.  This prompted one of our intermittent residents to name the flat, the MV Barado.  And we all had a hearty chuckle when we heard this.

The room assigned to us was Room 3, and we were all boys in there.  Two double-decks were flushed to the sides, and a foldable cot would still have enough space in the middle.  For a study desk, another older brother had assembled together parts of an old wooden “baol” nailed to the window jamb.  So a total of 5 occupants to our room, all of us still schooling.  How we managed to study under such trying conditions is still a wonder.  We all did accomplish what we had willed to, that older brother even finishing difficult medical school some time later in the future.

Seven other children called that home, too. And they were all crammed in another room, Room 2, a bit bigger but not much bigger, or big enough. And most if not all of them went to school, too.

Under this mish-mash of conditions, this microscopic place was always a frenzied beehive of activity, noise, and interaction.  Not a moment of serene quiet or inactivity.  Somehow, like a colony of ants, rarely were the incidents of conflicts, crashes, and even incidents of sorrow and/or despair.   We just all dropped our heads, did what was needed to be done, and plodded on to the next day.  Until years had been accumulated and crossed out.

By the way, all this put together and made possible by the financial inputs of one man, my father, who was the only member of the extended household who had a permanent job.  He was an attorney for the biggest government commercial bank in the country.  One attorney in a Legal Department that had a slew of lawyers working there.   Since I had on one occasion peeped at his paycheck, I could testify to the miraculous way that he had been able to keep us all together.  The amount involved even in my youthful estimation barely sufficient to cover rent and food.

After those 3 eventful years, my father decided to uproot lock, stock, and barrel, and move back to Cagayan de Oro.  And this we all did, riding in one slow boat back to the old hometown.

Everything ended, but for the stubborn memories of those trying years eking out an existence in some strange land.  




Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Spending Life Profitably



As many of us are sailing through the twilight of our years, we find ourselves inundated with supposedly sagacious advices on how to spend those waning years.  All of these will usually boil down to one catch-all advice that we should all spend our resources for our own enjoyment, and not to mind the other cares of the world.  And that this helps guarantee a long and happy life.   We earned it and so we deserve to spend it.

And this conclusion is reached as culled from many subjects asked about this issue

Before anything, please give a listen to these venerable quotes:

“Whatsoever I can desire or imagine for my comfort, I look not for in this life, but hereafter.”

“Thou canst not be fully satisfied with any temporal good, because thou wast not created for the enjoyment of such things.”

If these quotes taken from the book, Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a’ Kempis, inform the practice of our faith, specifically with regard to the real and noble meanings of our lives, then we may have issues with some of the advices articulated.

Money and the pleasure it brings definitely are temporal goods, which are only ennobled if viewed and used in rightful ways defined by our faith.  We accept that whatever fleeting pleasures will ensue from their uses will not really translate to real comfort in our lives. But if handled properly and for altruistic purposes these will redound to the lasting benefits of the giver.

Spending money on oneself by and large redounds to the benefit of the user only, and thus being self-centered does not promote grace and charity.  In many instances, such self-serving acts bring instead deleterious consequences.  Indulging in too much rich food because one can afford it is definitely one such example, because it could spell badly for our health.

Money set aside or used to provide better opportunities to the next generations, especially if privation had characterized previous generations, definitely is a more commendable resolve.  Fulfilling the admonition that we should leave this earth in a better place than when we entered it.  Even if only for the next generation that we had helped bring into this world, and thus, over which we have moral responsibility.

With this noteworthy example, it is hoped that that generation will do the same thing, multiplying the available opportunities for upcoming generations to live better and more prosperous lives.  Rather than starting back to square one  minus the  critical resources necessary to lead better lives.

For that definitely is the nobler purpose of life, and the equally praiseworthy end of our use of temporal goods.  Not to satisfy ourselves, but the people who we are responsible for having brought them into this world.

 Will this altruism guarantee to produce the intended results?  Not necessarily.  But we know that a selfless act is done, not because of the intended result but because it is the nobler thing to do.  Additionally, given how much more difficulties families in the world today are going through, these traditional sources of assistance and support will go a long way to a better world.

Again we are reminded by a’ Kempis who postulated metaphorically that when we travel abroad, we return finding ourselves less than the man we were.  To emphasize, that when we occupy ourselves with the world and its allures, we return to our solitude, finding ourselves less the kind of person that we had wanted to be.  The many temptations of the world assailing and getting the better of our resolute promises to become better persons.



Graphic Credit:







Tuesday, October 11, 2016


From the early inky darkness of humanity’s ascent, through its dawning antiquity and now the almost naked clarity of its modern times, there has always been embedded in the deep recesses of his latent longings the gaping need for deliverance.  Essentially, that common thread that ran through the ages has been the strong desire for liberation from the vicissitudes of daily living.  Man since his novice years has never had an easy life, as we are taught in the holy books.  He came into this world with a very flawed nature, not in full grasp and control of the contravening forces that inhabit his daily living; forces that appear to go against his very nature.

In early times, man had always banked on the arrival of somebody or some things that would offer him release from his almost inborn sufferings from the world.  And in those times, he had always hoped that some extraneous forces would suddenly appear in the skies to bring him that release.

The ancient Jews also had identical expectations of Christ.  The promised Messiah that would snatch them away from their temporal miseries and lay them down to the Promised Land.  Unfortunately for them, Christ had a quite different idea.  Instead he had impressed upon them with the way he had lived his earthly life that deliverance would not come from outside of man, His excellence and Godhead notwithstanding.

Instead further he had impressed upon them that their rescue would ensue from the necessary changes to be wrought in their own lives.  The radical change being that they all should follow the life of Christ since only that imitation would ensure deliverance for them.  He had said, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.

Fast forward to the current times.  Our time.  And we are still looking for our deliverer, and still from one of flesh and blood.  In the person of our leader, Dear President.  We vociferously shout to him to deliver us from our vicissitudes.  And he appears to be inattentive, and to his detractors, clueless, about how to bring about that discharge.

His mumbled or jumbled utterances appear to come from nowhere – from nowhere that would give us understanding and wisdom.  Words and ideas seemingly articulated with a careless smirk, a mocking sneer, and even willful disregard and nonchalance for his constituents

 Have we lost our bearings, or were we ever privy to the truth of what Christ had left us as legacy and gift? That our deliverance ought to emanate from us, and not from any forces without, especially those man-made or man himself?

Thus, the US and its boundless benevolence cannot save us, not the EU, Japan and whatever hosts of altruistic countries or organizations people can litanize.  Neither can our deliverance come from those that could provide us with most effective and lethal armaments man or country could devise.

Listen then to the hazy rhetoric of Duterte and in our hearts of hearts try to unravel if we can find parallels and connections with how our deliverance may be wrought for us.   That the overarching message may be that the Way is to cut umbilical ties with all the extraneous forces that we have been attached to all these times, and try working with our own resources and ingenuity to bring about our own progress and development.

Look not from without, but from within.



Thursday, September 15, 2016

Rugby Boys


 Unfortunately, not about football.  Rather about feral boys.

Are there packs of feral humans?  Much like the storied packs of feral cats and dogs, and even those of swine, we dread are roaming in the wild or elsewhere. Or maybe inhabiting in the inner cities of urbanized societies?  Or maybe locally, in the dank labyrinths of informal settlements which are choking the big cities in the Philippines?

We are told orphaned feral cats and dogs though clearly already domesticated for ages revert to their elemental instincts and truly become wild, and thus should be treated as such, with extreme caution and to be avoided if cannot be exterminated.  But what about packs of feral humans?  First, how does a wild human being act and think? Like a fictionalized Tarzan?  Or mythic Romulus and Remus?

History has generous accounts about early man in the persons of the Cro-Magnon and Neanderthals.  Though considered more savage than modern civilized man, we are taught that they did have their own intricate systems, standards, and rules for societal living.  And everyone abided by them, or risked being ostracized

So how is a wild human being to be characterized?  We can assume that he still is in possession of his innate survival instincts, thus the drive for self-preservation and procreation still operative. 

Some years back in the US, a number of social thinkers commented on the aberrant behavior of young black thugs engaging in their “wilding” expeditions. This was exemplified by the case of that hapless lady NY jogger who was gang-raped by a number of young thugs while innocently running within Central Park.  Aside from being a gross incarnation of violence and control, rape is still a biological act of procreation.  So in a sense this was a case of public manifestation of elemental cravings for survival, as in self-preservation and procreation.

One may wonder how this is actualized locally here in our city, a world apart from the mean streets of big urbanized centers in very developed and populous countries like the US and those in Europe.

Growing and interacting amidst our daily living is an incipient  bunch of young children, either orphans or left alone by parents to fend for themselves, trolling our streets and eking out their daily existence  foraging for what they could rummage – either by asking or simply taking.  In that dire existence, poverty and starvation are daily companions.  And these street-smart kids have learned to blunt the pangs of hunger.  Sniffing chemical solvents to dull their senses and to induce some kind of altered state that will provide escape from brutal realities which appear in the form of extreme hunger and other social privations.

In this self-induced stupor, the strictures and demeanor imposed by society slowly recede.  These kids now show very little shame in their behavior.  The sense of morality has been severely blunted.  And the fear of the law and social order simply to be tolerated and skirted when possible.  So they crisscross the streets of the city, living in their own parallel universes with minds so stunted as to be considered feral.

Modern society is confronted with these new challenges in its continued drive to be more civilized.  But this regressive trait is surreptitiously manifesting in its young, those neglected or abandoned and left to its own devices. Here locally they are called rugby boys, and lately because of economics, they have opted with the use of Vulcaseal, a roof sealant, which comes in sachets and is cheaper. Rugby is a brand name for a kind of glue used commonly in business and at home.

How many do they number now? Big enough to arouse public response or indignation?