Thursday, April 30, 2015

Are We All Judases?


 We know scant little about Judas and his life, apart from his ultimate treacherous act of betraying Jesus Christ for some silver.

But we do know enough from biblical sources to flesh out a picture of him that will have enough data to show us what kind of person he was.

It might surprise us to learn, since it would appear that depicting him is much like looking at the mirror image of ourselves.

Among the Twelve, he probably was a cut above.  He was not just an ordinary Galilean, he was from Judea and stood most probably above all of them in worldly experience and wit.   And for this, it may be the reason he was given grave responsibilities, like caring for the common purse, which to poor and lowly people counted much for their continued existence.

And everybody else must have thought highly of him.  After all when Christ declared that one of them would betray Him, not one of them offered any suggestion or clue.  Therefore, nobody even guessed that it was Judas.  As a matter of fact, when they learned it was him they were all struck with amazement.

So who was this man?

Scattered references about him can be gathered to learn more about him.

We learn that as an apostle he took on this life with eagerness and zeal.  He followed Christ everywhere and had said enthusiastically that nothing could separate them.  And he must have avowed faith and loyalty to Him in every occasion that presented him with the opportunity.

So what went wrong?

He was disappointed for He was “only Jesus”.  And even more disappointed that the kingdom he preached and promised was “not of this world”.  And even more so, because the kingdom was promised to those who were “poor in spirit”.

We may not be easily aware of it, but aren’t we all like that?  Not necessarily disappointed but blindly pursuing a kingdom that is of this world (temporal pursuits and pleasures) and tightly clinging to material things that invest our spirit with so much baggage.

Consider the plans we make and the associations with other people we join with and treasure, even those that partake of quasi-religious bent.  We are quite devoted to gathering ourselves together to declare our being Christian and Christ-like in focus.  But what have we truly done with regard to our dispossessed neighbors and even with our own personal lives?

On material possessions, a good number of us have barely enough to cling to  the kind of living we have been used to and could bear, but just as numerous are those of us who find our financial situations more than sufficient to pursue the kind of hedonistic living that society does not necessarily frown upon. 

So all of us go about our merry unequal ways the worse for wear from scarcity, or not really feeling surfeit for having pursued so much pleasurable temporal delights.

But “being poor in spirit” does not necessarily refer to the scarcity or abundance of material possessions.  It is more the spiritual nonchalance of one under both conditions so that the dearth or plenitude does not in any way detract from the destined purpose of man’s existence, the pursuit of Christ’s Kingdom.

No, not the temporal one but the one that comes after.





Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Shining a light on Christian-Muslim Relationships in Cagayan de Oro

Graphics taken from this link:


Before anything, let me state that for me and the people I grew up with, the word, Moro or Moros, as used in our dialect, is indeed a name loosely ascribed to the Maranaos who reside in the Lanao provinces which abut our own province of Misamis Oriental, and as previously stated, since they were the most likely Muslims we had early contacts with. 

 But in a strict sense, many of my generation do have a deeper connotation of the pejorative, Moros, which judgment was derived largely from its usage in our island’s history.  As that of stubborn, bellicose and recalcitrant “bandits” who wrought mayhem and havoc in the southern parts of the island and also in the Lanao provinces.  And from whose numbers we got rudely introduced to the dreaded “juramentado” killings. And who also entertained no peaceable desires to integrate or be part of our communities. For my generation, the name Hadji Kamblon easily comes to mind because of his well-reported misdeeds when we were growing up.

By the way, the term Islam was largely unknown or unmentioned during our milieu, and credit this to our Catholic upbringing which demanded strict exclusivity derived from its claim as the only rightful religion, which then even discouraged fraternizing with any members of the Protestant sects.  But we did use the terms, Moro and Muslim (though usually spelled as Moslem) to refer to persons of that particular ethnic group. Thus, their religion was a non-issue in the many perceived differences we thought we had with them.

Thus while the experiences of other locals have partaken of a different color, in our own circle of relatives and acquaintances, we do not believe that we sheltered any anti-Moro bias toward them as an ethnic group.  Though we may have nurtured very strong and unequivocal negative feelings about particular Maranao personalities.

We definitely are able to provide anecdotal evidence to buttress this.

To the present day, any resident or even non-resident of the island who can trace his/her lineage to the Neri genealogy at the drop of a hint, will proudly declare to one and all that he/she is descended from the stock of Sampurna one of the royal families of the Maranao people.  Though the veracity of this claim may still be hazy or unresolved based on historical evidence, or in a worst case scenario, the basis of this claim may be woven largely with the stuff of legends, Neri descendants, even those too far removed from their Neri roots, continue to blindly adhere to this.  This touted legacy is valued largely for the renowned bravery and fearlessness of the Muslim heart and soul.  

It will indeed look at odds for the Neri descendants, which to this day represent a large swath of the population in the island of Mindanao, to house very negative attitudes toward this Muslim tribe while at the same time hitching their genealogy and fealty to this stock.  Unless, we can admit that they do have pride for this ethnic group, however romanticized it may have become.

As a kid of the 50’s it was not unusual to get visits from our supposedly-related Muslims from the Lanao provinces, dressed in their tribal garb.  My father being a lawyer, the visits were mostly for legal advice or to engage his services regarding certain cases.  I distinctly recall accompanying my father on his jeep as he drove to Dansalan City to represent certain Muslims in a case.  I carried and took care of his portfolio case, filed with his notes and other documents.

In the early 60’s, an elder brother, newly hired as a salesman of San Miguel Corporation, covered the Lanao areas, including Marawi City.  And it was then considered nothing out of the ordinary for Christians to be in such a position.

Then as late as the early 70’s, working for a bank in Cagayan, I and our manager drove to Iligan and to Marawi to conduct an economic survey of the two places for possible branch sites.  Again, we went around by ourselves, freely and unhampered by any untoward incident.

These and more clearly indicate that though during those times inter-migration was not that rampant, there was co-existence, however delicate or even uneasy it may have appeared.  And now we have within our midst large numbers of Muslims from other tribes originating from as far away as Zamboanga, Cotabato, Davao, and Sulu.

So is there anti-Moro bias in the city, enough to be labeled as common and pervasive?

In my opinion, the “squeaky wheel that gets oiled” issue in our comparative relationships with these ethnic groups continues as before to be the undesirable things reported segments within these groups perpetrate,  not only within our communities but including in theirs.  Such disdainful acts as the at times senseless terroristic bombings, the often indiscriminate gruesome killings, widespread use and ownership of deadly weapons, corruption in government positions occupied, the widespread sale and purchase of contrabands, and yes, even undesirable behavior in social settings.

For the last item mentioned, how many of us have Muslim neighbors close enough to be considered part of our extended circle of friends or families?  Or have neighbors that one can openly and unabashedly proclaim how good that has been?  For me personally, I cannot point to any one family, though tried I did to be inclusive in our renting out a few residential spaces we own.  And I cannot point to any of my close circle of friends or relatives who can relate incidents of this nature beyond whispers.

Maybe it is not anti-anything, but more  like keeping a safe distance from possible problems.  Thus our unsaid reservations may not be due to ignorance or misconception, but stemming from an innate desire to live safe and secure which ought to be most crucial to any society.

Lastly, so far it has been about observations and attitudes expressed and espoused from the eyes of the Christian population, and how the group has acted and responded when confronted with these thorny ethnic questions. 

So what about our ethnic brothers, what have they done toward seamless integration with the rest of the population who clearly are the overwhelming majority?  How will they answer the question whether they do or not shelter anti-Christian biases, especially as reflected and taught in their religion?