Wednesday, November 28, 2007

San Martin de Porres

Can I sing you, Brother Martin,
saint whose hands know work, like mine?
Would that we could sit together,
tell our cuentos, sip some wine.

Soon I'll close the church till morning.
Please guide me walking home alone.
Not a safe place for a woman.
Justice this old world postpones.

Speaking to our sweeping rhythms,
let us plot for those in need.
Can't you scare these stubborn faithful,
with your powers intercede?

Bread you gave to those in hunger,
kindness to the child alone,
held the trembling hand that suffered,
kindness from a man disowned.

Is it true when you were sweeping,
cats and dogs would come to chat,
telepathically you'd answer,
query disbelieving rats?

Brother Broom, with just a handshake,
you could cure a soul in pain.
Oh, I wish that you could touch me,
make these old joints fresh again.

Would that you had time to teach me
bilocation, such a trick,
not that I deserve the honor
and pleading seems impolitic.

You liked flying and liked gardens,
so practice aerial delights.
Come see roses, tulips, daisies.
Can't I whet your appetite?

Ay, that I had seen the shining,
from your oratorio,
in your habit, man so prayerful,
that your very self would glow.

How we come, the dark-skinned faithful,
comforted to see you here,
able to confide our sorrows
to a black man's willing ear.

Your corrido I must finish
for priests frown at such casual songs,
frowning is their special talent,
but still, protect them all night long.

Help me listen to my garden,
cease wrinkled judgments based on skin,
our colored sacks like bulbs or seeds
that hold our fragrant selves within.

From the excellent book, 'Aunt Carmen's Book of Practical Saints', by Pat Mora. This was an instant favorite of mine-- get this book as soon as possible! It is well worth the read.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Papal Mass of the Proclamation of the Assumption

I really like this picture. There are certain truths that only images can capture-- words can only do so much, and are limited to the scope of truthfulness they possess. The icon, the image, however, reveals this truth as it has always been. If we want to know what it means to be Catholic, the life of the Church-- Her ceremonies, liturgies, and mystery-- should be our starting point. From Msgr. Pierre Pfister, the French canon at the Lateran Basilica:

"On this morning of the extraordinary All Saints' Day of 1950, it was quite impossible to move in the crowd of more than half a million. The majority chose to watch the rite of the definition of the dogma outside the basilica. Those who filled the interior were able to hear the Pope's voice through loud-speakers, and, in this setting, as thrilling as it was awe-inspiring, they could watch his processional entry and the Mass in which the new text was followed for the first time. It is the supreme moment of the Consecration. All are kneeling, and the Noble and Swiss Guards are giving a military salute."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Come apart into a desert place, and rest a little

Sometimes we can be too restless, even in the practice of religion, that we end up not doing anything at all. We are too busy theologizing, arguing, apologizing, party lining, bitching, whining and even thinking about too much that there can be a real danger of adapting--nay, conforming-- our religious lives to our secular lives. Of course, ultimately, one has only one life to live, and it is understandable when these two spheres occasionally collide with each other.

The problem I see with this is that religion basically becomes a hobby. We argue it, fight for it, debate it, bitch about it, but hardly practice it. I guess, with the arrival of the internet, this tendency has been more especially pronounced than before. Nowadays it is so easy to come across religious polemics, both pro and against it, that I sometimes have to wonder if being religious today is just another fad. We have many Catholics who know the minutiae of papal ceremonial, for example, but can't stand a simple roadside shrine Mass. We have so-called traditionalists who seem to exist for the sole purpose of criticizing everything that the Pope says or does, and we have even worse progressives who think they are the only people in the Church who constitute a valid voice, and who are seemingly more concerned with the cosmetic facets of the Mystical Body (actually, I think both sides are guilty of this) than its preservation.

There is a very real danger here of arrogating the Church-- and ultimate Its Head, Jesus Himself-- exclusively to oneself. Somehow, there seems to be a growing, if cryptic, trend that is slowly equating religiosity with being a busy-body. Nowadays, to be a 'true' Catholic, one must have a certain set of politics and ideal world view, all wrapped up and packaged with a shiny, red bow; or you can just as easily swing to the other side, and claim that being a 'true' Catholic means an almost exclusive devotion to issues of social justice and diversity and acceptance. Both speak of the arrogance of our age; we are all too busy of thinking of ourselves as the evolutionary apex of Catholicism that we too often forgot our own humanity-- and consequently, that we, too, are sinners.

For all it's worth, the picture above is, quite simply, sublime. In prayer, in bended knees and folded hands, the world rests; a fragile world, resting on fragile hands, taking in the whispered breaths and voiceless sighs of equally fragile men and women. Prayer gives peace to the soul. Prayer reveals the sweet face of Christ. If there is anything we need to pay more attention to, it is prayer-- and to learn how to pray, we must first shut up.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cristo Yacente

From the taller of the sculptor Gregorio Fernandez, a fine example of 16th century Spanish Baroque. This image is kept in the church of Santa Maria de la Nueva in Valladolid.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Prayers for My Grandmother

Today, 19th November, marks the third death anniversary of my paternal grandmother (1923-2004). She was a devout Catholic in life, and prayed the holy rosary morning, noon, and night, and read Scripture at every moment she can. In life she was a brilliant teacher, having founded a Catholic school in their neck of the woods, which remains, to this day, a bright light in their area. Your prayers would be especially appreciated-- of the holy souls in purgatory, it is written that they shall plead for us before the Divine Tribunal in the hour of despair. It is a good and wholesome thing to pray for the dead.

Friday, November 16, 2007

On Love and Devotion

European visitors to the Philippines in the twilight of the Spanish colonization often noted the exotic, often 'excessive' devotion of the native people to the saints-- they bowed and knelt before statues, wiping its face, hand, feet, and sides with handkerchiefs in broad, sweeping motions, and often placed wreaths and garlands of flowers upon the saint's image. The devotion to the Santo Entierro-- the dead Christ-- often reached feverish heights in some places, such that pulling the ropes of the image's carriage was often seen as a fountain of innumerable graces. Even today, many processions still retain a certain awe to inspire even the most brazen of non-believers. I've blogged enough about the Black Nazarene, the Lord of Quiapo, whose procession every January 9th attracts, in some cases, up to a million people, rich and poor alike. They go about their panatas solemnly and yet at the same time with a sense of merriment that could only be called medieval.

The educated Spaniards and their mestizo illustrado counterparts called this show of excessive piety 'una devocion horrorosa', decrying the superstitious facade of many of these celebrations. Looking at the image above, the children are grasping the arms and hands of the Lord; some are taking pictures, some are blessing themselves, some are content just to be able to witness the scene. Christianity is a religion, first and foremost, of a Person; a Person can love, can be angry, can be merciful, is. Logically, of course, a Person can be the recipient of love and devotion, because only another Person is able to comprehend and return these things. You can't have a devotion to a Book, however lovely and beautiful it is, because it does not understand things like love, beauty, and truth. At best, they are just repositories of it.

Those people above have had their lives shaped by the face of Christ, that sweet, melancholy face fraught with all the bitterness and hatred of the world, and yet still manages to be a refuge to even the most desperate. They kiss and wipe and touch His cheek every Good Friday and kiss and wipe and touch His cheek as a newborn babe on Christmas day. These are people who grew up with the haunting image of the God-Man's face etched in the deepest recesses of their hearts and guts. As someone wise once said, the Bible is perhaps the most beautiful book in all of creation-- it is God's personal love letter to us-- but remains a letter nevertheless. To love another person necessarily transcends the boundaries of the spoken and the written, its communication distilled to its purest in the silences and sighs that span the space between seconds, and cover the whole of eternity. To love is its own reward, and there could be no more greater one than it.

At the end of the day, whom would you rather trust: the one who knows the love letter by heart, or the one who has actually loved? These are things that we have largely forgotten, and desperately need to remember.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Blast hits Philippine congress, 1 killed.

This occurred roughly five to ten minutes away from where I live. At around 8pm this evening, Manila time, there was a loud, booming sound that jolted me from my dinner. I didn't pay much attention to it. It was only after half an hour that I found out about the terrible news. I drive through this area every day; there is a public school just in front of the House of Congress, which, up until last year, had classes all the way till ten in the evening to accommodate its large number of students. To think what might have happened had the school continued that policy. To think I was planning on going out tonight.

They are reporting that a Muslim congressman is the latest to die in the explosion; the first casualty was a driver for one of the congressmen. Please pray for the souls of the injured and the departed. Please pray that whoever son of a bitch did this will fall.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Towards a Catholic Democracy

For you are all the children of God by faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

-Galatians 3:28

The following post deals with a very messy topic: politics.I am not an expert on political science, but government is a subject that has always intrigued me. It has taken me a lot of days to write this, partly because I am so very busy, and partly because I haven't had the right 'moment' to start it.

Some of my readers may recall a certain post which I blogged way back in December of last year, wherein I expressed my main gripes with democracy. It shouldn't be too hard too find, as it is the only post for that month. Back then, I was still very much a self-confessed 'radical traditionalist'; my concerns were still very much political, and most of the time I wanted to turn this blog into a little corner where all my rants and gripes could be expressed. The only thing that stopped me from doing so was that I didn't really like controversy.

Today, I am a very different person-- I am a lot more sober and realistic in dealing with things, and I am a lot more 'level-headed', compared to my overly-impassioned self eleven months ago (not that this is entirely bad, mind you). Part of this change involves my own political views, which have, interestingly enough, been more 'leftist', in that what some of us might call 'Catholofascism' started to lose its appeal to me. Perhaps it is because I am currently in the university that this has happened; perhaps this change is due to myself alone, the external factors helping only slightly. Needless to say, I have beens saying a lot of things lately which would have made my blood pressure climb through the roof just over a year ago. What a difference a year makes!

To tell the truth, I am still sort of suspicious of democracy, at least the version of it that we are all familiar with. I stand by my earlier convictions that it is a system which can be heavily prone to abuse, from both far-leftists and far-rightists. It is a thing of incredible, indelible irony, indeed, that many governments could justify their totalitarianism under the guise of the people's will; it has been so abused that democracy has practically been stripped of any political significance. Be that as it may, I have begun to rethink my earlier position, namely, that democracy is an inherently flawed, and evil political system.

The seeds of this process began some moons ago, when my parents, out of the blue, began to reminisce on the Martial Law days of the Philippines from the 1970s to the mid-1980s. Adding to the growing bonfire was the spate of high-profile murders of journalists and leftists, which reached a feverish peak in May of this year, when the senatorial elections took place. I guess what really prodded me to be suspicious of far-rightists was the pregnant silence of the Philippine government on the matter of these killings. It was the kind of silence that one would expect from a cabal, or an anti-clerical entity like the Freemasons. I won't go into details here, but I seem to have lost much of my trust in the government.

Romanticism can be a very dangerous thing: what the freedom fighter is to one group could very well be an anarcho-terrorist extraordinaire for another. An excess of the romantic spirit could just as well be dangerous as a deplorable lack of it. It all comes full circle, as the adage goes. That is why legislation can be a very dangerous thing: it reduces problems into a set of propositions, and by the might of a majority, proclaims it as gospel truth. In fact, I think the gravest problem of democracy is its ability to provide too many answers for a single question.

But then again, to say that democracy is in itself an inherently evil thing would be just as wrong as saying that it is God's best gift to mankind after silly string. As is well known to all, democracy comes to us form the Greeks, a term which means 'the rule of the people'. Going back to the Greeks, we have Plato and his student Aristotle, both intellectual titans of the ancient world. Plato, of course, is more idealistic and poetic, while Aristotle's though focuses on the pragmatic and the scientific. To cut a long story short, Aristotle disagreed with his master's positions. Plato mentions in his Politeia that there are roughly three types of government: tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy. Aristotle differs from his master in that he classes these different systems in a somewhat hierarchical manner: first, monarchy, then the aristocracy, and lastly, polity. He cites these three systems for their pragmatism and efficiency.

Given the intelligence of the Greeks, one would expect the kind of liberal socialistic-democracy we have today to be the same rule of law as back then. But, as it turns out, this is not the case. Aristotle still endorsed slavery and reserved education to the ruling class; Plato believed in a totalianarian absolutism, where all power rested in the reigning, 'enlightened' monarch. This democracy, then, is just as elitist as the aristocracy. Mob rule would be a more fitting term.

The arrival of Christianity brought about an unprecedented change in European civilization, a very radical one, indeed. We see how it was necessary for the arrival of the Christian religion to develop democracy as we know it today: without Galatians 3:28, Europe could still very well be composed of barbarians, reavers and slavers. Without that verse, we would not have the concept of human rights, fair trial, dignity, freedom or a transcendent happiness. The concept of a People of God was not yet established; but with its establishment came the sense of entitlement we have today. Thus we can demand our rights to free speech and a fair trial because of the radical notions of Christianity, which liberated entire peoples from slavery to the pagan gods. We can shout for our dignity at the behest of others because Christianity taught that all peoples were equal in the eyes of God: kings and bandits alike were of the same substance, and would one day be subject to the same judgment. But whither each shall go, remains to be seen.

Would we really want to live in a world without free speech or thought? Would we really want to live in a world where a commoner can never question the infallible words of a monarch? Would we really want to worship in a Church where the word of a corrupt bishop are heard as the voice of God? None of us would like to do so. The danger in idealizing monarchy as an infallible ideal is that we run the risk of associating God with a certain politics, effectively confining Him under the limits of a few zip codes. This is in marked contrast to what the Church has always taught about God: that He is everywhere, being confined by neither time nor space. He is not a provincial, back water deity, but the God of the Nations, the Lord of Hosts.

The problem with today's praxis of democracy is the overwhelming lack of responsibility on our part. Consequently, legislation loses all its meaning and morphs into a whimpering paper tiger, which can be freely challenged at anytime. We patent laws and statutes which have no meaning at all other than to serve as witnesses to our own decadence and sin. In due course, we arrive at the democracy envisioned, or at least taught, by Aristotle: a veritable anarchy, where the rule of the mob is law. We thus arrive at the old elitisms and cease to progress.

The danger of assuming that God has certain politics is that we eventually make that god contingent to our own politics; it is a god that ceases to exist outside the confines of Republican or Democratic territory. This god, then, is an elitist god, that hogs all power unto itself. We lose the light, and are slaves to the darkness once more.

"Their gods were sadder than the sea,
Gods of a wandering will,
Who cried for blood like beasts at night
Sadly, from hill to hill."


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

All in the Family

I have the weirdest family on earth.

I just came from a family reunion, the first one we've attended in seven years. I got to meet many interesting people, and even some faces that I've never seen before. Also, several of my cousins who have migrated to other countries in the past came home, making it an even more festive occasion. There was Manual, who used to bully us before-- now a full-fledged queen. There was also Robert, formally the biggest goody two shoes on the planet, who apparently became an anarchist-activist in his eight years in California.

I also learned some things about some family members, some of whom I never even knew I had. I'll list some of these points one by one.

- My father's great, great grandfather was a Spanish friar by the name of Don Severino. Since almost everyone referred to him as 'padre', his last name seemed to have been lost to the ages. Don Severino sired a set of twins, one boy and one girl, who would start our family.

- The boy twin became moderately successful, making a modest fortune in sugar. He would probably be upper middle class by today's standards. Lolo Paco, as everone called him, eventually had ten children, five boys and five girls. Three of the boys would become priests, honoring their grandfather: one became increasingly nationalistic, another went to Rome, the other was supposed to have been a mystic.

- The two other boys went on to become professionals: one, Pico, became a lawyer, but apparently became bankrupt. The other fellow is more interesting: Javier would go on to have ten children of his own, but not before undergoing several 'vocations'.

- Javier tried to enter the seminary, but was too wrapped up in worldly affairs that he soon left. Then, he became a Freemason; he married a local beauty whom he forbade to go to Mass on Sundays. She disobeyed him, however, and would sneak off at the crack of dawn on Sundays with a cut of fishing net for a veil, since her husband was a very sound sleeper.

- Over time, Javier left the Freemasons and became a very devout Catholic. From his eighteen children would arise my grandfather, who shared his father's early liberalisitic ideals. In fact, he himself admitted to an aversion to almost all things Catholic early in life. Then, he met my grandmother. Even up to her death in 2004, she always had a rosary at hand and read fifteen to thirty minutes of Scripture at a time; she was the one who taught my grandfather to pray, and brought him back to the Faith.

I'll post more on this subject soon. Right now though I have to finish an essay for one of my classes, an evil, diabolical, fifty page tome on the virtues of democracy. As you can see, I'm going to need all the prayers I can get for this one, LOL.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The American Dream

The following post has been simmering on my mind for a long time now. I just felt the need to put this down on paper, as it were, and give voice to something which has gripped my attention lately.

Everyone always told me that America was the land of dreams when I was growing up. In America, they said, success was just waiting around the corner; it was seen by many as Paradise on earth, a utopian society where all your wishes come true. I was around four years of age, possibly younger, when I first heard of America; the common folk described it with an almost mythic air, speaking of the 'white man' and his exploits. It is safe to say that I had a very otherworldly conception of Americans, and Caucasians in general.

My parents say that the first time I had been to the United States was when I was a mere two years old; to some extent, I can still recall some vague details, as if veiled by mist, but as to the length of our stay or the details of it, I do not. Apparently there was a very important family gathering, and we just had to attend (this nearly bankrupted us, given our limited resources then). I vaguely recall Aunt Tessie handing me my first dinosaur book, and being enticed by the snow; these, at least, were the clearest memories.

In the Third World, when one says 'Western', the automatic association one has with this term is American. Nothing says Westernization better than Mc Donald's, or Burger King, or The O.C., or pizza; here in the Philippines, where society is very Westernized, speaking with an American accent or having even the slightest strain of Caucasian blood seems to automatically predispose one to greener pastures-- seen by many as a remnant of colonial mentality amongst the peoples of this country. America is not so much just a country, but an almost mythological force of nature.

My first trip to the United States that I recall was in the spring of 2000, when my parents were at the peak of their careers. Of course, spring in the United States is summer here in Manila; and for an even more special treat, dad decided we would stay with our relatives for almost the entirety of our two-and-a-half month long summer vacation. He announced this in January; by March, I was dying to leave the country. For me, this was a chance to put something of a face behind the American phenomenon which had been spoken of so reverently by the people.

I distinctly remember waking up at 2am in the morning of 6 May 2000, and our flight was at 4am; this was before 9/11, so the airport rules were not as strict as they are today. I brought along a bevy of my 'lucky charms': unopened packets of Mc Donald's ketchup, a lithium battery, a novelization of the American Godzilla movie (I lost it in the plane), a notebook, some pens, and even two stuffed animals, just so I can say that my things have left the country. Call it ambitious, even pretentious; I wanted so desperately to bring everything with me and yet feel like I had nothing at all.

That was the longest flight I had taken then-- 16 hours of travel from Tokyo to Newark, and I desperately wanted to eat (I didn't even consider touching the airline 'food') and
do my ablutions'. When we landed, finally, I could barely contain myself: wow! It's a white guy! I want his hair!I want his abs! I want his girlfriend! I want his skin color! Though this was not the first time I had encountered a non-Asian (our old neighborhood had a lovely German family at the end of the street whose child I was acquainted with), it was a different sensation altogether to visit them in their own lands. I distinctively remember thinking to myself: fuck Manila! fuck Quezon city! fuck our house! fuck our lands in the province! This is where I want to live! This is where I want to get rich!

I was naive, of course. From Newark, we took a plane to Orlando, where we were met by my dad's cousin, Tito (uncle) Edward. Now, he had three children, the youngest being Annie, who was about the same age as I was; we immediately got along very well, and I even showed her some tricks for her Pokemon game. Needless to say, we had a grand time: we spent eight days all in all just touring Disney World, two days for each of the parks. After that, we proceeded to New York, where we met with Aunt Grace, my paternal grandfather's sister. Aunt Grace worked as the head nurse of a retirement home, and was loved by all; she was also a very devout Catholic, leading us on an excursion to the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Massachusetts, and even touring us in St. Patrick's Cathedral (if I remember well, this was a few weeks after the death of John Cardinal O'Connor).

In California, I met a whole lot of relatives I had never heard of, let alone seen, before. I was able to meet Tia Corazon, my dad's aunt through marriage, who welcomed us with open arms. She was a feisty character who never ran out of stories; like Aunt Grace, she also worked at a retirement home, both as its accountant and chief nurse. Her husband, my grand uncle Isauro (but everyone called him 'Doc') was a pediatrician. He apparently liked to samba. I was able to visit their beautiful home in Coronado, San Diego; I even met their neighbors. One of them interested me very much, an old veteran who fought in the Philippines during World War II, and was a survivor of the Bataan Death March.

The rest of those almost-three-months lasted very quickly; almost to the end of our vacation, we returned to New York to visit some sights we had not yet been to. I was enthralled when we visited the Museum of Natural History; after years and years of waiting, I was finally staring at real, honest-to-goodness bones of a T. rex. We also spent an entire day, nearly ten hours long, just rummaging through FAO Schwarz and the Toys R'Us rumored to be owned by none other than Imelda Marcos herself. And in a chilling turn of events, we decided to postpone our trip to the World Trade Center; next time, said dad. Little did I know that the next time anyone of us would see the WTC, it would be reduced to a massive pile of smoke and debris.

We were walking along Fifth Avenue when I spotted a homeless woman to one corner, seemingly talking to herself. She was clearly begging for alms, but the people around her--some less than six inches away from her-- acted as if she were a blank wall. The lady started to raise her voice, in the vain hope that someone would listen to her. My sister, then only six years old, walked toward the lady, and handed her a half-eaten cheeseburger. 'God bless you', she said, almost as if she were choking back tears of joy. This was surely a strange sight, I thought; wasn't America the land of dreams? Then why are there still homeless people here? I couldn't let my mind wander off from that train of thought.

Later that evening, in Aunt Grace's home, there was a family reunion of sorts; both Tia Cora and Isauro were there. But this was no ordinary family meeting; else, why was Tia Cora sobbing? The story she told us would remain with me to this day. In the retirement home where she worked, Tia Cora was in charge of taking care of an elderly man named Rudy. Now, Rudy had been suffering from a disease, Alzheimer's if I recall correctly, for the better part of the last few years. He checked himself in only three years prior, and immediately took a liking to Tia Cora. My grand aunt was a patient, jovial woman; she would always remind Rudy to take his medications, as well as tell him stories about the Philippines, her children, and her opinions on politics and religions (Rudy was apparently an atheist who was still open to religion).

Rudy died that day; Tia Cora was on leave when he breathed his last, so she had to read about it via email. As one of the few people Rudy trusted, she had the phone numbers of his closest relatives who should be able to collect his remains in the occasion of his death. One number was for a man named Jack, and it was listed first, so she called that number first. 'Hello?' a somewhat gruff voice answered. Tia Cora introduced herself as Rudy's friend and nurse; the man Jack replied that he was Rudy's son. Seemingly relieved, she told him about his father's death. A brief silence passes, and Jack replies 'So?' in a detached manner. 'Why should I care?' Since he was the closest relation to Rudy, my grand aunt wondered as to what the retirement home should do with the body, or when Jack would like to claim it. His answer shocked us all who listened to the story.

'Do I look like I give a damn? I don't care what you do to him.'

At that point, Tia Cora did not know whether to cry out in rage or sadness. Has it really all come down to this? A man just died whose own son did not even care about hearing, let alone digesting the news. It was like a shower of cold water dousing a beautiful, pristine dream.

At that point it seemed that I, too, had been woken from a delusion to face reality. Would I really be risking it all to live in America-- and become just another commodity as easily disposable as fast food? Would I be willing to trade my life here in Manila, uncomfortable and fraught with woe and endless litanies of other outside factors, for the good life-- but albeit one that is as cheap and substantial as plastic? I am not anti-American-- God knows how much I secretly want to have it all and remain true to myself. But in the end, one has to wonder, if the good life is really worth having at all.

In the United States, I felt like a king, sitting in a Greyhound bus, and an emperor dining on a cheeseburger (which, in all honesty, tasted like onions sauteed in onions) in an Amtrak train. I want to be a patriot fighting for a cause in a foreign land, a native adventurer, a foreign nationalist, and a litany of other oxymorons too numerous to list down. In truth, if there is anything I 'envy' about most Americans is how they can diss their country all they want and yet remain in a comfortable position. I don't have that luxury: diss the government here and you are either a subverter or a political enemy. Thus we look to this earthly paradise as a means of escape from the woes and problems here. Who can honestly blame them, though? We are only human, and it is only human to dream and to want a better life for oneself.

When I returned to the Philippines, I was hailed as a conquering hero by my classmates. Tommy wanted to hear every detail of my trip; Julius said that I had the best bragging rights in the whole class; Ryan said that I was the coolest kid and school; Marc, that I should be the most popular, on account of the fact that I had a Pokedex with me (this was at the height of the popularity of Pokemon). All this praise for a cheap piece of plastic which had probably been made in China, anyway.

I'll admit that there is still a part of me that just wants to forget it all and start a new life in another country, and maybe even find success along the way. I'd want nothing more than to live a life of consummate ease and well--being. But if there is anything I have learned regarding this matter, it is that problems never really go away. At best, they can be nice problems to have-- but problems nevertheless. I have seen the West, and it is exactly like the Far East, only on a grander scale. I have seen what it can do to people-- how they can be reduced to mere commodities on par with plastic. And while it would certainly be very nice to live as Americans, it is an entirely different matter to actually be them.

Just what is it about America that entices people so much? What is it about Americans that provokes reactions from the most welcoming to the most hostile? Perhaps we are all just a bit off our rockers; certainly, it would be a bit of a stretch to say that nothing good has ever come out of that country. Maybe when we begin to see the real United States of America-- and not the mythical, grossly California-ized pipe dream of both its detractors and supporters-- will we know just how lucky we are. The simple truth is that the United States of America is, like the rest of the world, just a country, albeit one that is exceedingly rich.

The American Dream is a beautiful dream, but like all dreams, it belongs to the subconscious. I'm not saying it is an evil thing to dream-- only that it must always be tempered by reality. We will find that their concerns are just as human as our own.

As for Europe, that is for another story.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Veni, Coronaberis

I am always amazed at the consistency and intensity of Catholic devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Whether one is reading something from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, or the Enlightenment, the devotion to the Virgin has always maintained a raw and unchanging character. The following prayer which I will be posting is taken from the Pasyon, a narrative of the life and death of Our Lord in verse, which is chanted during Maundy Thursday to Good Friday. Traditionally, it lasts for over 24 hours, with the unspoken rule being that it must end at 3pm of Good Friday, when Our Lord died on the Cross. I promise to provide a translation soon.

At ikaw Birheng Maria
Ina't hari ng awa ka
bukod sa tanang sampaga,
di matuyo't di malanta
dikit mong kaaya-aya.

Ikaw rin po't siya lamang
Sedes Serpientine ang ngalan;
luklukan ng karunungan
at kaban kang sinusian
ng Diyos sa kalangitan.

Toreng walang pangalawa
ni David, bunying Propeta
bahay na ganitong sinadya,
pinamahayang talaga
ng ikalawang Persona.

Ikaw rin Birheng Mahal
bituin sa karagatan
mapag-aliw sa may lumbay,
kuta ng makasalanan
matibay sa katibayan.

Reynang walang kahulilip
ng sanlangitan angheles
pinupuring walang patid,
ng Tronos, Dominaciones,
Virtudes at Potestades.

Emperatris na mataas
ng Patriarkas, Propetas
Birheng walang makatulad,
bukod sa babaing lahat
ng nag-iwi sa Mesias.

Yayang ikaw ay di iba
batis ng Misericordia
binabalungan tuwi na,
ng awa't mahal na grasya
ng bunying tatlong persona.

Kami po ay uod lamang
sa lupa ay gumagapang
lipos ng dilang kasamaan,
Birhen, kundi mo tulungan
anong aming kapakanan?

Real Religion

I found this today via the NLM Blog.

This is Catholicism. This is the faith of novenas, processions, the religion of blood, sweat and tears, weeping icons and mind-bending miracles; the superstition of Protestantism and the scandal of the unbelievers. The video speaks volumes for itself.