Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lord Have Mercy!

Orissa Burning

Please storm heaven for the safety of the Christian population of Orissa. The barbarism and hatred being shown them could only be the handiwork of the Devil. Please, for the love of Christ Our Lord, pray for them!

Saturday, August 30, 2008


I love that site!

Friday, August 29, 2008

I Think I'm In Love With You

I don't want you to get hurt.

Although I've only known you for a short while, it's safe to say you've turned my world upside down. It's really crazy. You always know the right words to say to make me laugh, melt, and think. This is the first time I've ever felt this way. It's a mystery, really. But for the past one and a half weeks, it's been a hell of a roller coaster ride, and one that I've loved immensely. I'm still convinced you're perfect. I know that you are. But please understand when I say that I think I'm living a lie. It's difficult, really. Earth shattering. Heart breaking, especially. So this is what it feels like to be in love. This is what we all go crazy for. I'm sure it's beautiful in the long run, but for now, I can't stand the burden it's taking on me.

I know that there's a chance you'll be angry with me. I've prepared for that. But it's better than keeping anything at all from you. I think I'm ready to take that risk now. It's a shame that I've only had the courage to overcome the internal turmoil now, but it's better late than never. I don't want you to get hurt. I don't want you to be scarred. I don't want anything to happen to you, or me. I know that you're a good person, and it is just a shame that I haven't been able to reciprocate that well enough. Please understand, this is incredibly hard for me as well; too many things have happened lately. I know that these are not excuses, and can never be used to justify anything. I don't want to lie anymore. I want to be honest with you.

Let me try to make it up to you before it's too late. Help me to become a better person. Though there's a slim chance of anything 'real' happening between us anytime soon, I know in my heart of hearts that I need you to be there. Someday, somehow, I will make it up to you completely-- and I hope that you and I will finally be happy. Please, forgive me. I am truly sorry.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Of Machismo, Lenten Rites, and Bread

Note: This was originally a paper for a sociology class. I've edited it slightly to make it more 'blog-gy'

I've been meaning to blog about the San Pedro Cutud Lenten rites for a while now. It's one of the most controversial practices here in the Philippines, owing to the obvious fact that it is, in the end, a ritual crucifixion, completed with scourging and real nails. For sure, the official Church decries this excess of devotion as bordering on fanatical, if not pagan; almost all the bishops of Pampanga province, where these rites take place, are thoroughly against it. I myself am ambivalent to it at best; it is a rite that involves a lot of spectacle and theatrics, that much is true, and one always has to be wary of that. But then again, I've never had to be crucified, so I will not pass judgment now.

Basically, on Good Friday, in the little town of San Fernando in Pampanga, a group of male devotees and the occasional woman would be taken to the small hillock-cum-rice field of San Pedro Cutud, three kilometers away from the city. Along the way, the devotees would cover their faces and beat their backs with makeshift scourges. To make the process easier, the backs of the devotees are first pierced by glass, to get the blood flowing. From there it is a simple matter of flogging the back with the flails, at the ends of which are attached thin strips of bamboo.

Whenever a church is passed, the devotees would stop, kneel outside, and increase the vigor of their penitence. Some who are flamboyant enough even ask help from other devotees; they prostrate themselves unto the dust, while the appointed onlooker flogs his back. This process continues until the mini-Golgotha of San Pedro Cutud is reached. From there, some of the men eventually depart; only a few go on to actually be crucified. The crucifixion itself is a different act, a different ritual; costumed men representing the Roman soldiers seize the Christ(s), dragging them onto the hillock. The crowd of onlookers, some dressed to look like the Jews, jeer and spit, all part of the ritual.

The crucifixion itself is a very straightforward business, however. Once the Christ(s) have lain themselves on the cross, their palms are nailed to the wood. To prevent possible infections from the ordeal, nails which have been soaked in isopropyl alcohol overnight, are hammered quickly, avoiding bone as much as possible. The feet, too, of the penitent are nailed to a small wooden platform, to prevent the body from sagging. Once this is done, they are left to stand for all of three minutes before being taken down; I've heard stories as well of some penitents pronouncing the words of Our Lord as He agonized on the Cross.

It's interesting to note that majority of the penitents are not exactly regular Mass-goers; I think it's safe to say that these men are on the 'periphery' of the Church's life. Some of them are borrachos, polygamists, some may not even have stepped foot inside a church in decades. Of course, I'm not saying that all of these men are of questionable character-- hell no! So what exactly is in this practice that we find so repulsive?

In my opinion, it's not so much as the San Pedro Cutud rites are repulsive, so much as they are 'different' and 'naive', that makes them so foreign. There are no prescribed liturgical texts or any official framework upon which the rituals are built. Hence, they are not regulated, and are therefore peripheral; it is integrated more into the sphere of daily life than it is with the commemoration of Our Lord's Passion and Death. I say this because, at the bottom of it all, these rites are attempts to petition the needs of the gut-- food, shelter, jobs, livelihood-- rather than mere pious attempts to edify the heart and soul. It is literally bargaining with God-- scandalous at worst, naive at best-- by the loudest, most theatrical ways possible.

I think it's very easy to blame the people who partake in the rites as seeking glory and fame for themselves; that may be partially true, but as I've already said, I have never in my life had to be crucified for a morsel of bread and water. Perhaps, in the end, we do not think life is so important as to suffer and die for it, so as to live. Most of us are too 'comfortable' to see life as it is outside our borders. and the truth is, life is hard. It's difficult. It's a back-breaking ordeal. So it may be that this is not exactly the most appropriate channel to ask for God's help and blessing; it could even be construed as mockery of Christ's sacrifice. I certainly won't be having myself crucified soon, that much I can say, but that's because I know I don't have to.

But it's a terrible fact of life that others have to. It almost shames me to think, that, had my situation been the other way around-- would I be so selfish as to show my love for God in such a manner? Would I be willing to be called a glory-seeker and a conman just so I can feed my family? My answer would probably be no.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

That Still, Small Voice

My great grandfather, Tatang Angel, was a Mason. He was born in a very different Philippines than the one I know today, when it was still Filipinas, and the 'lengua Sajon'-- as English was known then-- was still considered unacceptable. He was a teacher; he was the principal of the local high school in Quezon province, and was apparently quite good at it. In those days, being a Mason meant being anti-clerical, possibly atheistic, and entailed a hostility to the Church. While being a Mason still entitles one to being ostracized by one's community today, the ideological differences were remarkably more defined back then.

He married my grandmother sometime in the 1920s. Where they were married no one remembers now, but cases of Masons being married in the Church were supposedly not that rare. Of course, once they married, they never went there again. When Angel finally had his own family, Mass was not an option at all. He forbade my great grandmother Felina from going to church, and would chastise her if he caught her doing so. For Felina and their young daughters, among them my grandmother, that meant sneaking out of the house at the crack of dawn to catch the first Mass of the day. They would cut little pieces of cloth from old blankets, and even the mesh from the window screens, to serve as veils.

For much of her early life, my grandmother attended Mass in secret. Even when she received her first Holy Communion, it had to be under her father's nose. Still, my great grandmother Felina would go to great lengths to teach them of the Faith. Although she herself probably never received excellent catechesis, she made it a point to teach their children all the devotions that she, in turn, was taught by her mother. To the day my grandmother died in 2004, she would pray the rosary three times daily, and would spend at least an hour reading Scripture. She was fiercely Catholic, who demanded that even their non-Catholic household help join the family in their prayers.

My great grandfather eventually became a well-respected teacher. When World War II dawned, he took it upon himself to move his family constantly, so as to avoid persecution by the Japanese. As a teacher with nationalistic ideas, he was seen as a threat by Japan, because he could potentially incite his students to rebellion. They moved several times, often in secret, often at night. Then the day came that the constant exhaustion and stress finally caught up with his wife Felina; she fell ill during one relocation. Several weeks later, she was dead.

Whether Angel had abjured Masonry at this point I don't remember; but it was certainly true that he had a change of heart at this point. Sometime after the war, great grandfather Angel repented, and was received back into the Church. No doubt Lola Felina had something to do with his conversion; needless to say he spent the rest of his life a Catholic. To this day, all of his daughters are devout Catholics-- four of time, who have been living in the United States for at least forty years now, remain as steadfast as they were back in the 'old country'. His youngest daughter, a religious sister, followed in his footsteps and became a teacher and a brilliant chemist, writing her thesis in German; my grandmother, the eldest daughter, founded a school in honor of the Santo Nino, who would do wonders for Angel. She married my grandfather in the 1950s; she taught him how to pray.

It shames us to think, that we, with all our conveniences and tools, have done so little so show our love for Christ. I thank God for my great grandmother Felina and her little square pieces of mesh, her propensity to wake up early, and her undying patience.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Pardon the recent drought in blogging. I have been very busy and simply cannot find the time, effort, peace, and ideas to blog. I will, however, continue to blog, and have several posts lined up in my head waiting to be published. This month is proving especially challenging for me, although I reassure all my readers of my intent to continue posting. I also ask your prayers for an intention of mine-- please storm heaven for this. Thank you all so much!