Insights and opinions from our contributors on the current issues happening in the region

insight 96


more articles...

Rosary most relevant today

From digital to personal

Stop Age Discrimination!

A brief cost-benefit analysis of the Philippinesí recent arms purchases

Historical moment for Filipinos Ė signing of peace agreement ending the conflict in Mindanao

Rizal Park is not for sale

Whatís in a name?: Take 2

Why Torture Is Wrong?

Torturers and their victims: how the Anti-torture law is failing, and why

PCID Statement on the signing of the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing




Pray, pray and pray some more

March 22, 2015

I'm not exaggerating. Our need to pray is like our need to breathe. It should be non-stop, since it is indispensable in our union with God our Creator, who keeps us alive and healthy in our spiritual life. Again, letís bring back a basic truth Ė without God we are nothing!

The only difference is that breathing is a bodily necessity and is instinctive and automatic until we die, while praying is a spiritual necessity that requires conscious effort and continues even after death though in a different form.

In fact, praying requires faith, hope and charity which first of all are gifts from God that need to be corresponded to by us with a lot of patience and the dynamic interplay of all the other virtues.

We should not be surprised by this requirement of prayer, much less complain about it, since praying is our most basic way of dealing with God who has given us all and who has the right to expect all for us also, we being his image and likeness.

If understood and done properly, praying actually gives us joy always. It enables us to see and understand things better. More importantly, it helps us to have a glimpse of God's will, where everything starts and is governed and led to its proper end.

Praying processes and finds the answers to all our needs. In good times and bad times, when we are healthy or sick, when we enjoy successes or suffer defeats or are tempted, praying comes as our natural way of coping with everything that our spiritual life needs just like breathing does with our bodily needs.

To those who are afraid that praying just gets in the way of our human activities and concerns, the contrary is true. If anything at all, praying tremendously helps us in putting our activities and concerns in another level so they acquire a spiritual, moral and supernatural value, which is proper to us, since we are God's image and likeness, and children of his.

It fits in all the situations of our life, because it is first of all a matter of attitude, of an awareness that we are in the presence of God who asks us to follow him and to love him.

Obviously, for our prayer to be substantial, consistent and abiding, we need to spend some moments of special and serious conversation with him, like some period of mental prayer, meditating on Godís word, having recourse to the sacraments, etc. These are like the refueling process that helps us to continue going on with our spiritual life.

The important thing to remember is that whatever we may be doing, we somehow should engage our mind and heart with God. We should never dare to do things alone, by our lonesome, relying only on our natural powers and some kind of luck. That is the way to get carried away and swallowed up by the mundane things.

It is when we are constantly engaged with God that we get the light and the strength to deal with our earthly affairs, knowing how to relate them always to our ultimate goal, and not getting entangled with merely temporal goals. When we pray, our sense of purpose and direction gets sharpened.

While it needs them, prayer also actually nourishes our faith, hope and charity. Prayer puts us into a virtuous cycle that brings us closer to our ideal ultimate state of communion with God and with others.

No, prayer does not alienate us from others nor from our earthly affairs. Quite the contrary is true. It puts us in a proper relation to them, and helps us to avoid the unhealthy entanglements with our worldly business.

This truth should be spread out quite widely these days, since many now are the factors and elements that tend to deny the indispensability of prayer in our life. In short, what some people are saying is that we do not need God in our life. We are our own god, our own lawgiver. We just rely on whatever we have in terms of intelligence, talents and luck.

It should be clear to us that prayer is indispensable to us. Unless we make ourselves souls of prayer, we have reason to doubt whether we are truly living our life properly. We should be wary of some worldly ideologies, like atheism, agnosticism, hedonism, etc., that tend to mock the importance of prayer in our life.

We have to overcome some myths, like prayer is only for old women and little children, etc.





Prayerís new relevance

By Fr. Roy Cimagala,
December 20, 2014

PRAYER is always relevant. Itís as indispensable as breathing. Our spiritual life would be detached from its life-source, exposing itself to great dangers, when one stops to pray. But with todayís confusing developments, when we have to learn to blend truth with charity, justice with mercy, prayer becomes even more relevant and indispensable.

To be sure, this task of blending competing values properly is nothing new. This has been both our challenge and our duty since time immemorial. But the new developments today require us to be more skillful in it as we face more complicated issues and situations and more difficult questions that just cannot be ignored.

With the current papal thrust to have a Church of mercy and compassion, there definitely will be a more deliberate effort to review and sort out the current norms and practices in the Church to see if there are areas that can be improved, updated, purified of such tendencies as traditionalism, legalism, rigorism, etc.

Letís remember that the Church, while divine and is therefore divinely guaranteed, is also human and as such is subject to the vicissitudes of our human condition. It will always be in need of growth and development, and along the way, continuing conversion and purification.

The task to review and sort out is going to be very delicate, and we have to expect a lot of discussion in this regard. Thatís why prayer is so much needed these days so that these discussions would be pursued always with the guidance of the Spirit who can spring surprises and tackle anything, and all within the truth of our faith, the confidence of our hope and the warmth of our charity.

When we pray, we follow the example of Christ who managed to go through his passion and death calmly and with the confidence that his passion and death was the way to go for the salvation of mankind.

Prayer makes us see things better. It inclines us to be more perceptive of the abiding promptings of the Holy Spirit who always traces the path we need to follow. At this point, we need to be strongly reminded that it is the Holy Spirit, more than us, no matter how bright and experienced we may be, who leads the way. We all have to go to him and refrain from getting too attached to our views and positions.

Prayer helps to calm down our emotions that can easily get agitated and that can blind us especially when sharp differences arise in the discussion. We have to be wary of our tendency to easily get inflamed by our passions that would just complicate matters.

Prayer helps us to be more prudent in our judgments. It facilitates our ability to listen to all sides, to study things thoroughly, to make consultations when necessary, and to make decisions. Prayer helps us to know when to stop and think, and when to move and execute things.

Prayer broadens our mind, nourishes our patience, and keeps us hopeful and optimistic despite unavoidable setbacks. It helps us how to properly take the biases, opinions, assumptions that we always carry with us when we enter into any discussion.

We need to see to it that we are truly praying, that is, conversing with God in a very intimate way and bringing up things that really matter to us. We should avoid just going through the motions of praying but really without getting in contact with God and taking up things that are not relevant, sort of just indulging in some abstract exercise. Alas, this is a common bane to those who claim they pray.

For this, we have to find the appropriate time and place, knowing how to distance ourselves from our usual activities so we can get into the proper mode of meditation and contemplation.

We have to have the right dispositions, sharpening our act of faith, our humility and docility. We have to be wary of the wiles of our flesh, the world and the devil that can nullify our efforts to pray.

Obviously, we also have to prepare the topics well. This is very crucial so that we avoid wasting time during our meditations. This preparation will put us in a better position to see the light that the Holy Spirit will be shedding on us.

But itís also important that we make a conscious effort to appeal to the Holy Spirit to enlighten us. This should not be taken for granted. This conscious effort will make us more perceptive of his promptings.





The new pharisaism

November 21, 2014

IN writing this column, I wish to make the caveat that the topic is meant to clarify matters and to warn us of certain dangers that we may not be aware of. Itís not to condemn anyone or any group, but simply to point out that there are occasions when we think we are doing right when in fact we are doing wrong in the eyes of God.

Itís also meant to figure out how we can identify and avoid these dangers, and what we can do to correct and make up if we have fallen into them.

Pharisaism, as the dictionary puts it, refers to the doctrines and practices of many of the Pharisees during the time of Christ. They were almost invincibly convinced they were always right, basing that conviction simply on their traditions and their own interpretations of Godís laws.

When Christ finally came, they could not believe he was the Messiah since Christ did not jibe with their expectations as based on their own estimation of things. In fact, they were suspicious of him, always finding fault in him and finally managed to crucify him.

To be sure, not all Pharisees were like that. We can cite the example of Nicodemus who went to see Christ by night to ask for some clarifications and who helped bury Christís body. There must have been others like Nicodemus.

And so, we have to refrain from making blanket accusations against all Pharisees. By pharisaism, we simply refer to certain portions of the Pharisees who had the wrong attitude toward Christ and the things of God.

Their error was in the too literal interpretation of the religious and moral laws without due regard to the spirit of the laws.

Such interpretation led them unavoidably to fall into hypocrisy, since the reality even of their own lives cannot cope with the very restrictive view of what they considered as right and wrong, good and evil.

In other words, they themselves could not keep up with their own standards, and yet made a show that they were all right. They would hardly admit their own mistakes and sinfulness. Such was the case that at one point Christ told the people that these leading men did not practice what they preached.

In other instances, Christ pointed out the contradictions and inconsistencies between their words and behavior, their observances and the all-too-obvious realities of life, like the question of the Sabbath day observance.

The justice of pharisaism has no room for mercy. Its mind-frame and lifestyle is prone to knee-jerk reactions, rash judgments and reckless, lynching condemnations, that precisely runs counter to the ways of God who is slow to anger and quick to forgive.

Its ways are often hardened along patterns of rigorism, legalism, traditionalism, fundamentalism. They have forms and structures but without the appropriate substance and spirit.

Pharisaism drips with sanctimoniousness and self-righteousness, a funny caricature of authentic holiness. It is an ugly bag of all violations of charity, often disguised as defense of justice and human rights.

It is a collection of false reasons and rationalizations not based on faith, hope and charity. Itís more interested in pursuing oneís self-interest than in a genuine concern for the common good, and much less, in giving glory to God. It thrives in an environment of gossips, rumor-mongering and mob rule.

We have to be most wary of the dangers of pharisaism that can come to us anytime and in very subtle ways. When in our pursuit for truth, justice and beauty, we become judgmental and rigid, less patient, understanding and merciful towards others, we can be sure we are falling into the hands of a new pharisaism.

When in our legitimate pursuit for greater knowledge, power and fame, we do not make the corresponding conversions of heart and are unwilling to suffer for others, this new pharisaism is setting in.

This new pharisaism usually leads one along the paths of conceit and self-satisfaction. It makes one simplistic in his views, ignoring the many legitimate nuances of the situations of people. The worst cut is that it deadens oneís sensitivity to have another conversion.

When progress in any aspect of our life is not accompanied by a growth in humility, openness and tolerance towards those of different views and opinions, when we cannot see our own faults and defects and yet are quick to see those of others, then we have basis to think we are in the grip of this new pharisaism.

But thereís always hope. Godís grace can strike us strongly anytime. We just have to pray!





The Greater Disaster:

Noynoy Aquino, waray pulos! (Walang silbi!)

Statement of Hustisya on the 1st year commemoration of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)
November 8, 2014

Hustisya (Victims United for Justice) is one in solidarity with the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in demanding justice today, one year after the strongest typhoon hit the Eastern and some parts of Western Visayas of the Philippines.

We demand justice, as we stand firm that the Aquino government is guilty of criminal neglect. Pres. Noynoy Aquino bragged that the government is prepared for the coming disaster, but later justified its ineptness amid the overwhelming destruction wrought by the super typhoon. The Aquino government declared a ďstate of national calamityĒ four days after, only when the people have been too desperate for food, water and shelter. More lives were lost and put in danger in the coming days, while government agencies were ready making different excuses why help did not reach the people on time.

We hold the Aquino government accountable for the massive loss of lives and the absence of much-needed relief and rehabilitation. The people looked for ways to survive while enduring the pain and sudden loss. Various cause-oriented individuals and groups, both locally and internationally have set foot in the areas affected, way earlier than the government, way much earlier than Pres. Aquino himself. The national government, that should have the means, the resources and machinery for disaster response, was quick to pass the blame.

If there was one disaster that the people suffered from in the event of super typhoon Yolanda, it is the inutility, inaction and outright callousness of the Aquino government.

We are enraged that the approval of the rehabilitation plan for areas affected by super typhoon was only signed shortly a week before the first year commemoration of the super typhoon. Meanwhile, the Aquino government was quick to allow the entry of multinationals and local compradors and landlords in the affected areas in a matter of months after the super typhoon. Big businesses have begun dividing the affected provinces among themselves, using ďrehabilitationĒ as a way to pursue their interests of business and profit. Pres. Aquino not just showed his inutility and callousness to the needs of the victims Ė he showed whose interests he favors.

The survivors of typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) continue to rise up. They continue to muster strength after the disaster, not just to rebuild their lives and livelihood, but to hold accountable a government that is not worth staying another day in power.

We enjoin everyone to echo the call for justice.

Justice for victims of typhoon Yolanda! Justice for victims of criminal neglect!

Noynoy Aquino, waray pulos! Patalsikon!





When a marriage sours

November 8, 2014

ITíS truly depressing when we hear about a marriage going sour. What began as a happy event, complete with fervent affirmations of love, commitment and self-giving, now looks dry and lifeless, and even showing traces of hostility.

But we should never allow sadness, let alone discouragement to dominate us. Failures in life are at best temporary, unless we persist in making them permanent. There is always hope. Solutions to problems are always available. Cures and remedies to whatever is wrong are all there for the asking.

We need to face marital problems with hope and optimism. And so, we need to review a few points to put this issue in its proper perspective with the view of helping everyone involved in these cases Ė the spouses themselves and those who are in a position to help, like relatives, friends, priests, counselors Ė resolve the issue effectively.

First of all, we have to look into how couples are prepared for marriage. The couples themselves have to be sure itís true love that leads them to make a lifelong and all- embracing commitment of marriage.

This love cannot be other than a vital sharing of the love of God, who is the very source, pattern, end and power of love. When this fundamental principle is not clear, we would already have a big problem in the making.

All the pre-marriage classes and seminars given by the parishes and other groups should clarify the true nature and character of marriage as well as its purpose and essential properties of unity and indissolubility.

They should explain why marriage based on true love is very important for the health of the family and of society. Moreover, it should be made clear that marriage is actually a divine vocation, a true, heroic path to sanctity for the couple, where their relation with God is very much at play.

Since it is also a sacrament for the Catholics, marriage is where Christ himself acts as guarantor for its vitality and fruitfulness. Especially when problems and difficulties come, the couples have to be assured of Christís grace and support.

The couples have to understand then that marriage has to be approached with a theological mind using spiritual and supernatural means, and not just with some purely human motives using merely material and human means.

They have to understand that to keep their marriage going, the couples need to have first of all as an indispensable requirement a healthy spiritual life, based on prayer, sacrifice, recourse to the sacraments, study of the doctrine, and that attitude of welcoming a continuing process of conversion throughout life.

They have to realize that they need to bank on some effective program of spiritual growth through an on-going system of formation, nourished by specific acts of piety.

They need to continue developing their love for each other, each one ďconqueringĒ each other every day by looking for things that would make the other feel loved. The courtship should never end, but should rather evolve into more mature manifestations.

It is in this way that they will keep their love young and strong, ever renewed and able to cope with changing circumstances and situations. Even if physically they will unavoidably suffer decline, their love will continue to be vibrant and creative.

Love, if itís true and is taken seriously, is always inventive. It knows how to find ways to enter into the heart of the other spouse. No event, whether of the successful type or the opposite, would be a hindrance for love to express itself and grow.

All concerns, trials, challenges and difficulties are faced and tackled with love as the be-all and end-all. They should never be pursued purely on the technical level or for some practical purposes alone.

The search for work and financial stability, for example, should be inspired and subordinated to the love of the spouse and the family. If that search would undermine the love due to the spouse and the family, then it would not be worthwhile.

Obviously, sacrifices will be involved in marriage and family life. Everyone should try his or her best to be generous in this area. But to be realistic, everyone should also be prudent enough to assess up to what point the other spouse can take in terms of sacrifices.

Thatís why constant, intimate dialogue between spouses is a must. Everything has to be done to facilitate that dialogue, making it as pleasant and positive as possible. The art of tactful discussion should be learned carefully, considering the varying temperaments, moods, physical and emotional states the couple can find themselves in.





Women globally demand justice for Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude murdered by a United States marine

A Press Statement by the International Womenís Alliance (IWA) on the murder of Jennifer Laude
November 2, 2014

The International Womenís Alliance (IWA) strongly condemns the brutal murder of 26-year old Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude who was allegedly killed by United States Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton on October 11, 2014. Jennifer Laude was last seen with PFC Pemberton and was found dead in a hotel bathroom less than an hour later with her head shoved in a toilet bowl, autopsy later revealing she died of asphyxia.

The women of the organizations in IWA, a global alliance of militant grassroots-based womenís organizations, institutions, alliances, networks and individuals committed to advance national and social liberation and gender equality, mourn the unjust and sudden death of Jennifer and extend our support and sincere condolences to the family, friends, community of Jennifer Laude, who are grappling with grief as they lose a daughter, a loved one, a friend.

As an alliance, IWA places culpability on the Aquino regime for continuing agreements, policies, treaties and laws that trample on the sovereignty of the Philippines, the rights of the Filipino people and condone the unequal relations between the US and the Philippines. Under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation (EDCA) Agreement, the US military servicemen have and continue to regard the Philippines as a playground for ďrest and recreationĒ and the Filipinos as sex slaves and sex objects for consumption. Jennifer Laudeís murder is part of the systemic violence that is deeply rooted in a historical legacy of imperialist occupation and an extension of all systems of exploitation and slavery. We believe that in order to build safety for LGBT people, women, and children we must eliminate the root causes and conditions that contribute to and justify the senseless violence.

We also recognize that transphobia, homophobia and hate crime, as expressed differently in the world, have resulted in many deaths. We acknowledge that Jenniferís life, along with the lives of other victims of transviolence and hate crimes, matters a great deal. Their deaths have provided impetus for awareness raising on the issues and struggles of trans genders. IWA is also committed to organize against all forms of hate, intolerance and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and Queer people.

The long history of military violence has proven to be devastating to Filipino/a children, women and LGBTQ people as the rate of prostitution and sexual assault increases with the presence of US military, from the Balangiga Massacre that started when two American soldiers tried to molest a girl tending a store in September 1901 to the rape of ďNicoleĒ by Lance Corporal Daniel Smith in November 2005.

In the past weeks, PFC Pemberton has been shielded by the US with the latter swiftly taking custody and protecting the alleged murderer of Laude in a US-controlled facility. Although Pemberton is currently being tried under Philippine laws, he can choose not to appear and was never presented to the family and the Filipino people. Under US protection, PFC Pemberton has arrogantly made demands to reduce charges against him.

The MDT, the VFA and the recently signed, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) have made all these possible. Philippine sovereignty and the Filipino people remain at the mercy and will of US dictates.

Lastly, IWA supports the call of the Filipino women for the removal of US troops, military facilities and bases from their soil, the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. These facilities and bases are magnets for war and have been used by the US in its intervention and aggression in many parts of the world. We oppose the increasing presence of US troops in the region as the US "rebalances" and "pivots" to Asia and heightens militarization of the Asia-Pacific region. We join the call for justice for Jennifer Laude and justice for the Filipino nation.










Two earthquakes

October 16, 2014

Two items grabbed my attention these past days. Both commanded intense prayers Ė of thanksgiving, expiation and petition. One was the first anniversary of the 7.2 tremor that hit my beloved province of Bohol, and Cebu where Iím now assigned.

The other was the Synod of Bishops on Family now going on in the Vatican, which some observers also considered as a kind earthquake. Its mid-Synod report generated quite a heat among many who certainly are seeing things from different angles.

The Bohol earthquake destroyed a lot of churches, but it strengthened also the faith of many. It also brought out the resilient character of the people. Itís a good reason to be happy and thankful, and to still hope that things, and the people especially, continue improving.

Itís different with respect to the Synod. The cracks, potential destruction and havoc it is producing are so very subtle that many do not even notice them. Thatís why, that gathering to the eyes of many has become more disturbing.

But there is always hope, and so letís pray that with the open, candid but respectful discussion the Pope is promoting in this Synod, the issues would be resolved properly, with every voice and observation given due attention and blended, hopefully seamlessly, in one organic, living piece, with the divine spirit animating it.

Itís not an easy task, of course. And so we really have to implore the help of the Holy Spirit to guide our Church leaders to come out with a document that would make everybody happy. That may sound impossible, or at least improbable, but hope always springs eternal. We just have to try to be most receptive to the Spiritís promptings.

The main issue, to my mind, is how to fuse together the exclusivity of truth and the inclusivity of charity. In this regard, it may be useful to keep in mind all possible leanings and biases people can have and try to craft a document that would be kind of politically or pastorally correct for everyone, not favouring one over the other.

We have to presume that everyone is for God, that everyone is for the truth, charity, justice and mercy, that everyone is a sinner called to become a saint, etc. But we have to get real on how each one is in his concrete condition.

Some can be described as conservatives, others liberal, some saintly and pious, others openly sinful, some are of the intellectual and theoretical type, others are more of the pragmatic kind, some steeped more in tradition, others are of the progressive mould, keen in innovations, etc. We also have straight and gay people.

This is not to mention that people are classified according to age, sex, profession, social, economic and health condition, talents, charisms and other endowments. Some are healthy, others not, others may even be in the ICU. Everyone has to be respected, loved and cared for.

Yes, we have to give more attention and care to the needy, confused and lost but not at the expense of sacrificing those who are well-off, clear-minded and very much in the mainstream of orthodoxy.

A way has to be found to make everyone care for one another, with the better-off giving more to those who are more in need who actually can also give something precious, if intangible, to the better off.

Whatever document or comment or initiative our Church leaders make about his pastoral ministry should be tactful, avoiding anything that can disparage, much less, alienate in any way certain sectors. They have to learn to be most prudent, discreet and delicate especially in their words.

Of course, man will always be man, still haunted by his weaknesses, mistakes and all that, but Christ has already come and redeemed us with his death and resurrection, and all we need to cure what is sick, right what is wrong, heal what is wounded is already given to us, entrusting the Church with the power to dispense those means.

Itís right that Christís redemptive work, while already perfect and made available to us, still remains a mystery that can spring surprises to us. But these surprises will never be a denial of what is already known and lived by us as authoritatively taught by the Church, but rather a deepening of those.

We have to revisit the doctrine on graduality and conversion as articulated in ďFamiliaris consotioĒ and see to it that it does not degenerate into relativism, which is to make God according to our designs. Everyone needs continuing conversion, you, me, priests, bishops and even the Pope. Letís help one another instead of quarreling.



◄◄home I next►►