author with fishermen beneficiaries. Blessing and turn over of
boats. (Photo by Tindog Tolosa)
Two years Leyte
By NOE PALAÑA
November 6, 2015
‘It was just like yesterday.
When I close my eyes, I can see it all still.’ Jerome Ibañez, one of
the Yolanda survivors vividly recalls.
Nearly two years after the wrath of one of the strongest storms in
history, not all of Visayas has moved on. Survivors are still
struggling, as the help they receive remains insufficient.
Tolosa, Jerome’s town was one of the severely hit places in Leyte. But
unlike the hundreds of survivors still living in tents in over-crowded
evacuation areas, Jerome and his family take shelter in their new home
donated by Tindog Tolosa.
Tindog Tolosa (TITO) is a civil society group that continually helps
Yolanda survivors of Tolosa, Leyte. It is run by Makati-based
professionals inspired by Pope Francis’ call to help the poor, and the
teachings of St. Josemaría Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei. TITO aims to
rebuild the coastal town of Tolosa and alleviate the lives of the
TITO has three main projects: Construct One house, One Boat Afloat and
Construct One House
A number of storm-proof, earthquake-proof, and termite-free houses
were already turned over by TITO to eight (8) beneficiary families
whose houses were completely destroyed by Yolanda.
The Bayanihan spirit is evident during the construction of the houses
as volunteers from all over the world helped skilled workers and the
beneficiary family in building their new home. Promoting not only
collaboration, but also cost-efficient construction.
One Boat Afloat
Like other livelihood in Leyte, Yolanda massively affected the
fisheries. This left most of the town’s fishing equipment misplaced or
destroyed. That is why One Boat Afloat intends to equip fishermen with
new fishing boats. So far, eleven (11) 24-feet boats powered by 16
horsepower brand new engines were already entrusted to recipients.
In order to give the beneficiaries the feeling of ownership of their
houses and boats, they are asked to pay half of its total cost. Their
monthly amortization then goes to the educational assistance fund of
their child who is a grantee of Iskolar ng Tolosa, another TITO
project. Jerome, an Education sophomore at Visayas State University,
is one of the TITO scholars.
“An important factor for selecting a beneficiary is that one of the
children should attend and finish college or any TechVoc course, so
they may later provide assistance to their own family,” Tindog Tolosa
founder, Noe Palaña said.
He also emphasized that their system of helping was designed to create
a more sustainable and later self-sufficient solution to aid the
Tindog Tolosa Consumers Cooperative (TTCC) brings the people of Tolosa
together to help improve their lives. It does this in two ways: a
savings association and a community store.
Joma Palaña, Noe’s brother and point person for TTCC, explained that
“the savings association encourages people to save by providing a
savings facility in an area where there are no banks. It is also a
means for mutual help, letting people automatically pool contributions
to aid families in case of deaths and emergencies.”
“On the other hand, the community store provides wholesale buying so
that members can get basic goods at cheaper prices. The tax-exempt
privilege of the cooperative further brings the price down,” he added.
TTCC assists in providing training and access to capital, so that
members can have their own livelihood projects. It also facilitates
the market demand for the goods produced.
Aside from lowering the members' expenses and increasing their income,
TTCC aims to stimulate economic activity in Tolosa, fostering a cycle
of economic progress. In the end, “TTCC hopes to give the people a
sense of optimism and solidarity, to encourage them in their struggle
of lifting themselves out of poverty,” according to Joma.
Be a “voluntourist”
Aside from monetary and in-kind donations, donors may also help by
You volunteer to construct the houses or repair classrooms and you get
to tour some of Leyte’s most beautiful places like the San Juanico
Bridge, the longest bridge in the Philippines, and Kalanggaman Island,
known for its crystal blue water, white powdery sand and magnificent
It’s a tour like no other. Because instead of just taking pictures and
seeing places, you are able to take memories of genuine smiles and
thanks from people you help. Giving you a unique and priceless kind of
Even as the volountourists enjoyed their stay in Tolosa, the overall
experience left a great impact on them as what happened to William Xie,
a Civil Engineering student from Sydney, Australia. He said, “it was
one of the most influential and life-opening experiences I have
had…and we could not believe how much these people trusted us in such
a short period of time just from hearing that we were there to help
“This work camp allowed me much time to reflect on the way of life.
Here in Singapore and Malaysia, we are really fortunate to have no
earthquakes and typhoons. And yet, we grumble for not having air-con,
not having the latest accessories, fashion and gadgets. In rural
places in the Philippines, however, although there is lack of the
basic necessities such as electricity and easy access to clean water,
the people are really optimistic in life, and put their trust in God
entirely. We certainly have a lot to learn from them,” a Singaporean
An Actuarial Studies/Economics student from the University of New
South Wales had a similar sentiment: “I was really impressed to
witness what the people in a developing country have to do to get by.
Seeing their struggle taught me not to take the things we have in my
country for granted.”
Voluntourists from the Makati Central Business District realized the
value of human relationship when Florencia, Jerome’s mother, tearfully
thanked them not only for painting their permanent shelter, but more
importantly, “for treating us as persons with dignity, not simply as
“We have been helping people and we want to continually help further.
So we encourage more volunteers and more donations for Tolosa. We are
committed to meet our target of giving 30 boats, and 20 houses to some
of the most Yolanda affected families,” Noe added.
Noe Palaña can be reached for inquiries and donations via mobile at
(+63) 999 883 48 46 or by visiting Tindog Tolosa’s Facebook account
“When we help a family in Tolosa, we actually help the whole
community. Because these people also help other people. And rebuilding
their houses is rebuilding the community. But most importantly,
rebuilding Tolosa is rebuilding their lives, giving back their
dignity,” he concluded.
A yes nod to the
October 28, 2015
The Synod of Bishops on the
Family had hardly concluded last Sunday, and both “conservative” and
“liberal” camps raced to express their dissatisfaction over its
balanced outcome. But this rejection from both camps is probably a
good sign. It literally captures the Church being a “sign of
contradiction” – that is a good thing.
Vatican II was also rejected
by liberals and conservatives. Conservatives rejected it outright. The
liberals’ rejection of Vatican II came in the form of abusing and
But that Vatican II was a
gift to the Church and came at just the moment it was needed in
history is a no-brainer. It has been affirmed as such by popes who are
saints or saintly, beginning with Saint John XXIII all the way to Pope
Francis himself. We lay people only need to remember that it was
through Vatican II that the universal call to holiness took real
traction. If not for Vatican II, we would still be languishing in our
status as second class citizens for sainthood.
So the controversy
surrounding the results of the Synod on the Family is not new, not
surprising, and should not be cause for concern. The important thing
is that the Synod, as Vatican II, has confirmed the perennial
teachings of the Church, this time on marriage and family. Moreover,
through this Synod, the Church has shown to the world, yet more
deeply, a truth she has always taught and practiced from the
beginning: the primacy of mercy.
Mercy, as Pope Francis
suggests in the document that established the Year of Mercy, begins
with the “opening of our heart.” And indeed, this Synod has fearlessly
manifested this openness of the Church’s heart that began with Vatican
II. In the words of Vatican Radio, more than breaking new theological
grounds, the Synod showcased the Church’s “new, more inclusive way of
working, which began with the questionnaires sent out to families
around the world and concluded with the intense small group
discussions inside the Synod Hall.”
Lest that last sentence give
the jitters to some faithful, here’s the antidote: the word
“inclusive” there was understood in a very Catholic way by the Synod
Fathers. The upshot is that the phrases with the most unanimity in the
final document on the Synod focused on the Synod Father’s union with
the Pope, on reaffirming the family as “school of humanity” and
“foundation of society,” the importance of grandparents in the family,
and the necessity of sacraments in marriage. In others words,
“inclusivity” begins with being “rooted within” the very Church
Magisterium articulated by Pope Francis in the months leading up to
Yet even the most contested
phrases (84-86), which centers on the divorced and the remarried are
hardly a source of concern. Indeed, they only highlight even further
that the Church really is a Mother of Mercy; and this, despite and
perhaps, precisely by, being faithful to her own teachings.
These paragraphs emphasize
that the divorced and the remarried “are baptized, they are brothers
and sisters…” and thus, “must be more integrated into the Christian
communities in the diverse ways possible, avoiding every occasion of
scandal.” As well, “it's therefore the responsibility of pastors to
accompany the persons concerned on a path of discernment according to
the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop.”
But it’s not as if the
paragraphs are just handing out Kleenex for drying tears. Instead,
they hold up the divorced and the remarried to a serious degree of
responsibility by asking them to make an examination of conscience on
"how they behaved toward their children when the marriage entered into
crisis; … what the situation is for the abandoned partner; … what
example this offers to the youth who must prepare for marriage." This
is tough love, a characteristic of all good parents.
One sentence, in my opinion,
shone above all: “For the Christian community, taking care of these
people is not a weakness in its own faith and its witness as to the
indissolubility of marriage; indeed, the Church expresses its own
charity through this care.” This is “caritas in veritate” (charity in
truth) in all its splendor.
If one asked how the final
document achieved this level of charity, the answer would be within
the Synod itself. A venerable professor of my university, who was
present in the Synod proceedings as a consultor, told me that he was
particularly impressed at the charity that he saw among the bishops.
One anecdote he narrated illustrates this. “A Brazilian bishop made a
proposal that did not get sufficient votes. When an Argentinian
bishop’s better proposal was then accepted, he said to the former, ‘If
you want I can integrate your idea with mine.”
Equally moving, as well, he
said, was the reminder (later incorporated) from bishops who had
suffered much under communist rule “to speak of the mystery of the
Cross as the basis and source of all Christian life in families” for
through it “difficulties and sufferings in family life are transformed
into acts of love.” He even added that a Jesuit provost who was in the
Philippines for some years spoke to him of the joy we have in our
country, a joy rooted in the family.
So for all the reported
“inside stories” of machinations and strife, we now know there are
also untold stories of joy and hope. Perhaps, then, amidst the
suggestions that the Synod of Bishops only left the Church in
confusion, there is reason to believe, instead, that it happened was
quite a good thing.
Cortes is a PhD student in Social Institutional Communication at the
Pontifical University of Santa Croce, Rome. He has an M.A. in Ed.
Leadership from Columbia University, N.Y.]
God and our “sexual
October 25, 2015
THE recent proliferation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is a
most welcome development since they facilitate our life in society.
With them, the requirements of the principles of subsidiarity and
solidarity, so essential in society, are more finely met.
Subsidiarity is when a bigger entity can delegate some of its powers
to a lower entity. It’s also when the smaller needs of men in society
are met due to the presence of more intermediaries between the
individual citizens and the over-all state authorities.
Solidarity is when society becomes more organized and moves more or
less in the same direction without annulling legitimate differences
and variety of sectors comprising it. It means having better working
unity in society.
The NGOs are these agents and intermediaries that foster the need for
subsidiarity and solidarity in a given society. We just have to make
sure that a third social principle, that of the common good, is also
met, so that the play of the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity
gets into the right groove.
This is the problem we often encounter these days with respect to the
NGOs. Many of them, I’m afraid, are a cover to advance an agenda whose
idea of common good is at best inadequate, often dangerous, if not
The other day, someone told me that in a Congress hearing, a
representative of an NGO was batting for sexual rights, saying that
everyone has a “right to a satisfying and safe sex.”
While it’s true that we are a sexual being, and therefore sex has a
legitimate part in our life, we just can’t be naïve when ideas like
what was presented in that Congress hearing is proposed to us.
We need to see if indeed this “right to a satisfying and safe sex”
truly corresponds to an objective common good meant for us. We have to
know what that right involves, what its inspiration and true purpose
We just cannot say anything is a human right based on an opinion or
even on a consensus of some people. We cannot even consider a culture
and civilization as the ultimate source of what is the authentic
common good for us and what is not. They are not the ultimate terra
firma. They shift too like sand, and can contain impurities.
The crux of our problem is that in determining our common good, any
mention to God is immediately or, worse, automatically rejected. It’s
as if God has no place in this discussion. It’s as if God is the very
antithesis of democracy and its ways and processes.
At best, any reference to God has to be veiled, since making it
explicit is considered a fallacy of begging the question. It is feared
it would illegitimately stop further discussion or reasoning, which is
not true, since such reference would in fact throw the doors open for
further scrutiny. It fosters more discussion.
We need to make a drastic change in our attitude and ways of
determining if a claimed human right is indeed part of our common
good. We have to defer to what the Compendium of Social Doctrine says
about the source of human rights.
In point 153, it says, “The ultimate source of human rights is not
found in the mere will of human beings, in the reality of the State,
in public powers, but in man himself and in God his Creator.”
So, it’s clear that no matter how hard it is to determine what is
God’s will and design for us, we just have to make an effort to know
God’s will, since ignoring it would just put us in the dark, and lead
us to unjust ways of determining what is right and wrong, what is good
and evil, true and false.
In short, it would not be democratic, in fact, if our political ways
would systematically shun the contribution of religion, or that our
discussion of issues that affect our common good would exclude faith
and religion, and everything involved there, like listening to the
teachings of the Church, etc.
In that set-up, democracy would be understood as just a purely human
affair, as if everything begins and ends with us. Of course, we are
the primary actors in democracy, but we are nothing without God who is
our source, our Creator, and in fact, also our end.
Democracy, without God, would lose its foundations and sense of
purpose, and would just be driven not by truth nor by love, but by
sheer and brazen human power. That’s when human rights enter the
Never ignore Christ
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, firstname.lastname@example.org
October 14, 2015
I JUST learned about the
Tambuli Awards, organized by the University of Asia and Pacific (UA&P),
that seeks to promote both business and societal values of marketing
That’s actually another way
of saying that advertisements and commercials can work not only for
reasons of profit but also for strengthening human and Christian
values in society.
I have seen the winning
entries of the past years, and indeed, I can say that if only we put
our mind and heart into it, we actually can be very creative and
entertaining in the right way, avoiding gimmicks and smart moves that
only foster erotic and frivolous features.
Bluntly speaking, I must say
that given the prevailing business culture we have nowadays, the
awards are a bold initiative to consciously put Christ in the middle
of the unavoidable business of product publicity and promotion.
It’s acknowledging Christ in
the market without need for apologies, since Christ – to make an
understatement – has a rightful place in this particular business of
Otherwise, we would just be
left with our own devices, and no matter how brilliant they are, they
will never fully satisfy the demands of our dignity. We would just be
playing games, perhaps generating a lot of excitement but with hardly
any lasting effect on who we really are.
I feel that we need to do
this kind of thing, since at the moment the business world seems to be
held captive almost exclusively by purely market principles and
economic laws, like those of supply and demand, ratings, etc.
That kind of environment
steadily leads us to our own dehumanization, since with it we end up
simply ruled, titillated would be the better term, by worldly values
that hardly touch the core of our being persons.
Yes, we have been made in
the image and likeness of God, raised to the dignity of children of
God and supposed to be governed always in truth and love as shown by
As persons, we are a
relational being, meant for having constant dialogue with our Creator
and among ourselves, and for the task of building ourselves up both
individually and collectively, but always in the context of God who
reveals himself in Christ made present in us now through the Holy
As persons, we cannot help
but be a religious being, that is, one with a relation with God, his
Creator. As persons, we cannot help but treat others in truth and
love, in charity, and not just as objects and motives for making
money. We go beyond what numbers simply recommend.
These are truths that we
need to release to the public arena, not confined in some specialized
centers of learning, since they are meant for all and not just for
some. They may not be immediately understood, appreciated and
accepted, but they at least have to be known.
We need to break the
secularist or pagan mold that has been gripping us for centuries as a
result of the French Revolution of Enlightenment that put reason as
the main if not the sole guide in our life, discarding faith,
We have to make that
mentality history, a thing of the past, a source of precious lessons
about what to avoid in our pursuit for personal maturity and social
and economic development.
For this, we need to put
religion vitally and organically connected to our earthly affairs,
since that would better reflect the kind of reality that we live in.
It’s not a matter of establishing a theocracy, or of confusing Church
functions with state affairs.
We have to respect the
distinction between the material and spiritual, the mundane and the
sacred, the temporal and the eternal, but we need to learn to see the
relation between them also, since they are not separate aspects in our
life. In short, religion has to permeate all areas of our life here.
Much of the problem we have
at the moment is that we degenerate the distinction of these
unavoidable aspects of our life into division and conflict among them.
When we do business or politics, the usual mindset is that we have to
leave Christ behind.
Acknowledging Christ in our
human affairs would in fact enhance the evolution of these affairs of
ours. Christ would encourage us to go for the truth, for justice, for
understanding and broadmindedness, etc.
The do’s and don’t’s that
Christ would bring in our daily affairs are not an infringement on our
freedom but its enhancement.
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, email@example.com
October 10, 2015
THERE’S a new addiction in
the block. It’s called internet addiction. And it’s on the rise, with
frightening speed, especially affecting young people, like kids,
students and young professionals.
They are not of the type
prone to drugs or drinks. Rather their addiction is like that of
gambling. A certain compulsion dominates them and interferes in their
daily duties, wasting a lot of time and energy, and sometimes money in
They can look very decent
and normal, at least in appearance. But we know we all have feet of
clay. It would be good if we are aware of this clear and present
danger and prepare ourselves accordingly.
Early warning signs may be
deterioration of grades for students, and negligence of some basic
duties for the young professionals. Students who have been good in
class suddenly turn south in class performance. That’s because they
now find it hard to concentrate on their studies.
They often interrupt their
studies to answer the messages in their cellphones, and often check if
there are new messages. They upload photos, usually inane selfies, on
social media everyday, and comment on almost all of what their friends
post in the internet. The kids are practically taken away by the many
games the internet offers.
From there, things can
worsen as users end up visiting porn websites, and by surfing
aimlessly often end up induced to do bad things. Latent weaknesses
that the users are not aware of, suddenly get activated, and if they
do not have the proper defenses, then they get swallowed up.
In other words, they are
caught in some web of distractions quite hard to extricate from, since
many sweet and irresistible rationalizations come to their mind to
justify their actuations.
The Internet offers its
users a certain sense of immediate gratification in terms of
accessibility, affordability and anonymity. When not properly
motivated, these users fall for the ease and the false sense of
dominion the Internet offers.
We have to acknowledge this
social problem and do something about it. This disturbing development
should not suck us into fear and cowardice. Bad things can and should
give rise to occasions for us to grow more as a person, as a family,
as a community and society. They can enrich our humanity.
We can resort to some
immediate and stop-gap measures, like regulating the use of the
Internet, using filters, monitoring and supervising the Internet use
especially for the children.
It is said, for example,
that if you do not see your children in your own house, what you only
have to do is to turn off the Internet, and they will come out. Of
course, this and the other measures can only do so much, since the
kids now are smart and can easily get around these measures.
We should not stop simply in
the level of regulating, stopping, discouraging and other
negative-leaning measures, even if they are also indispensable. They
are not meant to be effective for long. We should face the challenge
of tackling this issue in a more positive and long-term way.
And that means that
especially for the children we have to learn how to motivate them
properly, giving them by word and example precious lessons about
order, prudence, temperance, sense of purpose.
It’s important that despite
the usual tension and conflicts, a cordial, friendly and intimate
relationship exists between them and the parents, the teachers and
others with certain authority. There should be an atmosphere of
openness, trust and confidence in this relationship. When this is
absent, we have a big problem to solve.
For the older children,
young professionals and even adults, the challenge to face is how to
resolve the existential emptiness that is at the bottom of this
Internet addiction and other forms of bondage.
It is this existential
emptiness that makes people vulnerable to be swallowed up by their
passions and other weaknesses that often are hidden and sometimes
masked by a façade of some virtue.
Even those who are generally
regarded as “good and holy people” are not exempted from this
predicament. In fact, their case can be trickier and harder to handle,
since they can easily hide this problem due to the many good and
impressive things they do and accomplish.
This existential emptiness
is resolved when one is genuinely connected with God who is everything
to us, our life, our wisdom, our truth, our freedom, our love, etc.
This happens when one truly prays, and becomes, in St. Paul’s words, a
spiritual man, going beyond sentimentalism, psychology,
intellectualism, professionalism, activism, etc.
There’s no other way to
tackle this issue.
Politics a monster
to be tamed
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
October 4, 2015
IN fact, more than to be
tamed, politics needs to be humanized and Christianized. It has to
have a soul, proper to our human dignity as persons who by nature also
belong to a society, and more, who are the image and likeness of God,
children of his.
Yes, politics touches the
spiritual and supernatural dimensions of our life. It just cannot be
left to the forces of purely worldly conditions – economic, social,
legal, cultural, historical, etc. It has to be referred to God, our
Creator who continues to govern us through his providence, with which
we try our best to get it in synch.
It just cannot be left
alone, to be at the mercy of our instincts and passions alone. These
always need purification and proper grounding and orientation that in
the end could only be done if things are referred to God, and not just
to some smart ideology.
If our understanding of
politics falls short of this fundamental and indispensable
consideration, we certainly would be in trouble. There’s no other way
but for it to be like a no-man’s land, wild and chaotic in spite of
appearances of law and order, and behaving like a juggernaut that
inflicts more harm than good to everyone.
Giving politics its proper
soul is not going to be easy, nor will it be finished definitively in
our time. It flows with life itself, our collective life, in fact, and
with all the complexities that such condition entails. But that’s the
thrill and adventure of politics.
We have to be wary of
Godless ideologies and vague principles that seem to stimulate our
political activities. Among them is that Bismarckian principle that
politics is the art of the possible, the attainable or the art of the
next best, without clarifying what criteria and standards are to used
to follow it.
If God and his laws are not
given primary consideration in this regard, that political principle
would certainly produce all kinds of scenarios, not all of them moral
and fitting to our human and Christian dignity.
It can easily unleash
Machiavellian game plans that can set aside even basic human ethics.
That’s why we have been having killings, cheating, recourse to,
treachery, ridiculous gimmicks, dirty tricks and other brazen
It should be made clear that
strictly putting God at the forefront of our political exercises does
not hinder our politics. On the contrary, he will enhance it, since
with him, we can always ventilate our opinions, views and positions as
freely and as openly as possible, but all within the context of
charity, justice and mercy.
Things simply depend on us,
on how we play politics, because insofar as God in concerned, he
already has given us everything for us to do politics properly. We
need to realize first of all that everyone needs to pray first, and
offer a lot of sacrifices for our politics, which as we are seeing
these days, is getting more and more complicated due to the many
issues that have to be addressed.
Politics should be an object
of intense prayers and sacrifice, not to mention, an ongoing formation
on our political life, since politics requires as much as possible the
active participation of everyone in whatever capacity and possibility
one has. The very nature of politics is participative. Everyone has a
role to play there, at least, to pray and offer sacrifices.
Political leaders and those
actively or directly involved in this field should strive to be first
and last men and women of God, persons of integrity and appropriate
political skills and competence. They should not be politicians just
because of pedigree, or money, or fame.
They should know what common
good is, both temporal and eternal, because everyone functions in
these dimensions of time and eternity, matter and spirit. Though
politicians focus more on the temporal common good, they should also
know the basics of the eternal common good, so that their work in the
former would not undermine their due concern for the latter.
They should be persons of
deep prudence, skillful in the art of teamwork, knowing how to relate
political realities to God’s plans.
Political parties should
have their own respective ways of policing their ranks, seeing to it
that their members are truly dedicated to their work, are persons of
conviction, fidelity and purity of intention, and not just users,
seekers and exploiters of opportunities.
Let’s remember that politics
is a noble profession, a basic human necessity given our social