On Rainbows

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In a historic vote, the Supreme Court of the United States voted 5-to-4 to legalize same sex marriage across the country. A victory for the LGBT community seeking equal marriage rights. A Land of the Free indeed.

I woke up this morning with the internet exploding with cheers of victory, praises for the Supreme Court’s decision, and a celebration of love.

And rainbows. Facebook.com took the initiative of merging its users’ profile pictures with a rainbow. Twitter.com puts a rainbow-colored heart emoji for every tweets with a #LoveWins hashtag. Different companies and organizations took the initiative of redesigning their logo on different social media platforms with the colors of this historic day’s victory.

Rainbow colors. The color of the widely-recognizable LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) flag. First used in the 1970’s, these colors symbolize the diversity of the LGBT community. The flag is often used in LGBT Pride Marches all over the world – and we would see more of them in the days to come in marches of victory and celebration.

Whenever there are news and talks about same-sex marriage and other issues concerning the LGBT, I always got used to being asked by my friends about my two cents and whatnots. I spent eight years in the seminary and at present, I am a Christian Living Education teacher in a Catholic School. Questions would range from the Catholic Church’s stand on the issue – and whether there is a possibility of softening her stand to catch up with the times – to my personal opinion as a, er,prodigal son of the Catholic Church (I was asked to take a leave from the seminary formation back in 2009 due to some of my views and opinions on some conservative issues.)

This is a historic moment for the LGBT Community but how should I address this issue to my students studying in a sectarian school?

The other day, I scolded my Grade 9 advisory class after some of my students (the testosterone-driven teenage boys, you got the picture) tauntingly called one student who passed by the corridor “Bakla!”, followed by the usual jeers and discreet laughter. I first gave them a Bruce Banner face. The scolding would come later. After all, they were praying their morning rosary(!) when the incident happened.

After calming my nerves, I reminded my students the basic virtue of respect. We have repeatedly discussed human dignity – that we are creatures endowed with freedom and intellect and that we are all created equal. We should treat each other with respect no matter what his/her color, gender, preference, choices, beliefs, and sexual orientation are. I also reminded them about the very first lecture that I delivered to them when classes opened last June 8 – the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013.

Section 3 (Definition of Terms), B.1.2 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the said law states the existence of  “Gender-based bullying” which refers to any act that humiliates or excludes a person on the basis of perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI)as one of the types of bullying. What they did is bullying. It should never be tolerated inside the school. It should never be a part of their behavior and subculture as growing teenagers. They should refrain from doing it. It is against the law. It is very disrespectful of other people. It is against their being students of a Catholic School.

All I got were nods of submission, apologies, and a promise never to do it again.

I hope they got my point. I hope they keep their promise.

The issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage had generated incidents and a culture of hatred and discrimination. Even among Christians and Catholics, whose beliefs are rooted the Incarnated God who taught to love and respect other people, the level of hatred and indifference appear to be very alarming and unbelievable. The Catholic Church is also not spared from this issue. The Institution that survived persecution, power struggle, wars, and criticism for over two millennia has repeatedly iterated her stand on same sex marriage – it is only between a man and a woman. Period.

But should Catholics propagate a culture of hate towards the members of the LGBT Community?

No. Plain and simple.

What does the Catholic Church teach on this issue? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2358) teaches that “they must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. 

We are all human persons. We are all intelligent creatures composed of complex molecular structures. We are all creatures endowed with freedom and intellect. We are all created in the image and likeness of God. We are all God’s children. Members of the LGBT Community – and mind you, I have a lot of proud friends – are also called to fulfill God’s mission for them. There is no room for an unjust discrimination and hate. We should all treat them with love.

But how about on the issue of same-sex marriage? Why does the Catholic Church stubbornly stay rooted in her stand amidst the changing of times? Is the Catholic Church still living on the Dark Ages?

No. There are some things that are immutable.To quote Lingayen Archbishop and CBCP President Socrates B. Villagas“the Church continues to maintain what it has always taught. Marriage is a permanent union of man and woman, in the complementarity of the sexes and the mutual fulfillment that the union of a man and a woman bring into the loftiness of the matrimonial bond. If there is an undeniable difference between man and woman, there is also an undeniable difference between the permanent union of a man and a woman.” This goes beyond time and the changing world. This is rooted on the teachings of Christ found on the Sacred Scripture.

But the times are changing, the world is changing. The Church should let go of her old ways and embrace that which is for the betterment of her flock, you may say. Should we teach the next generation of Catholics to embrace what the majoritythinks as right, better, and just?

Part of my duty as a Christian Living Education/Religion teacher is to teach my students what the church they belong to believes and teaches. But how do I reach out to the youth whose values (and maybe morals) are shaped by the fast-changing world?

It is my duty, it is my moral responsibility as their teacher to reach out to these youth and teach them the ways of the Church. But in the event that they do not adhere to that teaching, should they go on their own way and disobey the Catechesis of their Church, I would still show my love, understanding, respect, and compassion just as how I treat my LGBT friends. In the event that they openly go against the teachings and the ways of the Church, I would still treat them as a person worthy of love and respect. I believe all this hate starts from misunderstanding and I would like to be a part of that path towards healing and reconciliation. After all, I believe in a God who is all-loving and all-embracing.

Just this year, Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage via a referendum and now, a Supreme Court ruling in the United States. And some groups here in the Philippines are also pushing for the same thing. But I believe that this is an interesting times for the Catholic Church and her faithful. It is time for to step up and choose to be brave amidst these changing world. Stay true to her teachings but at the same time, show love and understanding to people who do things that are against her teachings. Reach out. Show them some love and understanding. Talk to them. Pray for them.

Rainbow. An optical and meteorological phenomenon caused by reflection, refraction, and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum. A visual treat. A source of joy and happiness for some people. Its different colors has been used and interpreted by people throughout history. LGBT groups wave it with pride. Christians remember it as a symbol of God’s covenant to Noah.

A symbol of covenant. A symbol of hope. A symbol of a new beginning. The issue of same-sex marriage and its legalization in the Land of the Free (and subsequently, in other countries too, I suppose) would be a cause of division among its people with different beliefs and choices. But as what it symbolizes, may this event be a start of a new beginning. Let us remember that we are all human persons no matter how different are we. Let us all shine and give color to this beautiful world.

This one is for love. This one is for compassion.

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The Things I Learned this Academic Year

A new academic year, new subjects to be taught, new colleagues, new students, different experience. Here are the things that I have learned for the past 10 months or so:

  1. This is a confession. I admit that when I was at school, when I was the age of my students, I used to despise some of my teachers – especially those who do not teach well. And now that I am a teacher for one-and-a-half years, I see my old self with some of my students. And I find it amusing, entertaining, and inspiring. I think that is the secret on understanding our students – by putting ourselves in their shoes. Empathy, if you may call it. Or metaphysical and psycho-emotional transcendence. I love students who challenge their teachers, who are not afraid to speak up and ask questions. And I am thankful that this school year, I already found some and they are also the reasons why I won’t leave this institution after this school year. I love challenges. And I love to speak with intelligent and brave students.

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  2. Fight for what you think is right, not for yourself, but for the future generation and the younger ones who look up to you. Last August 26, together with thousand other concerned taxpayers, I joined the so-called Million People March in Luneta, a protest against the pork barrel issue. It was a memorable experience for me as a concerned Filipino and as an educator of high school students. I used that experience to teach my students, especially in my Religion classes, the virtues of justice and honesty and the sense of social awareness. Before I became a teacher, I have this blog called Juan Republic and I used to contribute for different websites about my opinion and stand on different socio-political issues. And I have to say that my articles on the internet gained popularity and influence among young professionals and teenagers who follow my blog. And I told myself that I should use that influence to inspire the still-malleable high school students. Because I believe that these lessons will be carried by my students as they grow up, that they will remember life’s practical lessons more compared to Algebra, the different elements in Chemistry, and the memorized things inside the classroom.

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  3. Rest, if you must, but don’t quit. This academic year has been more tiring and burnout-inducing compared to last year because I hold 4 subjects on 8 sections. And I have less vacant periods this time (just one hour per day, usually the first period reserved for Class Advisers). I admit I almost gave up and ask for a relieve because doing 8 classes per day is exhausting and draining; I cannot do other responsibilities (doing lesson plans, checking test papers, and stuff) and I am always knocked out at the end of a day. But then I thought of my students, I thought of the young ones who are looking up to me as their teacher and their inspiration. So I decided to carry on. I think the secret of this craft is to use our time wisely (which, I am glad my 8-year stint in the Seminary has taught me), to balance work and other stuff, and to look at the students as an inspiration on everything that we do. At the end of the day, all things will zero in to our students. I vowed to teach them, to be an inspiration, to share my knowledge, talents and skills, to be of service. And that is one hell of a big responsibility. Who am I to give up and leave the future of the Patria Adorada hanging in mid-air?

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  4. Pursue your passion.  When the Priests asked me to undergo the regency program, I told myself that I will continue to do the thing that I always like – to write, to talk, and to inspire young people. This profession, or shall I say, this vocation is not financially rewarding. I may not get rich by teaching but this dictum has been my mantra for some time now: Choose the job that you want and you don’t have to work for the rest of your life. If I work just for the money, I have long abandoned this institution. But life is all about happiness, and as long as I am happy with what I am doing, I will still stay on the same ship.

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  5. Thank God for everything. This school year has been a blessing for me in all aspects. And I thank the Lord for giving me an opportunity to stay on the institution and to continue to be of service to the young generation.

This academic year has been a fun ride. I thank my students, colleagues, superiors, and friends who in one way or another, has accompanied me on this journey.

 I’ll see you soon. And by that time, we will start writing again another chapter of this fun-filled journey called life.  Au revoir!

Note: This article is originally my year-end report for this academic year. I have decided to share this in my blog to give the readers a view of my life as a teacher – and the lessons that I learned from it. Some parts have been tweaked for brevity and clarity but more or less, this is the original report.

15 Minutes of ‘Cyber Fame’

I was a late convert of Esquire Magazine. I have always wanted to buy (and collect) this magazine since their maiden issue with Manny Pacquiao on the cover but I can’t manage (financial-wise) to maintain more than one magazine subscription. You see, I was a huge PULP Magazine collector then but things changed since their magazine turned into an Avon magazine-brochure (But that’s another issue. Let’s not go to that awful story). 

But things started to change when they featured Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile last year. You see, sans the issues surrounding the old man, I am a huge fan of the Pinoy PalapatineAnd when they featured him on the December-January issue last 2012-2013, it was a no-brainer that I buy it. I found the magazine classy, substantial, and educational so I dumped my old collection and on that moment, my relationship with the magazine began.

I have learned a lot about life, trends, culture, politics, literature, and social issues since I started reading and collecting Esquire. It is not your usual bikini-clad, sex talk-filled, AB Market-catering magazine. It has substance. It has sense. For me, this is the magazine.

As of writing, they have just previously released their March issue featuring the 90’s It Girl Mai Mai Cojuangco. And the new issue reminded me of something ‘crazy’ that I did last month, something that I forgot to blog, and something that I will forever cherish.

Last month’s Art issue of Esquire Magazine features a ‘back portrait’ of John Lloyd Cruz. Most people do not know this ‘other side’ of John Lloyd – that he is a huge collector of local artworks and that his house is a mino-art gallety of sort. Personally, being an occasional artsy-fartsy that I am, I was also surprised that this A-list actor has a different persona away from the lights and glamour of show business.

I am not a die-hard John Lloyd fan. I haven’t watched all of his movies. I am just that regular viewer who watches him on TV every time I have the chance to do so. (Though I admit I am a huge fan of ‘Rovic and Eds’ – his loveteam with Kaye Abad during their Tabing Ilog days.) But John Lloyd Cruz, being the epitome of guwapong-lalake-pero-walang-6-pack-abs, is the inspiration of my ‘alter ego’.

I am a high school teacher and my students fondly call me “Sir John Lloyd”. It started when I declared myself as a John Lloyd look-a-like. And whenever they tag me photos on Facebook, I would always comment ‘#TeamJohnLloyd’ – indicating my self-proclaimed resemblance with John Lloud Cruz. I even went into putting John Lloyd Cruz’s photo in my test papers with an ‘inspirational quote’ (basically quotes from his movies) from the great man. (I am telling you, I am one hell of a crazy teacher. Haha!)

So when Esquire featured John Lloyd Cruz (again, having graced the cover before on their The State of Man issue) on the cover of their Art Issue, I decided to do something crazy. Just for fun, I told myself, something to ‘cement’ my claim that I look like John Lloyd Cruz.

With the helped of my siblings, I made a ‘back portrait’, imitating John Lloyd’s pose on the unique cover. I started sharing it on my social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – for the purpose of bringing a smile to people’s, especially my students’, faces.

And then the unexpected happen. The official Twitter account of Esquire Philippines tweeted my picture with the caption “When Life imitates art. An Esquire reader does his own version of the February cover” 

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And then it snowballed. They also featured it on their official Facebook page:

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After the photo was posted, I was bombarded by messages and reactions from my friends, praising, laughing, and basically astounded by my crazy antic – and its unexpected aftermath. Being a man contented with third world cyber joys, I was so elated when the Esquire did this. I even joked that this may be the key on finally meeting John Lloyd Cruz. And fist-bumping and bro-hugging him if possible.

I slept that night with a smile on my face. Seriously. Tangina John Lloyd Cruz yan eh! Sorry, I just have to let that out.

Sans this ’15 minutes of Cyber Fame’, I would like to express my admiration and gratitude to Esquire Philippines not for featuring my photo on their social media accounts but for providing readers with features and articles with substance. I wish longevity and more success for this badass magazine. I can’t wait to grab myself and read the latest issue.

And oh, Esquire Philippines, I am dead serious about meeting John Lloyd Cruz. It will be my greatest joy if this would see the light of reality.

Salary Grade 20 for Public School Teachers: A Few Thoughts

Senator Antonio Trillanes wants a Php 36,567 minimum salary for public school teachers.

As an *coughs* underpaid *coughs* private school teacher, these are my few thoughts:

  1. This will mean a massive diaspora from private to public schools by teachers. Even before the proposed salary increase, it’s happening now. Private schools are experiencing a mass resignation and transfer of their teachers to a higher-paying public school. We cannot blame those who leave. Their family needs them. There was even one joke among us teachers that “our take home pay cannot take us home”. With this in mind, this will lead to…
  2. The ‘death’ of some private schools that cannot match this salary grade. Take away the teachers from your school and what do you have? Nada. Or take this for example, if a school has no permanent teacher every school year (i.e. they transfer to public school after gaining a year of teaching experience), it would not thrive. There won’t be a continuity of the academic programs if you have new educators every year. 
  3. If this would materialize, there will be an increase in enrollment of education-related courses. I have nothing against that. We need teachers. But what we need more are quality teachers. Better teachers. Best teachers. Especially with the new K+12 curriculum. There are some teachers who are only good in demo teaching. Trust me, I know. Heh!
  4. I hope this would not be like what happened in the past when there was a sudden increase of students who took up nursing – only to end up being jobless and some nursing schools being closed due to its poor performance. We should not compromise quality of our educators by producing products of a another diploma mill.
  5. I hope they also consider those minimum-wage-earning private school teachers who would be left behind, if this would see the light of reality. I suggest they increase the FAPE subsidy that they give every year. As of now, licensed private school teachers only receive 10,000 pesos in Government subsidy (sans the tax) every year as a way to ‘level’ them with public school teachers.

I have nothing against public school teachers (Salute mga Ma’am Ser!) and Sen. Trillanes’ proposal. I just care about my comrades in the Private School. I do not plan to be a teacher forever. I just consider this as my ‘past time’, a furlough of sort while waiting for a better career option. But, just maybe, I reconsider my options since I love what I’m doing right now.

And to cap this post, here are some unnecessary pictures of me, being happy with my job, er, service as a private school teacher:

 

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Mabuhay ang mga guro!

Please take note that the things written here are my opinion and they do not reflect those of my employer’s and the school system that I work with. Thank you.

Yes, this is the headline of the Philippine Daily Inquirer Today

Since the advent of my bumming in our school library and in my parents’ office library, I have been always fascinated with covers and front pages of various local and international broadsheets and magazines. In fact, it is my daily habit before starting a day’s work to browse and to look at various front pages and covers whether it be in print or in digital format. I consider it as an exceptional art and as a part of history as well. (See my blog’s archive for some of my articles written in the past regarding that matter).

One of my favorite websites is that of the Philippine Daily Inquirer which has been my favorite broadsheet since those bumming days in the library. But it is no secret here in my blog that I have a love-hate relationship with that broadsheet. Though I have repeatedly praised some of their creative front pages (like the false cover and the bloodied cover for the Philippine Independence Day celebration), I have also criticized (if not make fun of) some of them. to name a few, there was the juxtaposition failure, their tabloid-esque layout, and the headline that’s more appropriate in the entertainment section.

Earlier this morning, I woke up to the sad news about the Boston marathon bombing. While reading articles from foreign news outfits (like the Associated Press, Hufftington Post, and The Atlantic), I decided to pay a visit on some of our local news websites to double-check the facts and figures and at the same time, to check their banner stories for today. Lo and behold! It’s our favorite Presidential sister headlining today’s issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

I have nothing against Kris Aquino being the top tax payer. I have nothing against Kris Aquino being Kris Aquino. In fact, just like Lourd De Veyra who has repeatedly wrote about her on his This is a Crazy Planets column on Spot.PH, I have also repeatedly wrote (satirical piece and praise) about her (with this being my all-time favorite). What moved my palm into my face was the fact that she conquered the front page and that she and her multi-million tax is today’s banner story for the respected broadsheet.

But of course, I have nothing against the story showcasing this country’s top taxpayers. As what every students in College learned in their taxation class, taxes are the blood that supports and gives life to a country. We need taxes. We need efficient tax collection. We need to penalize those who do not declare their taxes correctly and those who do not pay them. But unfortunately, with our favorite Presidential sister being this country’s top taxpayer, we also need to know that fact. Or do we really need to? Have we had enough of her life and her stories? Is it necessary for the Philippine Daily Inquirer to shove her story in our faces?

But maybe, just maybe, it was a slow news day yesterday and the biggest story (at least, based on their discretion), is Kris Aquino’s. I have seen this story being repeatedly tweeted yesterday but I did not expect it to land into theInquirer’s banner story. Well, with their history of previous facepalm-inducing front pages, I was not completely surprised.

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Enough of my disappointment. I miss doing this in my blog so let me do this once again – dissecting and giving the items on the front page a bit of scrutiny, sarcasm, and humor. Here we go:

  • NKKLK! – According to the news, Kris Aquino, with her three television shows and tons of product endorsements, paid almost 50 million pesos in taxes in 2011. Aside from me, who among you thinks that you can earn that amount until your retirement? Why not? Explain using the BIR form no. 1700.
  • “Daang Maalog” – Yesterday, President Aquino rode the locally-developed monorail at UP Diliman for a test run. He described the ride as “bumpy” and the tracks “wavy”. And according to the resident trolls, er, readers (who leave their comments via Disqus) of the the Inquirer’s website, that ride perfectly describes this administration’s “Daang Matuwid”. Boom!
  • Beauty. And brains. – I failed to catch last Sunday’s Binibining Pilipinas Gold (because I was busy watching the Jose and Wally concert on the other channel). But do you know what’s more gold? Twitterverse. And the tweets, comments, and reactions on the pageant, the hosts, and the contestants. Twitterverse was so awesome the pageant itself became so boring. Anyway, congratulations to the winners and to the aspiring beauty queens who are planning to join next year’s pageant, please don’t forget to bring Mongol pencil no. 2.
  • Practice what you Preach. – Pope Francis told Priests to practice what they preach. This news item has a special place in my heart. It is not a secret here in my blog that I almost became a Priest. But I was too awesome, er, badass so they have to send me out of the Seminary. (How badass? Let’s just say that I wrote this controversial piece entitled “Of Sacerdos and Politicos: A Comparison Between Priests and Politicians”. Read on!)
  • Smart Communications is the number one corporate taxpayer. I guess Globe Telecom, as usual, is having a problem with their network at the BIR Office.

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It has been ages since I last wrote a decent blog entry. My work as a high school teacher – and the real world – drove me away from my love of writing and sharing my thoughts and a part of my crazy imagination here in my blog.

But I guess, I have had enough rest. It’s time to resurrect this blog and once again, share stories and opinion with the rest of the Tumblrverse and the interwebz. I hope I am still welcomed here in the blogging community.

Brace yourselves, it’s gonna be a fun ride.

#AshTag Wednesday

“It’s Ash Wednesday. Let us spread the #ashtag”

Today, the Catholic Church celebrates Ash Wednesday. This day marks the beginning of the Lenten season, or the 40-day period of fasting to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection (Paschal Mystery). It is the season where we are reminded to repent from our sins, to fast and abstain, and to do charity works for the poor and needy.

It is an open secret here on Tumblr and in my blog that I am a former seminarian (or more appropriately, a seminarian on regency or break). I studied in the Seminary for eight years – from high school to college, and I have been writing reflections about Lent and being of service to the poor and the needy since I was twelve (I entered the seminary at a young age, so there goes the explanation).

But there is something that I have to confess to you. Something that whenever I remember those events, I have a mix feelings of being ashamed and laughing at it. During my first years in the high school seminary, I look at Ash Wednesday as a punishment. You see, even the required age for fasting and abstinence is 14, there are no exemptions in the Seminary (for obvious reasons, of course). I treat Ash Wednesday then as a ‘hunger strike day’ for we are only served one full meal during the day without merienda. And if you personally know my eating capacity, you will know why I despise a meal-less day.

As I grow up and as I learn more in the Seminary, my perspective has changed. And I should, because Seminary is a place of formation – spiritually, academically, socially, and formation as a mature, young man with the direction to the Priesthood. And even after I left (or shall I say, after being advise to leave) the institution last March 2009 after graduating in Philosophy, even now that I am living in the real world away from the comforts of her confines, I continuously live (and share) most, if not all, the things that I have learned inside. There are no clear indications yet if I would return and pursue my Theological studies but the important thing is, I should and I must strive not to forget those good things. 

 

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Last night, I planned to attend the Ash Wednesday Mass at the School. But since I have to leave early for Tagaytay City with the parents of some of our fourth year high school students on retreat, I just decided to hear my Ash Wednesday Mass at the retreat house since it would be the  retreat’s culminating activity.

The Holy Mass went as usual and, God forgive me, I wasn’t able to hear something ‘new’ from the Priest who presided the Mass. Maybe because I have repeatedly taught the message of Ash Wednesday and Lenten season to my students and the Priest earlier said the same. Coming home from Tagaytay, I decided to open my blog’s archives and look for last year’s Ash Wednesday homily that moved me.

It was the homily of Fr. Thor Villacarlos, former Parish Priest of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Parish inside UPLB.

He started his homily sharing a stuff that he found on the internet. He said that a particular Christian denomination put up in their website that a mixture of ash and water burns the skin. As most of us know, the ashes being placed on our foreheads is a mixture of ashes (from the palms used on the previous year’s Palm Sunday) and (Holy) water. He consulted the Chemistry Professors of the University and they told him that yes, it is possible to burn one’s skin by a mixture of ash and water (he told us the name of the chemical compound but I forgot it) but the ashes used on Ash Wednesday have a very minimal effect to cause burning. So are they bluffing? Or scaring the faithful? We don’t know.

Why put ashes on our forehead? It is a reminder for us that we came from dust/earth and we would return to it after our death. Faher Thor told us that the mixture of ashes and water is very symbolic since ashes represents a lifeless man and water, the breath of God that created us (if you read the book of Genesis, this will be quite familiar to you). When God breathed to the earth, there was life.

So what is the challenge for us? Father Thor told us that when the Priest (or the Minister) put ashes on our foreheads, this is a invitation for us to ‘return to the earth’. It is an invitation for us to be stoop down from our level, be ‘dirty’, and to be humble. After all, humility came from the Latin word humus which means earth or soil.

But how could we do that in these modern times where everything is fast and everyone is busy? That is where fasting and abstinence would enter. Fasting and abstinence is not just eating less and abstaining from meat. It is also doing less the things that we find addictive – television, alcohol, cigarettes, internet, and everything considered as ‘excess’ and not an essential. And when we have a free time after abstaining (and fasting) from these, then it would be the time to go back to the earth and be dirty.

And after all of these, during the celebration of the Easter Vigil (or the end of the 40-day preparation) and the blessing of fire and water, it is there when we would burn ourselves and walk to God, our savior. So basically, those who posted that a mixture of ashes and water will burn us, is in a way, correct.

Seminarians are known to Priests as omniscient creatures (it is a inside joke actually). I am guilty of this when I was in college since there are Priests and speakers who give us something that we already know and I (together with most of my brothers) would just fake our attention, pretending to be listening. I know, it is a sign of being proud and not being humble.

But I have learned my lesson. Though I cannot say that I am totally doing it, I chose to listen and digest what Father has given us. I have learned that yes, we know things and sometimes, it is our expertise, but we should always be reminded. And we should see things from other people’s perspective.

The Season of Lent is about preparing ourselves. It is the period to give up something and be of service to the needy. Actually, as I have mentioned above, some of the things that we have saved during this season should go to helping the poor and the needy. Some would say that this is hypocrisy on our part, but should it be? I think doing something good at least during a particular period of a year is better than having done nothing at all. And as long as you know what you believe in, as long as you are steadfast on your faith, no hecklers, trolls, haters, and non-believers can shake you.

This is a period of giving up our excess. What would you give up? for me, I think it wold be extra rice. Aside from helping me lose wight, it will help those who are in need by giving them what I should have eaten for my excess consumption. (Lent, as they say, is the best way to lose weight and be of shape.)

In these modern times, is the celebration of Ash Wednesday still relevant? Yes. We need it more during these times when we seem to just think of ourselves and our personal gains.

 

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Earlier at the Ash Wednesday Mass at the retreat house, since the Priest has no one to assist him, I volunteered to render my services as a sacristan. I have avoided in purpose to do services in the Mass after my ‘eviction’ from the Seminary since I want to see things ‘from the opposite side’ and ‘from a different perspective’.The last time I rendered service at the Holy Mass was on April 22, 2009, as a Lector, during my cousin’s wedding. It was also the last time I wore my cassock. It feels good to be back at the Sanctuary, serving the Lord in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Coincidentally, I was also mistaken as a Priest by some of the Augustinian Nuns at the retreat house. I politely said ‘No I’m not’ to the Nuns and told them that I am one of the students’ teachers. I was surprised to hear their next words. They told me that I have an ‘aura’ (or a ‘vibe’) of a Priest. I just stood there, speechless, and thanked them afterwards when they promised to pray for me and my return in the Seminary.

For years, I have turned away from the possibility of returning to the Seminary to continue my Theological studies. Maybe because I am ‘enjoying’ my life outside the Seminary’s confines. But what if these events are God’s way of waking me up from a deep sleep of denial? Of hardheartedness? Of not answering his call – again?

Personally, this Lenten Season is a challenge for me to pray hard(er) and to discern what path to choose in my life. But for now, I will try my best to live and share the message of the Lenten Season to my family, friends, and students. I will strive to give up my ‘excess loads’ – sin, self-centeredness, pride – and to burn myself with love, passion, and dedication to share God’s words and message.

How about you? What would you give up and burn this Lenten season?

Today is the beginning of the Lenten Season. Let us spread the #AshTag. Vaya con Dios!

Photo Above: Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle celebrates Mass on Ash Wednesday at the Arzobispado de Manila Chapel in Intramuros, Manila on February 13, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Noli Yamsuan/Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila)

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EDSA Dos at Twelve: A Historical Repression

Today is the twelfth anniversary of the conspiracy that ousted Former President Joseph Estrada from Malacañan Palace and put Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the helm of power in January 2001. We commonly know it by the name of EDSA Dos. And no one seems to give a damn to throw a celebration.

 

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I have been observing the internet (Twitter, Facebook, and news websites) the whole day and only a handful posted stuff about the day that changed our Political history. I searched the word “EDSA” on Twitter earlier and I only saw less than 10 tweets (mine included) about EDSA dos. GMA News’ YouScoop tweeted a query, asking their followers about the lessons of EDSA dos but that was it. The results are mostly MMDA’s traffic update on EDSA and some commuters’ rant on how horrendous the traffic situation at EDSA is. 

How come nobody commemorated the events that happened eleven years ago at EDSA Shrine? Maybe because we are too busy celebrating the Sinulog Festival and the feast of the Santo Nino.  Maybe because some of us choose to watch and discuss Les Miserables and Ricky Lo’s interview with Anne Hathaway instead. Or too engrossed with the Atimonan, Quezon shooting and the US Warship that destroyed a part of the Tubbataha Reef.

Or is it because EDSA Dos is considered a nightmare, a dark part of our history that should be forgotten and should never be repeated again? Maybe yes.

Where were you eleven years ago?

I was eleven years old then, a graduating student in Elementary. The last days of the impeachment trial and the mass protest in EDSA Shrine coincided with our third quarterly exams. Prior to that, whenever I go home early from school, I see to it that I watch the impeachment trial. I can still remember how my classmates and I would horse around, imitating the Chief Justice, the Prosecution, and the Defense Panel. The words Objection your honor, overruled, and sustained became a part of our daily conversation.

I remember watching the controversial voting whether to open the second envelope or not with my father. I can still recall how Senators Pimentel and Drilon hugged each other and in tears, how Senator Legarda wept, how Chief Justice Davide removed his judicial robe, how the Prosecution panel resigned and walked out in disgust, and how the aunt of our current President, Senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta danced a la dougie in jubilation. Minutes after the controversial decision, the streets are filled with protesters, the car owners are blowing their horns, and the members of the crowd in EDSA Shrine, increased in number.

The next day, I remember my father putting up a printout of JOE’S COHORTS in the windshield of our car as a sign of protest. It is a mnemonic of the Senators who opposed the opening of the second envelope – Jaworski, Oreta, Enrile, Santiago, Coseteng, Osemeña, Honasan, Ople, Revilla, Tatad.

Text messaging was a new technology then (there were no unlimited text and calls promos though) and it also helped to spread the message to gather in EDSA Shrine and force the President to step down from office. As expected, ERAP jokes became rampant to taunt President Estrada. The Senators who opposed the opening of the second envelope were also not spared from taunts and heckling. Some of the famous lines then which I can still remember are Tadtarin si Tatad!, Oreta Dancing Queen!, and  Ninoy Aquino’s photo with the lines ‘My sister is not worth dying for’.

The protest to became festive with artists and bands performing at the stage and with the presence of, uhm, some artistas. (The most memorable personality then was President Estrada’s friend, Nora Aunor, who joined the crown on calling him to resign). But if there is one song which I can associate with the protest, it would be Sam the Sham and the Paraoh’s ‘Wooly Bully’ which the protesters sang as ‘Huling-huli! Si Erap! Huling-huli!

Though I was not present with the protesters during that time, for obvious reasons, I made myself updated by constantly tuning in to news programs on television. And some of the memories were still vivid because when I was in high School, my tambayan is our library and I have repeatedly read this coffee table book:

 

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The President was twelve eleven years ago today and his Vice President succeeded him – with the help of the high-ranking military officials, political and business elites, and the Catholic Church led by Jaime Cardinal Sin. Conspiracy, as they say, to oust the President extra-constitutionally, a de facto coup that led to the  proclamation of Gloria Arroyo.

In the later months and years, Erap would be arrested, EDSA tres would happen, Erap would come out saying he was forced to sign a resignation paper during the height of EDSA Dos, and Gloria Arroyo would become the infamous President that we know today.

Was EDSA Dos a historical success? No. Did it play an important part in history? Maybe, but what we learned more are lessons for the future of our country.

A contemporary Filipino writer who goes by the pen name Bob Ong, wrote something about EDSA Dos in his book Stainless Longganisa. He compared the protest in EDSA to drinking antibiotics to cure a disease.

He wrote that it is wrong to immediately go to the street to call for the resignation of a leader – or to immediately drink antibiotic without first consulting the doctor. Time will come that the bacteria would become immune to antibiotics and it would be more difficult to cure the disease. Just like the cancer of our society, the more we use the usual way of cure, that is, to march in the streets and call for change, time might come that the usual way will no longer work for us. And worse, during the time when we really need change.

Many of the prominent personas involved during the EDSA Dos have already expressed their regret on being a part of that event. And maybe, most of the participants in EDSA and in key cities of the country who helped, in a way, put Gloria Arroyo into power in 2001 did the same.

It is said that we cannot change history, and that there are no ifs in it. But we can always carve the future of our country. May the lessons of the events of yesteryears be a guide on making a better future for our country.

Today is the twelfth anniversary of EDSA Dos. Did it already become a repressed memory? Do you still give a damn about it?

Today is the twelfth anniversary of the EDSA Dos. And no one seems to gives a damn to throw a celebration. And I don’t think the woman who replaced Joseph Estrada, who is now detained at the Presidential Suite of Veteran’s Memorial Medical Center, is celebrating either.

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