Jose Ma. Montelibano
I am not sure who started what, whether political dynasties co-opted Church leaders or Church dynasties nurtured political dynasties. I guess that the history of societies would give us the final clue on who began dynasties – the agents of God or the agents of the State.
Religious rivalries have often brought out different claims from the various competitors about which one organized itself ahead of the others, which holy book could be dated the oldest, and which is the most wise, or at least accurate. This kind of rivalry seems to indicate that dynastic tendencies appear first in the religious realm rather than the political. Tracing oneself to the oldest is not enough if there are broken threads in the leadership of that religion. Each competing religion would have to point to a continuity of leadership as that leadership has been the continuing representation of the divine.
In a reversal that astounds, the Philippines has been the focus of positive and exciting news. It used to be that the most prevalent of commentaries heaped on both Filipinos and the Philippines centered on two societal cancers – corruption and poverty. Then, stemming from that corruption and poverty would flow a myriad of horror stories. It is also worth mentioning that Filipinos themselves, especially those who felt they were better than others, or who tried to point to the ugliness of others to camouflage their own dirt, often led the bashing of their race and their motherland.
Today, though, is an almost unbelievable turnaround. In the first place, Filipinos now like their President, consistently express their trust and approval of President Noy and his performance. This is the exact opposite of their sentiments towards Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who has been recorded as the most unpopular president ever. And the source of that collective disapproval was her image as most corrupt.
I am preparing to go on my first mission abroad for 2013. Since 2008, I have been regularly visiting the United States, deliberately seeking out Filipino-Americans and trying to imbibe their experience of leaving a motherland to adopt another country. I cannot anymore count the number of families who opened their homes to me, much less the greater number of people they gathered so I could expand my network of sources of information. I have organizations and associations to thank as well; they have been many and our interactions have been quite enlightening. While not a Filipino-American, I believe I have met more Filipino-Americans than most of them in the last five years than they since they migrated to America.
If there is a moment in these last almost 500 years for the country and our people to finally take off, it is now. It is now actually a situation where the dream is so near, but we must not let it slip away.
It used to be that we had to fight the Spaniards to be free. It used to be that we had to fight the Americans to control our own land. It used to be that we had to fight the Japanese when they invaded us.
We begin the new year with a mixed bag of goodies and booby traps. And, hey, before you raise your eyebrows too quickly and too high, this is a good place to start. Before, we just came from booby trap to booby trap – in all nine years of Gloria.
When did we ever begin a new year with our economy on a serious upswing? The last time we came close to this was exactly last year, when we began the year with the first positive outlooks of global financial institutions. And we proved then right and ourselves more than right – we were outstanding. Imagine being the only country in the world outperforming our economic forecasts!
It is Christmas time no doubt. The traffic is Metro Manila reflects the almost manic style of shopping that Filipinos can indulge in at this time of the year. Frankly, I would be very much into it if only other matters have been competing for, and winning, my attention. Shopping during Christmas, or for Christmas, is not really about what I buy, it is what I experience. Nor far but inside the maddening crowd, I get to sense what kind of Christmas it is. There are years when shopping is slow until the very last week. One knows then that there is not much money available then. Some start really early, signs of prosperity of the times.
It would have just been one of those ridiculous incidents that deserved no more than a momentary smirk if it did not have serious implication to an issue of great importance. I refer to a statement of a Catholic bishop who tried to put a connection between Typhoon Pablo and the effort to pass the RH Bill in Congress. He wondered out loud if the storm was not a sign of the wrath of God.
While this audible mumbling may have upset the more intelligent and sensitive among Filipinos, it is also a good reminder for us that the Catholic Church continues to be populated with religious elders who are an embarrassment to her Founder and teachings. The self-righteousness and bigotry that have been a scourge of Catholicism throughout the centuries, manifesting its worst in the Inquisition and wars waged in the name of God, remain in their more subtle form in some bishops. That these same bishops fumble and blurt out their perverted attitudes every so often allows the many good ones among them to work all the more to defend the true spirit of Christianity from extended blemish.
Typhoon Pablo came like a raging bull and is now exiting the Philippine Area of Responsibility via Palawan. It spared the Visayas, especially Negros and Panay islands, after it pounded a few Mindanao provinces. A great effort to prepare for the worst in areas considered endangered actually rewarded those who cooperated. Hardly any deaths were reported in these areas where their residents went to evacuation centers. But Typhoon Pablo caused more than two hundred deaths with a few hundred more missing despite all the preparations. Landslides were the main culprit, and these landslides were never anticipated where they happened because they had no history of landslides.
Always, the journey to home is an eagerly anticipated one. This one is no exception. Home is where the heart is, they say. True, but to me, home is first family and motherland, and I am finally on my way.
The long plane ride from New York to Tokyo, the usual and only stopover of Delta en route to Manila, gives me quiet time to reflect on the highlights experienced and insights gathered. Arriving in time for the US elections gave me a feel of the dynamics on the ground – both operational and emotional. I was fortunate to have been given access to witness and monitor the effort of a small group of Filipino-Americans to get more of their community to register, vote, support underdog, outspent candidates in their areas – and then bring them to victory. I witnessed the last day hustle, the intense suspense of monitoring the results of the presidential contest, and the counting of votes for the cities and counties.
I am preparing to fly to Washington DC where the Filipino Ambassador to the United States is graciously hosting an event for Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and Gawad Kalinga Founder, Antonio Meloto. Tony or TM as he is fondly called by so many, has won so many international awards, especially in the field of social enterprise, that we who work with him can hardly remember them all. It is a great affirmation to have the Philippine Ambassador honor the man who in Reader’s Digest commissioned research for Asia in 2009 – 2010 was declared by Filipinos as their most trusted male (after three most trusted females took the top spots), followed by then presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino. The global empowerment of Filipinos is part and parcel of nation building that prioritizes a ground-up approach as what Gawad Kalinga espouses.