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Monthly Archives: December 2010

2010 Filipino of The Year — President Noynoy Aquino!

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For the hope and inspiration that he gave to politics- and poverty- weary Filipinos during the last presidential elections, FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES and ALAS FILIPINAS would like to honor President BENIGNO SIMEÓN III AQUINO Y COJUANGCO this year’s not-so-prestigious (but soon to be!) 2010 FILIPINO OF THE YEAR!

Thank you, President Noynoy, for inspiring the Filipinos to move forward with optimism and hope. That is so important to a nation long battered with all sorts of bull. But not all presidential reigns end up in roses; remember your unpopular predecessor and her predecessor, most especially. So we will be watching — and continue hoping. And as long as you remain steadfast —and sincere— to your promises of a corrupt-free Philippines, then the whole nation will continue to rally behind you.

May all Filipinos welcome 2011 the way they welcomed Noynoy to Malacañang many months ago!

*******

2009 FILIPINO OF THE YEAR

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Nothing has changed — the Vatican is still against condoms

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“Optimum legum interpres consuetudo.”

The sixth commandment in the Old Testament says “You shall not kill”. Even if in some ways the New Testament has superseded the Old Testament, the rule did not change: do not kill.

This applies to many cases, but relatively. In the case of a war, if, for instance, a journalist asks Pope Benedict XVI for a comment, the pontiff will certainly condemn it no matter who the aggressor or defender is. The pope will condemn all motives (final cause) for war, all participants in the senseless killing, most especially all agents involved: guns, bombs, fighter planes, bullet-proof vests, etc.

Speaking of bullet-proof vests, it is a brilliant invention made to protect the life of war participants against firearm-fired projectiles and shrapnels. These vests are made available in the war market. All items in the war market are condemned by the Vatican because they are all involved in carrying out war.

But war is already taking place. Not even the Swiss Guards will be able to stop the warring factions. Wouldn’t it be “madness” for the Vatican to forbid the use of bullet-proof vests?

Pope Benedict XVI would have certainly answered thus: “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a soldier uses a bullet-proof vest, where this can be a first step in the direction of saving a life, which is HIS life, a first assumption of responsibility, for it will prolong his true mission on earth, one of which is not to kill”.

The same line of reasoning can be argued regarding the pope’s remark on condom usage only made controversial by an irresponsible media and many a sex-starved individual who frivorously twisted the said remark to justify their unjustified interests.

In a recent interview that journalist Peter Seewald had with the German pontiff regarding condoms and the spread of AIDS in Africa, the Catholic leader said that the use of condoms could be seen as “a first step toward moralization,” even though condoms are “not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.”

A confused Seewald asked for more clarification: “Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?”

The pope’s answer: “It of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”

Although the pope in particular and the Vatican in general did not change the Catholic ban on contraceptions such as condoms, the pope’s remarks to Seewald was, sad to say, greeted as a “breakthrough” by liberal Catholics and pro-choice activists. But this “breakthrough” that they claim is nothing more but a type of unrepresentative generalization. And their claim that the Vatican has finally softened its stand on condom use is purely anecdotal evidence.

Drawing an analogy from the “war commentary” mentioned earlier, to say that the pope is 100% OK with the sale and usage of bullet proof vests to protect human life from bullets and shrapnel in times of war is tantamount to saying that he is OK with war itself. Of course not. That would have been contradictory to the Church’s stand against war and the taking of another life. Therefore, to claim that the pope has finally OKd condom usage is to say that he is now OK with pre and extramarital affairs, an absurd scenario.

And besides, the media has been very selective of the pope’s remarks. They have only allowed to publish what the boisterous pro-choice people had wanted to hear all along, thus killing the entire context altogether. But if pro-condom advocates are to read the full transcript of what the biased media had made controversial, they will get a different idea, far different from what they have claimed to be a victory:

Peter Seewald: On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican’s policy on Aids once again became the target of media criticism. Twenty-five percent of all Aids victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church’s traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church’s own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

Pope Benedict: The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on Aids. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim.

Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many Aids victims, especially children with Aids.

I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering.

In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work.

This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.

That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

Peter Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

Pope Benedict: She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality. (from Seewald’s latest book Light of the World, The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times which was published last month)

Canon law and Church law, particularly those that deal with human life and sexuality, cannot be altered just like that, especially not in an interview. So when in doubt, always remember that custom is the best interpreter of the law. It has never been the custom of the Catholic Church to advocate the banality of sex. And in view of the foregoing excerpt, I believe enough has been said. So Congressman Edcel Lagmán better shut up for a while, the way he always does anyway whenever he is caught in a predicament in debates with Congressman Roilo Gólez regarding the RH bill.

Unfortunately, the damage has been done. Many people with childish logic have already believed that the Pope has approved condom use. So let us just be wary and extra cautious the next time around. Keep in mind that media is the most effective way to influence the greatest number of people in the shortest posible time and is the key to any advocacy campaign. Conspirators against life know this perfectly. Let us not fall prey next time.

Marcelo H. del Pilar’s letter to his niece, Josefa Gatmaitán

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Below is a letter of Marcelo H. del Pilar to his niece, Josefa Gatmaitán. It was translated from Spanish into English by del Pilar’s granddaughter, Atty. Benita Marasigan vda. de Santos:

Me and del Pilar's granddaughter, Atty. Benita Marasigan-Santos.

Barcelona, 13 March 1889

My dearest niece,

The vagaries of life, which Providence in its most inscrutable design has alloted to me, had taken me away from that beautiful land where I have left behind the treasures of my life without even giving me a chance to say goodbye to the people I cherish and appreciate. In this letter to you, I shall try to make amends for my precipitate flight, by sending through you this my humble message to the young women of Bulacán. I feel convinced that you have been chosen, and on you depends the regeneration, the rebirth of our town. For there is no doubt of the strength and scope of a women’s influence on the family. Daughter, sister, wife, or mother — a woman offers the balm of solace that makes endurable the rigors of everyday life. More than that, she is the element that guides men to paths of virtue and courage or to the pitfalls of wrongdoing and cowardice.

In all these countries that I have now visited, I have found eloquent proof that where women are virtuous, vice is timid and dignity predominates in the life of man. But when feminine frivolity reigns, the men are taken up in immorality and the abandonment and disregard of the sacred duties of man is the popular way of life.

It is your duty to God to develop your mind and your reason by education; it is your duty to your fellowmen to share the knowledge that you possess, that they may use it to better their lives. Do not forget, dear niece, that an untutored mind is like a lighthouse without light, useless to guide the sailor to his port.

I shall recommend to you the diligent study of the Spanish language, because knowledge of Spanish will open to you the opportunity of wide reading which in turn solidifies your education. For this reason alone you should, and the other women of Bulacán with you, devote yourselves to the mastery of the Spanish idiom.

Studying Spanish is not a luxury reserved for a few and denied to the indigent and the female. To study it is not a useless activity to be passed up in indifference and carelessly exchanged for a few idle hours of gossip everyday.

You, my dear niece, and your friends who will be the mothers of tomorrow, do not throw away this treasure. Cherish knowledge not only for yourself but that posterity may have received it from you and bless you for this legacy. Surely, for this you may well sacrifice a few hours a day, the few hours you waste so carelessly in “panguingue” and idle gossip.

For this reason, I have written you from across the sea. For this I plead with all my soul — will you not do this out of love for our town of Bulacán, our unhappy town that had cradled our birth, had sheltered our youth and now shares with us the bitter and the sweet of life’s memories? Look not with indifference at my plea for the weal of Bulacán is linked with yours and those of your children. Study, spread the love of learning, uplift yourselves, and you shall yet uplift your town. And I beseech you for the sake of this goal, to learn to work as one in spirit and determination. Forget and set aside petty rivalries that frequently becloud your little groups. Be ready to sacrifice your little prides in the bigger altar of common good and your noble purposes shall have a better chance of survival. Build up, my dear niece, the honor and prestige of Bulacán by spreading the love of learning among your compatriots. For the mind enlightened and elevated is better than a temple of stone; it is a living sanctuary reflecting the magnificence of its Omnipotent Creator.

M.H. DEL PILAR

Marcelo H. del Pilar y Gatmaitán

Click here to read the letter in its original version. =)

Bay, the lake’s padrino (Bay, La Laguna)

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Later Tagalog arrivals would sail up the Pásig to Laguna de Baí, on whose shores would rise their bailiwicks and colonies. Their capital was the town of Baí; and so all this lake country —and the lake itself— became known as Baí. —Nick Joaquín—

It’s not unusual for married couples to be on a huff with one another. Well, that’s what happened to me and Yeyette last month (11/06/2010) when we attended the birthday of a friend who lives in a residential area for military peeps in Ciudad de Taguig. You know, the usual tampuhan. And it’s funny because, although we’ve been together for more than a decade, and already with four kids, we still behave —and quarrel— as if we’re college sweethearts, haha! Not that I’m complaining. I even think it’s better that way. Perhaps it keeps us young. I don’t know. Sometimes, I do feel that we’re going over the edge. But at the end of the day, the crumples on our shirts are always ironed out (I’m trying to invent an idiomatic expression here; hope that one’s not yet patented).

Sayang, Myla, ¡hindí man lang acó nalasíng! =)

So how did I fix the mess?

We were both silent in the jeepney on our way home after the birthday party (say… that rhymes!). It was already early dawn (11/07/2010). To break the ice, I nonchalantly suggested to her that because it was still dark, perhaps we could stroll in Bay, La Laguna for a while so as not to disturb our four kids and their yaya who were still sleeping. And also for us to have a breath of fresh air (and I have not yet blogged about that town, LOL!). I honestly never expected her to say yes, although the traveler in me had wanted such a reply. I just wanted her to speak up. Silence is so awkward for lovers who have a misunderstanding.

Surprisingly, she answered: “¿Gaano ba calayo yon? (How far is it?)”. That was an indication that everything was getting OK, hehe!

Fortunately for us, the jeepney driver, who was driving all night long, lives in Santa Rosa, La Laguna. And he was raring to go home that dawn. That’s why we didn’t have to transfer from one jeep to another.

We reached Santa Rosa shortly after six in the morning. We took another jeep going to nearby Calambâ where we got off to a jeepney terminal situated in a crowded place which Calambeños call “Crossing”. We had to wait for our jeep (going to San Pablo, La Laguna) to be filled up with passengers before going to Bay. In a matter of minutes, we were already zooming through the highway surrounded by spectacular views of mountains and greenery.

Bay is the town right after Calambâ and Los Baños. It used to be the capital of the whole province of La Laguna. But the capitolio was later moved to Santa Cruz.

The jeepney driver dropped us right in front of the church. We were just a few minutes late for the 7 AM mass.

Iglesia de Bay

The church is dedicated to one of the greatest philosophers and theologians of all time: Saint Augustine of Hippo Regius (in present-day Algeria). He is, incidentally, the patron saint I chose when I reconverted to the Catholic faith a few years back. He, too, was a convert to Catholicism, having lived a hedonistic life in his youth. Well, it’s not that I had lived the same life he had experienced. But he was a sinner before he became a saint, not unlike most Catholic saints that we have who had lived chaste lives throughout most of their existence.

Iglesia de Bay, La Laguna

The first church was founded by Augustinian monks in 1571 led by Fr. Martín de Rada (an off-on-a-tangent trivia: my mom grew up in a street in Tondo named after this friar). It was made of nipa and bamboo in a place called Aplaya, a corrupted Tagalog version of the Spanish la playa meaning “beach”. This means that the first church made of wood used to be in front of Laguna de Bay. It became a full-fledged parish on 30 April 1578. Being the founders of the church and the Christianized town, it was only natural for the Augustinians to administer Bay. One hundred fifty-nine years later, it was transferred to the care of the Franciscans. The patron saint and the church’s name, however, remained Augustinian.

In 1804, the church was transferred to its present site in the the población or town proper. The new church was made of stone and was supervised by Fr. Gerónimo Hervas. The construction was finally completed after 60 years, but a strong earthquake in 1880 destroyed its roofing. In 1884, Fr. Jesús Lillo had it restored. The restoration work was finished by Fr. Celestino de los Huertos in 1889.

All these restorations and constructions were put to naught during World War II. Sadly, the church and its accompanying convent were completely wiped out. Eight years after the war, Fr. Alejandro Vermorel resurrected the Parish Church of Saint Augustine. He had the façade patterned after the architectural styles of the Early Renaissance period. It was simple in design, with a semicircular door and window openings. The church’s pediment is also adorned with a circular window in its tympanum.

The church’s interiors are very modest. Not surprising since the original church was destroyed by brimstone and fire due to man’s folly (i.e., war). Aside from a chapel dedicated to the Divine Mercy apparition, it has nothing stunning to offer, architecture wise. Even the retablo is not that “loud” with design if one is to compare it with other antique Philippine churches. But the faithful, particularly its senior womenfolk, are a sight to behold: many of them still wear veils on top of their crowns. That’s the way it really should be with female churchgoers regardless of age.

A view of the church's nave and altar from the entrance.

Bay's lady folk selling religious items by the church door.

The church's modest chapel dedicated to the famous Divine Mercy apparition.

Chapel of Saint Augustine. It is attached to the church outside.

A mass was being held that Sunday morning when we arrived (6:00 AM).

Inside the chapel of Saint Augustine, smoked by brightly colored candles.

Bay church's north transept. Notice the initials of the town's patron saint embedded at the top of each buttress.

Handsomely designed circular wood ceiling right above the altar.

The faithful of Bay. Me and Yeyette noticed that many female churchgoers here (mostly the elderly) are still wearing veils on top of their heads. That's the way it's supposed to be.

Bay Church's bell tower. I failed to climb this because one has to pass through the choirloft. In this church, there is a sign that strictly prohibits non-choir members to go up the choirloft. Aside from that, a mass was going on.

Población

The town proper, with its narrow roads and small stalls, somehow reminds me of Unisan. The only difference is that Bay is bustling with vehicular energy, not to mention noise. Its because its main thoroughfare serves as an entrepot between Los Baños, Victoria, Pila, and other lakeshore towns of La Laguna province.

Petness First (not the gym).

Yeyette enjoying "Monay Bae". "Bae" is another variant of the name "Bay". "Monay" is a local bread.

Bay's main road.

Municipal hall.

Yeyette with <em>Aling</em> Siony (Asunción Señadoza), owner of the most popular eatery in the <em>población</em>, very near the church.

Bahay na bató

We also noticed that there are a few Filipino houses, commonly known as bahay na bató, in Bay. If the town church was profaned by bombs, guns, and fire during the last war, obviously the rest of the town burned down with it. And of those very few old Filipino homes we found, only two stood out: The Marfori and Peláez ancestral homes. Unfortunately, we have not gathered much information about these two handsome houses. There’s not even a soul inside the Marfori house, this according to the people around it.

Casa Marfori. It is the oldest ancestral house in town, one of the few which survived the last war. For a time, it also served as a pharmacy, thus the words "Farmacia Marfori" painted on the façade that has already fainted trough the years.

The Marfori house's red-tiled roof is still intact — a rarity nowadays among antique Filipino homes.

Casa Peláez.

Casa Peláez from another angle.

A view of Casa Marfori's façade taken right in front of its neighbor, Casa Peláez.

Yeyette asking some residents about the two old houses' (Marfori and Peláez) history. They said that the deceased matriarch of the Peláez house was Spanish-speaking. But of course; it shows in the house itself.

Feeling history first hand — literally!

Wifey found some old bricks in the walls of Casa Marfori!

Another bahay na bató; (probably postwar), said to be owned by a former town mayor. This one stands on Bay's main highway.

Laguna de Bay

Our journey around Bay would not have been complete without a short stop to the lake —the largest in the Philippines— whose name was taken from the town itself.

It was the Spanish conquistadores led by Juan de Salcedo and some Augustinians who renamed this trilobate lake after the town of Bay (sometimes spelled as “Baé” or “Ba’i”). Renamed, because it has been called “Tadlác ng Ba’i” by its Tagalog-speaking settlers before the white men arrived. Or maybe “translated” is the better term instead of “renamed” because “laguna de Bay” and “tadlác ng Ba’i” have the same meaning, anyway.

Laguna de Bay, being trilobate, is composed of the west bay, east bay, and central bay. Isla de Talím, the largest of the lake’s nine islands and which is very visible to the town of Bay (from Barrio San Antonio), is right between the west and central bay.

But why did the Spaniards named the lake after Bay? Why not Laguna de Tabuco, or Laguna de Pinagsañgahán (Pagsanján), or some place else? It’s because Bay was then the largest settlement along the lake. It was large enough to attract Chinese merchants who were docked in Bahía de Manila. They sailed through the then crocodile-infested waters of Pásig River and the menacing Paso Diablo (or the “Devil’s Pass”, Laguna de Bay’s deepest part which is near Alabang, Ciudad de Muntinlupà) just to trade with the Tagalog tribesmen of Bay. After the trade, these Chinese go back to Manila bay, bringing with them boatloads of forest products.

This trade between the Chinese in Manila Bay and the first folk of Bay, by the way, will also help explain why Tondoc (now the Manila district of Tondo) and Santa Ana de Sapa (now the Manileño district of Santa Ana) were major ports during that time. That trade was a vital factor as to why these two places were populous when the Spaniards led by Miguel López de Legazpi (Salcedo’s grandfather) arrived. Bay, in a way, had a hand in it. =) As a matter of fact, Bay, for a time, was even considered a part of the old Kingdom of Namayan whose capital was in Santa Ana de Sapa.

a lovely view of rice fields on our to the lake of Bay (commonly known as Laguna de Bay).

Barrio; San Antonio is a barangáy; right beside the lake of Bay.

A fishpond! The lake is near!

Laguna de Bay

She thinks that she will never see, a living thing as gigantic as this narra tree!

Isla de Talím in the distance. According to old Spanish records, this small island in the middle of Laguna de Bay was a very forested area teeming with deer, wild boar, doves, and even giant bats!

The same narra tree whose photo I took earlier. And we noticed that it's roughly five storeys high!

A handsome balete tree!

There's a lamb here in Bay!

Bantáy Laua (lake guardians) Headquarters.

Pulóng Bay; (Bay Islet) can be reached in a matter of minutes. It has a small hut used by fishermen as a resting place.

Yeyette with a bantáy laua officer (to man sitting on the table to her right), taking care of an illegal-fishing case involving the people beside them.

Say no to guns!

Grains of gold!

A river coursing towards the lake.

It was truly an enjoyable morning we had in Bay! We had a wonderful time searching for history, food tripping, and nature tripping. It was a wonderful and unforgettable trip. Sans the motor vehicles, For a “laywoman” like Yeyette, it was educational, as well. And most important of all, little did we know that our petty “lover’s quarrel” dissipated over time! We were like foreigners in another country. We were like kids, even, when we got near the lake and enjoyed its flora!

And because everything was OK between the two of us, we agreed to proceed to Victoria the soonest possible time!

Heck, no. Not the motel. I meant Victoria, La Laguna, the town north of Bay and Calauan. Cayó talagá… We hope to get there (again, Victoria, La Laguna) this month or in January.

Till next time, Filipino eReaders! =)

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