Jubileeconomics

St. William Cathedral, Laoag City

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Laoag, established in June 1961, celebrates its Golden Jubilee this year, and I should feel excited. This must be something big and meaningful. After all, Ilocanos are a deeply pious lot and we, as with the rest of the nation, are predominantly Catholic. But I feel uneasy, dear karikna, because of certain circumstances that surround the celebrations.

I came to know of the Church’s golden jubilee in a rather odd way. In November last year, Luvee Hazel Calventas-Aquino, a friend and colleague in the university, expressed to me her discomfort over a tarpaulin streamer that was hung very conspicuously near the side entrance of the St. William Cathedral in Laoag.  Most churchgoers take the side entrance, and so it is very difficult to miss the streamer. “Why post it there?” Luvee asked. And it is not only Luvee, many other well-meaning parishioners shared the same sentiment.

Let me describe to you the banner. It is huge, really huge, billboard sized.  Even if you have an eye problem, it would be difficult for you not to notice it. Featuring the latest model of a car brand, it bears an attractive picture and a catchy line which goes, “Find out why 10,000 customers chose the new Honda City.  Honda: forever change the rules.” In the middle of the streamer is an invitation which goes: Inquire Inside.

Inquire inside? Since when has the Cathedral become a car sales center? I have previously written about ash trays being sold inside the parish church in another town, but a car this time? It turns out the nice car is the grand prize for the Grand Raffle Draw the Diocese was holding in line with jubilee. And I surmise that hanging the billboard in the most visible part of the Cathedral was part of their promotional strategy.

This reminds us of the incident when Jesus got angry with traders inside the temple. “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” Diocesan administrators may reason that the streamer was not hung inside, but just the same, God’s temple was made to appear as a trading center for cars.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with cars, and nothing wrong with wealth.  But we must be wary about the signals that we send, and more so the church, which relies mainly on symbols, rituals, and traditions. Our consciousness is already barraged by messages of materialism and the trappings of mundane life, the last place we would like to see a ‘commercial’ is in a church where one would long to reflect, meditate, and worship. Lolita Chestnut, a balikbayan from New Hampshire USA, felt uneasy, scandalized even, that the raffle draw was being promoted in the daily masses she attended in Batac. The congregation was strongly encouraged to buy tickets, and the prizes, just like a litany, were enumerated with much gusto.  Also during the mass, right before the final blessing, ticket sellers were urged to remit the money they made from the tickets. This was most likely the scenario in all Catholic churches in the diocese during the months leading to the raffle draw held in mid-April.

The Grand Prize—a brand new Honda City—was eventually won by Fr. Danilo Laeda, the diocesan vicar general who, in terms of administrative powers, is second in rank to the bishop. Other priests, meanwhile, also bagged cash prizes.

I believe that the draw was done with all honesty and integrity, and that Fr. Laeda, a ruminant theologian and prolific writer who has my respect, won fair and square; I heard he bought a lot of tickets amounting to over a thousand pesos. Yet there is a great degree of discomfort on my part that certain prizes would go to the priests themselves. In corporate events, employees and their relatives, up to a certain degree of consanguinity and affinity, are barred from joining promos. I am not even raising here the issue of propriety and delicadeza. I am just asking: “Would it not be better to allow the laymen to benefit from their bonanza?”

And I am not saying this out of bitterness, as I have been previously accused by Church officials and religious bigots each time I raised an issue. Yes, I bought two tickets (worth a hundred pesos apiece) for the raffle, but only at the prodding of my mom, who is a daily communicant and most active parishioner. I have always maintained that raffle draws are just a sanitized form of gambling. Yes, it may be legal. Yes, it may be for a good cause.  But each time the Church sponsors games of chance, it compromises its moral authority to speak against gambling, legal or otherwise. What is the essential difference between a jueteng operator doing bola, a casino supervisor overseeing blackjack, and a bishop drawing numbers from a tambiolo? But of course we already know that certain bishops do receive Jueteng payola.

There are many other ways to celebrate the Diocesan Jubilee, (the big day, incidentally, is on June 5, my birthday), such as strengthening the Church’s social action program which, credible insiders say, has weakened under the term of current Laoag prelate Sergio Utleg.  Yet there is another undertaking which overshadows whatever meaningful activities the Diocese has lined up for the centennial celebrations—the construction of a mall in a prime lot owned by the Church. People have mixed emotions about the project.  Many say it will further promote a culture of consumerism and that it will unbearably congest the city’s central district. Yet some contend that this is all for good as it will provide jobs and will stimulate the local economy. One thing is sure: the Diocese, still enjoying the perks of a feudal past, will rake in hundreds of millions from the lease contract. No matter the economic debate, dear karikna, the Church is better off focusing on its real role of leading the people closer to God’s kingdom.

“Inquire inside,” the streamer admonishes the Christian faithful, “for the car that changed the rules forever.”

But how can we forget that Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem not on a fancy car, but aboard a lowly donkey. As a king riding on an animal most humble, the good Lord set the rules of salvation that will do us so much good, especially in this year of great jubilation, not to, for all the gold and silver in the world, change.

14 Comments

Filed under Church, Economy, Sociology

14 responses to “Jubileeconomics

  1. DEL

    Another great article Herdy, keep them coming! I hope they would dissect every word of it and realize what was wrong, morally and spiritually.

    btw, everytime i read an article you write about the church, I always remember Mr. Caday, a sociology instructor at MMSU during our “time”. You share some points about the church. He has also his own group, according to him, the “El Caday”, a satirical term for the group El Shaddai, haha.

  2. kg.m/s2

    2 Corinthians 11: 12-15
    12 Now what I am doing I will still do, that I may cut off the pretext from those who are wanting a pretext for being found equal to us in the office of which they boast. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. 15 It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness. But their end shall be according to their works.

    Sir, ‘di ba po sa mga fundraising activities like the “alms”? po kumukuha ang Church ng pera para mapatakbo ito?, , , alam niyo naman po, wala ng Paring walang sweldong hinihingi. Haixt, nagiging political na kasi ang Church,, but I love God naman eh, in my own ways.

    Sir, sana maging pari ka na lang?. . .para ma-reform ang Church,,. . .-

  3. waferstick

    i’m a student of a catholic school, and one our rel ed teacher once said that the essence of jubilee is forgiveness of debts…

  4. Crisostoma Ibarro

    Hi sir,, kindly read this lengthy message from God

    Proverbs 12:18: “There exists the one speaking thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword.” Words can hurt, and when you lose your temper, you’re almost sure to say something you’ll regret later.

    Proverbs 29:11: “All his spirit is what a stupid one lets out, but he that is wise keeps it calm to the last.” In the end, a tirade only makes you look foolish.

    Proverbs 14:30: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism.” A bad temper is bad for your health! Says a girl named Anita: “High blood pressure runs in my family, and the fact that I am prone to stress makes me think twice about losing my temper.”

    Retrieved from [ Awake! September 2009]

  5. Eugene Carmelo C. Pedro

    Maysa kadagiti profesormi ti nangibaga a nupay inawattayo a filipino ti kristianismo, ditayo inawat daytoy iti sibubukel. Nagtalinaed dagiti animismo a aramidtayo, ket adda dagiti doktrina a ditayo nasagepsep unay. Siguro posible a palawag daytoy no apay idinto nga iparit ti simbaan ti panagsabong ken panagpaanak iti kuarta, naaramid ti Obispado ti Laoag ti maysa a raffle draw ken panagipaupa iti daga daytoy iti maysa a kapitalista nga organisasion.

  6. asiong

    Wen, apo Eugene, husto ka! Maigapu met laeng daytoy nga saan nga naan-anay nga pannakaawat iti husto nga pakaimudingan ti Kristianismo iti panggep dagiti Kastila idi un-unana nga nalaklaka nga maallukoy dagiti tattao nga agtutubo nga maiturayanda no ipalubosda met pay laeng dagiti nakaingawidan nga aramidda. Ket iti kasta, nagtultuloy ti turay ti Espanyola iti Pilipinas iti uneg ti adu nga taw-tawen. Uray sadiay Europa ket kasta met ti napasamak idi. Ti tiempo ti Paskua idi un-unana sadiay Europa (Italia/Turkey/Norway) ket maysa nga padaya para iti sabsabali nga didiosenda. Ken adu pay nga kannawidan nga ar-aramid ken ritual nga katutubo nga inyasping/inyasidegda para iti Kristianismo nga ritual.

  7. Ipeksak man ti makunak babaen ti maysa nga haiku nga Ilocano:

    wen, inkidemda
    para ‘ti progreso
    dayta’t kunada

  8. Ryan Adik Nga Lambay

    The blog entry was pretty interesting though. 🙂 You see, the Filipino priests, some of them, now have a different view points of what we call church. It’s very sad to know that they are drawing that game of chance only by themselves. Why not they try lotto instead? 🙂

    Herdy, add me up in your blog roll. I added you already. Thanks.

  9. george fernandez

    husto ti ibagbaga yo kakabsat, managinkukuna dagiti papadi, rupa da ti kwarta greedy da nagdakkel ti share da inta Central School. Kitaenyo ket kayat man ni Fr. Laeda (Fr. Honda) nga agpatakder met ti savemore yanta konbento ti san nicolas ayna apo..basol dagiti papadi no apay iti agdama ket adda RH Bill nagkurang da iti pamagm aga kadigiti nagkaadu nga katoliko nga madi maisursuro agaramid da ti maikanniwas. itoltolerate da ti madi nga aramid kitaenyo ti HUETENG kontraen da apo obispo ngem ti kaaduan nga agtaya ket dagiti met lang adu nga mapan agmismisa kada domingo. panawenen tapno agriing dagiti papadi baliwan da koma ti istilo da.

    agyamanak kabsat…

  10. Mabait

    I want to be a Priest.

  11. Pingback: Utlegged |

  12. Jonas Paul B. de la Cruz

    PRIESTS!!!

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