Category Archives: Church

Iglesia moments ng hindi Iglesia

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Isang maalab na pagbati sa lahat ng mga kasapi ng Iglesia ni Cristo. Wow, ‘sandaang taon na kayo.

Lumaki akong ayaw sa Iglesia ni Cristo. Noong bata pa ako—nung grade school—tumatawag ako sa radio upang makipagtalo tungkol sa relihiyon at ipagtanggol ang Katolisismo laban sa Iglesia. “Best in religion” kasi ako lagi noon at champion sa mga bible quiz.

Isa sa mga kapatid ng nanay ko, si Uncle Erning, ay umanib sa Iglesia nang maging nobya niya si Auntie Meding. Tuwing family reunion at magluluto ng tinola si lola, nagtatalo ang mga tito ko kung ano ang gagawin sa dugo ng manok. Ibaon sa lupa, sabi ni ni Uncle Erning, sapagka’t iyon daw ang nakasaad sa banal na kasulatan samantalang ang iba pang mga uncle ko ay gustong ihalo ang malinamnam na dugo sa tinola, dahil ‘yun daw ang nasusulat sa cookbook. Hindi naman seryosong pagtatalo ‘yon, kantyawan lang. Hindi ko na maalala kung sino ang nasunod, pero naaalala ko na laging masarap ang native na tinola, may dugo man o wala, basta’t pinagsasaluhan ng pamilya.

Dati, parang kulto o sindikato ang tingin ko sa Iglesia. Hindi ko sila maunawaan, o baka simpleng ayaw ko lang talaga sa kanila. Ngunit noong fourth year high school ay dumating sa buhay ko si Rona, ang girlfriend kong mabait, matalino, maganda, at Iglesia ni Cristo. Isang mahabang proseso bago niya ako nakumbinsing sumama sa pagsamba. Sinubukan ko pang kumbinsihin siya na upang patas ay makikisamba ako sa Iglesia tuwing Huwebes at sasama naman siya sa’kin sa Simbahang Katoliko tuwing Linggo, ngunit ipaliwanag niyang ‘di talaga puwede.

Maaga kaming pumunta sa kapilya dahil bawal raw ma-late. Hiwalay ang upuan ng mga babae sa lalake at ginabayan ako ng diakonesa patungo sa aking upuan. Hindi puwedeng mamili, hindi tulad sa Katoliko na puwedeng dumiretso sa mga upuang malapit sa electric fan. Napansin ko agad ang kaayusan sa loob ng kapilya. Walang mga batang umiiyak o nagtatakbuhan. Walang nagbebenta ng kandila, at wala ring nag-aalok ng rebulto, popcorn o balloon sa labas. At maayos ang pananamit ng lahat; angkop ang kasuotan sa banal na gawain.

Noong magsimula ang pagsamba, napaka-solemn ng mood; talagang damang-dama ng mga kasapi ang pagkanta at pananalangin, mayroon pa ngang mga lumuluha at umiiyak. Hindi ko man lubos na naunawaan ang lahat, naramdaman ko ang alab ng pananampalataya ng mga miyembro. Hindi kami nagkatuluyan ni Rona ngunit hindi ito dahil sa relihiyon.

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Ilocos priest also ridicules unwed mothers

photo from the blog My Happy Thoughts

photo from the blog My Happy Thoughts

There was no video clip, no recording whatsoever, but Rose (not her real name) still vividly remembers the incident at the St. William’s Cathedral in Laoag a few years back.

There were three other babies to be baptized that day and the priest asked for the fathers to gather in front. When the priest saw that the young woman was alone with her son, he asked where the father was. Rose, a single mom, said there wouldn’t be anyone. Laughing sarcastically the priest asked, with the whole congregation listening, “Apay, awan kadi isuna idi inaramidyo dayta?” (Why, wasn’t he there when you did it?) The priest went on to publicly scold Rose, who was left by her boyfriend even before she knew she was pregnant. The young woman, made to feel ashamed of herself, was on the verge of tears while the priest, insisting that a father is needed to raise the child, did not begin the ceremony. It was then that Rose’s uncle stepped forward and asserted, “I’ll stand up for this child.”

This incident, dear karikna, is not an isolated case. I have personally talked to other sources who have confirmed this priest’s habit of shaming single mothers. And there are surely other members of the clergy who do the same and prefer judgment and condemnation over God’s overflowing grace, love, and compassion. One priest, also from the diocese, made another woman cry on a day that should have been her happiest moment. Impatient about the wedding running a few minutes late, the priest began the ceremonies even when the bride was yet to arrive. The bride cried a river and ruined her make up, and not because of joy.

As for Rose who felt the hurt rushing back to her upon learning that a teenage mom was similarly shamed in Cebu, she only wishes that no person would be subjected to the same public humiliation she went through. But because there was no viral video to upload and no outrage from the public, this priest who is currently assigned in a garlic-producing town in southern Ilocos Norte, remains unlike Cebu’s Fr. Romeo Obach who has publicly apologized, and even more unlike Pope Francis who finds no difficulty saying, “Who am I to judge?”

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Tale of two Cebuanos: one good, the other despicable

Two Cebuanos are in my consciousness these days. One brings forth inspiration; the other, indignation.

Let’s talk first about the good one.

When I was growing up, my dad used to tell me that he is not particularly fond of the Sto. Niño. “Why pray to the child Jesus when you can pray to the adult one?” he asked rhetorically. My mother, a daily communicant, thinks otherwise. Not only does she have images of the child Jesus prominently displayed on our home altar, she actually had me dress up like a Sto. Niño during a novena mass at Church: I held a sceptre on my left hand and a globe on my right. I barely remember other details of that event, but I do recall my mom telling me that she prays that I may become a good boy like the child Jesus. From then on, Sto. Niño and I became faithful friends.

Me and mom: I was the smallest Sto. Nino.

Me and mom: I was the smallest Sto. Nino.

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That friendship was fortified when I attended college at San Beda where the community has a special devotion to the Sto. Niño of Prague. Dedicated to him, our annual college fair and frolics is highlighted by a procession in the Malacañang vicinity, and a grand mass at the football field. Even after I graduated and began working, I’d go back to Mendiola every third Sunday of January to join the Pista ng Sto. Niño sa San Beda. Also, I’d go to the feast of the Sto. Niño in Tondo where the family of my good friend Weng de Jesus lives. The Tondo fiesta is the liveliest I have been to, with processions, parlor games, and drinking sprees happening in every nook and corner of the district. I have also been fortunate to visit the Sto. Niño in Cebu and in Iloilo where the country’s grandest festivals are held.

It is always a joy being in the company of my beloved friend who constantly makes me feel loved and at peace. During times of great trouble, I visit him and feel comforted. I am assured by his gentle smile that everything is going to be okay; after all, he’s got the whole world in his hands.

Last week, as the pilgrim image of Sto. Niño de Cebu visited various towns of Ilocos Norte, I was amazed by the very strong devotion Ilocanos have for the child Jesus. The queues to the image were constantly long as people from all walks of life came to pay homage. At the St. William’s Cathedral, I was particularly struck by a couple who stood in line behind me: they are probably in their seventies. The old woman man walked very slowly while her husband was aided with a cane. They politely asked if I could take their picture. I took the camera and did as asked, the Sto. Niño smiling in the background. Then I asked them if I could also take their picture with my own camera, for I wanted to capture that touching moment, and probably share the story of their piety with others. They graciously agreed.

 

photo by Joel Dul-loog

photo by Joel Dul-loog

Both the old and young venerate the Sto. Niño. But why pray to the child when you can go directly to the adult Jesus? Our special affinity to the Sto. Niño is probably because we see the best qualities of humanity in childhood: that of innocence and purity, of carefree fun and adventure, of meekness and humility, and, ultimately, of pure and unadulterated love. Never mind that the cruel and oppressive Spaniards brought the historic image here and forced their religion to us. It is interesting to note that the image of a spiritual child runs across Oriental religions, specifically in Hinduism’s Krishna.

Now, let us talk about the other Cebuano, the despicable one. Continue reading

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Priests unhappy with bishop’s project

mayugba Insiders say many priests of the Diocese of Laoag are unhappy with a pet project of Bishop Renato Mayugba who has been in the diocese for only a year.

Although the clergy, especially its senior members, are open to the idea of building a seminary in the diocese, they lament that the 90 to 120 million pesos to be spent for the facility’s construction in Bacarra town is unnecessarily expensive. The priests fear that diocesan programs, particularly those for the poor and marginalized, will be sacrificed because of the ambitious project. “The college seminary is not a pastoral initiative; it’s a project of the bishop,” a senior priest said, thus revealing rocky relations brought about by Mayugba’s construction project.

There were suggestions to just improve the existing St. Mary’s Minor Seminary in Brgy. Mangato, Laoag City where the college seminary could be housed (high school seminaries are unnecessary anyway and are being closed down elsewhere), but sources say the bishop was cold with the idea. Other priests also opine that building a college seminary should not be a priority because the school only caters to a few. Established in 2011 and currently housed within the Laoag Cathedral Compound, the Mary Cause of Our Joy Seminary produced only six graduates last month while the current batch of freshmen is composed of a mere nine.

The diocese also has the option to continue sending aspiring priests to the San Pablo’s Seminary in Baguio City where most of the diocese’s priests graduated from.

Despite strong opposition, however, Mayugba, according to insiders, seems resolute in constructing a new seminary facility primarily because he wants something that people will remember him for. (“Kayatna nga adda bukodna a pakalaglagipan.”) Continue reading

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Poly

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In Greek, “poly” means multiple, but for many Catholics in Ilocos Norte, the word is more associated with “long.” Uncomfortably, unnecessarily, unbearably long.

Fr. Policarpio “Poly” Albano, currently rector of St. William’s Cathedral in Laoag and former parish priest of Batac and Dingras towns, is known in all the parishes he has served for his kilometric homilies that are desperately wanting in coherence and organization.

Maria, a Batac parishioner who is now based overseas, laments, “Kapag nagsesermon siya, natutulog ako. Paggising ko, nagsesermon pa rin siya kaya matutulog ulit ako. Mga lagpas kalahating oras siyang salita lang nang salita. Halos wala na nga talagang nakikinig sa kanya. Napaka-monotonous niya at paulit-ulit-ulit-ulit-ulit talaga. Ang boring boring. Walang emosyon. Going around the bush. Walang pinatutunguhan ang sermon niya.”

Magenta, a Cathedral churchgoer, says she would rather skip mass than listen to Fr. Poly deliver a homily. “Kapag nalaman kong siya ang magmimisa, hindi na lang ako tumutuloy. Kasi lalo akong magkakasala kung nakaupo ako sa simbahan pero naiinis ako dahil ‘yung pari ay nakakaubos talaga ng pasensiya dahil sa napakahabang sermon niya na paikot-ikot. Torture talaga!” Magenta, not her real name, is a teacher, and thus knows the necessity of proper lesson planning and class preparation. Surely, Magenta knows that quantity never compensates quality, that length of delivery never makes up for lack of preparation.

I really can’t imagine, dear karikna, how insensitive a speaker one could be to continue to blabber and not notice that the faithful are either sleeping or squirming in their seats.

What many churchgoers lament is that Fr. Poly’s sermons just go around in circles. For instance, when he gives the cue “Kamaudiananna” (Lastly) it does not mean the homily is anywhere near its end. “Lastly,” in Fr. Poly’s case, means the homily is around one half delivered. He would proceed to repeat the same things he has tackled earlier in the homily, not for style nor emphasis, but simply for evident lack of structure.

Some well-meaning parishioners have mustered enough courage to provide Fr. Poly feedback regarding his uber-long homilies. But the good priest dismissed the comments simply by saying,

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Nuestra Señora de la Mantsa: The Case of the Laoag City Bell Tower ‘Apparition’

And we did it again.

Ten years ago, I wondered in an essay why this Catholic Nation has produced only one saint so far while Thailand, Japan and China–all non-Christian countries–have more. Maybe, unlike Filipinos, I said then, people from those nations have more sensible things to do than creating miracles by desperately looking for images in the stains of tree trunks and forcing statues to shed bloody tears.

Recently, an image of a woman, believed by many as Mama Mary, reportedly appeared at the midsection of the Laoag City Sinking Bell Tower. With pictures of the ‘apparition’ circulated on Facebook, the phenomenon generated public interest, especially after it was featured on national television evening news.

Make no mistake, I love Mama Mary, and I always turn to her for guidance and protection, but, on a personal level, and with all due respect to anyone who does, I don’t believe the image is extraordinary. The blurry figure is obviously a product of stain and discoloration which any old structure, such as the 400-year old Laoag Bell Tower, would have. You can find stains anywhere and assume them to be something, anything. My friend Luvee from Pagudpud says there are also a lot of stains in their toilet wall, and, as a child, it was her hobby to spot them and identify certain images, some of them religious. Rizal Javier, a retired philosophy professor from Batac, is obviously no longer a child but he still spots some images in their restroom and has actually considered publishing those in his Facebook account. There was one problem though: he does not have a Facebook account. Continue reading

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Rooting for Apo Jack

As you read this, Sergio Utleg would have been installed as archbishop of Tuguegarao. In an interesting turn of events, The Ilocos Times, where articles critical of Utleg’s leadership have seen print, paid tribute to the religious leader in a full page feature in last week’s issue. The banner story also amplified the bishop’s anti-mining views. I have spoken enough about the bishop, and often in an unflattering light, but I agree that he ought to be commended for his anti-mining views. He is a lover of nature and crusader for the plight of indigenous peoples.

Jun-b Ramos, editor in chief of the North’s most enduring community newspaper, is said to have personally paid a visit to the archbishop-elect in his last days in Laoag. During the dialogue, Jun-b, aware that some Catholics feel of resentful of the paper due to some articles (including mine) critical of Utleg, assured the bishop that The Ilocos Times is neither against the Church nor its leaders, and that it only tackles issues that do well to be clarified and serve as wake-up call. The bishop, admired by many for his humility and gentle demeanor, explained his side on issues raised by some quarters. Inside sources say some powerful blocs in the Diocese, including leaders of the Knights of Columbus, have been prodding the bishop to file a libel case. Now, all is well, and rightly so. Filing a criminal case is not exactly the best way for Utleg to bid the Diocese of Laoag goodbye. Continue reading

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