Saturday, June 19, 2010


"We have to protect the morals of our youth, for the corruption of our youth is the corruption of our hope." Salvador H. Laurel

He was awakened by the thud of crowd in front of his sturdy manor. They bellowed for words aren’t clear to him for the moment. As they continued to screech for more, the presence of them continued to stir mixed feelings upon him. Just days ago, he was elated to know that he won in the first ever automated elections. He was in utopia. Then several days after that, here they are bellowing at the top of their lungs…shouting of words he barely can’t understand. Are they mad at him? As far as he can remember everybody was good to him, all smiling and doing beso-beso. When finally he cleared his mind, he routed his eyes on the crowd in front of him. A weary woman, in her worn-out malong, carrying a small child on her arm and making a plea as if he has fathered her child; a middle-aged man with a slightly thwarted face shouting as if he had owed him something; and a bigger group of people asking for more!

He was in a state of confusion. Gradually though, the words are beginning to make sense, but he refused still to understand. He merely uttered to himself, “Who are these people? What are they doing here?” He suddenly did not remember anything or anyone. He tried to recollect thoughts but can’t recover anything. He tried hard. Hard enough to put into perspective why a wide group of people would gather in front of his mansion uninvited. His victory party was long over, he thought. He was lured back by a voice. They are asking for what you have promised, remember? He tried hard again to remember and refused once more. But their words are now clearer, more lucid and unavoidable: Konsehal! Asan na ‘yong ipinangako mong kapital para sa itatayo kong negosyo? Nasaan na po ang tulong na sinabi niyo noong eleksyon, ibinoto pa naman namin kayo dahil doon! With these all clear to him, still he hesitated to go down and face them. So unlikely of the past weeks when he was so willing and in all smiles shaking their hands. In his perplexity, he sought refuge from the concrete walls of his folks’ mansion and felt somehow secured. But instincts tell him, this won’t be the last. The words that lasted on his mind: IT’S PAY BACK TIME!

Allow me to share this short story about the aftermath of the recently concluded elections on a young politician who crafted his way to his post thru groceries and unconcrete promises to his constituents. This is fictional. And I sincerely hope that you do not in anyway find yourself in this short story, either as the “he” who suddenly turned deaf or the “crowd” that continues to cry out. Unfortunately however, this may be happening in the very near future if it is still not happening today somewhere out there…Isabela City perhaps?

What is the moral of the story then? The narrative has a great deal to do with the Biblical proposition: WE REAP WHAT WE SOW. In politics, when a candidate’s platform is rooted on money politics and personal interest, his eventual assumption to power signifies only two things: PERPETUATION OF POWER AND CORRUPTION. He has no choice really, sink or swim he needs to sustain the whims and caprices of his constituents. Empty promises and commitments ranging from “pangbinyag” to “pampalibing” are common practices which are deeply etched in our political culture. Political solicitation is from womb to tomb. Hence, for every handshake and “beso-beso” during barangay sorties, a deal is sealed. Literally, a politico so committed with traditional politics could never meet the demands of his evil practices without dipping his fingers in public coffers. Whatever it takes he has to give in to their demands at any cost if he wants political survival. What else could we expect from this vulture? Indeed power corrupts absolutely. In the long run, the dutiful taxpayers of this nation are at the losing end having to shoulder the burden of incessantly filling the monetary buckets of government.

In my article, “New Breed on the Block: Young trapos in local politics?” I warned the voters, mainly constituents of my beloved hometown, to examine carefully young candidates running for public office. I was appalled of the fact that trapos nowadays are not anymore imaged after some old and beer-bellied politicos but even amongst the good built yuppies. In fact, although I knew that my past post had lame targets, I never imagined that the said article would create a big fiasco over the net. The people on the other end did everything to argue with me except answer the very basic issue of the exposition I did. As I see it, the reason why this fiasco over the net got big is because they failed to be objective. Their plan of attack was simple: shy away from the issue then attack the writer. God! I just can’t imagine how much time they have devoted in seeing through me. They tried to explain why this writer writes the things he writes and why he writes the way he does. In fact, in defense of his brother, Roland Rodriguez had given me a needle-like lecture on sociology, trying it hard to explain why I was critical about his brother, Councilor-elect Mr. Abner Rodriguez. He discussed in that response all the sociological characteristics of the Filipinos, i.e., crab mentality, amor proprio, etc, trying to point out that I was unFilipino. But then again, we do not need all these terms to explain my political leanings and criticisms. We do not need so. And we do not have to. They merely should answer the question I laid down. That’s being objective. I would not attempt to be a self-proclaimed sociologist like him. You see, some people envision public office as something that will boost their egos, fame and influence on society. They often think highly of themselves so much so that they can never accept any kind of criticism. Not even an objective one. They instantly take umbrage and unleash the critics with senseless bickering and below-the-belt innuendos. Now why is this happening? I would like to believe that this has something to do with the wrong motivation and lack of understanding of what public office truly means. It seems that even at this point they could not harmonize the basics of free speech in relation to “public figure, public interest and governmental powers”. Clearly, they have a limited view of the entire democratic framework. In the scheme of things, there is nothing they can do about it. That’s how democracy works. This kind of elitist mentality, wrong motivation and all are the very causes of malfunctions under the present political system. I must say however that, in my opinion, being “not objective” is NOT a collective character of all Filipinos. I am in no better position to say that. Maybe the other man can for he devoted all his discourse in educating me as if I am reading a sociology handout in college. Nope, it’s not a Filipino like thing. It’s basically human’s way to escape things when everything else fails.

As far as I can still recollect, it all started with this query: Did he or did he not engage in traditional politics to win a seat in the local council by giving out noodles and cans of sardines? Firstly, let me clear that the name of this public official never came from me. It was his supporters who flaunted his name. So they must, I understand, defend him at all costs even if it means coming out of the real issue. I can’t think of a better explanation for their behavior but this: How on earth can you find the right words to defend something or someone you know is wrong? The answer is simple again: Go out of the box and shy away from the issue. Their first strike: Our supposed familial ties. On my part, that should have never been brought forwarded. It was and should never have been an issue. They did not realize that by bringing that familial thing, they created a scenario that convicted their ‘public official’ more. Their message was clear: I should stop writing about my observations in our recently concluded elections, especially that regarding our local elections in Isabela City, because we are family after all. This was to me, the lamest mean to escape the situation because in the end, their defense ended as a plea. NAGMAMAKAAWA PARA TIGILAN NA PARA NA LANG SA DAHILAN NA MAGKAPAMILYA. It would have been different if they have told me to cease writing because I am wrong and not because we are simply related by blood. My respect would have been easily bought, este, gained in that way. Kidding aside, I must stress that the saying that “blood is thicker than water” finds no application in politics and governance. For if it does, you, as a public official, exposes a kind of governance that encourages corruption and palakasan. I also remember the brother saying to me that his brother will never succumb to corruption if elected as city councilor because from his very words, “they have always lived a luxurious life because of his family’s hardwork.” The term “luxurious” struck me in a different light. On my part, he should have at least used the term “comfortable” or even “contented” which to me are more innocuous terms in light of the discussion. The word scared me, really! Luxuries should always give in to public office and service. Otherwise, it’s dooms day. Public service, in its honest sense, can never live up with the luxurious life he has. Reality however bits us hard, wounding us deep. Luxury and public service are congruent terms in a corrupt political setting. Anyway, let us give him credit for his truthfulness. I hope they were as truthful when confronted with the sardines and groceries issue, lol. Just a thought! Now you may say, "C'mon, give this guy a break and let him prove his worth in the council." Yes, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt but on one condition: NO MORE BEATING AROUND THE BUSH AND SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT! Did you or did you not? I can read your mind and I agree. It certainly takes a great deal to admit one’s shortcoming. But that honesty does not make you less of a man. We all have our shortcomings. In fact, history has unfolded several times that reviving a besmirched reputation starts from honesty. It must not end here though. What matters is what we do after a fault. Remember, a bad beginning emulates a worse middle and figures a worst ending. It’s a vicious cycle that only we can stop.
To end this exposition, I would emphasize again that this phenomenon of young trapos joining politics is far more dangerous because they are more likely to stay in power for the longest time by merely replacing the old players in the system. I’m a hopeless idealist alright, but something tells me that my ideals would in a way reflect the common sentiment of the silent minority that change must come from the outside. But what happens if those who are tasked to instill noble reforms in the old system are merely heirs of the traditional system-operators? Here I would like to suggest that the system is not the problem. The system was meant to serve as a medium to bridge the chasm, forge consensus between the people on one hand, and government on the other. But our government officials, the operators in the system manipulated it to suit their personal agendas. Again, similar to a philosophical assumption, when the starting point is flawed everything is bound to be wrongheaded. It is best then, that we should not expect too much from the incoming young “Honorables” whose mandate to rule stems from the evil practices of trapo politics. This is not an omen but a warning to our fellowmen to choose the people they want to run the system. It’s also a challenge, a brave challenge to run counter the present political maladies in the country.

Reference: To Build Upon A Rock: Excerpts from Public Discourses 1967 to 1987 by Salvador H. Laurel (1987)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why I Am Still A Christian?

"Question with boldness even the existence of a God;because if there be one, he must more approve of the homeage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."- Thomas Jefferson

Allow me today to write about my Christian faith and how I wrestled with recurring doubts to satisfy my intellectual curiosity and worldly urges through the years. At the outset, let me stress that I was born a cultural Catholic. However, upon reaching the age of six (6), I was exposed to an entirely different belief. It was my mother, a dedicated elementary teacher, who opened our eyes to the teachings of the bible and Christianity. From then, the whole family shifted devotion and became born again Christians. As the words imply, we felt being born again into this world, with a new faith to hold on to. Our new faith catalyzed the irreversible changes in our family. I witnessed first hand how my father changed his life instantly, from habitual drunkard to a living saint. He was in a state of total transfiguration. Meanwhile, the rest of us vowed to spread the gospel in our community. On my part and so with my two older siblings, we ventured into the realm of reading bible stories and other gospel anecdotes. I can say that this exposure has honed me to be the writer and reader that I am today. Since then, I can beastly say that my reading skills and comprehension hyped unimaginably. Although admittedly I was an inconsistent honor student in school, but when it comes to bible quizzes I always emerge as the ultimate victor above anyone else. As my spirit is languished with a fresh faith, my tot brain was flooded with bible characters and scriptural verses one after the other.

Later, my desire to read the bible became monotonous until the passion dwindled to ground zero. It was not abrupt, though. Gradually, as I discovered the wild edges of secular thoughts and practices, I began to question the very faith I turned down the other one for. At the age of twelve (12), I became obsessed with rock music and learned to play the guitar as fast as I could. My fondness for bible characters dramatically shifted to rock icons like the Beatles and later to a much heavier stuff. How, un Christian-like of me! I turned deaf to all criticisms, especially of my mother who was very against it. Unheeding her authority, together with my high school buddies, we formed a rock band to satisfy our rock n’ roll fantasy. Now, we felt like certified rockstars! Suddenly, I was being reborn again! This time I was embracing another passion …

For quite sometime, we enjoyed local popularity like appearing in local television shows and radio programs. Humbly, we won the much coveted battle of the bands contest. The perks and porks of slight popularity elevated our minds to a nearly euphoric level. Being the popular guys we were, flirting with girls was much easier. Add in all the mischief we seemed licensed to do so, undoubtedly, this new passion has moved me further away from my Christian faith. It was on the brink of destruction and no amount of biblical passages could save it from ruin.

My unchristian journey continued until college. Way passed through it however, I was beginning to see an unclear direction for my future. This time however, my desire to turn my life into the path where it should be was abrupt. I suddenly realized how education could lift me from the emptiness I am feeling. I completely abandoned my foolishness and decided to devote more time in my studies. But reviving my faith was never put into issue. My Christian faith remained dormant in many ways except that by this time I regularly attend Sunday service in our church. Thus again, did not revive my Christian faith even in some little way. The next lines would illustrate why.

Please give me this chance to make these admissions. The sermons delivered by our pastor never arouse my intellectual hormones let alone strengthening my Christian faith. Going to church every Sunday became more of a routine rather than a sacrosanct duty for every devout Christian. These made me crave for an unorthodox or radical perspective of the bible. I hail for a teaching far from the usual evangelical sermons which to me were purely rhetorical and conventional. These things however were not done without a little sense of remorse for my slowly weakening faith. In fact, I feared that one day I may not be able to defend my Christian faith against other religious dogmas. To counter this, I made a commitment to pursue the truth at all cost. Thus, I began to ask serious questions regarding origin of life, morality and ultimately the very existence of God. As mentioned, the conventional evangelical teachings failed to provide persuasive answers to these critical questions. Thus, I remained a nominal Christian for quite sometime. So it must have been fate (that’s contextual), that I entered law school…the battleground for logical thinking and academic discipline.

In law school we were thought not to take anything at face value. Facts must be supported by convincing evidence otherwise you can't justify your theory to win a case. Having this kind of training and thinking, I started to test my Christian faith using my training as a law student. I contemplated whether most Christians are really indeed Christians in the truest sense of the word. Do they have the right reasons to support their belief? This is where the distinction between faith based on reason (reasonable faith) and faith guided by blind assumptions deserves critical precarious considerations.

Here there should be a clear delineation between cultured Christians and authentic believers or followers of Christ. And so I search deeper and deeper, asking questions about faith and the existence of God. To satisfy my intellectual curiosity, I read books on secular worldviews. Having proclaimed myself as a fledgling Christian apologist, I started to conduct my own research and ended up with Bertrand Russell's essay on "Why I am Not A Christian." I must admit though, that Russell's objection to Christianity is a bit shallow and mostly couched in an open-ended language. Nonetheless this essay however bolstered my curiosity and decided to search deeper on atheism and agnosticism. Finally I devoured books authored by militant atheists Sam Harris (e.g.The End of Faith and Letter to the Christian Nation) and Christopher Hitchens (e.g. God is not great), both are staunch defenders of atheism or should I say hard core atheists. Most of their objections, except for their incessant anti-God tantrums, are valid and intellectually stimulating so to speak. I then entered into the realm of metaphysics which I found amusing but very difficult to understand in first reading. By this time I was partly convinced that the anti-theist theory is bereft of any logical arguments as to the non-existence of God. Embracing atheism as a way of life is like succumbing to a life of perpetual emptiness, a life without meaning. But still questions exist in my head. If atheism is a farcical worldview, does Christianity provide authentic answers to all questions pertaining to meaningful existence- a life based on morality? Again I searched for answers carefully weighing everything and anything that Christianity has to offer as the gospel of truth. Then I came across Ravi Zacharias’ book on Christian apologetics entitled Can Man Live Without God. (e.g. The End Of Reason) This work tackles on the philosophical aspects of Christianity and deals squarely among others, with Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” on the issue of morality and happiness. Then I resorted to Lee Strobel’s outstanding book, The Case for Faith, a very interesting book which answers almost all my questions and doubts as to what faith really is in essence. My further readings obviously expanded my understanding on faith and reason, between theism and anti-theism, and more importantly the essence of being a true Christian. I always thought that God gave me the absolute freedom to navigate uncharted waters so that I may be able to appreciate Him more. To do otherwise, I guess is to depict God as a lesser Being.

The pursuit of truth is a never ending journey for us Christians. My journey so far has brought me satisfaction both intellectually and spiritually. While I do not wish to discuss Christian philosophy or apologetics in this writing, the message I want to convey is two fold. First, it is a normal thing for us human beings to question or to have doubts regarding our respective faith. By encountering doubts, we pursue the truth, we search for a deeper explanation about life and meaningful existence. That is the essence of free will. Freedom to think is a God given right, use it to know your creator by heart. Second, by pursuing the truth you may be able to defend your Christian faith in any given forum, and in the end convince others to be followers of Christ. Knowing the truth is the decisive answer to the question on why I am still a Christian all this time