Last night, I was telling Mike that of all the Filipino prose writers in English, Nick Joaquin remained my favorite. There were many other good Filipino writers in English, I said, but I often felt that many of them were trying to be Filipino versions of American writers.
But Nick Joaquin, I said .... Nick Joaquin had a voice all his own, and what an amazing voice it was. I mentioned that incredible first paragraph of "May Day Eve." He had a way with English that made the language sound ... well ... Spanish ..., I went on, a lyricism that left a reader breathless.
As I type, Kofi Annan is answering questions at a press conference. The guy makes me believe that there are still great, noble, good people in the world. :) I'm glad he warned "occupying powers" against using violence against the people of the occupied country, a choice which he said would only make matters worse. Ahem, ahem.
(I know this might seem trivial, but I love the fact that he's answering some questions in French. I have the greatest respect for world leaders who can actually speak more than one language [which, of course, is almost every single current world leader, except for ...].)
Sigh ... whenever I watch any of these U.N. greats on TV, my childhood dream of working for the U.N. is rekindled ....
I love coming across a passage in a book that describes exactly what you once thought or felt, that you yourself couldn't fully understand nor put into words.
My heart leapt when I read the following paragraph from one of Neil Gaiman's short stories, because it describes exactly what my own experience of California--save for San Francisco--has been like (just please don't tell my mom--heheh!) . . . .
Los Angeles was at that time a complete mystery to me; and I cannot say I understand it much better now. I understand London, and New York, and Paris: you can walk around them, get a sense of what's where in just a morning of wandering, maybe catch the subway. But Los Angeles is about cars. Back then I didn't drive at all; even today I will not drive in America. Memories of L.A. for me are linked by rides in other people's cars, with no sense there of the shape of the city, of the relationships between the people and the place. The regularity of the roads, the repetition of structure and form, mean that when I try to remember it as an entity, all I have is the boundless profusion of tiny lights I saw from the hill of Griffith Park one night, on my first trip to the city. . . .
I guess it also describes why I feel exhilirated in Hong Kong (H.K. Island or Kowloon), in New York City, or in Baguio: because in those places, you actually see people, you see faces rather than models of cars. . . .
Teaching college is easy. If you're a college instructor, you don't, unlike teachers in the elementary and secondary levels, have to worry about errant students disrupting the class; you don't need to break up fights in the hallways; you don't need to repeatedly correct basic language mistakes (well, most of the time, that is) .... College students, after all, are adults.
That is why . . .
Teaching college is hard. Most college students are adults but they're also pretty new at it. They straddle maturity and immaturity, prudence and recklessness. They have the confidence to speak for themselves, but they don't always think very clearly. They alternate between respecting you as a peer and resisting your authority as a mentor. (And of course, as a not-very-old adult myself, I'm often as uncertain about the world as they are.) Teaching college is a constant tension between trying to show your students how older, wiser people have done it, and trusting your students' to make their own way and figure it out for themselves.
So you go into class and do your thing. You try to speak without giving away too much. You try to listen without saying too little. You hope to inspire. And come graduation day, as they receive their diploma and march across the stage, you whisper a prayer with some of the certainty of faith that they will be kind, righteous, and generous citizens of the "real" world. And you hope you've done your job well.
It's the story of every nice male college student. Especially here in the Philippines, I might add, where all the nice guys are true romantics. The story? Falling in love with a friend.
The following article from the University of Massachusetts' Daily Collegian made the e-mail forwarding network in the US a few months ago. Anyone who ever fell in love with a friend back in college ought to read it:
What she doesn't know will kill you
by Matt Brochu November 21, 2003
You met her a few months ago, and somehow she managed to seep into your subconscious like that "Suga how you get so fly" song. Just like you have no clue who the hell sings it, you don't know why she's there. But she is, whether you like it or not. You know her cell phone, her room phone. You can dial her Aunt Doreen's house in West Springfield (where she goes to do her laundry every two weeks) faster than you can peck-out 911. But she doesn't know.
Her screenname, that generic one with her first name followed by three to five random numbers or UMass, has its own category at the top of your buddy list. Not only do you know what a "Buddy Alert" is, you've rigged your computer to play "Fat Guy in a Little Coat" from "Tommy Boy" every time her screen name changes from gray to black. Then her away message comes down, and you have a decision to make. To IM or not to IM? These are the ridiculous games that you play on a daily basis. But she doesn't know.
She's it. All right, so maybe not "it" it. Not necessarily Ms. Right, but closer to Ms. Right-up-there-with-Anna-Kournikova-and-Lizzie-McGuire-on-your-list-of-people-you'd-give- anything-to-be-stranded-with-on-a-broken-down-elevator. But it's about more than that. When is it ever about more than that? Never. Not like frilly white dress, overpriced catering, embarrassing drunk in-laws more, but closer to UMass sweatpants, two D.P. Dough Roni Zonies, a futon and a movie you have no interest in seeing more. But she doesn't know.
She's gorgeous, but gorgeous is an understatement. More like you're startled every time you see her because you notice something new in a "Where's Waldo" sort of way. More like you can't stop writing third grade run-on sentences because you can't remotely begin to describe something ... someone ... so inherently amazing. But you're a writer. You can describe anything. That's what you do: pictures to words, events to words, words to even better words. But nothing seems right. More like you're afraid that if you stare at her for too long, you'll prove your parents right: that yes, your face will stick that way. But you wouldn't mind.
You wouldn't mind that the questioning, "Hello?" on the other end makes you want to smile and throw up at the same time. You wouldn't mind worrying about what to get her for her birthday and spending $300 when you only have $17.50 and a Triple-A card to your name. You wouldn't mind that she left your TV on and the blaring infomercials wake you up at 4 a.m. ... because it gives you a chance to watch her sleep. You don't mind that you've slipped up twice when you were hammered and hinted at how you feel, but she was too drunk to remember. So she doesn't know.
Sure, she's pretty, but it's about more than that. You two connect. Anything you throw at her, she can throw right back. You figured out what's going on in that predictable head of hers in under five minutes, but something tells you her heart would take about five years.
You remember everything she's ever said to you, and when that freaks her out you blame it on your photographic memory (which is a lie, you have a 2.7 GPA). You can't remember your teaching assistant's name, and you can't remember that your Puffton rent check was due four days ago, yet you remember the middle name of the kid who tripped her in fifth grade and gave her that cute little scar on her shoulder. Maybe it's because you actually listen when she talks. When do you actually listen? Never. But she doesn't know.
But she has a boyfriend. The kid is a tool, and you are not. He has no redeeming qualities, and you have about 38, even when you're hung over. You could kick his butt, and you've never been in a fight in your life. He treats her like crap, and you would treat her like the princess she believed herself to be on Halloween in 1988.
But she loves him. He wouldn't know what he had even if she slapped him across the face and dumped him, but somehow she still loves him. And somehow she still doesn't know.
Then, out of nowhere, she slaps him across the face and dumps him. She comes to you. You've been there before, so you seem like the smartest guy on earth. She cries, but your corny half-joke, half-compliment somehow gets a smile out of her that almost makes you feel ashamed that you're the only one around who gets to witness it. It looks like you might make her realize that all guys don't deserve to have rocks thrown at them.
But nothing changes. She doesn't know. You get that library elevator feeling in your stomach that she'll never know. You get that feeling that you'll be forced to write a cheesy Collegian column about her that makes "Sleepless in Seattle" look like "Girls Gone Wild."
You go to sleep. You wake up. She doesn't know. You're not in love. You're not obsessed. You blame it on the fact that you just need to get some, but still, it's about more than that. It would just be nice if once in your life, things worked out the way you wanted them to.
So ___________, it's about time you know*.
Now cut this out, fill in her name, and give it to her, coward. Just let me know how it works out.
Matt Brochu is a Collegian columnist.
Now here's part of the rest of the story. This article chronicles the reactions to the article and includes excerpts from some of the responses, including replies from many guys who could relate, from girls who swooned at how "sweeeeeeet!!" the article was, and this one:
A reader incensed by the number of girls praising Brochu writes: "Girls, stop saying you hope to find someone like the guy who wrote this . . . you already have but you call them your best friend and what you don't know is that they are In Love with you."
Now as for what happened to the girl Matt Brochu was writing about? Well, you have to follow the links to find out.
With the rise of e-mail, writing handwritten letters has become a forgotten art. I remember the thrill, when I was younger, of opening old boxes of letters and notes, going through them half-laughing, half-crying as I would find myself awash in a flood of memories.
Nevertheless, with e-mail, though people may write one another less artfully, at least they write to each other more frequently. And it's amazing to trace the exchange of e-mails played out like a drawn out conversation.
This evening I was hunting for an old paper that I had written for school back in 2001. I spent half an hour hunting for an old copy, then I suddenly remembered that I had sent a soft-copy of the file via e-mail to a colleague of mine when I was on vacation in the U.S. So I went to the computer and looked through my old e-mail mailboxes.
I found the file I was looking for in a mailbox labelled "sent items-June to September 2001." After retrieving the file, nostalgia got the better of me and I began to read through the old letters that I had sent during my stay in the U.S. The ones that gripped me were the ones I sent in September 2001. It was weird seeing those mundane messages I was writing to my friends the days before September 11. And then on September 11 and afterwards . . . the world had suddenly changed.
Sigh . . . .
And the world hasn't gone back to the way it was since. :(
Don't leave Iraq or else--US By ESTRELLA TORRES Reporter
. . . A senior official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday that Washington had been constantly communicating with coalition members not to pull out their people [from Iraq].
He said Filipino diplomatic representatives in the US have been called to a meeting by Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss America’s strong warning not to pull out or face political and economic sanctions.
“[The US] is trying to avoid a scenario where the coalition forces would withdraw their troops one by one. That would send a very bad signal,” said a senior diplomat, who requested not to be named. . . .
President Arroyo will meet today with Roy Cimatu, head of the Middle East Preparedness Team (MEPT), to discuss the Iraq situation. Cimatu has concluded a 10-day trip to Iraq to assess the situation of the Filipinos there.
Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Franklin Ebdalin said, however, there is no need to pull out 41 members of the Filipino humanitarian contingent and 3,000 Filipino workers in Iraq. “From what we have gathered, they are not the object of the attacks.” . . .
America is pressuring its coalition allies amid the decision of Spain to withdraw some 1,300 troops from Iraq. Other coalition members like the Dominican Republic and Honduras are also planning to withdraw their troops. . . .With R. Padua
U.S.: "Those Rules Don't Apply to Us. And You'd Better Agree, Or Else!"
U.S. envoys besieged by ‘bully’ charges By ESTRELLA TORRES Reporter
A human rights group based in New York has assailed the United States government and its ambassadors around the world for “acting like schoolyard bullies,” demanding that their host governments sign a bilateral agreement with Washington that would exempt US troops from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Kenneth Roth, executive director of the Human Rights Watch, wrote to US State Secretary Colin Powell urging him to stop all US ambassadors from “bullying” small and poor countries into signing the immunity agreement with the US.
“US officials are engaged in a worldwide campaign pressing small, vulnerable and often fragile democratic governments to sign bilateral agreements with Washington. . . . [These] agreements will exempt 270 million Americans and foreign nationals working under contract with the US government from the authority of the court. While we believe the agreements the United States is proposing violate the ICC treaty by going beyond the letter and spirit of Article 98, I am not writing to argue the unlawfulness of these instruments,” said Roth in his letter to Powell dated June 30, a copy of which was posted on the ICC website.
Washington has cut military aid to at least 35 countries, including Colombia and six nations for supporting the ICC that will try war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
Under the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (ASPA), countries that have supported the ICC will no longer qualify to the US military aid unless they sign a bilateral agreement on Article 98, giving immunity to US soldiers from being prosecuted under the ICC. It has provided a deadline to sign these immunity agreements until July 1 this year. . . .
[Roth] revealed that US Ambassador Richard Blankenship warned the Bahamas that if it did not support the US position on ICC, a significant amount of US aid would be withheld, including funds for paving and lighting an airport runway.
Roth also disclosed that an assistant state secretary informed foreign ministers of Caribbean states that they would lose the benefits for hurricane relief and rural dentistry and veterinary programs if their governments did not sign the immunity pact.
“Because most ICC-member states are democracies with a relatively strong commitment to the rule of law, the threatened aid cutoffs represent a sanction primarily targeting states that abide by democratic values,” Roth said.
Roth said it is ironic that at a time when the US has been increasing assistance to countries with poor human-rights records, like Pakistan and Uzbekistan, it is threatening to cut aid to struggling democracies in the Caribbean, Latin American and Africa over this issue.
Ahhh, Boracay! We've all got stories we want to share, pictures we want to show off, memories we want to rekindle. . . . And now, finally, a place to do all that: BoracayVibe. Soon to be the coolest Boracay hang-out, second only to the island itself.
Remember the address: www.BoracayVibe.com. Because none of us wants those Boracay moments to end.
1. Your favorite song with the name of a city in the title or text. "Englishman in New York" by Sting. Or "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chilli Peppers. If it can be a location within a city, then "59th Street Bridge Song" by Simon & Garfunkel.
2. A song you've listened to repeatedly when you were depressed at some point in your life. I actually don't like listening to music when I'm depressed (lalo pang nakaka-depress!). But I guess "Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia, or "I Am Stretched On Your Grave" by Sinead O'Conner.
3. Ever bought an entire album just for one song and winded up disliking everything but that song? Gimme that song. Hmmm ... I rarely bought albums.
4. A song whose lyrics you thought you knew in the past, but about which you later learned you were incorrect. When I was a child I thought "Shoo, fly, don't bother me!" in the rhyme was "Shoofa don't banaby!" And as a child, I got the entire "Lady Wants To Know" (Michael Franks) all wrong. I thought it was "Daddy likes coal train, baby likes miles .... The smell has got to go, the smell is always leavin', how she hates to say goodbye ...." I thought the song was about a child waving goodbye to trains and missing the way they smelled; to this day that's the image I have in my mind when I hear the song.
5. Your least favorite song on one of your favorite albums of all time. I always used to skip over "God" in Tori Amos' Under The Pink. I wonder if I'd like it now, if I listened to it again.
6. A song you like by someone you find physically unattractive or otherwise repellent. Repellent? (Sobra naman!) Well I hear Terence Trent D'arby thought a bit too much of himself when he first became famous, and if I met him maybe I'd be repelled by that, but I do like "Wishing Well."
7. Your favorite song that has expletives in it that's not by Liz Phair. My favorite song changes every other week, but off the top of my head, I can think of "Jeremy" by Pearl Jam (which M and I were just listening to in his car two days ago).
8. A song that sounds as if it's by someone British but isn't. This song by Oranges and Lemons that I heard while checking out their album at Tower Records.
9. A song you like (possibly from your past) that took you forever to finally locate a copy of. "Ooh Child," Five Stairsteps. Well, I wasn't really actively looking for a copy, but it was nice to find one. :)
10. A song that reminds you of spring but doesn't mention spring at all. Four Seasons, Vivaldi. :P Okay, non-classical song: "Umagang Kay Ganda," Butch Monserrat (sung by Ray-An Fuentes and Tillie Moreno).
11. A song that sounds to you like what being happy feels. "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" by Bach. "Moonshadow" by Cat Stevens. Again, "Umagang Kay Ganda."
12. Your favorite song from a non-soundtrack compilation album. Hmmmm ... One of the albums in my iTunes is a tribute to Bob Marley that includes an African-sounding version of "Redemption Song." I just don't remember the names of the performers.
13. A song from your past that would be considered politically incorrect now (and possibly was then). Hmmm, I dunno.
14. A song sung by an overweight person. "Overweight" is relative. "I've Got A Crush On You" sung by Ella Fitzgerald.
15. A song you actually like by an artist you otherwise hate. "Hate" is such a strong word, but "We Could Be Together" by Debbie Gibson. (No offense to my good friends Ganns and Cathy! :P )
16. A song by a band that features three or more female members. Did Four Non Blondes have three female members or just two? How about Belly? I was thinking of their "What's Up" and "Feed the Tree," respectively. (Halata ba ang edad ko?)
17. One of the earliest songs that you can remember listening to. Boney M's "By the Rivers of Babylon."
18. A song you've been mocked by friends for liking. If I told my friends that I liked Menudo's "If You're Not Here" back in the day, I'm sure I'd be mocked. :)
19. A really good cover version you think no one else has heard. I don't think a lot of people have heard the "Redemption Song" cover I mentioned in #12.
20. A song that has helped cheer you up (or empowered you somehow) after a breakup or otherwise difficult situation. Uhh ... "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morissette?
Over the past year the Bush administration has advanced several plans for a transition to democratic rule in Iraq. Each of those plans, after proving to be unworkable, was abandoned. . . . Because of the way the White House has run the war, we are left with the United States bearing most of the costs and risks associated with every aspect of the Iraqi transition. We have lost lives, time, momentum and credibility. And we are seeing increasing numbers of Iraqis lashing out at the United States to express their frustration over what the Bush administration has and hasn't done. . . .
. . . The United Nations, not the United States, should be the primary civilian partner in working with Iraqi leaders to hold elections, restore government services, rebuild the economy, and re-create a sense of hope and optimism among the Iraqi people. The primary responsibility for security must remain with the U.S. military, preferably helped by NATO until we have an Iraqi security force fully prepared to take responsibility.
Finally, we must level with our citizens. Increasingly, the American people are confused about our goals in Iraq, particularly why we are going it almost alone. The president must rally the country around a clear and credible goal. The challenges are significant and the costs are high. But the stakes are too great to lose the support of the American people.
This morning, as we sit down to read newspapers in the comfort of our homes or offices, we have an obligation to think of our fighting men and women in Iraq who awake each morning to a shooting gallery in which it is exceedingly difficult to distinguish friend from foe, and the death of every innocent creates more enemies. We owe it to our soldiers and Marines to use absolutely every tool we can muster to help them succeed in their mission without exposing them to unnecessary risk. That is not a partisan proposal. It is a matter of national honor and trust.
What did Powell really think about Iraq? '"You're sure?" [Secretary of State Colin L.] Powell is quoted as asking [President] Bush in the Oval Office on Jan. 13, 2003, as the president told him he had made the decision to go forward. "You understand the consequences," he is said to have stated in a half-question. "You know you're going to be owning this place?"'
What does Chris Rock think of the world today? 'On pharmaceutical ads: "They just keep naming symptoms 'til they get one that you fucking got. They say, 'Are you sad, are you lonely? You got athlete's foot? Are you cold, are you hot?'" On gay marriage: "People always say we can't have gay marriage because marriage is a sacred institution. No it's not! Not in America! Not with 'Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire' and 'The Bachelor' and 'Who Wants to Marry a Midget.'"'
What does Bill O'Reilly (of Fox News) now think of the war in Iraq? "So George W. Bush has to stabilize things in Iraq over the next few months, or he goes the way of Lyndon Johnson ...." In an earlier report: '"The Fox News [anchor] said he was sorry he gave the U.S. government the benefit of the doubt that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's weapons program poised an imminent threat," Reuters reported. "'I was wrong. I am not pleased about it at all, and I think all Americans should be concerned about this,' O'Reilly said in an interview with ABC's 'Good Morning America.'"'
In the Philippines, someone whose ethnicity is part-Filipino and part-something else is called, after the Spanish term, "mestizo." (The term "mestizo" was originally used to describe Pinoys who were ethnically part Spanish and part Filipino, but nowadays many other Filipinos of mixed ethnicity use the term, as in, for example, "Chinese mestizo.")
I just learned that in the Pacific Islands, there's a similar term: hapa. Originally referring to a Hawaiian who was ethnically half Caucasian, people now use the term to refer to anyone who is part Asian/Pacific Islander and part non-Asian/non-Pacific Islander (whether Caucasian or African or what-have-you). Since so many people in the Philippines are hapa, then, here's a website that might interest us Pinoys: The Hapa Project (link via cheesedip). The Hapa Project is a collection of photographs of Hapa's, each with their hand-written response to the question that probably all of them have been asked at one time or another: "What are you?" The collection will eventually be compiled in a book. Interesting site.
I really love Easter. I think it's my favorite holiday. Well, not just Easter, but Holy Week culminating in Easter.
For starters, Holy Week and Easter in the Philippines don't have the secular commercialism that distracts people from the real meaning of, say, Christmas. No such thing as Easter bunnies in the Philippines, and Easter Egg Hunts are also rather uncommon. When you switch on the television during the Triduum (Maundy Thursday through Black Saturday), all the local stations are either off-the-air in observance of the week, or they show religious programs. The exception would be the English-language local station, Channel 23, which shows a marathon of "Seventh Heaven" episodes all day long. (Cable television has changed the TV blackout during Holy Week, because the foreign channels still have regular programming, but that's another story.) Good Friday is also the only day when the daily newspapers don't get printed. Most of the public transportation vehicles are off the streets during these days; most of the shops and restaurants are closed as well.
Admittedly, many Filipino families use the extended holiday as a chance to go out of town. But even then, you get the sense that it isn't an ordinary long weekend. The solemnity of the season isn't entirely forgotten: people generally don't play loud music on Good Friday, and skip the late-night partying. (The exception might be Boracay Island, which, I hear, has evolved into the hedonists' getaway during Holy Week, but again, that's another story.)
I attended Easter Vigil last night with Mike and some friends. The Easter Vigil liturgy remains my favorite liturgy of the entire year. (I've written about this before, by the way.)
When the liturgy begins, all the lights in the Church have been turned off. The congregation gathers outdoors in the darkness of Holy Saturday night, and the Easter Fire is kindled then blessed. The celebrant inscribes words on the Paschal Candle as he praises and glorifies Christ as the Alpha and the Omega.
Then the celebrant carries the Paschal Candle into the dark Church, the congregation processing behind him. The fire of the Paschal Candle is passed onto the congregation, candle to candle, until the entire Church is lit only by the flame of candles, while the congregation solemnly chants "Thanks be to God!"
When the celebrant reaches the sanctuary, he sings the Exultet: "Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Jesus Christ, our King, is risen! ...."
Following this are the vigil readings and psalms: seven pairs of readings and psalms at the most, three at the least (where I attend Easter Vigil, there are only three vigil readings and psalms). The readings trace the entire salvation history of the humanity: from the story of Creation, to the salvation story of the Jews, to the prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. In between each reading is a sung Psalm, and a communal prayer. For me this is the most moving part of the liturgy: the entire history of the universe, culminating in the celebration of Christ's Resurrection. Truly, Christ is the Alpha and the Omega; the central axis around which the entirety of creation draws meaning, lies in His Paschal Mystery.
Then, the Gloria. As the choir begins to lead the congregation in a rousing rendition of the Gloria, all the lights in the Church are turned on at once, and the bells--silent since Holy Thursday--are triumphantly rung. Rejoice, for Christ is risen!!! The altar candles are lit, the decorations of the sanctuary returned. The individual candles (except for the Paschal Candle) are blown out for the time being.
The Epistle reading is about Baptism, and is followed by yet another Psalm. The Alleluia is sung for the first time since the beginning of the Lent. The Gospel reading, of course, is a Resurrection account.
The celebrant delivers his homily, reflecting on the meaning of the Paschal Mystery, of Christ's death and resurrection.
The Liturgy of Baptism follows. When there are catechumens to be baptized, then their baptism (and Confirmation, if they are adults) takes place. If there are no catechumens, then the congregation light their candles again from the Paschal candle, and renew their baptismal vows, rejecting sin and Satan, reaffirming their fundamental beliefs, reaffirming their promise to serve God in the Church. Then, reminiscent of the congregations' individual baptisms, the people are sprinkled with holy water amid more solemn singing.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist proceeds as usual, except that everyone is in a particularly joyous mood: The waiting of Lent is over; the Church enters Eastertide. Even the dismissal is an expression of joy and triumph; instead of simply "Thanks be to God," the congregation says, "Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Alleluia!"
Some weeks ago, I commented to a colleague, "Grabe, ang bilis ng panahon; Kuaresma na pala. Everything becomes solemn and silent." He smiled and said, "You know, Lent isn't the longest season of the liturgical calendar. Easter is."
Catching up with friends.
It was good to see many old friends at the Easter Vigil. Some of us went out for coffee afterwards. It was quite a happy evening. :)
A friend of mine sent me a really nice Easter greeting over SMS today. I hope he doesn't mind if I share it with you guys: "Blessed are those to whom Easter is not a hunt but a find; not a greeting but a proclamation; not a fashion but a grace; not a day but an eternity." Maligayang Pasko ng Muling Pagkabuhay! Have a happy, happy Eastertide, everyone!
It is not the promise of heaven
That moves me, Lord, to love You.
It is not the fear of hell
That forces me to fear You.
What moves me, Lord, is You, Lord
Fixed to a Cross and mocked.
What moves me is Your wounded body,
The insults and Your death.
What moves me, really, is Your love, so that
Were there no heaven, I would love You still.
Were there no hell, I would fear You still.
For me to love You, You need nothing to give
For even if I did not hope as indeed I hope,
Even so I would love You as indeed I love.
Ten years. That's how long it's been to the day since Kurt Cobain died. Why is that so important? Because Kurt was an icon to my generation. Because his songs were our high school anthems. Our rock band in high school (not a very good one) was an all-girl band but we sang Nirvana anyway. I still remember buying the Time magazine issue with Kurt on the cover right after his death. In our high school yearbook (batch 1994, thank you very much), we included his death among the most significant events that happened the year we graduated.
Was he a great musician? I don't know, and I don't know if I'd still be listening to him if he were alive today. But when we were sixteen, and he sang about anger and frustration and feeling lost and the world run by adults and by the Establishment as not making any sense, he was speaking to us.
Well, ten years later, we're all grown up and many of us are successful and most of us didn't get drugged out the way Kurt did. But you know what, Kurt? The world run by the Establishment still doesn't make a lot of sense. Sucks, doesn't it?
My friends and I chose today to watch The Passion, after which we ate lunch to celebrate Jon's birthday, then went to 3 PM Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday Mass at Edsa Shrine, then trooped to my house for a prayer meeting.
The film was a powerful and prayerful experience. I felt almost as if I were doing a two-hour long contemplation on Christ's Passion, except that because the interpretation of the events wasn't entirely my own, very new dimensions of the events which we already know so well were opened to me.
One insight that struck me in particular was the realization that Christ, being fully human, had free will, and that meant--I think--that at any time, he could have chosen to turn away from his mission. Huwag na lang; magtago na lang ako: he could have run away and hidden. And so what was brought home to me so profoundly was his complete submission to the Father's will, a submission that was renewed again and again at every moment of his life, and more so, at every moment of his Passion and suffering, amid constant temptations to the contrary. "If you will it, take this chalice from Me, but not My will but Yours be done...."
The way Mary was depicted was devastating. A colleague and mentor said it well: Our Lady's vocation was not to do anything in particular; rather, it was simply to surrender completely to the Father's will. It was to watch her beloved Son suffer and die and to say "Yes" to it as the will of the Father. Mary's fiat: "I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done ... according to Your will." "So be it."
The fact that the events--so familiar yet so new--were being depicted in a movie lent the film a potential secularity which actually made it doubly powerful. Let me explain that statement. As a cradle Catholic Christian, the events of the Passion are deeply entrenched in my psyche, inseparable from the perspective with which I view the world. However, seeing these events captured in a specific medium and one that is usually associated with the secular world allowed me the strange experience of, while watching the film, occasionally being able to imagine myself viewing the events on the screen "from the outside," from a secular perspective, from the perspective of someone who might not know the story of Christ. And when I allowed myself to imagine that, I saw the film not just as an expression of a religion I know so well, but also as a simple, human story of a man being tortured to death. That, in turn, gave me the eyes to imagine what it must have been like for the people who witnessed Christ's suffering and death who did not recognize Him as Messiah: What must it have been like for the Roman centurions? For Simon of Cyrene? For the passers-by on the street who had barely heard of this Galilean named Jesus? Even for the Pharisees? If I had been there and if I did not know Christ as Messiah, how would this man have affected me? And when I thought of Christ in that sense, the power of his very human characteristics struck me all the more: His gentleness, His kindness, His humility, His strength. I began to realize why so many characters in the film (who of course were based on real-life people in history) were so profoundly affected by this man: It was easy to see--if one chose to let himself see (as Claudia said in the film)--that this man, Jesus the Nazarene, was indeed holy. It was easy to see why Simon of Cyrene was completely transformed by this man after only a few hours walking beside him. It was easy to see why Pilate--as portrayed in the film--quickly developed a mysterious respect for the man. It was easy to see why even some of the Roman centurions sensed that this man was different.
Satan depicted as someone who mocks (Satan cannot create; he can only imitate) pushed me to reflect about how Satan tempts me in my own life: what false consolations he tries to seduce me with, what false consolations I am easily seduced by....
As an experience similar to a contemplation, I think that each person will find a different character apart from Christ striking him or her in particular, depending on his/her own situation. One of my friends was most struck by Mary. Another was most struck by Simon of Cyrene. I was most struck by Peter. I think that we are struck most by the character we most identify with, and that character may vary depending on who we are and where we are in life. I think, then, that it can be very powerful and fruitful to ask ourselves why a particular character struck us, what that says about ourselves and our own relation to Christ.
When the credits began to roll, it was a little strange, because instead of the mad rush to the door that usually happens at movies, there was a rather long moment of stillness in the theater before people finally stood up to leave.
Finally, regarding the controversies the film raised.
Did I think it was anti-Semitic? I think that if you are already anti-Semitic when you enter the theater, then you might see anti-Semitism in the film, but if you enter the theater knowing the difference between Judaism as a whole and a specific aspect of Phariseeism in Christ's time, you won't. I also think Mel Gibson made a conscious effort to remind people that Catholicism does not blame anyone in history for Christ's death: In the film, there was a scene where Christ said, "My life is mine to give, and I give it willingly," after which the scene cut to the image of the Pharisees and then the Roman soldiers.
Did I think the film was too violent to handle? If you are a Filipino Catholic (over the age of 10) who is immersed in the spirituality of the Cross so characteristic of our culture, then my answer is, no.
If you have faith in Christ, watch the film. Pray for the grace that it speaks to you in the way God would want to speak to you through the film. And after the film is done, bring your experience of the film into prayer. That's what I suggest.
And, yes, I cried. :)
I really appreciated today's homily. (I don't know the priest's name, but whoever said Mass at 3 PM today at Edsa Shrine--magaling siya mag-homiliya!) I was glad, first of all, because he spoke out strongly against the superstitions surrounding Palm Sunday that have evolved in Filipinos' folk Catholicism. He gently but firmly admonished the congregation about treating Palm Sunday palms as anting-anting's to ward off evil: evident in the Filipino folk practice of attaching the palm to the front door or window of the home. He emphasized, rather, what it is we really are celebrating during Palm Sunday: the entry of Christ into Jerusalem where He will be victorious over suffering and death, and at the same time, the entry of Christ into our lives where he will be victorious over sin.
In the same vein, he admonished the congregation about the Filipino custom (especially among the upper-middle class living in the city) of turning Holy Week into a secular vacation. (My friend and I who are both planning out of town trips this Holy Week were nudging each other jokingly at this point.) "I'm not telling you not to take a vacation," the priest said, "but remember that Holy Week is a vacation from work so that you can be more completely in union with Christ during His Passion, Death, and Resurrection."
Incidentally, I read in today's issue of Today that the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines is calling on all bishops, priests and religious lay leaders to do away with superstitious practices observed by many Filipinos during Lent, and maintain focus, rather, on the real meaning of the season. Good; I'm glad they made an official statement like that.
It's Passion Sunday today, the start of Holy Week. Here are some devotions you may wish to do this week.
The Stations of the Cross (aka the Way of the Cross).
There are many versions. The traditional version has just fourteen stations. Famous theologians and saints adapted their own ways of meditating to the Stations: check out John Henry Cardinal Newman's and St. Alphonsus Liguori's. This year, the Pope will be leading this version of the Way of the Cross with special prayers for children who are victims of violence and oppression all over the world (keeping in line with this year's theme for Lent).
A newer version of the Way of the Cross includes a meditation on the Resurrection as a 15th station.
This is a Scriptural version of the Way of the Cross (as led by the Pope in 1991), focusing only on stations that were mentioned in Scripture. Protestants who don't feel comfortable including the stations not mentioned in Scripture (e.g., Veronica, etc.) may wish to meditate on this set of stations instead.
You may also want to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary, especially the Sorrowful mysteries.
Seven Last Words.
Finally, you may find it helpful to meditate on the Seven Last Words of Christ. This book that I already mentioned previously (available for P30 in the St. Paul's bookstore in Megamall) provides a reflection and prayer points for each of the passages. This page (scroll down) enumerates the Seven Last Words and has a brief meditation and list of links for each.
Smart cellphone users in the Philippines with Java-enabled phones can download the Way of the Cross and the Rosary from Smart's WAP site.
Thank God for poets literature-lovers who make the Internet a more beautiful place by posting poetry on their blogs.
Poem For People That Are Understandably Too Busy To Read Poetry Stephen Dunn
Relax. This won't last long.
Or if it does, or if the lines
make you sleepy or bored,
give in to sleep, turn on
the T.V., deal the cards.
This poem is built to withstand
such things. Its feelings
cannot be hurt. They exist
somewhere in the poet,
and I am far away.
Pick it up anytime. Start it
in the middle if you wish.
It is as approachable as melodrama,
and can offer you violence
if it is violence you like. Look,
there's a man on a sidewalk;
the way his leg is quivering
he'll never be the same again.
This is your poem
and I know you're busy at the office
or the kids are into your last nerve.
Maybe it's sex you've always wanted.
Well, they lie together
like the party's unbuttoned coats,
slumped on the bed
waiting for drunken arms to move them.
I don't think you want me to go on;
everyone has his expectations, but this
is a poem for the entire family.
Right now, Budweiser
is dripping from a waterfall,
deodorants are hissing into armpits
of people you resemble,
and the two lovers are dressing now,
I don't know what music this poem
can come up with, but clearly
it's needed. For it's apparent
they will never see each other again
and we need music for this
because there was never music when he or she
left you standing on the corner.
You see, I want this poem to be nicer
than life. I want you to look at it
when anxiety zigzags your stomach
and the last tranquilizer is gone
and you need someone to tell you
I'll be here when you want me
like the sound inside a shell.
The poem is saying that to you now.
But don't give anything for this poem.
It doesn't expect much. It will never say more
than listening can explain.
Just keep it in your attache case
or in your house. And if you're not asleep
by now, or bored beyond sense,
the poem wants you to laugh. Laugh at
yourself, laugh at this poem, at all poetry.
Good. Now here's what poetry can do.
Imagine yourself a caterpillar.
There's an awful shrug and, suddenly,
You're beautiful for as long as you live.
Summer's here, and the new billboards around the city are making us all long for the beach.
If I may ask a question about a wee little thing. I like Penshoppe's new surfing ad campaign (and Ala looks great in it, by the way), but .... Is it just me, or does one of the male models look a tad too pale and pasty in the ads to be a believable surfer? It's a little disconcerting when I pass through Commonwealth to see, posing as a boardhead, a shirtless guy who--while not bad-looking at all--seems to be bearing his torso to the sun for the first time after a long Siberian winter.
I've begun to read John of the Cross' Ascent of Mount Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul in preparation for a course I might be teaching seven months from now. For a portion of the course, I want to look at a Christian mystic's experience of the silence of God, and John of the Cross was the first name that popped into my head. Still, I'm not yet sure about my choice of texts; I'm wondering if I ought to choose someone slightly easier to read? Christian mysticism lovers out there: any other suggestions?
Meanwhile, if any of you are looking for a book to help you pray this Holy Week, check out Prayers from the Cross: Solace for All Seasons by John P. Mossi, SJ. Available in the Philippines at St. Paul's Publications bookstore (there's a branch in Megamall).