Wake Up, Philippines!

Exposing anti-Catholicism

Posted in Catholicism, Church by Erineus on April 16, 2010

Bernardo M. Villegas


April 15, 2010, 5:55pm

I fully agree with Mayor Edward I. Koch, the Mayor of New York City, and a Jew. Those who have been very vocal in attacking the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI for the sexual abuse of children by a few Roman Catholic priests in countries like Ireland, Germany and the United States have an axe to grind. They are no longer interested in the truth but are pushing their respective anti-Catholic agenda. Mayor Koch, in a column in The New York Post last April 6, 2010, did not mince any word: “Many of those in the media who are pounding on the Church and the Pope today clearly do it with delight and some with malice. The reason I believe for the constant assaults is that there are many in the media and some Catholics as well as many in the public who object to and are incensed by positions the Church holds, including opposition to all abortion, opposition to gay sex and same-sex marriage, retention of celibacy rules for priest, exclusion of women from the clergy, opposition to birth control measures involving condoms and prescription drugs and opposition to civil divorce.”

Well, if the critics of the Catholic teachings on these issues think that using the sex abuse scandals will soften the stand of the Pope against these acts which are considered by Catholic morals as intrinsically evil, they are in for a surprise. Although Mayor Koch candidly admits that he disagrees with the Church on all those points, he has enough intellectual honesty to recognize that the Church has the right to demand fulfillment of all of its religious demands by its parishioners, and indeed a right to espouse its beliefs generally. He quotes a good friend of his, John Cardinal O’Oconnor: “The Church is not a salad bar, from which to pick and choose what pleases you.” Let this be a reminder to columnists and others in the local press who think that they can soften the stand of the Filipino bishops against the Reproductive Health Bill (which promotes the inherently evil artificial contraceptives) by constantly raking up the sex abuse scandals.

Mayor Koch gives us an example of objectivity in assessing this sordid happenings in the Catholic Church: “The sexual molestation of children, principally boys, is horrendous. This is agreed to by everyone, Catholics, the Church itself, as well as non-Catholics and the media. The Pope has on a number of occasions on behalf of the Church admitted fault and asked for forgiveness. For example, The New York Times reported on April 18, 2008 that the Pope, “came face to face with a scandal that has left lasting wounds on the American church Thursday, holding a surprise meeting with several victims of sexual abuse by priests in the Boston area…’No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse,’ the Pope said in his homily. ‘It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention.’”

The Mayor zeroes in on what he considers the fatal human error of the superiors of the offending priests: “The primary explanation for the abuse that happened–not to excuse the retention of priests in positions that enable them to continue to harm children–was the belief that the priests could be cured by psychotherapy, a theory now long discarded by the medical profession.  Regrettably, it is also likely that years ago the abuse of children was not taken as seriously as today. Thank God we’ve progressed on that issue.”

Catholics who practice the theological virtue of faith, without being insensitive to the sufferings of the victims, may actually strengthen their adherance to the teachings of the Catholic Church as infallibly taught by the Pope.  They know that this is not the first time in the more than 2,000 years of the history of the Catholic Church that we are witnessing some rottenness from within.  Without the constant protection of the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Church, if it were only a human institution, would have long disappeared.

But as Jesus Christ Himself promised, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church that He founded.  Mayor Koch, who considers himself a Conservative Jew and attends an Orthodox synagogue, also knows how to quote from the New Testament in asking the critics to stop their anti-Catholic attacks:  “He (or she) that is without sin among you, let him (or her) cast the next stone.” (John 8:7)  For comments, my e-mail address is bvillegas@uap.edu.ph.


DENR: Ponder on agony we cause to environment

Posted in Church, DENR, Environment, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on April 3, 2010

By Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 13:34:00 03/31/2010

MANILA, Philippines—Do penance for the environment on Holy Week, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Tuesday.

In a statement, Environment Secretary Horacio Ramos said the country’s estimated 81 million Catholics should observe a “green” Holy Week and “ponder on the agony of the country’s environment as the nation grapples with the effects of El Niño and the aftermath of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.”

Ramos said Catholics are in a “unique position to offer thoughtful solutions to the natural resource and environmental problems and issues in the world today and embarking on simple acts of everyday sacrifices, especially this Holy Week.”

“Because Holy Week holds a central place in the life of majority of Filipinos, these calamities become auspicious in that we could reflect on the agony of our water bodies, skies and forests that are facing almost certain demise, to the greater agony of poor Filipinos, unless the collective will is forged to save and resurrect our physical home in this corner of Planet Earth,” Ramos said.

Things we can do

“Doables” on the environment chief’s lists include: Collection and segregation of waste, especially by park- and beach-goers; prevention of grass and forest fires through monitoring of campfires and proper disposal of cigarette butts; participation in environmental cleanup activities, be it on a beach front, roadside, estero, or public park; religious application of water and energy-saving tips at home, in the office or on vacation; conscientious use and maintenance of motor vehicles; respect for wildlife and their habitats; vigilance against violators of environmental laws by reporting smoke-belching vehicles, polluting firms and illegal logging activities; and for candidates running in the May elections, to spare trees from their campaign materials.

Ramos said an ailing environment “ails the plight of the poor even more. Those who are better off in life [should] take to heart the duties of Christian stewardship over the nation’s environment and natural resources.”

The World Bank reported that total losses due to the two typhoons that struck last year amounted to P50.3 billion, affecting mostly informal or labor workers with some 480,000 of them added to the country’s poverty rolls.

The waste watchdog EcoWaste Coalition urged Holy Week travelers to “think outside the bottle” and give up bottled water on their trips.

Water bottle blues

“We expect increased consumer demand for bottled beverages like water as people hit the road or frolic on the beach under the broiling April sun,” said Chin Chin Gutierrez of Alaga Lahat and EcoWaste Coalition.

“The ever increasing production and consumption of bottled water bring myriad environmental and health problems that consumers are hardly informed about, including the release of greenhouse gases from the whole life cycle of bottled water, the potential leaching of chemicals from plastic bottles, microbial contamination due to poor regulation, and marine litter,” she said.

Instead of single-use water bottles, the group urged travelers to use reusable water jugs, stainless steel, or lined aluminum containers filled with clean tap water or, if necessary, with boiled, filtered, or purified water to cut on greenhouse gases and trash.

According to Ocean Conservancy’s “Marine Debris Index” released in 2008, the Philippines registered the highest number of littered beverage plastic bottles in Southeast Asia.

“To turn the tide against bottled water, Filipino consumers further need to assert their right to drink healthy and safe water straight from the tap and insist that bottled water is no sustainable solution to our thirst for water,” EcoWaste Coalition said.


The Vatican’s cross

Posted in Church by Erineus on April 3, 2010

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:49:00 03/31/2010

THIS MUST BE THE BLEAKEST HOLY THURSDAY at the Vatican in many decades. An unholy shroud of suspicion has enveloped the Holy See, threatening to suffocate even the papacy itself. An Associated Press story Wednesday drew a forbidding global picture: “As the faithful fill churches this Holy Week, many Roman Catholics around the world are finding their relationship to the church painfully tested by new revelations of clerical abuse and suggestions [that Pope] Benedict himself may have helped cover up cases in Germany and the US.”

We should point out that these new revelations about insufficient institutional responses to allegations of sexual abuse by predatory priests have had perhaps less impact on the Church in the Philippines (and, the AP story suggests, in Poland too, another staunchly Catholic country). Indeed, the AP story itself recognizes that many of the Catholic faithful who are aware of the latest iteration of a long-running scandal aren’t necessarily thinking of leaving the Church. It quotes Linda Faust, of Greendale, Wisconsin, as saying, rather pungently, “At this point in my life I wouldn’t leave the Church for somebody else’s sins.”

We think this kind of concerned-but-devout attitude reflects the position of many Filipino Catholics. But if a real crisis were to overtake Benedict’s office, the Church in the Philippines will surely feel its impact too.

It is vital, then, to know exactly what is happening—and how Benedict’s involvement has been misreported or misinterpreted.

Make no mistake: we think the continuing sexual abuse scandal is wreaking havoc on the Church and its reputation; we believe the Pope’s role in a possible cover-up of or an altogether sluggish response to allegations of priestly abuse, when he was a bishop in Germany and later when he served as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is an entirely legitimate subject of inquiry; we hold the view, shared by many of the faithful, that the Church must do all it can to disinfect itself of the fatal virus of clerical abuse.

But veteran Vatican reporter John Allen, in a lengthy post on his blog for the National Catholic Reporter, has pointed out three fundamental misreadings of the Pope’s involvement. (A much-abbreviated op-ed piece of his has also appeared in the New York Times.) First, it was only in the last four years of his two decades at the helm of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that Benedict, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, assumed the lead role in the Vatican’s crackdown on abusive priests. In other words, before 2001, Ratzinger had no role to play in the investigation of sexual abuse allegations at all.

Second, the May 2001 letter that Ratzinger addressed to his fellow bishops, Allen wrote, “marked recognition in Rome, really for the first time, of how serious the problem of sex abuse really is, and it committed the Vatican to getting directly involved.” In other words, instead of being so-called proof that Ratzinger told bishops to keep sexual abuse allegations secret from government authorities, the letter was, at that time it was issued, “widely hailed as a watershed moment towards a solution.”

Third, to the recent disclosure that only 20 percent of more than 3,000 abuse cases were allowed to proceed to a canonical trial, the New York Times and other news organizations responded by misinterpreting it as proof of Vatican inaction. In other words, many in the media missed the real significance of the disclosure. Thus, Allen wrote: “In the end, however, only 20 percent were sent back for trials, while for the bulk of the cases, 60 percent, bishops were authorized to take immediate administrative action, because the proof was held to be overwhelming … to describe that 20 percent figure as a sign of ‘inaction’ cannot help but seem, to anyone who’s been paying attention, rather ironic.”

None of this is to excuse Church officials, or indeed Pope Benedict XVI himself, from rendering a true account of what they knew and when they knew it, as far as the latest scandals in Germany and in Milwaukee, in the United States, are concerned. That clearing of the air may not be enough to lift the shroud off the Vatican, but it would be a start.


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Father President?

Posted in Church, Election, Filipino Catholics, Filipinos/Filipinas, Religion/Belief by Erineus on March 25, 2009

By Michael Tan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:57:00 03/25/2009

There is no Philippine law that prevents Fr. Ed Panlilio from running for public office, unlike in Mexico, where the constitution prohibits members of the clergy from holding public office. Ironically, what could stop Panlilio from running is his own Catholic Church, which has been ambivalent about “political” priests. Panlilio has in fact been suspended from “priestly duties” since he became governor of Pampanga province.

I use quotation marks for the word “political” because the Catholic Church has actually been political for 2,000 years, with popes themselves wielding great political power, while cardinals and bishops have actively intervened to make, or break, kings and queens and presidents.

In the last half century, the Vatican has set its sights on liberal priests. Up to 1980, canon law allowed priests to run if they had the permission of their bishops, but there were tensions here as well, especially if the bishops were conservative and the priests running for office were liberals. In 1980, Pope John Paul II mandated that priests should withdraw from electoral politics, and in 1983, a new canonical law went into effect with a broader prohibition on priests taking up “public positions entailing participation in the exercise of civil authority.”

Revolutionary priests

Nicaragua came to my mind almost immediately when I first read about a possible Panlilio candidacy. The late 1960s and the entire 1970s were a time of political ferment for the Catholic Church in Latin America and the Philippines because of harsh dictatorships. It was during these difficult times that liberation theology gained a strong following among both the religious and lay Catholics (as well as some Protestants). Liberation theology borrowed from Marxism, pointing out the structural roots of poverty, from US imperialism to the greed and corruption of local landlords and capitalists.

Liberation theology talked about a “preferential option” for the poor. Many religious and lay people went to serve urban and rural poor communities, getting involved in community organizing and militant politics. The film “Sister Stella L.,” whose 25th anniversary is being celebrated this year, was based on the lives of Catholic sisters in the Philippines who worked in urban poor communities, joining pickets and rallies and investigating human rights abuses, all amid a repressive martial law regime.

Liberation theology was also strong in Nicaragua, which was ruled by the Somoza family for several decades. As in the Philippines, Catholic religious were among those who opposed the dictatorship. This included a Maryknoll priest, Fr. Miguel D’Escoto, who headed the US-based Nicaraguan solidarity movement.

The Sandinistas overthrew Somoza in 1979 and the new government appointed Father Miguel foreign minister. He resisted his superiors’ orders for him to give up his government position and stayed on as foreign minister until 1990, when the Sandinistas lost power in elections. In 2007, when the Sandinistas came back into power, he was appointed as government adviser by President Daniel Ortega.

Father Miguel was not the type to mince words, calling Ronald Reagan a “butcher” and George W. Bush a “liar.” Last year, he became president of the UN General Assembly, and has taken a more diplomatic approach in his declarations.

There were two other Nicaraguan priests, the brothers Ernesto and Fernando Cardenal, who clashed with their superiors, all the way up to the Pope. Ernesto, internationally respected as a poet and writer, was Nicaragua’s minister of culture from 1979 to 1988. Fernando was minister of education and launched one of the most successful adult literacy programs in the world. Both did not step down from their posts, arguing that the new canonical law came into effect after they had been appointed to the Nicaraguan government.

In 1983, when the Pope visited Nicaragua, there was tension when at one event, Ernesto Cardenal approached the Pope and knelt to kiss his ring. The Pope pulled back his hand and shook his finger at the priest.

Monsignor President?

Despite what seems to be a hardline Vatican stand, there’s actually a Catholic bishop who ran for president and won. This is Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, who also has roots in liberation theology. He trained as a teacher, and then became an SVD (Society of the Divine Word) priest. He served as a missionary in Ecuador and then returned to Paraguay, only to be expelled by the Stroessner military regime because of his activism. He returned in 1987, two years before Stroessner was ousted, and stayed on to serve Paraguay. He was outspoken on issues of social justice, eventually becoming bishop of the diocese of San Pedro.

In 2006, this “Bishop of the Poor” decided to run for president and applied for laicization or a temporary leave from the priesthood, but his request was turned down because, his superiors said, bishops were not eligible for laicization. Lugo decided to run anyway and was suspended. He ran against a woman candidate of the conservative Colorado Party. Lugo won in the 2008 elections, breaking the Colorado Party’s 62-year hold on Paraguayan politics. The Vatican has since granted Lugo’s request for laicization.

Lugo is one of several leftist presidents now in power in Latin America, refusing to accept any presidential salary because the money “belongs to more humble people.”

Jesuit congressman

I should mention one last case here, from the United States, where a Jesuit, Fr. Robert Drinan, was Massachusetts congressman from 1971 to 1980. He was a liberal Democrat and ran on an anti-Vietnam War platform, unseating a congressman who had held office for 14 terms. (You read right, 14 terms, not 14 years—the US has no limits on the number of terms you can hold office.)

Drinan was outspoken, advocated Nixon’s impeachment and pushed for government funding for family planning and abortion. But he gave up his post in 1980 after Pope John Paul II banned priests from running for office. Drinan remained active in teaching, and continued to speak out on political issues. He died in 2007.

Should Father Ed run or not? I’m ambivalent too. I respect the Kaya Natin team of alternative politicians but I worry about how effective Catholic priests can be, laicized or not. A recent article by Jonathan Chow, “Different Standards, Different Faiths” on the website “Religion, Politics and Globalization Project” (rpgp.berkeley.edu) looks at what seems to be a double standard, where Protestant ministers can run for public office without too many eyebrows being raised while people — from popes to bishops, Protestants or Catholics — hesitate when it comes to Catholic priests assuming public office.

Chow notes that there is a difference between Catholic and Protestant clergy, the former having to obey the Vatican, which technically is a “temporal state that is also a theocratic monarchy.” If Panlilio were to run, he would have to be very clear about his stand on a number of issues, from family planning to social justice, and if he has views different from the positions of the Vatican or the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, will he able to remain independent?


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Catholic hierarchy says no to Panlilio

Posted in Church, Election, Filipino Catholics by Erineus on March 25, 2009

By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:55:00 03/25/2009

The movement launched by a nebulous civil society group, oozing with messianic ardor, to draft Pampanga province’s Gov. Ed Panlilio for president in 2010 to save this country from the rapacity of the much-maligned “traditional politicians” has roiled the Catholic Church over the very secular notion of separation of church and state in a republican polity. The furor was sparked by the statement of Panlilio that he was “open to the possibility” of seeking the presidency in response to the civil society call.

The draft initiative seeks to make Panlilio run in 2010 with Isabela province’s Gov. Grace Padaca as running mate. The movement has described this tandem as credible “alternatives” to the widely reviled “trapos” [traditional politicos; literally, dirt rags], stigmatized as responsible for the degradation of politics over more than 50 years of representative democracy in this country.

It did not take much for Panlilio to succumb to, or to be titillated by, this flattery to consider himself as a much awaited messiah of Philippine politics.

We have always been exposed to the notion since the 1986 People Power Revolution that our political salvation lies in military coups and soldiers with messianic complex, of the likes of Lt. Col. Gregorio Honasan, Navy Lt. Antonio Trillanes III, and Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim — all failed coup makers. Now, the restless do-gooders in civil society, in a desperate search of alternatives outside the traditional political establishment and political elite, have narrowed their search to a member of the Catholic clergy as a political leader in times of crisis. This time the favored notion by civil society is if the trapos, and the soldiers have failed in reforming society, the man of the cloth might fill the leadership vacuum and become the inspired “man of the hour.”

Unfortunately for the promoters of this project in civil society, the Catholic hierarchy is not of the same mind. The Catholic hierarchy has been unsettled by the implications of this draft movement on the principle of separation of church and state.

Panlilio, who ran for governor in 2007 on a reformist and anti-corruption platform, defeated two administration-backed candidates, one of whom was identified with the underground lottery “jueteng” and the other with quarry syndicates in Pampanga. As governor, he wears two hats: that of a salaried public official and that of a priest on a vague status, considered by the hierarchy as “on leave.” As such, he stands astride a blurred line separating secular and priestly functions, which has bred conflict of interest situations as a secular power and minister tending to the spiritual needs of his flock as well to their secular concerns.

These conflicting demands have often been irreconcilable. For example, he was caught in a bind when he accepted cash handouts amounting to between P250,000 and P500,000 from Malacañang, distributed to congressmen, governors and mayors purportedly as assistance for their local projects, although the sums were actually intended to secure their support for a move to quash the impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Panlilio later tried to return the money but Malacañang refused to accept it.

As a power holder and a priest, Panlilio unwittingly appeared to put into practice the dual secular and spiritual status of Iranian ayatollahs in a theocratic state, in a polity that declares a constitutional separation between church and state. The susceptibility of Panlilio to the inveiglement of a movement to draft him for the presidency and the embarrassing contradictions of his dual role were too much for the Catholic bishops to tolerate.

In what sounded like an ultimatum, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, read the riot act to Panlilio. In a statement titled, “On the Question of Political Leadership,” Lagdameo minced no words in warning Panlilio to quit the priesthood if he runs for president in 2010.

Lagdameo cited a decree of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, which forbids bishops, priests and religious from active involvement in partisan politics. Lagdameo said, “I presume that Governor E. Panlilio, who is a priest, has been told about this and knows it. If he plans to run for the presidency, in view of the separation of the church and the state, it is best for him to seek dispensation from the priesthood. And so he will be free to engage in partisan politics.”

Lagdameo explained that “dispensation from the priesthood” would mean removing Panlilio’s identity and authority as a priest. Panlilio was suspended from performing priestly duties when he ran for governor in 2007.

Lagdameo also reiterated the Church’s non-involvement in partisan politics. “The Church does not support and endorse any political candidate,” Lagdameo said. “This applies also to Governor Panlilio.” It would be up to civil society or members of the laity to identify and encourage potential and “non-trapo” leaders for political renewal. He quoted Pope Benedict XVI who said, “A big part of the vocation of Christian lay people is their participation in politics in order to bring justice, honesty and defense of true and authentic values of society.”

Lagdameo said there were alternatives to the kind of political leadership at present. “I believe that our country is not lacking in people from civil society who have the gifts of authentic, credible, moral and patriotic leadership,” he said.

In plain words, the message is: The clergy is off limits as a recruitment ground for political leadership. The Church cannot be more emphatic than that. Fold your tents.


BACLARAN CHURCH: Mass attendance, petitions swell

By Manolita A. Gonzales
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:52:00 03/16/2009

Filed Under: Churches (organisations), World Financial Crisis, Religion & Belief, Overseas Employment, Grants and Scholarships, Employment

(Editor’s Note: Times are tough. Let’s do something about it. Now. Share with us what you or other people are doing to get you through the rough times. If we are together, we can tough it out. Send suggestions to jsarmiento@inquirer.com.ph)

MANILA, Philippines—The tougher the times, the harder people pray.

At the popular “Our Mother of Perpetual Help” shrine in Baclaran, Parañaque City, people attending Wednesday novenas and Sunday Masses often spill over to the courtyard. Churchgoers used to peak at 120,000 on the first Wednesday of the month.

Now crowds fill the church to overflowing even on ordinary Wednesdays and Sundays. (The shrine holds 12 Masses and novenas every Wednesday.)

Prices have risen, but devotees are not scrimping on their donations to the church. In fact, Wednesday and Sunday collections in Baclaran have slightly increased.

The Baclaran shrine is a favorite place of solace for people seeking special favors from Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and for any good Samaritan willing to help someone in need.

On the first Wednesday of the month, the shrine gets 3,000 to 4,000 written petitions. It receives 2,200 to 2,800 petitions on ordinary Wednesdays.

“Those are twice the number of letters we got five of ten years ago,” said Vivian Bersola, a lay missionary of the shrine for 19 years.

Devotees also write prayers of thanksgiving—around 500 are received weekly.

Petitions for jobs

While petitions used to focus on family and spiritual problems, recent ones are more work-related, such as prayers for landing a job in the country or abroad and for passing of job interviews and board exams, according to Bersola.

Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in the country over the past few months because of plunging demand for exports like electronics and garments as the recession in the United States and other developed countries deepens.

The Philippines could lose up to 300,000 jobs in the first six months of the year, according to the labor secretary.

Other petitions include prayers for health and recovery from sickness (particularly cancer and other ailments needing surgery), peace in the home, travel abroad, release of housing loans and even divine intervention in the payment of tuition and credit cards.

“These petitions keep us grounded in the day-to-day struggle of ordinary people,” Fr. Ino Cueto said.

Redemptorist priests read some of the prayer petitions during Mass.

Mass for OFWs

Noticing that problems of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families were a recurring theme in petitions and even confessions, the priests decided to hold special Masses for the workers and their families at 9:30 a.m. every last Friday of the month.

Shortly before the Mass for OFWs was to be held in January, the priests wondered, “Would people attend?” They were surprised when the whole church was filled.

When Cueto became shrine rector a year ago, he noticed that some 20 beggars would appear on Tuesday nights in anticipation of the Wednesday devotees.

Recently, he counted more than 50. “Most of them are old women,” he said. “We cannot prevent them from coming, but we are thinking of a more systematic and effective response to their plight.”

The Redemptorist priests are noted for their social programs for the poor, as well as their activism during the martial law years, when they were teasingly called “Redempterrorists.”

There seems to be less political activism now, which is true of the whole Catholic Church, but the social services remain.

“We used to get eight walk-in clients a day, but now we get around 15,” said Arlene Camua, social worker of the shrine’s Crisis Intervention Center.

“The more common requests are for transportation back to home provinces, medication for ailments such as diabetes and stroke, hospitalization and surgical operations.”

Clients who seek help come from Metro Manila and as far as Mindoro, Quezon and Leyte.

Eunice Barrozo, another social worker, said the Redemptorist Education Assistance Program got 55 applicants for college scholarships and continued to do so after the deadline ended last month.

The scholarship used to be open to students from any part of Metro Manila. Soaring costs of education forced the program to limit scholarships to Parañaque residents only.

Street children

The hard times are also sending more children to the streets.

Phen Mangahas, team leader of social services and director of the Sarnelli Center for Street Children, said the children the center gathered recently for street education sessions reached 100 from last year’s 60.

“Street children are now less willing to stay at our drop-in center,” she said. They prefer to be out in the streets to help parents by selling sando (plastic) bags or sampaguita (jasmine).

The three social workers noted that ironically, more clients were being referred to Baclaran by government agencies, such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Office of Vice President Noli de Castro.

“Five years ago, we were able to get augmentation funds from the DSWD,” Mangahas said. “Now, these agencies say they really have no funds.”

Transparency, generosity

Baclaran shrine’s social services are sustained by donations—not only from wealthy patrons but also from ordinary people who share whatever they have.

Donors include those whose petitions were granted and those who want to share their blessings, say, lotto winnings.

One donor said she doubled her donations because she believed that “if you increase your donations, you will get more blessings in return.”

The devotees’ generosity is partly encouraged by the Redemptorist policy of transparency, especially now that people are fed up with rampant corruption, according to Cueto.

Monthly updates

The priests give monthly updates—announced before Masses—on where collections go.

According to the last quarter of 2008 report, a total of P1,461,552.86 went to medical assistance for 166 patients, such as 55 chemotherapy sessions, 51 operations, six cobalt/radiotherapy and medicines for 35 patients.

A total of P254,764.84 was used for transportation, medical, food and funeral assistance.

The shrine also supports 64 full and partial scholars and helps fund the social services of the other Redemptorist shrines in Lipa City in Batangas and Legazpi City in Albay.

“In our homilies, we try to help people see things in a bigger context,” Cueto said.

“The Lord does not want people to wallow in poverty. We want devotees to think, why does poverty persist? Hopefully, the shrine also helps people to realize that there are so many possibilities that we can attain as a people.”

He also expressed hope that “devotees will develop a sense of mission and service to respond to what is happening to the larger society.” Project Editor: Juan V. Sarmiento Jr.


An ecclesiastical museum in the Walled City

Posted in Art and Culture, Church, Intramuros Administration, Museum, Tourism by Erineus on February 21, 2009

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Abandoned” and “homeless” best describe the artifacts, sculptures, and numerous works of art procured by the Intramuros Administration (IA) nearly three decades ago. It’s such a pity that the priceless pieces, which consist of busts and sculptures of saints made of ivory, silver, and gold ornaments and the 19th-century piña collection, are just cramped in the IA office and bodegas. Sacred to both the pious and the nationalist, the treasure trove ought to be displayed in a museum for all to see and admire. So when the Intramuros Administration announced its plans to build an ecclesiastical museum amid the ruins of the San Ignacio Church in the Walled City, everyone heaved a sigh of relief.

The ecclesiastical museum, to rise on a 3,190-sq.m. area, will house an impressive collection of antique items procured by former Central Bank governor and IA’s first chief, Dr. Jaime Laya. According to avid antique collectors Ramon Villegas and Antonio Martino, this is the best collection under one entity.

“The good news is it belongs to the Filipino people,” enthuses Intramuros Administration chairman Anna Maria “Bambi” Harper.

The museum tops the list of Harper’s many projects for Intramuros as part of IA’s project to relaunch the Walled City as a tourist destination. This despite allegations by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that the lady chief was responsible for the cutting of 29 full-grown trees in Plaza Roma fronting the Manila Cathedral on Andres Soriano St. in Intramuros (formerly Aduana) which Harper vehemently denies. Harper was sworn in as the new chief of the Intramuros Administration on March 24. With a job coterminous with the current administration, Harper is optimistic that the Walled City will assume its rightful place as the centerpiece of Philippine tourism in no time.

“In the past 11 years, nothing has been done to Intramuros. It’s tragic because the Walled City is the only heritage site in Manila. I proposed this plan during IA’s first board meeting and got a favorable response. We have to finish everything in a year and a half so we have to hit the board right,” Harper says.

Here’s the catch: The construction of the museum alone is estimated to cost a whopping P400 million! The budget of IA has not changed in the past 15 years. Tourism Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano has pledged his support and so has the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

“Together we can make this happen,” the optimistic Harper adds.

Also on the drawing board is the proposed adaptive reuse of the Almacenes Reales ruins at historic Fort Santiago.The Almacenes Reales or Royal Warehouses (where the Spaniards stored the goods brought in by the galleons) is now being spruced up to provide an indoor function area at Fort Santiago.

Harper ordered the strengthening of the break walls, the installation of antique windows, balusters, and doors in each storage chamber to enhance the old charm of the structure. Roofing was also set up so guests can enjoy a leisurely walk at Fort Santiago even during the rainy season. Smack in the middle of the historic walls is the Museum Shop brimming with souvenir items patterned after the genuine relics of Intramuros. On the stone wall, we spotted tastefully designed merchandise such as the Letras y Figuras souvenir tees in bright hues, table runners, tote bags, key chains, coffee mugs with the Intramuros insignia, table napkins, table runners, tissue and umbrella holders accented with willow design inspired by the blue-and-white ceramics that abound during the Galleon Trade.

In a bid to attract more investors and tourists, new structures and establishments will also be built in the Walled City without destroying its historical and heritage component.

“For scheduled tours, visitors are encouraged to park their cars and board a horse-drawn tranvia (which Sarao made for IA) to decongest traffic in the area,” notes Harper.

Peace and order is another story. “We’ve already discussed this matter with the city government. We also see to it that the walls and alleys are properly lighted to shoo away lawless elements. How can we attract investors and tourists if there is no peace and order?” she adds.

IA also formed the Intramuros Homeowners and Businessmen Association to help address the problem. “Again, I can’t do it by myself. I need the cooperation of everyone to make things happen for Intramuros because there are still a lot of things to be done,” stresses the IA chief.

As they say, dreams come true to those who work hard while they dream. Well, Harper is doing just that and we hope will continue to do so long after her tenure is over.

“The Walled City is just too precious to be abandoned,” Harper says with a sigh.

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To know more about IA’s other projects, visit its office at the fifth floor of Palacio del Gobernador corner General Luna and Aduana Sts., Intramuros, Manila.

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By Lai S. Reyes Updated September 20, 2008 12:00 AM