Saturday, March 26, 2011


Let me say it bluntly: it takes great effort to be polite to people you categorically do not like.

For one thing, great energy is required in order to put on a decent face that comes closest to politeness when you are compelled to be with someone who you would rather not be in the same room ... or the same form of shelter ... even the same road, the same city ... all right, maybe at best ... the same planet.  

But then there are still laws of civility to observe.  These are manners that have to be practiced if only to abide by what has been carved on stone about requirements of social survival.  And because of that, you realize that you are indulging in a tedious social ritual. You are not necessarily being true to yourself but merely fulfilling norms and expectations.

This is called the art of being "nice".  It can also be called the practice of being an "everyday hypocrite" --- for the sake of peace on earth and the brotherhood of man.

You see, there are three kinds of people you meet in a lifetime.

There are those priceless treasures that come into your life to prove that --- yes, there is a God.  These are the people who you realize you cannot live without, people who have changed your life as you grapple with the thought that the years that came before were so empty because they were not part of your existence.  They are people who walked through the revolving doors and have become constants.  They are people who define who you were, who you are as well as the possibilities of what is yet to transpire.

They are people who you choose to be a part of you. These are the people who you have decided to love.

Then, of course, there are people who are there out of need or circumstance but definitely not out of your choice.  They are incidentals --- they are peripheral.  But since they have to be there, you have no choice but to accept that they must be around you. And the least you can do is to be nice to them, right?

After all, that is what is expected.

These are the individuals who you would casually call "friends" because you are required to be with them ever so often.  They become "friends" out of frequency rather than quality.  They are the people who you have to talk to, sit with, exchange inane anecdotes, swap jokes, attempt at concern. They are the people you share take-out snacks, even spend time at Starbucks or send a text messages to greet on birthdays and group text messages for Christmas and New Year.

They are the people who you do not find important enough to remember the name of their children, their birthdays (not unless they have been registered in your Blackberry) or even their phone numbers (not unless they too are on Speed Dial).

These are the people you act excited to have photos taken from cell phones during annual parties, outings and even spontaneous moments when you are celebrating transitory fun.  These are acquaintances who can eventually graduate into being authentic friends by some twist of fate or the other ... but, more often than not, are limited to the work place or because they are friends of friends.

Well, these are also the people who you work with, deal with and practice all forms of civility.  In other words, they are the creatures you are compelled to show niceness mainly because you have to do so and there is really nothing wrong with that.  You practice good conduct and right manners out of respect ... but you sort of figure out that one day too soon, you have to part ways and you cannot really give a s--t if he decides to gather his entire family to Siberia for permanent migration.

And then there is the worst case of all possible scenarios: people who you do not like. Period.

Yeah, yeah, yeah: feed me with all that talk about the natural goodness in man in spite, despite and because of what you see.  Tell me about that universal credo exalting the ties that bind all of us regardless of color and creed and preference for hamburgers.  But let us be downright honest in admitting that despite all our efforts to literally love everybody, there are just some people we do not want to have anything to do with.

I do not exactly call it contempt.  Not even prejudice.  Maybe I am being judgmental.  Perhaps that is the case and I know that is bad. But then again I tell myself that I am only human. Inasmuch as I want to be Christ-like ... or even like Gandhi ... or Mother Teresa ... I am sure even they felt the same way about some people who you would rather keep at a distance of one hundred fifty feet away from you.

We do not necessarily look for them but there are some people who rub you the wrong way.  Maybe they haven't even done anything particular against us ... but there is just something about them that automatically turns on some Keep Away From Me-button deep inside our system. 

I try to rationalize this in most absurd fashion possible.  Could it possibly be the incompatibility of our astrological signs? After all, I am a Wood Horse Libra on the cusp of being a Scorpio ... so maybe there is something about him/her brought about by the configuration of stars responsible for this seemingly unexplainable enmity.  Whatever.  Or perhaps it has got to do with instinct, something that taps into the unconscious ... even perhaps triggered by some strange olfactory sensation.

Regardless of choice of words or explanation, the fact remains: there are people you do not like even if you have no concrete reasons to feel this way.  And, more often than not, given the chance ... and opportunity, you can find a way of rationalizing a pre-conceived notion, a hunch ... that said creature is really a rectum that has assumed its own independent life-form.  It is only a matter of time to discover why you never liked the person right from the very start.

But what is worse is having to be nice to this person!

I do not think it will be considered rational behavior to tell someone that you do not like him/her just because your birth signs clash ...or that your feng shui consultant suggested you avoid all Dogs and Rabbits this year.  Or that you suspect that he/she is such a fake that his/her entire existence is non-biodegradable.  Such presumptions are subject to --- uh, therapy.  But then how else can you pinpoint how you feel especially when you are compelled to be nice to this person.

The most logical thing is to avoid. Or keep a distance. Distance means the accepted standard safety zone for germ carriers such as those with SARS, the Ebola Virus or even the rejuvenated and reconstituted version of the Bubonic Plague.  Distance means flashing perfunctory smiles, awarding token pleasantries graduating from obligatory hi's and hellos to even how are yous ... and even discussing the traffic and the weather. In other words, distance means having all the intimacy of a mortician to a corpse.

But still ... the effort is herculean.  The energy invested is tantamount to wasted ... just because you want to act civilized and polite... while realizing you are practicing Hypocrisy 101.

There should be a better way in handling this although I have also come to realize that the other party may feel exactly the same way about me. Or that there are others who also smile and act nice to my face despite the fact that they would rather see me skewered in the barbecue pits of hell.  So it doesn't really matter.

Perhaps the best way to rationalize this feeling is that ... this is the way of the polite and genteel world.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I have always admired the Japanese.

There is something about them that has everything to do with their immersion in culture.  

You look at a Japanese and you know he carries generations of customs and traditions.  And these are traditions that have been shaped and inculcated in the very fiber of his life for centuries.  And that is why he is so different from the rest of us. He may have imbibed the ways of modern man but he never surrendered his priceless past in order to merely live in the here and now.

That is why there is something singular about the Japanese people despite the plurality of their arts.  Despite the flourish and spectacle of their theater, there is solemnity.  There is the virtue that is embedded in the ritual.

For the people of Japan, there is need to preserve and celebrate the dignity of the individual. There is the imperative to give such great importance to respect --- for the self and for others. The honor given to an individual becomes a manifestation of the nobility of the community.

The Japanese observe such a strict code of conduct that it is no longer considered as obsessive or repressive.  It has become their way of life.  Despite modernization and globalization, they have not yielded who they are by consistently going back and revering what has been the tradition that shaped them apart from their immediate neighbors and the rest of the world.  And that is why dignity and self-respect are so important to them because it is specifically what defines them.

The Japanese love who they are ... because they know precisely what they are worth.

It is what sets the Japanese people apart while binds them as one race. It is what makes them so different --- to the point that they are admired as much as they are sometimes misunderstood all together.  Very few cultures in the world have retained such awesome respectability.  Very few examples remain in this tumultuous world shrunken by globalization of people embodying and personifying the strength of traditional roots.

And ever since the Japanese opened their doors to the world, influences from both Asian and Western neighbors seeped in.  This was unavoidable inasmuch as change was inevitable.  But because of the very strength of the fabric of their culture --- the Japanese succeed in absorbing what they borrow and turn them into their own.  Listen to what they have done to American jazz music as they completely reconstituted this genre into something uniquely their own.

Look at what they have done to the Western art of graphic arts and animation.  From this was born the unique character of manga and anime --- so much so that the West was eventually found borrowing the tradition of these visual arts as they have become so far removed from the original.  

Everything that lands in the hands and minds of the Japanese become their own. And this they can do because they do not merely borrow or assimilate. They absorb what they consider as germane to their culture, sufficient to their needs --- and reconstitute these into something uniquely --- uhm, Japanese.

That is why in the recent turn of events the world has become more awed by the virtues of the Japanese as a people.

Not in any recent memory has there been a tragedy matched by the natural disaster brought by the 8.9 earthquake that hit the island nation last 11 March and the tsunami that followed.  Never before since the advent of accessible media has the world become witness to such massive destruction followed by even more threats of greater disasters through a series of aftershocks and now threats of nuclear meltdown.  

Images of Japanese ports, towns and cities diminished into heaps of rubble and debris are heartbreaking.  To estimate the number of lives lost and unaccounted for are still approximations even after a week has elapsed since the painful event took place.  Endless first person accounts, videos fed in the internet or reported in news agencies send even greater tremors to the hearts of the citizens of the world as the events of that Friday afternoon are rewound and remembered.

The aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami proved to be even more wrenching.  It was bad enough that public utilities and transportation services have all but shut down. Millions of homes are required to function without electricity or water.  Food has become scarce. Panic has hit the expatriates living in Tokyo and the northeastern part of the country as they sought the nearest exit to go back home.

But amidst all these ... as they walk through the towns, cities, prefectures left in shambles ... the Japanese have kept their dignity.

They never made a spectacle of their emotions to sensationalize their tragedy.

They never begged for help but confronted the problem at hand with resolve, unity --- and an almost unbelievable amount of courage.

They never blamed any one, demanded more from authority nor took the liberty to use the occasion to grandstand for personal agendas.  

Amidst the rubble, the world saw and is still seeing a country that has remained in order, kept its order and functioned with great order because its people refused to destroy the system and tradition that has defined their culture.  To see the Japanese people, shivering in their winter clothes, stripped from their homes and waiting patiently as long as four to five hours to purchase food or obtain drinking water, never violating decorum and order and helping the government regain some semblance of sense and system amidst the catastrophe --- is simply awe-inspiring if not even more heartbreaking.

And to hear the Japanese speak with such hope and optimism amidst all the confusion even lifts the spirit of those merely watching and observing to heights unbelievable.

In one of the CNN features, a sake factory owner who has lost everything spends time looking for his employees after the tsunami has hit their town.  Tears swell in his eyes when he spots one of his workers --- as if his sense of relief in seeing the safety of his employees was far greater than the loss of a business owned by his family for generations.

A young Japanese woman remains optimistic in her interview.  She speaks of hope ... of rebuilding. She makes no pretenses about the difficulties that will follow this tragedy, she does not evade the issues.  Instead, she says that she is sure that everything will be all right because the Japanese will pick up the pieces and build an even stronger society after this.

And this makes us weep.

This makes us think of the greatness of the human spirit as it is embodied by a nation ... brought to life by a people.  These events also make us question our own situation, how we --- as a people --- would have reacted if such unspeakable events happened to us.  Would we express such generosity and respect for order?  Would we also inspire our fellow Filipinos by mere example of civilized and orderly behavior?

In the meantime, we shall pray for Japan.  More so, we shall hail the greatness of its people.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


But I have already watched this scene.  The only difference is that this was not a movie.  This was real life.

There were no special effects being used here.  There was no genius or computer wizard manipulating my senses making me believe that layers upon layers of images can simulate the unthinkable.  What I was seeing was the unthinkable. The unfathomable.  And later on, when everything becomes clearer and the emotions have somewhat settled, I realized that what I saw was the unspeakable.

We were right in the middle of work when everything froze.  

On the other end of the make-shift tv studio, there were monitors connected to CNN and the local news telecast.  Someone announced that an 8.9 earthquake hit Japan.  We had not yet recovered from the anxiety of the catastrophe in Christchurch, New Zealand ... and now here was another one.

Here was a bigger one.

What was happening?  Yes, earthquakes occur in various spots of the globe. But never this frequent.  Never was it this close to one another. A matter of weeks. Jump-cutting from Chile to China then to New Zealand then to Japan.  

We were stupefied, unable to focus on the work that needed to be accomplished that afternoon.  

We were not clear about the details --- as to whether or not Tokyo was badly hit. But later it was ascertained that the epicenter was offshore in the northeastern portion of the island country.  

I tried to shut off my brain when discussions in the studio veered towards the Pacific Ring of Fire.  The Philippines is very much in that much-feared circle that borders the Pacific Ocean ... from Chile going all the way up the West Coast of the Americas, up there to Japan and then all the way down to New Zealand.  And an enumeration of these countries meant a tabulation of the nations badly hit by lethal quakes for the past year.

Earlier last Friday afternoon, before we started rolling the tape for our show, we were discussing the feature on the show "TV Patrol". The said segment of the newscast highlighted a warning from Japanese seismologists that the Philippines should prepare for "The Big One" that could occur any time now.  

Of course people were scared off their underpants.  

Of course people became listless and restless.  

Talk about the "The Big One" in Manila has been going around for years, with ceaseless references to the active Marikina Fault Line.  Of course people were not properly cautioned but merely provoked into various states of paranoia when the news show did such a feature, including a mapping out of areas in Manila most likely to be badly hit if and when the Big One hits us.

Oh, and it did not help that there was a prediction stating that thirty-four thousand people will die when the Big One hits Luzon.

Thank you all so very much.  All in the spirit of precautiona and preparation, we were fed that kind of information after looking at flattened buildings and an entire city flattened in New Zealand.

Then came this Bigger One in Japan.  

Then came the images.  

What were we to think? How were we to react?

It was not enough to show slabs of concrete falling off buildings, pavements buckling and cracking into two meter deep holes, or office equipment flying off desks and shelves as the earthquake seemed to shake the living daylights from everyone.  What lasted for a half a minute was an entire eternity to endure.  And that was only from watching the videos.

What was worse was when we saw the aerial shots of the tsunamis literally crawling down the surface of the earth, eating everything that come on its way. Trucks, buses and houses looked like toys being swept by some evil and oozing syrup as it crossed from the seas down roads, bridges, rivers, fields ... toppling anything that came across its way.

These were scenes from science fiction movies.  These were the stuff of summer blockbusters from Hollywood heralding the inevitable Apocalypse to come.  But now even Hollywood was stupefied.  The West Coast of the American continent was also on a tsunami alert.  Reality proved to be more frightening than any twisted imagination or marvelous technology to enhance fiction.  Real life still carried the far greater horrors.

So what were we to think?

That despite all the advancements of man's science and technology, despite the evolution of the human race through so many years of changes --- he still remains helpless when confronted by the wrath of nature?

That despite all the preparedness of Japan for earthquakes and tsunamis the events of the eleventh of March still left the nation shocked, shattered and literally in shambles?

I cannot help but be paranoid.  If this same catastrophe should happen here in Manila, how would the government handle the situation?  We do not possess the resources of Japan.  We are more concerned with politicking and grandstanding rather than governance.  We are more obsessed with our maladies of graft and corruption than to confront the scourges of nature.  When Ondoy hit the country, there was confusion. And even to this day there remains so many questions as to why the water levels rose too quickly to completely submerge the low-lying sections of the Metropolis leading to countless deaths and damage to property.

Ah, but all this seems to moot and academic.  Something much greater is being said.  The message is far greater than the pettiness of our fears ... or our overwhelming sense of loss.  

The image of cars, trucks, boats and houses being swept by the tsunami miles away from the shore was not only disturbing ... but more so enlightening.  For it reminded me of how insignificant and powerless we are in the larger scheme of things.  For it hit me on the head to realize that we are like specks walking atop the surface of this planet --- and all it took was for the tectonic plates to jam against each other --- to create ripples that became monstrous walls of ocean water --- capable of destroying in seconds what man took years to develop, build and integrate as imperatives in his daily life.

All it took was a few seconds of portions of the earth's crust to jolt --- and an entire nation is devastated.  As I write this, two million homes in Japan are without electricity, two nuclear reactors are threatening to go on a meltdown ... and literally hundreds and thousands of people are stranded, without food, unable to cope with the shutdown of the transport system or the collapse of their wireless communication.  All it took was just a few seconds.

Nights have passed and I am still glued to CNN watching the coverage of the tragedy in Japan.  And I have told myself that there should be a point when I should give up all this paranoia.  Despite all the horrors unfolding before my eyes, I should not be afraid.  We should not be afraid.  For these are the givens that come with our first breath --- the fact that there are glories inasmuch as there are dangers that accompany each and every day of our lives.

And life indeed is all too fragile.  For who would have thought that in an ordinary Friday afternoon, hundreds of thousands of lives were changed ... and all it took was just a few seconds.

That is all it really takes. But we cannot go on living by being afraid.  We just have to go on.


Nowadays everyone has his own definition and description of God.

Not that God can ever be defined, described or explained, but I will give it a try.  

Not that there is a need to define and explain God, but in these most confusing times ... you need a moment to think.  You need some time to have a sense of rooting. 

You have to make a stand. 

More than that, you have to assure yourself that amidst the chaos that greets you every morning with your cup of coffee ...that there is still a Higher Power up there, somewhere ... somehow ...who shall make sure that rhyme, reason and direction will give form to what looks like unbridled insanity.

I assure myself that there is a God because amidst all this chaos are people, events and places full of wonderment. I know that there is a God because I, like the rest of men --- regardless of status, degree of wealth or education --- can love this life and this world for all the right reasons.

There is a reason why I am here, why things happen the way they do. Even if it is sometimes so difficult for me to understand why outcomes turn out to be such ironic conclusions, in the long run ... all shall fit in like some perfectly made puzzle.  Everything happens for a reason. Everything will be understood in its own time. And the world does not owe me any explanation. They happen because they are meant to happen.

And that is because Somebody designed this beautiful complex life of ours.

If I can bring change because change is needed, then I must do what I must do.  If what happens is beyond my control, outside the reach and realm of my powers, then I must accept. I may not agree but I must accept. More so, I must understand.

But in these most troubled times, there are too many wise men.

There are too many assuming authority.  There are too many spokespersons for the Lord.  Some speak with the fire of faith inasmuch as it accommodates human reason.  But others would prefer to shout rather than speak hoping that by sheer volume of voice, all questions will be drowned out and answers will not be demanded.

This does not and cannot happen any more.  No settlement, no acceptance, no peace shall be made ... if there is no understanding of why things are the way they are.  Acceptance cannot be obtained with the price of vociferous threats.

There are so many opinions pretending to be cannons.  

There are so many interpretations assuming to be explanations ... and justifications.  And you can be swept by the current, eaten by the tide only to reach the shore feeling dizzy but not contented with the ground where you have been simply been dragged to stand on.

Inasmuch as there is need for faith, there is an equal imperative to think.

What is important is to take a moment of silence in order to think.

And so I gave it a lot of thought.

I was born and raised a Catholic.  

My mother was a devout Catholic who would trek to Baclaran every Wednesday as a devotee of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  My earliest recollections of school was attending a High Mass to ordain a Dominican priest at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran. When I moved to the enclave of the Christian Brothers, I made an effort to attend nine straight First Friday masses.  We were told this gave us an assurance to enter heaven.  

But now I begin to wonder whether all that made a lot of sense. Will a perfect attendance to nine first Friday masses really give me an exclusive ticket to the Pearly Gates?  That was something you fed to a Grade School boy who was in awe of the rites and the sacraments ... and looked up to the religious as if wings would sprout from their backs to guide good Catholic toddlers to heaven.

During my intermediate years all the way to high school, I made it a point to have a rosary in my pocket because that was the mark of a true La Sallian.

And now ... years later, with changes shaping and reshaping the world around me, there are inevitable questions where once there was such certainty.

Growing up changes a lot of things.  Education is meant to feed the mind ... and more often than not, what is nourished by the menu of ideas is further confusion.  Growing up is acknowledging that aside from black and white, there is an entire spectrum in the shades of gray.

I learned to disagree with what the men of the Church dictated... most especially in the stands they took involving issues affecting the lives of others and the choices that men and women make.  

I am careful not to make hasty generalizations.  The thoughts and works of the men who ran the Church does not necessarily mean that this is the Catholic Church itself ... or God at work.  I believe they are still men interpreting what they believe is the Word of God.

And men are men.  They are imperfect. They are fallible. They are ruled by biases.  They cannot assume the thoughts of God. For no one can say that he, as a mortal being despite all his years of scholarship and dedication of a life devoted to holiness, can speak the tongue of the Lord.  

Still like all mortals, they work on the premise of perception and interpretation and explanation. They refer to the Good Book, pointing out words and using the authority of their scholarship to say that it is their interpretation that is correct. Or absolute.

Unfortunately, no interpretation whatsoever can claim to be such.  No explanation of man can truly be the Absolute Word of God. 

And thus I dance in my confusion as I try my best to understand the God that I know, the God that I love.  This is the God who never betrayed me.  He may not have answered all my prayers, He may have sent some of the biggest hurts to shake my life ... but He never abandoned me.  And this does not seem like the God that those of so-called authority claim Him to be.

The God that I know disdained any form of prejudice. He never shied away from the vagabonds inasmuch as He understood those who moved in the circles of powers and privilege. But He was not particularly fond of that.

The God that I know is simple.  He was never dressed in riches. He never chose to live in abodes of ornamentation. He was, after all, a carpenter's son.  And being God, He did not need the sheen of gold nor the sparkle of gems to prove to the world of His significance and importance.

He is a God who knew men because He was made man.

He practiced what He preached for the Jesus I have learned from the past moved among the most common of men, interacted with the lowest of the lows and did not insulate Himself in palaces of comfort or thrones of carved wood.  

The Jesus they taught me in the Good Book cavorted with carpenters, fishermen ...and even women of ill repute --- women who were others ostracized by society but who He embraced with the same love and compassion as those who surrendered to His blessings. That was the greatest lesson He taught me.  Regardless of where I am and who I become, my greatest commitment is to my fellow man ... of whatever social station.  Because it is in your understanding of fellow man that you live the life He led.  Because it is in your commitment to humanity that you achieve your own limited godliness.

And that was because the God that I love was sent by His Father to be a human --- and displayed a human character as well.  For He loved the company of friends and never considered Himself above the rest. He spoke with Authority because He lived by what he preached.  And his Authority came from the fact that He is his Word.

He never yearned for power to govern men and rule their minds. His only concern was to teach selflessness and commitment to the goodness of mankind ...and not politicking to find a niche in the structures of human power games.

The only power He displayed is his compassion for others and His inexhaustible selflessness that became a Living Example of a Life Blessed and True. Yes, He distinguished Right from Wrong ... inasmuch as He reminded all that Goodness comes from within because we are all made of God's image, thus shaped out of His Goodness.  And that we do what is right because it is right and not only because somebody else us to do so.

We do what is right because it is right ... and not because we expect to be rewarded with Heaven or condemned with Hell.

We do what is right because that is what we owe to God ... and to our fellow men.

And what is right is to Love unselfishly.  What is right is to find expressions and embodiment of Love. And the Love that the God that I know showed me was one that defied boundaries, shunned definitions but insisted on the sublimity of selflessness and unconditional commitment.  The God that I know never turned His back on the weakness of Man but rather posed this as a challenge and a reason to achieve greater godliness despite the impossibility of being such.

It is in the weakness of being human that we are imperfect. And it is because of our imperfections that we are unique ... and it is in our uniqueness that God loves us inasmuch as He challenges us to become better ... to be good.

This is the God that I know.

This is the God I talk to when I see images of such great distress and pain --- like what has happened to Japan ... or New Zealand ... This is the God who has given us strength to believe that everything occurs for a reason and it is not a cruel God who challenges man's faith through such mind-boggling disasters.  Rather, this is a God that reminds us ever so often that ours are such mortal lives meant to be validated and affirmed only through a life that is full and filled.

The God that I know does not own a bank. The God that I know does not wear fancy clothes nor only found in rituals and ceremonies. The God that I know is in every man ... as He is everywhere ... as He is Everything.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


This has been a very strange week.

There was all this talk about an ordinance passed by the Baranggay Council of Ayala Alabang Village that required prescriptions before any individual (regardless of age, origin, address or degree of libido) can purchase condoms from --- well, convenience and drug stores within the vicinity of their most precious bird sanctuary of an upper middle class kingdom.

Ah, OK.

I guess this should be a first for the history of civilized mankind when you are required to go to a doctor to buy rubbers.  Of course, I will not let my imagination (or my perversion) go into the possible reasons/excuses you can give a medico as to why you need to buy your Trusts or Trojans without having to confess that you are about to indulge in fornication.  Oh, considering that this is a religious dilemma, the appropriate euphemism is that you want to buy condoms because you are about to "know" somebody in the Biblical sense of the world.

(Alabang resident: Doc, I need a prescription for rubbers.

 Doctor:  Why should I prescribe this to you?

 Alabang resident: Because I am going out on a date tonight ... and I 
          desperate want to know this date of mine, Doc. 

 Doctor: But is this fornication outside the law of state and Church?

 Alabang resident: Doc, just give me the prescription. Treat this like
         you are giving me paracetamol.

 Doctor: Uhm, you do not need prescriptions for paracetamols.

 Alabang resident: But I need one for rubbers, right?!  )

Now if this is not surreal or this has not succeeded into making whoever is responsible for the ordinance to be the latest Laughing Stock of the Universe second only to the Ligots (the family more infamous than the Addamms because of the ongoing Senate investigations), I do not know what is.  

But when I come to think of what is happening in the world today ... or even how bad were the Oscar ceremonies hosted by Ann and James, I realize that we are in a world where anything cannot be impossible. Including the public display of calculated inanity under the guise of civility and a focused determination to achieve eternal salvation.

Should I be surprised that an Ordinance like this should emerge from one of the most posh addresses South of Manila? 

Should I be shocked that such an attempt at controlling the sale of rubbers in the suburbs should emanate from the bastion of the remaining middle class where premium is given to the choice of Havaianas over Islander flip-flops? 

Should I be appalled that a seemingly surreal attempt at local legislature would be concocted amongst those who can discuss the advantages in the use of extra virgin olive oil in cooking?

Should it shock me that this suggestion should emerge from what can be considered as one of the more educated and ... uh, sophisticated sectors of Manila society ... if we are to believe demographics and the effects of social standing on intelligence quotients?

Flashback: It has been years ago since the same community banned kids from going on their annual Trick-or-Treat as part of the Halloween festivities.  

Yes, I surmise that this same group of concerned people were the biggest party poopers of the season. Years ago, they felt a need to assert their authority by saying that wearing ghoul and witch costumes was not a very Christian thing to do.  They don't want their children garbed like creatures of the underworld.  Angels, seraphs and cherubs --- yes! But not vampires, witches and other forms of monstrosities.

After all, Walpurgisnacht is not listed among their favorite Christian holidays that include the cute bunnies of Easter Sunday, the mistletoes and the bejeweled trees of Christmas or the gift-giving of the Feast of the Epiphany.  

Much to the disappointment of all those toddlers just waiting to don their Sabrina, The Teenage witch outfits or Yoda masks with matching yayas accompanying them as they go door-to-door to collect candies and goodies, the elders of the community opted that they stay home to perhaps watch The Ten Commandments or maybe something as educational as Lassie Come Home. 

The festivities were left to nearby Alabang Hills, Pacific Malayan and San Jose Villages.  The children of Ayala Alabang were protected from the evils of the outside world that were capable of permeating through the tall gates and walls and security guards, corrupting the minds and souls of the innocent. This reminded me so much of an M. Night Shymalan movie ... where everybody looked, talked and dressed in the fashion of the Amish only to find out that they were insulating themselves in a closely guarded community in order to preserve their purity.

It was not one of Shymalan's best works. And for the record, the same practices were also found when communist countries sealed themselves from the rest of the world to insure the solidity of their ideology and its non-contamination from foreign sources. 

I wasn't too happy hearing about this whole Halloween incident but then I felt it was really none of my business. 

I didn't live in Ayala Alabang and I had no right to protest or even criticize whatever it is that their Council decided for its minions.  

It was within the rights of the council of elders of that community to do whatever they wanted with their children --- even if they end up sounding and looking like dogmatic killsports who foist anthropology and folklore studies in front of befuddled six year olds who just want to wear costumes for a night. The fact that the rest of the residents agreed that there was no Trick-or-Treat that year meant ... they believed that what was being done was right.

And since they are the ones who pay their annual dues to the Village Association (based on the per square meter size of their real estate properties), the more reason the outside world has got no right to pass judgment on their peccadilloes.  In the same way, if they have no control either that we are all smirking and shaking our heads while talking about them and the things they are capable of doing.

I never saw any harm in Trick or Treat ... or why it was such a big deal if the origins of this borrowed tradition came from non-Christian origins.  

OK, guys: if we really, really want to be so academic about this and employ the most scholarly research about your so-called Catholic/Christian traditions ... you may be up for some surprises because your favorite Church did a lot of borrowing from rituals that were quite around even before the time of Jesus.

Let me just put it this way, if we have to go down to the core of what's Pagan or not, then maybe the said village should be informed that they should also ban the celebration of Flores de Mayo. 

Dear sirs and madames, that celebration is anything but Christian.

Although now associated as a ritual venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary, the origins of Flores de Mayo date back to fertility rituals where young girls (assumed to be virgins) are offered to the Earth Mother with the hope of having a fruitful harvest of crops for the year. Let me repeat: the origins of that procession point to fertility rituals where virgins were sacrificed to the altar of the Earth Mother. How's that for a little Wicca, boys and girls?  

Uhm, a little research on folk Catholicism in the Philippines would help.

And maybe a little study on the so-called Catholic rituals in this country are also proofs of how the conquering Espanggols with their all too eager friars managed to adapt existing folk traditions to blend with Church celebrations. This is to entice our Pinoy forefathers who eventually became the indios into embracing the Catholic faith hook, line and sinker. The same adaptation of folk rituals into Catholic ceremonies are found in Mexico and other South American countries where Christianity came hand in hand with the sword. It was through religion that the natives were eventually tamed and assimilated into what they were made to believe as pure Catholicism.

Think of all this obsession for patron saints and images. Think of the Pinoy's taste for ritualistic processions where devotees go into forms of ecstasy to express their unwavering devotion.  Observe at the annual devotees procession in Quiapo and then compare this with other pagan rituals where there is a veneration of an idol, an icon ... a statue ... then tell the anthropologist if you can spot the differences between what is Christian and what is not.

Better yet even the veneration of the Santo Nino in this country vis-a-vis the importance given to the Virgin Mary.

A study of folk Catholicism will easily illustrate how this is so affiliated with the adulation of the Earth Mother --- and as to why in this country, our Savior Jesus is a child and His Mother has ceased to be given the importance of a mere intercessor. The Jesus adored as a God is a baby and it is His Mother who holds Him high.  Get it?! Call that a little excursion into the study of semiotics and iconography.

But the Filipino Catholics embrace this without question or reference to origins or anthropological implications.

After all, our culture ... including our version of Catholicism ... has never denied its strong matriarchal roots. We celebrate our matriarchal nature ... inasmuch as we call this our Motherland. The holiness of EDSA is not Christ ... but the power and mercy of the Blessed Virgin.

OK, OK ... Let us not go any farther.

If the obsession to be Christian purists is so heavy to condemn Halloween, then maybe they should be equally alarmed about celebrating Christmas.

Spoiler alert: historical studies point to the fact that if indeed the Three Wise Men used the Star of Bethlehem as their guide to find the birthplace of the Son of God ... then Jesus could not have possibly been born on December 25.  Uh-oh.  

If we put aside all the embellishments of rituals, childhood beliefs and stuck to what cultural historians and anthropologists would say, then Christ was born during the height of summer --- some time in June and not during the Winter Solstice that romanticizes the entire chronology of his birth and history.

Uhm, these are such scholarly assumptions but they still cast a shade of doubt to our practices today ...even if they are endorsed and propagated by the Church, right?  So will the Village also put a possible hold on the singing of Christmas carols and the lighting of Christmas trees? Uh-oh, another downer here: Christmas trees are also pagan symbols because they are supposed to be the thrones of the Ice Queen or the Winter Fairy.

Funny how Christianity has conveniently absorbed the image of the Christmas tree into its own and replaced the Ice Queen/Winter Fairy into an angel or a cherub holding a banner announcing the birth of the Christ while a little tableau of the manger with the images of the Sagrada Familia sit cutely at the base of the tree.  But, in all truth, much like Trick or Treat, most of the Yuletide practices (include the mistletoe tied to the threshold of the main entrance of the residence) are all based on non-Christian (ergo Pagan) rituals as well.

So what is the point in all this exercise?  What has Trick-or-Treat got to do with a bunch of people telling the residents of a private subdivision that they are not going to make life easy if you want to buy a condom?  

Simple: it's one and the same thing.

It is this whole attitude about religion and how one can be so in-your-face in proving the extent of one's faith at the expense of another's personal choices and principles. 

It is how authority is blatantly used to ram one's beliefs down the throats of your subordinates and peers. 

It is about imposing one's opinions (which you deem as facts) on others forgetting that there is free will --- and that it is still the individual's choice --- not a governing body that just happened to live in an exclusive private property for the middle class --- that shall decide whether or not he wants to practice birth control or not.

It is about explaining data in the manner you want to define truth rather than accepting facts as they really are.  It is about invoking spirituality as the be-all-and-end-all when one runs short of logic and falls flat on the face when it comes to arguments.  It is this whole addiction for a chance at martyrdom.  Oh, puh-leeeeeeze!

I will not even go into that whole discussion about the Church and what they think of the RH Bill because that has reached the level of the boring. No, it is not merely boring: it is pointless.  I remember what my late father used to tell me: "It is easier to talk to someone who is naturally deaf and dumb than one who only listens to what he wants to hear and says the same thing over and over again." 

So why bother?  Why even go there? But what can be a tad too violating (or maybe just downright irritating) is that in the spirit of being Catholic, some people can be just downright bigoted and ...uhm, ridiculous.

Look, I do not mind if they hold Saturday night barbecues out there in their enclave while waiting for the Rapture. They can even choose to dress their household helps as devotees of their favorite patron saints or even allow them to look as flagelants. I really would not mind. I may find the practice strange but I will not make a big deal out of it. Why? Because it is none of my business ... and I would greatly appreciate it if they don't make my business their concern as well.

Just as long as they keep to their territory and stop bugging us who have our own lives to live, our own set beliefs and principles to live by, we can all peacefully co-exist. We can all shop in the beautiful stores of Alabang Town Center, smile at each other at the parking lots and maybe join the same group exercise classes at the nearby gym.

But just don't tell me I need your blessings and seal of approval to buy my condoms.

And as I said, you may require not only a doctor's prescription but also an NBI and PNP clearance to buy a condom inside their baranggay, but there are so many Seven-Eleven and Mini-Stop and Mercury Drug stores open twenty-four hours along the impressive length of Alabang Zapote Road, outside their jurisdiction, selling condoms 24/7 to any one willing, able and in need.  

So go figure.