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.
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.