Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘Catholic’

Angelo Reyes’ Suicide

Posted by butalidnl on 8 February 2011

Angelo Reyes, former AFP Chief of Staff, died by suicide on 8 February.  He was recently implicated in the corruption investigation in Congress. Apparently, he committed suicide in order to spare his family the shame such an investigation brings.

He didn’t succeed, really. In the matter of killing himself, he was successful; but I don’t think he spared his family grief or shame. There is an immense taboo regarding suicide in the Philippines; and at the same time, the taint of corruption will still adhere to his family.  They can only hope that the ongoing investigation will find out that he was innocent of corruption, clearing his name and the family’s shame.

Reyes’ suicide is a unique case. It is probably the first political suicide in the country’s history (not counting Muslim suicide bombers, of course). This kind of action is more in line with the culture of Japan, for example, than that of the Philippines. But, I guess there is always a first time for everything…

Corruption Investigation
What  strikes me is that Reyes chose suicide over the usual thing that politicians do in the Philippines – which is to wait out the hearings, until eventually the issue goes away. This tactic of waiting out corruption investigations usually works. Erap Estrada DID get convicted in his plunder trial, but after a few years in jail, he was then pardoned… so it still ended better,  much better, than if Estrada committed suicide.

Reyes chose to die, because he probably calculated that he WOULD be found guilty (and probably that he will not be pardoned). So, by doing what he did, he hoped that the issue will go away, posthumously.
His death will complicate investigations into corruption in the AFP.  Nevertheless, I find it comforting that he probably considered the investigation process to have a big chance of succeeding (which says a lot about the current level of investigations).

The corruption investigation should indeed go forward, because it involved much more than Reyes. He should not be excused from being investigated, just because he died. After all, if Reyes had participated in corruption, he would have ill-gotten properties and assets; and these assets should be recovered.  I hope that death does not mean that his family is free to retain illegally gotten wealth.

On the other hand, if the investigations end up proving that Reyes did not participate in AFP corruption, then his name would be cleared.

Catholic Stand
The Catholic church seems to have softened its stand in cases of suicide. Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen/Dagupan, former president of the CBCP, said that “now, the Church is more understanding because in this state of mind that is so confused and depressed, then he is not himself..”

Formerly, no Catholic burials or masses were held in cases of suicide.

I wonder if the Catholic stance on suicide has really changed, or if it is merely that Reyes was a ranking member of the elite, and thus difficult for the Church to censure.  Or in other words, has the Catholic Church attitude to suicide really changed, or is suicide wrong if you’re poor but okay if you’re rich?

If the church stand to suicide is really changed, I applaud it. Suicide should be talked about, at least, so that people can set up intervention programs to help people contemplating suicide. Ironically, the Church softened stance on suicide may end up lessening the number of suicides in the country.

Posted in Philippine politics, Philippines, politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Catholicism Impedes Philippine Development

Posted by butalidnl on 22 January 2011

People ask why is it that the Philippines is underdeveloped, when it is the only Catholic country in the region. Well, I think the simple answer would be: precisely! Catholicism has some features that tend to make a country underdeveloped, and it is important for the Philippines (and other Catholic countries) to be able to overcome these in order to move forward.

Saints and Palakasan
The Catholic tradition has a lot of saints, who we are supposed to pray to in order to get favors from God. This is a form of patronism: talk to someone who has contacts “higher up”. This idea of going through contacts is at its height with praying to Mary; she is supposed to really have the “hot line” to Jesus. So, praying to Mary and the saints is indeed a form of indirect “democracy” – or democracy through your contacts.

Intercession by saints, or Mary for that matter, is just another form of “palakasan“. And this is reflected in the real world. No wonder we have such a strong patronage system in Philippine politics. It merely reflects the patronage that exists in our religious life.

Of course, going through contacts in heaven is a lot fairer than going through contacts here on earth. We can easily pray to whichever saint we want to, without having to have voted for them or gone to the same school with them, or whatever. But the whole idea that we can get things through contacts; and reciprocally, that we have to cultivate (or be loyal to) these contacts, is a direct influence on how we behave on earth.

The whole idea of penance for one’s sins, which is prescribed during confession with a priest is another problem with Catholicism. It may be a caricature; but the idea of committing a murder, and then having to say “three Hail Mary’s” as penance shows the disproportionality of penance to the sin.

Politicians could be corrupt, violate human rights, etc, but if they build churches and pray every Sunday, they will still go to heaven. The Catholic Church doesn’t demand that you return the loot (in contrast, Protestants would require it) before you get forgiven. So, Catholics could get away with murder, for a prayer, sometimes literally.

Celibate Priests
Priests are another thing wrong with Catholicism. Why is it that there is a class of MEN, who are required not to have any sexual experience (if this is possible??), to have the biggest say in how people live their lives?  These men only know sexual experiences and women (assuming of course, that these are heterosexual men) from a “theoretical” level. And they don’t know anything first hand about family life, and about the raising of children. I think it is therefore quite anomalous for these priests to have a say (and they do have a VERY big say) in people’s relations, in child upbringing, in family life.

The concept of celibacy for priests is a remnant of the way the church behaved in the Middle Ages. They didn’t want priests to be part of any family, in order to avoid conflicts of loyalties. Besides, since the church was a feudal power it itself, they didn’t want church officials handing down benefits to their children.

While it is true that some priests are so immersed in the social life of their communities that they are able to give good advice to people; the church as a whole does get in the way of formulating laws that would have been good for social development. The church is against sex education, birth control and divorce for so long; and its lobby against these has been quite successful so far.

It is rather ironic that many parents purposely enroll their children in religious schools in order to ensure that they are taught correct values. In these schools, their children absorb the values of palakasan, disproportional penance and the dominance of priests in society. They are destined to perpetuate these things which impede Philippine development.

All this is not to say that a country that is mainly Catholic is “hopeless”. Other countries with significant Catholic populations could overcome its limitations.  In the Netherlands (which is about 50% Catholic), Catholics no longer have confessions (so the “penance trap” does not happen), and saints are just looked upon as good examples and not as “people with contacts in higher places”.  And priests have not blocked divorce nor birth control.

Posted in Philippine politics, Philippines, politics, The Netherlands | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Philippine “Myths”

Posted by butalidnl on 31 March 2010

No, this post is not about Philippine mythology, in the strict sense. It is about the various  “fables” or false claims to fame of the Philippines. Here are some of them.

Davao is the biggest city in the world in land area
This is definitely not the case. Davao, with its total land area of 2444 square kilometers, is a midget when compared to the really BIG cities. The real biggest city in land area in the world is: Hulunbuir, Inner Mongolia,  China. It’s total land area is 263, 953 square kilometers (or about 100 times that of Davao). Okay, the city is rather obscure, so I guess that it really has a lot of land area that doesn’t belong anywhere else, so this becomes part of the city by default. Let’s take then the No. 4 in the list: Chongqing, China. This is not obscure at all (having been the country’s capital during the Second World War), and its land area is 82,400 square kilometers. Or Anchorage, Alaska, (No, 4 in the US) which is 4396 square kilometers in size.

The Philippines is the only Catholic Country in Southeast Asia
Well, this is easy- it isn’t; East Timor is the OTHER Catholic country in Southeast Asia.  East Timor is Catholic, and 97% of the people profess to be Catholic there, in comparison with the Philippines where only 80% are Catholics (and 10% of other Christian denominations). East Timor became independent (from Indonesia) only in 2002, so I guess we could forgive the books for not being so updated.

The Banaue Rice Terraces is the Eighth Wonder of the World
There are only seven wonders, really; and the list of the Seven Wonders of the world is that of Antiquity (of which only the Pyramids of Giza remain standing). Now, some people would name special natural or man-made creations as the “Eighth Wonder”, just to emphasize their being special. Thus, here are some of the other things called the “Eighth Wonder of the World”:  the Grand Canyon in the US; the Great Wall of China; Taj Mahal in India; Machu Pichu in Peru; the Terracotta Army of Xian, China; Angkor Wat in Cambodia; and the moai statues of Easter Island, Chile. So, our rice terraces have some interesting company.

In 2007, a project called the “New 7 Wonders of the World” attempted to make a list of 7 man-made wonders. The list included: the Pyramids at Giza, Egypt; Chichen Itza in Mexico; Colosseum in Rome, Italy; Great Wall of China; Machu Pichu in Peru; Petra in Jordan; and the Taj Mahal in India.  Still, no Banaue rice terraces.

Talking about rice terraces, the ones that we have may not be that special or unique after all. Take a look at some other rice terraces .

The Barong Tagalog
The barong tagalog is the national dress in the Philippines. But it is anything but unique. In fact, many former Spanish colonies have similar men’s wear – the Guayabera. The guayabera is similar to the barong tagalog except that it has 4 pockets in front; it is also transparent and comes in pastel colors, and is not tucked into the pants.
Some people say that the guayabera actually comes from the barong tagalog, but this is not sure at all. Anyway, don’t be surprised when you go to Latin America, try to buy a traditional shirt and find what would look to you like a barong tagalog.

a songtaew
Well, it is almost unique. So far, I was only able to find one other country with a jeepney. In Thailand, they have the Songtaew, which is a converted pickup. It has seats like a jeepney, and is used just like a jeepney, i.e. for intra-city transportation. The only difference I guess is that Songtaews are generally red in color. Otherwise, they would be indistinguishable from our jeepneys.

And there are things like the balut (the Vietnamese have this too), or even self-flagellation in the name of religion (note: even Iran has this too) that are not uniquely Filipino.

So much for Filipino “myths”…

Posted in Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »