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Monday, November 29, 2010

The Pope Says 'Yes' To Condoms!

"If it scares them to realize that they are losing their 'special places in heaven' for not being completely amenable to what the pope has said, then let them be warned."

It's simply unheard of. Unprecedented that hard-core Catholics are reeling from the debacle that is papal 'slip of the tongue' - (read as: his own personal conviction) as opposed to what the church pontificates.  Pope Benedict is still human - he is aware that the world is beset by poverty and diseases. He cannot close his eyes to the glaring anomaly that is overpopulation and the spread of HIV. The Catholic church has long stood firm on their stand against condom - claimed to be the single most potent defense to combat HIV infection. In the Philippines where the Catholic church wields formidable power and influence, any member of the church can be threatened of excommunication if he publicly airs his opposition against any of the church's doctrine and stand, particularly on  contraception. Such is the perceived power that even a sitting president is not immune to the threat.

To many Catholics the pope is infallible. What he says and decrees upon is the ultimate law by which all members are bound to obey. On the issue of condom use, however, the recent interview on him sent shockwaves to the billions of Catholics worldwide. Those progressive Catholics who support condom use to be a deterrent against HIV and overpopulation, have only praises for the pope for his timely but unexpected statement favoring condom to combat a worldwide AIDS epidemic. But for those who have staked their souls on the vilification of the use of contraceptives, the pope's statement was a product of an ambush by a media-savvy infiltrator and interpreted to be differently. They insist his statement to be misused and taken out of context. But, whatever interpretation they want to concoct, it was clearly a papal stand that cannot be retracted. The pope is the head of the church and his belief and conviction represent that of the church's and so its followers ought to follow.

In the Philippines, you don't just raise your voice over the presumed pragmatists insisting your litany of logics. You don't expect sympathy to pour over your sorry bone if they pounced on you. Let's admit it. Those who refuse to open their eyes to the oppressive effect of poverty brought about by overpopulation have their conscience already seared with religiosity. They would fume as hell  if you say they are blinded by their religious fanaticism that you in turn are branded as satan. You will have multitudes of them - politicians, academicians, intellectuals - most notably some middle class and remnants of Spanish colonialism. They have strong and well-funded organizations to name and shame those who are opposed to the Catholic church's doctrine against the use of contraceptives. And they too maintain one common belief that condom kills a life inside a woman's womb. (Oops,don't say it is absurd reasoning, don't forget these are highly intellectual people.)

What has been a week of confusion over the pope's personal stand on condom use has proved to be a problematic one for the church. Even the smartest and most clever minds within the hierarchy are scrambling to find a way out of this unexpected dilemma. Cautions are also being exercised not to wholly contradict the papal statement or they risk losing their moral ascendancy. Now this question is inevitable - if the pope as head of the church approves of condom use to be 'moral' to prevent further spread of HIV, what do the priests and devout members make of it? If they believe that the pope as head of the church is the ordained representative of Christ on earth, why disobey him? Which way is moral - to listen and follow the pope so that more people can be spared from dying, or to stand guard on your habit of vilifying the most honest method of safeguarding lives from incurable disease such as HIV and other sexually-communicable diseases?

Now, some hard-core Catholics dare argue that what the pope probably meant was a selective condom use - appropriately for male prostitutes and transsexuals. So, what could be the reactions of those legal couples and lovers who only want  to share intimate moments without the fear of unwanted pregnancy? Are they not being deprived of their right to basic needs according to Maslow? Let's face it people. Even within the Catholic ranks, they fail to stop pervert priests from sexually abusing boys. If  Ahmadinejad of Iran boastfully announces to the world that in his country there are no gay people, let us understand that he purged his country of gays because they are being shamed and executed in public. But in the Catholic church, gay priests are significant in  number (though you will only find out later as evidenced by the mounting sexual abuse cases filed against them worldwide). So, in effect, you cannot rein in the sexual urges of certain individuals whose degree of 'holiness' and self-control do not at least come close to those of the 'righteous' members of the church.

Look, I suppose this is not just another contentious issue, this is in a sense a real breakthrough. We cannot just watch and allow these fanatics to disempower the moral argument made by the pope. If it scares them to realize that they are losing their 'special places in heaven' for not being completely amenable to what the pope has said, then let them be warned. But behind this snare of which is moral or not, lies the seed of sheer immorality - that our people mired in utter poverty because of children unable to eat and school is not a priority more than an empty stomach. Where has our conscience gone and a shred of tiny logic, to say that condom is evil when everyday dead babies and fetuses are being offered to dumpsters for mice and bugs to feast on? What did the church do to the fortunate ones who have been found on church's doorsteps? True enough, they reacted quickly - quick to condemn the soul-less mother - and quick to call the DSWD. From their end, they have no capacity to care for these babies, when there is the state that 'should'  take the sole responsibility. And so why play the greatest meddler in the history of mankind? If anything, a thinking person would assert that if you do not pay your taxes to the state despite your huge profit-making, you have no right to dictate or interfere with the affairs of the state, whose only aim is to uphold the interest of its citizens. You have no right to play bully to those who are weary of your influence and power.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm no sarcastic unrespectful person especially when we talk about religion. I will tell you. I was born Catholic from a generations of devotees who would mop out the aisle of the church from the doorstep to the altar. Growing up, I had my share of frightening experience being a devout Catholic. When I turned seven, I got bruised by a wooden statue of this certain male saint that the parish aide hurriedly draped on my head. People shoved one another to get to the altar first, some kids crying, arms twisted, as mothers tugged at the base of the statue to lay on their children's foreheads. We were made to believe that, if you missed out on performing your mother's religious vow when you turn seven, you certainly will miss out on the blessings to come for the rest of your life. And those who get to the altar first at the signal of the statue bearer, will get the most blessings all their lives. But not after you have paid  the charge of 30 pesos as donation to the church. What  made the ritual even special was that - it was done only on first Sunday of the month. And we had to get up before dawn as the church is four towns away from our place."

So, in light of this stunning abrupt "change of policy" of the church, which many hard-core Catholics dismiss as one, there is no denying that a confusion amidst this debacle has led many casual Catholics to think that there now exist  two popes. The first, and the familar one is, the stern, conservative and moral theologian. And the second, a  revolutionary one who apparently wants condoms for all. But, whether the pope has thrown overboard the long-standing Catholic ban on the use of condoms, or that his aides could only dispute that he was only speaking in a limited context, for instance to prevent the spread of HIV, it is a fact that the pope had spoken his mind and conscience, with a sense of urgency. There was no "crisis of journalism" committed there, as opposed to the accusation of some Vatican offficials. The message is clear - the pope follows his own conviction. Whatever repercussion or hostility it brings forth within its ranks, be it an unthinkable coup d'état of the papacy, the message had been sent out already - that enough to hypocrisy and doctrines that have enslaved the world - from diseases, illiteracy and poverty. So does this prove that the pope after all is human and not infallible?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Warning: Evil Revisited (Maguindanao Massacre 1st Anniversary)

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" - Martin Luther King Jr.

The massacre of 58 men and women including 32 journalists on November 23, 2009 in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao will forever be remembered.  The victims pleaded for dear lives but were granted death. Mutilated bodies, eyes blown off their sockets, female genitals whacked in a taunting orgy of gory -- graphic images of death you will plead did not happen in your lifetime. For all its monstrosity, even the most ruthless of criminals do not deserve such a tragic piece of history. These are but innocent people going about with their lives, yet received the harshest method of death in the hands of the evil blood-thirsty Ampatuan clan.

Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu had the slightest hint that his intention to challenge the primacy of Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao could trigger the wrath in them and unleash the most evil deed one could only pray did not happen. The dead were 58 innocent men and women including those unfortunate motorists who happened to be in close proximity with the Mangudadatu convoy. The brazen act of concealing the bodies in a hastily-dug hole by a government-owned backhoe is proof of an utter contempt of the law unimaginable in a democracy.

From the words of the people themselves of the third most impoverished province in the country that is Maguindanao, "the Ampatuans are the law" and that "they own practically everything even the souls of the people". It's either you say "yes" or you get killed the next few seconds. Such is the magnitude of fear that even a Mangudadatu now sitting as governor of Maguindanao province, very few residents dare speak of the atrocities that marked decades-long rule by the Ampatuan clan. However,the culture of impunity that has become a way of life for the powerful Ampatuans did not just happen spontaneously if not for the blessing of the Arroyo government, which until now does not own up to its role as modern Frankenstein. Their ruthless rule of the entire province has seen its peak during the Arroyo presidency, as quid pro quo for delivering a clean slate victory for the administration in the 2004 and 2007 elections.

One year on and the victims' cries for justice  continue to reverberate down our cold spine - its grandiosity of an event now seemingly forgotten. We are back to our fetish self of craving for anything current and relevant. This demeanor though is understandable because we seem to have lost our faith in our justice system. Now pundits believe that the multiple murder case against the beastly Ampatuans could drag through many years, and now we are resigned to the fact that even justice fears to tread the path of the oppressed. Yes, even Satan's deputies are accorded the fairest trial  and still possess the temerity to mock the law of man. That being said their dominion is seemingly irrefutable over those who worship gold and riches at the expense of true justice.

Being the hapless spectators that we are, we can only collectively sigh in utter disgust how these brute criminals can dispense influence even behind bars. Their all-reaching tentacles are without boundaries preying on those whom they sense to let out a scream of their evil exploits. How many deads have been accounted for at the behest of the primary evil inside his cell? There is no denying the fact, that Andal Jr. is still capable of taking down anyone who could jeopardize his steely determination of laughing his way out of  jail. He has the best pool of lawyers behind him out to die for their master, and his billions. These billions of pesos plundered from state coffers are the very same bulks being used to hypnotize the most brilliant of lawyers to ensure their freedom. And only time will tell if the most evil amongst us defeats Lady Justice, and if that dispensation arrives, the moral fortitude of that generation will no longer pose a challenge to the myth that is justice.

Until when are we going to weep with contempt at the slow dispense of justice? Until when are we going to witness criminals and plunderers go free and welcomed as hometown heroes in a wanton travesty of justice? And until when are they going to feast with their loot if the law of nature refuses to intervene? We have witnessed the unthinkable yet the wheels of justice seem stuck in oblivion. Insatiable greed and an unquenching  lust for power proved to have driven people to shrug off conscience and usurping remnants and bits of innate human compassion.

We weep for those whose voices were silenced by the guns of the murderers. We lament for those who happened to be at the wrong time and the wrong place. The women who despite begging for their lives imploring their god received a painful death and their dignities violated. We grow weary due to hopelessness because we see partakers in the assault of democracy and complicit to the murders of the innocent, continuously disrespect the wailing souls of their victims - their arrogant taunting smile even becomes fixtures in the halls of Congress. No remorse, not a miniscule of sympathy for those they had murdered and the relatives.

To Andal Ampatuan Jr., Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo: Let us revisit the spectacle you have created,  so that you can party once more and reminisce the time you shared a crisp laughter together while gulping a wineglass that runs over with the blood of your preys. You have certainly entertained the thoughts that you are beyond the reach of the law.  You are a fool to believe that you won't live to see the day of your downfall. In your delusion, you are convinced that you are entitled to possess the riches of this world at the expense of those who are powerless living under your shadows. You all have enriched yourselves to ensure the children of your grandchildren will have their plenty even when you're all long gone. But those innocent who bore the brunt of your blood-thirsty soul had their lives stolen abruptly from their loved ones in a  most savage fashion. You are no better than the brute beasts of the field that devour any living being that their eyes have set upon. And with reverence fit for royals, you are cordially welcome to take a peek and giggle at the magnitude of your triumphs. Enjoy your time your royal highnesses!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

First Salvo Is Fun!

"People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built." - Eleanor Roosevelt

I don't go crazy over  horror stories much less if it begs your apology for visual incapacity. What is required of you is just a pair of attentive perfectly working eardrums all to get your time tricked into passing.  The room is no mundane setting.You have to submit to proper etiquette and compassionate instinct.The storyteller is gushing with hair-raising tales of the paranormal. Linda Blair and Emily Rose figure prominently at the ghostly scenario, not the fictional superstars but the 'made-up' stories and characters he insists to be real-life experiences. His audience is keen to add life to the deathly plot by agreeing to the script.  Though no loud reactions. Only a couple is in tune,  in fact there is three. And that makes them four together.

While three are visibly active, the fourth person is the real protagonist but hardly exists yet taking command of every scenario. Everytime  mucus inundates his airway and prompts wheezing, he takes  the attention of all, and their touch. The reciter of tales who loves spotlight on him quickly picks up an undersized pair of plastic gloves to lend a hand. And we are back from virtual world. Nurse Jennifer is quick to fix the machine and the tubings. She will be extracting mucus secretion from the patient to clear his airway. We are pretty quick too. We tilt the head and assist in the method. We extracted a bounty. Breathing suddenly normalized. The patient has been comatose since one week. A case of intracerebral hemorrhage with severe hypertension. He is a 66-year old  African. And the bad news is - the prognosis is not good.

It was my first OJT and my assignment was ICU. Nerves was all over me. I was not alone though. Benjie and I were picked to assist at the ICU. He is a PT grad so more or less he is inclined to doing this and stuff. After taking down notes on patient's profile and medical history, we proceeded to don our gloves and plastic apron. The patient is being fed via nasogastric tube and so we had to assist in his feeding. Turning the patient every two hours is also necessary to avoid bedsores and skin ulcer. The patient is on foley catheter so we had to drain his urine every now and then. We also did oral care on him to contain the stench coming from his oral cavity. His BP has been consistently abnormal and so cardiac arrest could be imminent. He has to be under our careful watch. Other than that everything is pretty normal and peaceful in the ICU.

The yawning gap in between administering care for a comatose patient could steal one's sanity away, says Nurse Jen. Gladly, we came that day to her aid. So she won't be humming around appeasing those naughty unseen gliding over the room in a cold breeze. Nurse Jen has had company that day. To shun away  lulling moments  in the ICU, Benjie had spooky stories dug up from his footlocker. Deathly tales, exorcisms, nightmares and creepy adventures made good fodder for the three of us. There was no escaping from pinning your auditory cells to the convincingly credible storytelling of the "cold compress king". Did I say he used up more than a dozen pairs of gloves for his cold compress regimen on his inert listener? :-)

If there was an award  for tibial stamina we could have run away with it too. And surely the fun diminishes when you feel some grumbling within. And this is what Benjie has been blabbering about - tons of pizza that he ordered that made my midsection even loudly complaining. Little did we know, down a ceiling below, some of our co-trainees were already on a frenzy over a huge pizza and salad that Chris had ordered for the batch. He happened to be the birthday boy (it was announced at school) and so he had to oblige us. (Poor Chris! :-)) Benjie surely had eavesdropped on the activities below. He made a trip quite a number of times down. (He must have bullied reluctant Chris into obliging for a pizza treat :-)) Of course there's no way we could miss out on the 'plunder'. We eventually found ourselves sprinting down the stairs.

Now I won't have to weep with envy everytime I see a flatter belly. Pizza is the single most atrociously irresistible reward you could possibly get for enduring the day. The  smell and sight of it is going to make every carb skeptic crawl out of the woodwork and ignore a beeline for a first grab of a bigger slice, pepperoni at that. Apart from the pizza, salad and cookies, Jasmine too had brought a basin of pancit  with matching white loaves. There you go a food trip in the hospital. Haggard faces suddenly lightened up. A co-trainee recounts how his boy patient is practicing high jump in his bed. Another, his patient touring around the hospital with  the entire socceer team with him, you would think there is a football match in the lobby. Ours though is not exactly a happy one.

At the onset, everyone thought our OJT will be an entirely nerve-wracking experience. On the first foray, we were overwhelmed with nerves and pressure, but it wouldn't take long before we realized that the experience helped boost our morale and self-worth. And yes we had fun too. Patients are people with varying needs. A little tap on their back and reassurance that everything will be okay already lights up their faces, and it does contribute to their recovery. True healthcare providers don't just focus on the patient's physical well-being, they are bound to go the extra mile too. Expertise and science alone do not at all complement the healing of the infirm without compassion. After all, homo sapiens is not only made up of flesh and blood, there is more to what our eyes can't see. Good luck to all Batch Four!

Monday, November 8, 2010

He Is Deeply Missed

"It was nice growing up with someone like you - someone to lean on, someone to count on... someone to tell on! I wish  you had stayed longer."

It's dawn yet, to him extended sleep is a vice. Time to violate again Maslow's assertion on requisites to exist - albeit one of the basics. His clock ticks quicker than the ordinary. His movements even quicker. Noise does not figure in his way so as not wake his wife and two kids. After all, they are the reason to his unenviable routine. He is used to forgo a decent breakfast. A glass of coffee warmer than lukewarm sometimes will do. Before he gets to the saddle of his second-hand motorbike, he sees to it that he glances once more at his two angels and his beloved.

Pastor Nilo is off to work. The journey is long and unpredictable. Still he is not privileged with the comfort of a bundy clock. Oftentimes he leaves home at dawn and comes back before midnight. Despite the day's ordeal, the smile in his face is genuine. And gladly he masks the tiredness with glee at the doorstep of his mother's home. She is eagerly awaiting to see him. The wait is agonizing till she sees him because she worries about him - all the time. She is old and weak and restless till she sees him. She knows too he had no decent meal during the day. And she always keeps a better one for him. And this routine home doesn't change as well. Before he gets to hug his wife and kids, he sees to it that he visits his mother with his present for her, her favorite 'ensaymada'. Her home is just in a neighborhood that dots alongside ponds and narrow alleys.

If one wonders why he does not work full time in the ministry?  In fact he did. For a young pastor and newly-wed at that, it was a challenge to minister full-time in a mountainous part of Silay City. The place was not blessed with electricity, not anytime soon. Almost everything man requires does not come in handy. The only accessible rarities are the clouds that sit atop the hills that hug the stilt houses decked out in cogon walls. A visit to the place can be likened to a pilgrimage fraught with penance and glorious bruises. For humans who have known and tasted civilization, a three-year tenure in such a place is a divine stamina. But the streak would ultimately be halted when their first baby warns of its arrival. Hospital or clinic is generations away to happen in such an awful setting and so it was best not to take the risk. A lot of prayers and subtle persuasion for new volunteer later provided relief. A bachelor worker finally took the stand and heeded the Master's call.

The pastor and his pregnant wife then took to the city till she gave birth. Being a man of God, he does not believe in luck. He argues that all things happen for a reason. They too are burdened with not having a regular income to support a now growing family. A high school certificate and a year stint with bible school do not at all guarantee him employment. But it didn't take long before he got his real job: a collector for a semi-NGO micro-lending company. The job requires him to be college graduate and a Christian. Obviously he was not up to the criteria save for the latter. Part of his job would be to conduct Bible studies among cell members made up of borrowers who would meet up on a specific day to pay up their dues. His job would continue for years  till he got promoted as field supervisor, till he was blessed with another child.

Negotiating dirt roads from the outskirts of the city plays part of his job. And his area of assignment would later expand. From the farthest towns and cities to hinterland barrios, he would meet up with local cell members for group BS while some members go in a hiding when they sense him coming. He however understands that it is no easy thing to oblige them when they are literally dried up and unable to pay their dues. This has become a mundane scenario until he was able to help them develop some discipline and trustworthiness evident at people who fear God. Wherever Pastor Nilo goes, he is being loved and respected. His daily routine  though is not without trouble. There were attempts to rob and harm him but he was repeatedly spared from those dangers. He knows why and he is not at all astonished.

It is just any ordinary day. His itinerary would be Cadiz City - a three-hour drive from his place and so he has to get up a little earlier than usual. There were no indications of what lie ahead. At midday, a news report on radio reverberated all over their neighborhood. Pastor Nilo figured in an accident along the highway south of Cadiz City and he was brought to the nearest hospital. His identity was confirmed from his ID but  reports would not confirm as to his condition. His wife and siblings would soon troop to the hospital praying as hard as they can for miracle. What greeted them was the most gruesome state of his body in the morgue. Only his head was spared. His chest down to his toes can be likened to a butchered animal violated of its dignity with tibia and fibula sticking out of its integuments on a display of hellish gory. Women present took turns collapsing if not simultaneously. You would not believe your eyes how graphic the way life can be lost. 

Witnesses told police that he was almost off  road giving way for large and fast vehicles when an approaching truck behind swerved towards him - instantly tossing him  under the truck and got dragged over thirty meters before the driver realized he had killed someone. His helmet spared his face from getting disfigured from his ordeal down between the tires that curtailed his young life. He was still breathing when volunteers took him to the hospital. The truck driver was said to be high on marijuana. He got jailed but was later freed because Pastor Nilo's wife did not file a case. He was reported to have eight kids.

Pastor Nilo's eldest now an eight-year old bright girl was provided a scholarship by his company (until she goes to college), aside from a monthly support for his two kids. It's been five years since his death but his memory still lingers. He lived a life of humility, never complaining and always grateful. He was such a good son, a good brother, a loving husband and father. He was closest to me too. Last night I had a dream of him -  he was full of life, cheering me up and urging me on not to forget my foundation - the Word of God. He kept on encouraging me to press on towards the goal, for he is now in a lovely place not wanting me to miss out on that place. I suddenly awakened and tears streamed down my eyes. It was very vivid. He was real I even touched him. I just missed my brother so much.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Silay City, Negros Occidental, The Philippines

Some of the photos above courtesy of Arnaldo Arnáiz Díaz

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