Monday, March 16, 2009

‘Test Driving Pinoys’

Imagine: A young man enters a shop with huge display windows. Behind the glass panes are not ads or wares for sale. Instead, we see a file of Filipinos clad in different working outfits: a man with overalls, a pretty woman wearing kitchen garb, a young lady sporting household helper apparel.

Be surprised: The young man inquires, “I’m looking for a housewife and a maid. Can I try out the ones you have on display?”

Be shocked: The shopkeeper replies. Of course, sir! The ones out in the display are our best in stock. You may try out the housewife longer to find out if she’s worth the bargain we’re offering. I’m sure you will not be disappointed. As for the maid…”

This scene isn’t as imaginary as you think. In fact, it is repeated in many other forms of human abuse through slavery, prostitution and even imperialism in the case that the store is being run by a foreign company.

Now, are you ready for something real?

This one’s for REAL: [Over the radio] “Apply to be a DUREX CONDOM TESTER! You can get a chance to win 50,000 pesos from the International Condom maker, DUREX! (…) Time and slots are running out if you still want to be one of the 500 testers go to (…) [deadline February 25, 2009]”

As radio blared this ad, I could not help but feel nauseated with this foreign company’s cheap offer. It was not how cheap condoms cost, but how they can be so degrading of the values that we Filipinos cherish: the sacredness of marriage, conjugal love and the dignity of every Filipino and Filipina.

Marriage and Sex are Sacred: Imagine they’re offering 50,000 pesos as a prize! The company fosters the idea that married couples should consider love-making as something profitable and that is, only if you’re lucky enough. When did married love ever become a contest or when did it ever have a price? Asking 500 couples to copulate for money converts the couple’s love into something like paid sex. That’s how dirt-cheap they can get!

Go Guinea Pigs!: Added to this injury is the insulting fact of reducing marriage into an experiment. What’s better for this company’s business than to have “willing test subjects” to try out the sturdiness of their products?

In this survey they want to find out how many condoms get torn or leak in the process. They clinically convert the intimacy of the conjugal act into a casual laboratory procedure by asking afterwards: How many times did you have sex? How many times did you have problems with our products?

And since every experiment has some scope and limitations, they will of course try to prevent the “undesirable effects” of having an “unwanted child” in case their product fails. Will they offer options like a lifetime education scholarship for the child? Or would it be easier, –actually to make matters worse–, to require one condition in order to join the contest, the woman must take abortifacient pills. This way, the “unwanted biological consequences” are dealt with adequately as not to interfere with the experiment. And if all fails, will they recommend aborting the child?
Filipinos Just Want it Easy: This company must think that Filipinos are a nation of pushovers! Just wave a couple of dollar bills in front of their faces and they are easily bought! After all, isn’t our country experiencing hard times? This is just the ripe moment to exploit us into dumping our moral values in exchange for easy money.

No sir! We may be experiencing hard times, but we are not going to accept such a cheap offer in exchange for the sacredness of married life and love, the irreplaceable role of the parents in the education and formation of their children, and the fact that the real Filipino can when it comes to being diligent, generous and honest!

* * *

Unforgettable incident: During the World Youth Day in Sydney of 2008, I was moved by the throngs of youth in their personal pilgrimage to accompany the Holy Father, Benedict XVI.
In that same event, I cannot forget the unfortunate attempts of some individuals and groups –perhaps, in their ignorance of what a World Youth Day is– to encourage the young boys and girls to take the “precaution” of using a condom in case they wanted to get more intimate.
On one such occasion, I overheard someone offering condoms to some visiting pilgrims. I was surprised when an elderly woman in the group totally knocked the condom promoter off his feet with gentleness and concern when she replied, “Young man, you should be thankful that your mom and pop didn’t decide to use that on you!”

* * *

May we not succumb to such an outrageous and insulting call for “false responsibility” and the exploitation of our moral and cultural values! Our country does not need more condoms and pills –these are easy but dehumanizing solutions– that only spawn irresponsibility and promiscuity. It needs an education in virtues –difficult, but more virtuous and human– that will ensure the unity, purity and wholesome development of our families and country.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


“HEY, Dylan!” I called out to the student crossing from the other side of the street.
“Hi, Father!” he waved back and started coming towards me.

“Your exams have finally ended! With a long weekend ahead of you, dude, what are you planning to do?” I asked.

“Whatever, Father,” he shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes to show he was totally uncertain about how to spend his weekend.

“Whatever, what?” I asked even though I understood he was still quite dazed from lack of sleep preparing for his comprehensive exams.

“I really dunno, Father. Whatever, whatever…,” he gave me a zombie-like stare.
“Hey, dude! I know you’re tired, but I believe you can say something better than ‘whatever’.”
“Like what, Father?”

“What about completing the sentence by saying, Whatever God wants?”
He smirked and said, “In that case, Father, I’ll go play Frisbee with my barkada.”

* * *
AMONG the many things that intrigue me—and perhaps, continue to make me feel young—is my exposure to the idealism of the youth. As they mature out of the delicate shell of adolescence, they are motivated to improve the negative elements within the social and cultural fabric they grew from. This ideal is common among those who have been fortunate to experience virtue and good example in their family and other social engagements.

Today, however, more young people are born into families that no longer nurture the values they need in order to mature in virtues. Moreover, the world’s technical and socio-economic wave is drowning them to think within very limited and virtual confines. This is perhaps one reason that it’s hard for them to make choices even in their spiritual life and commitments. But this is not the end of their spiritual itinerary!

St. Josemaría Escrivá, who was a priest who always maintained a youthful outlook taught: “It is not true that everyone today—in general—is closed or indifferent to what our Christian faith teaches about man's being and destiny. It is not true that men in our time are turned only toward the things of this earth and have forgotten to look up to heaven.” (Christ is Passing By, 132) We, therefore, must not be discouraged when it seems that our children are lost in some whatever limbo.

The young, in their daily experience of a topsy-turvy world, are not actually looking for a perfect world with perfect people. Rather, they are searching for an encouraging support in people whose lives are truly anchored in God. If we want them to commit themselves to ‘whatever God wants,’ it will only be the consequence of their witnessing how we strive to consistently and perseveringly do what God wants in and for our lives.

Our rejuvenation is carried out through daily genuine self-sacrifice. This is the unselfish effort of not thinking about our comfort, our time, our money, and our plans. In other words: when our children gratefully experience our availability for them and our readiness to share with them what only we can give from our very hearts and sacrifices. This is not an impossible task, especially when we make the effort to think less of ourselves and more of our children. St. Escrivá says, “All the circumstances of life—those of every individual person's existence as well as, in some way, those of the great cross-roads of history—as so many calls that God makes to men, to bring them face to face with truth, and as occasions that are offered to us Christians, so that we may announce, with our deeds and with our words strengthened by grace, the Spirit to whom we belong.” (Ibid, 132)

This attitude opens our children’s minds and hearts to the grandeur of the things that the material world cannot give: the beauty and consolation of prayer and the sacraments, the strength and fruitfulness of sacrifice, and the fulfilling and lasting mission of making Christ known to many others. This is what really attracts the young to embrace a spiritual ideal: when they experience daily spiritual rejuvenation as we shed our attachment to sin in the crisp and youthfully ‘yes’ of accepting and carrying out whatever God wants.