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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Debts and Miracles

Last night, we nearly split our sides laughing at the antics of Lolo (granny) Bartolome, a toothless store owner somewhere in the South, who was shown on TV displaying his strange way of getting back at his “callous” customers who have not paid him their debts for months or even years. phil-money.jpg

The frontage of his small rural store looked like a COMELEC posting area during a hot electoral exercise with large rectangular signs posted all over it. Scrawled in blank ink, the names of the debtors were “advertised” along with unsavory epithets and even the specific unpaid goods they got from the store.


His curious collection method, however, has not sat well with some of his customers who resented him and vowed never to pay him what they owed until he takes the notices down. On the day the TV interview was being made, a debtor was shown casually passing by his store and replying with grunts at the old man’s repeated calls for him to settle his dues.


The said strategy has, however, proven effective at least for one customer who had just paid his utang (debt), and who had the pleasure of seeing his own “nameplate” taken down from the store’s "wall of shame." Both owner and customer were visibly overjoyed having restored their business relations sealed with a handshake.


Well, they should be happy, shouldn’t they? For after all, two years of an unpaid 42-peso (1 USD) debt was such a strain on their friendship!


I expected the TV program to end in a merry note. But it turned out that the said TV report was only an introduction to a very serious revelation: The Philippines now owes the World Bank Php 3.8 trillion, which translates to every Filipino owing the WB at least PhP 43,200.00.


I’m not sure when the WB will start posting all the names of more than 90-million Filipinos online to compel the nation to settle its dues with this global lending machine.


A miracle. This is what we need now, it seems, so that finally our “TETELESTAI” (It is Finished) sign will be nailed above the door of our “debt prison” so we can finally come out of that dark, dank hole with clean records.


Speaking of miracles, another TV report noted a certain “Fr. Fernando Juarez” who is gaining popularitoral_roberts-heretic.jpgy – at least among Catholics here – with his supposed “miraculous healings.” All who are familiar with the works of Oral Roberts, Peter Popoff, Wilde Almeda and many other televangelists will surely view this development with suspicion, and may casually dismiss the reported “healings” simply as “psychosomatic.”


While I do not question the possibility or even occurrence of miracles today, I must suspend judgment as to the genuineness of Father Suarez’ reported miracle working until further confirmation. Meanwhile, I can only hope that this priest’s case will prove good for us and not end up promoting sensationalism, gullibility, idolatry, and even skepticism (among religious seekers or religious myth-debunkers) in this trouble-riddled country.

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