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Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Booksale Addict: Catchy Book Titles (2)

♣  When God Becomes a Drug by Leo Booth

The Case Against Lawyers by Catherine Crier

Divided by a Common Language by Christopher Davies

Mama, Get the Hammer! There's a Fly on Papa's Head! by Barbara Johnson

iPod, Therefore I Am: Inside the Apple Box by Dylan Jones

The Taming of the Drew by Katie Maxwell

Driving Under the Affluence by Julia Phillips

We're Just Like You, Only Prettier by Celia Rivenbank

Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever by Judge Judy Sheindlin

Olive or Twist? by  Jack Ziegler

booksale SM Baguio

The Commercialized "Anito"

[caption id="attachment_2697" align="aligncenter" width="463" caption="Anito @ SM Baguio - smsphoto"]Anito @ SM Baguio - smsphoto[/caption]

In a report on the Panagbenga early this year, writer Cye Reyes quotes Innabuyog head Vernie Yocogan-Diano as saying, “The traditional dances are capitalized on and used for attraction, even stylizing it to fit the current fashion."

As most of you readers know, the Baguio Flower Festival is not the only show window of a commodified Igorot culture, nor are traditional dances the only aspects of this culture that are exploited for profit.  Many cultural artifacts have long been mass produced to cater to the demands of enterprising merchants and curio-loving tourists.

In the photo above, the two anito carvings displayed at the entrance of a restaurant on the third floor of SM Baguio make for an intriguing semiotical reading.  Let us appropriate what cultural critics Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon have written about the semiotics of American buying pattern:

"...a cultural sign gets its meaning from the system in which it appears.  Its significance does not lie in its usefulness but rather in its symbolism, in the image it projects, and that image is socially constructed." ["The Culture of American Consumption," Sonia Maasic & Jack Solomon, eds., Signs of Life in the USA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers (Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000), 45-46]

The anito displays may be read as cultural items that dramatize how native culture has adapted to (or survived despite the onslaught of) modernity.  Or as sculptures that proclaim Gerry's Grill's pride in or identification with indigenous culture.

On the other hand, seeing these cultural artifacts within the system (i.e., SM Baguio/Malls, in general) it is in, this picture may also be read as actually portraying exploitation, not adaptation: the anito couple are displayed as a come-on to would-be diners, proclaiming the uprooting of native symbols from their original  cultural contexts.  Just like the antique-looking chairs and counter flanking them, the eatery anitos may be seen as entrepreneurial tools artificially reflecting what is old and native (or reflecting a superficial or hollow understanding of the indigenous.)  Seen this way, the anitos are thus symbols of  an innovative -- though not necessarily culturally sensitive -- marketing strategy.

Perhaps the symbolism would be interpreted differently if the owners of Gerry's Grill placed tags and explanatory notes on the anito carvings, explaining what these actually mean to and how these reflect the worldview of the Igorots. In this way, dining experience at Gerry's Grill for both locals and foreigners could become not only a taste of fine cooking but also an educational experience on Cordillera culture.  :)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ted Failon & the Media (2)

Hell hath no fury like the Media scorned. No, that should be: It is fearful to fall into the hands of an angry ABS-CBN.

That is what the police who oh-so-triumphantly arrested five members of Ted Failon's household must have realized by now.  They are now being publicly scrutinized with video footages belying some of their defensive statements.  The same media that helped sensationalize this tragic death now unleashes its power to clear Failon's name primarily with testimonies of family and friends, and to seek justice for the humiliation the police has slapped on the grieving family.

ABS-CBN is fuming mad, but now more mindful, I guess, of how its manner of reportage could either damn or justify the innocent.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Think Different"

First learned about this from a good friend and classmate in grad school, Kristina Wood.  Worth sharing...

Ted Failon & the Media

The ghastly death of Trinidad Etong, wife of multi-awarded ABS-CBN broadcaster Ted Failon, has unsurprisingly generated a lot of speculations from gossip-mongers in the media down to the sassy vendors at the flea-market . Although Failon had earlier pled for the hospital staff and the media to respect his family's privacy, details surrounding the tragic incident still leaked out to the public a few hours after he had rushed his wife to the hospital.

What must be doubly painful for Failon is that the media industry which sometimes feasts on the misfortunes of people and which he has represented all these years has now trained its floodlights on him, sensationalizing his most painful experience yet mainly by putting it as its top story on a "Showbiz News" program.  But I guess he somehow understands that his fellow Kapamilya and even his neighbors, the Kapuso, are just doing their job and are simply dishing out what most of the viewing public are itching to hear or salivating to see.

May he and his family continue to find comfort and grace in this their time of grief, healing in the years to come.

"Black Quotations" On Self-Reliance

A man's bread and butter is only insured when he works for it.

- Marcus Garvey, 83

Treat your guest as a guest for two days; on the third day, give him a hoe!

- Swahili Folk Saying, 84

Actually we are slaves to the cost of living.

- Carolina Maria De Jesus, 84

Man cannot live by profit alone.

- James Baldwin, 84

The appearance of millionaires in any society is no proof of its affluence; they can be produced by very poor countries... it is not efficiency of production which makes millionaires; it is the uneven distribution of what is produced.

- Julius K. Nyerere, 85

We realize that our future lies chiefly in our own hands.  We know that neither institution nor friends can make a race stand unless it has strength in its own foundation; that races, like individuals, must stand or fall by their own merit; that to fully succeed they must practice the virtues of self-reliance, self-respect, industry, perseverance, and economy.

- Paul Robeson, 91

If you cain't bear no crosses, You cain't wear no crown.

- African-American Spiritual, 96

Source: Janes Cheatham Bell, ed. Famous Black Quotations. New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1995.

5 More e-Scams

More email scams in my inbox:


The Monday Lottery
London, United Kingdom.

The Monday Lottery, United Kingdom wishes to inform you that the results of the E-mail address ballot lottery international program by Great Britain held on the of 29th March, 2009 is out.Your email account have been picked as a winner of a lump sum pay out of ( £1,000,000.00 pounds sterling ) credited to file REF NO.REF:UKL/ 09-0802742009.  This is from total prize money of GBP 5,000,000.00 shared among the FIVE ( 5 ) international winners in this category.You are to contact our claims agent for validation:

6. SEX:

Mr. Michael Smith.
Email : cgnl_claimdepartment2009@
For More Information

Yours Sincerely,
Mrs. Jenifer Fox
Online Coordinator


Hang Seng Bank Ltd
Sai Wan Ho Branch
171 Shaukiwan Road
Hong Kong.

Good Day,

I sincerely hope that this letter will not come to you as a surprise or an embarrassment since we neither knew each other before nor had any neither previous correspondence/ contact. Let me start by introducing myself. I am
Mr. Ming Yang, Director of Operations of the Hang Seng Bank Ltd, Sai Wan Ho Branch, Hong Kong. I have an obscured business suggestion for you.

I am here-by seeking your service in giving a clear research and feasibility studies on areas I could invest on. Your services will be paid for, and you will be a partner, if your recommendation is accepted.

As a bank employee, I can not operate any personal investment till I am retired and with the Anti-corruption Bill passed in Hong Kong; it is risky for a fixed income earner to own any huge amount of money in Hong Kong or any foreign country. It is then advisable to invest in any foreign land secretly and patiently wait for retirement.

You are to handle everything personally and with utmost confidentiality, if my proposal is acceptable as I may not be able to travel down, since I must obtain an official clearance before leaving this territory.

Note importantly that, this is a confidential proposal and must be treated as such because the banking sector has commenced probing of all senior banking officials that have served in the past and presently in service.

For security purpose, due to telecom interception in Hong Kong, I shall not accept or acknowledge any phone call. Only fax messages/emails would be treated in relation to this proposal but not without this code; [CODE NO: ZX1-121]. Should you be further interested, I would prefer you to reach me on this email address: ( and finally after that I shall provide you with more details of this operation.

Kind Regards
Mr. Ming Yang


3 Upper Dean Street,
Birmingham, England, B5 4SG.
United Kingdom

Dear Internet User,

This Email is to inform you that you emerged a winner of the sum of ?1,000.000 Euros with the following numbers attached Ref Number: PW  9590ES 9414,Batch Number: 573881545-NL/2009 on our online draws which was played on the year 2009.For further Information about your Winnings,contact your Lottery.

Claims Officer with the following contact Address Below.

Mr. Silva Moreli
Tel: +44 703 596-1615

You will provide him with the following information:


1. Full Names:
2. Your Age:
3. Gender /Sex:
4. Home Address:
5. Occupation:
6. Country:
7. Home/Work Phone:

Once Again Congratulations!!! Thank you for being a user of the World Wide Web.

Stella Bruce (Mrs).


Shell award 2009 Promo has awarded you the sum of $2,000,000.00 in the Shell award please for claim your name country sex age telephone occupation

Mr. Bill Morrison



Ticket number:RF9R/5043/3223/66
Batch Number: 35/R565-33

Dear account owner,

The IRISH ONLINE PROMOTION BOARD hereby brings to our notice today that You have won €801,619 (Eight Hundred and One Thousand, Six hundred and Thirteen Euro) from the free online programm held on the today.

To process the claim of your prize, The Irish Lottery Board requires you to provide your personal information so that the Irish Lottery Claims Agent will help you process the claim. Fill the form below:

Your Names.....
Phone no....

With the above information, the claims agent, Mr Fred Monte, will help you process the claim of your prize. You can reach him on phone +44-704-574-9850 and quote your Ticket Number and Batch numbers to him at once to enable him obtain all the official documents regarding this claim on your behalf.

Ticket number:RF9R/5043/3223/66
Batch Number: 35/R565-33


Mrs. Helen Berlin,
Promotion Assistant Director.

Beware of Email Hackers


How are you doing?hope all is well with you, i am sorry that i didn't inform you about my traveling to England for a Seminar.

I need a favor from you as soon as you recieve this e-mail because i misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money,and other valuable things were kept, i will like you to assist me with a  loan urgently. I will be needing the sum of $2,500  to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home.

I will appreciate whatever you can afford to help me with, i'll pay you back as soon as i return. Kindly let me know if you can be of help? so that i can send you the details to use when sending the money through western union.

Your reply will be greatly appreciated.


This is odd, I muttered to myself while reading this message sent from the email address of one of my colleagues and my teacher in grad school, Prof. Grace Subido.  It's titled "HELP PLEASE!!!" (No, it wasn't all caps, but yes, it had three exclamation points). I checked the sender's email address. No problem there, all the letters  and characters are complete and in their proper order.

But how could she be in England at this hour (message sent @ 6.49 pm, 15 April 2000) when I just attended her Literature class today after lunchtime and even consulted her on a form I was filling in later in the afternoon ? I know she's got a sleek car and a loaded wallet, but I didn't know she had a supersonic jet, I brayed and clucked to myself.  Besides, if she were attending a seminar in London or in Oslo, Chechnya, Tel Aviv, Kabul, Shanghai, Queensland, Rhode Island, Timbuktu, or elsewhere, we at our department -- being such a closely knit bunch -- would know.  Besides, the professor is not one who'd freak out so much after losing her pocketbook that she would let out a battery of  S.O.S. to a thousand-and-one smarties in her mailing list.  Why, the first thing she'd do perhaps is to call home for a money transfer.  And of all people, I won't be one to whom she'd email a "send-me-money-puhleeeezzz!" scream when she knows I couldn't even foot the bill at any eat-out meeting with her and a few other friends.

Then I re-read the message and four more details confirmed my suspicion that she didn't write this "Mayday! Mayday" text and that her email account has just been hacked.


How are you doing?"

Nyehehe... What was that?  Grace's opening line? Helow...?! It would have been close if the hacker wrote,

"Dear Scott,

I know you're rich and kind..."

Kidding! (But I wish! bray and chuckle again...)

Now to details # 2-4.

" soon as you recieve this email..."

Being the OC and grammarian that she is, my friend Grace wouldn't misspell "receive" even when typing with closed eyes.

" i misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money,and other valuable things were kept.... I will be needing the sum of $2,500  to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home."

Veteran editor Grace wouldn't hyphenate the underlined verb phrase. Well, that claim of misplacing something  is quite  believable because, like me, Grace sometimes gets her cerebrum cells disoriented (translation: forgetful but not yet senile, makalimutin pero di pa naman ulyanin).  But a $2,500 bill for a less than an hour stay in a hotel is preposterous! "Get myself back home"? Yeah, right. Go home to 'Pinas bwuhuhu after a 30-minute seminar in Angle-land.

Friends, please be wary of emails like this. Who knows how many emails this pseudo has hacked already.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Otto Scheerer's "On Baguio's Past" as a Postcolonial Text

[Note: This is an abridged version of a paper I presented during the Baguio Centennial Conference held at UP Baguio.  The full version is being reworked. Published in the April issue of the UP Baguio newsletter, Ti Similla - sms :) ]

from Benguet: A People's History

Postcolonialism is a diverse network of ideas and practices that seeks to make sense of, evaluate, critique, and rewrite a people's colonial experience. One of the best known postcolonial theorists is Edward Said who helped unveil the centuries-long essentializing project of the West in its dealings with the East, particularly the Muslim world in the Middle East.  He calderrida, foucault, gramsci, saidls this identity project "Orientalism," one which divided the world into the superior West (i.e., cultured, wealthy, masculine) and the inferior East (i.e., philistine, indigent, feminine).  Among the various theoretical constructs Said appropriated in his work are those of Jacques Derrida (Deconstruction), Michel Foucault (Discourse), and Antonio Gramsci (Hegemony).

Said's postcolonial thought is a useful tool in critiquing historical texts on the Philippines, as can be demonstrated in this textual analysis of On Baguio's Past: Chapters from Local History and Tradition, an ethnohistorical work of the German scholar Otto Johns  Scheerer (1858-1938).

A former cigar factory owner in Manila and later a coffee planter in Benguet, Scheerer emerged as an authority on Philippine culture after immersing most of his last 30 or more years studying and writing about the Philippines.  During the Philippine Revolution, he was associated with several local heroes like Juan "Ora Cariño, Mateo "Bahag" Carantes, and even Pedro Paterno. Among the positions he held in Philippine government and academe included being the first provincial secretary of Benguet, lieutenant governor of Batanes, and language professor and first department head of Oriental Languages at the University of the Philippines.

On Baguio's Past is divided into 12 parts, and records the missionary ventures and military expeditions of the Spaniards coming from the western side of Benguet, as well as the responses of the natives to these foreign incursions, with a special focus on events that transpired in the middle of the 18th century and toward the end of the 19th.  He also includes the Cariño clan's genealogical record dating back to the 14th century, covering 11 generations.

Baguio artist Jack Cariño opined that Scheerer stood up "for Indigenous People's rights almost a century before it became a popular advocacy to do so." This paper also argues that On Baguio's Past may be read as a postcolonial text almost half a century before postcolonialism became a buzzword among academics.

The Scheerer text balances two essential vantagepoints -- those of the Ibalois and the Spaniards -- from which a part of the colonial history of Benguet could be analyzed. Scheerer carefully combs through the Spanish records and faithfully recounts in written form some of the oral history and tradition of the Ibaloi.  In so doing, he precludes an essentialist interpretation of his work.

orientalismWhen referring to traditional culture, a typical orientalist text exoticizes it -- that is, it portrays the native as a curio, a source of amazement and amusement.  It usually makes a passing comment on native culture without really coming to a deeper appreciation of it.  In contrast, when Scheerer writes about the Ibaloi culture, he sketches not a caricature but a holistic picture of the native seen within the context of traditional culture. In this way, he does not show partiality toward the colonialist; in fact he offers a sympathetic view of the colonized.  Scheeer takes pains to understand indigenous tradition on its own terms, allowing the reader to understand a different but not necessarily inferior culture.

Scheerer showcases some of the Ibalois' admirable qualities: independent yet amiable spirit, proactive leadership, deep religiosity, and admirable morals.  However, he avoids one pitfall of some anti-orientalist texts called "nativism" (i.e., characterizing traditional culture as uncorrupted by western or modern influences).  He does this by not neglecting to reveal what may be regarded as negative characteristics of the native, especially when judged using ecclesiastical or contemporary standards. Some of these are certain disruptive behaviors (e.g., robbery, drunkenness, brawling, and heckling), and "othering" practices (e.g. plutocratic social organization, slavery, and ethnocentrism).

But Scheerer does not only mention unsavory facts about Ibaloi lifeways.  He goes further by providing context to or justifying some of these.  For example, he defends an isolated case of human sacrifice (i.e., slave-killing and blood-drinking) in the sealing of a covenant as something that pales compared to the many instances of barbarism committed by supposedly "civilized" people in the Medieval West.

On the other hand, Scheerer reproduces Spanish accounts of religious and military forays into Benguet but does not seek to legitimize imperialist policies.  Instead, he uses these texts to provide political context, even going to the extent of revealing ruptures among the colonizers themselves: politicians vs. politicians, politicians vs. priests, priests vs. priests.

But in baring some of the petty and serious rifts among the Spaniards, Scheerer does not paint all the Spaniards and their deeds in a bad light. For example, he speaks favorably of some Spanish missionaries and soldiers and recognizes the role of the Iberians in paving the way for the expansion of infrastructures by the American colonizers a few years later.  He thus avoids another pitfall of some anti-orientalist texts, what Marxist sociologist Bryan S. Turner terms as "prejudicial occidentalism" -- characterizing the West as essentially and totally evil.

Nevertheless, Scheerer reveals the Spanish version of "exceptionalism" veiled in what may be called the "discourse cross1of sanctification."  Within and through this discourse, certain individuals, groups or institutions are privileged with a form of divinely wrought authority to confer holiness on people, places, events, or objects.  Subsumed in this discourse are myriad practices ranging from spontaneous private meditative utterances to structured public worship acts, prayer postures to seating arrangements, donning clothes to designing curtains, wearing titles to writing decrees, beautifying relics to building edifices, entering a holy order to embarking on a pilgrimage, among others.  There is politics in all these of course, for rules govern each practice, sanctions are laid down for violation of rules, and power is wielded by those who make rules of propriety and truth.

Spanish soldiers, politicians and priests operated within this discourse as religion was inextricably linked to the imperialist project of Spain in Asia, especially in the Philippines.  Missionaries brought with them the prevailing cultural sensibilities in their countries of origin which collectively took a condescending outlook on the people of the East.

The Spaniards of this period thus regarded themselves as exalted above other peoples they collectively being the sole, legitimate purveyor of "pure" culture, and harbinger of truth and salvation.  It is not surprising then to find similarity in the conferment of religious status and the bestowal of civil authority by the Spaniards on the native.

With this discourse, the Spaniards justified their fivefold oppression of the Ibaloi -- exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence.  These abusive and punitive practices could be seen in the Spanish imposition of  military rule, taxation, forced labor and conscription, trade restrictions, incarceration, "scorched-earth policy," hamleting, and others.

And with this discourse, the Spaniards penetrated tribal culture in Benguet and succeeded in creating a hegemonic relationship with the Ibalois whose leaders were somehow complicit in this political set-up. Ironically, the strengths of the Ibaloi culture mentioned earlier became the weakness which the Spaniards took advantage of with their discourse of sanctification.  The Ibaloi's sense of  awe, for instance, was a portal of the Spaniards to the natives' heart; their deep respect for authority and sense of awe conspired, as it were, to plunge them  into a relationship characterized by their consensual domination. Their much-praised hospitality was also an entry point for their domination for as the missionaries' gospel entered their homes, there also followed the gospel of taxation, forced labor, militarization, and destruction of culture.

scheerer-1On Baguio's Past as a postcolonial text offers a balanced perspective on the colonial experience of the Ibaloi Igorots during the Spanish regime in the Philippines. It attests to the author's indispensable contribution to the preservation and enrichment of Ibaloi culture and to the drama that was and is Baguio.  This 66-year old text may yet be serviceable to this generation and the next for the high value it places on returning to one's roots, indigenous people's rights, contextualized theology, and nationalist identity construction.

Works Cited:

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor Books, 1994.

Antolin, Francisco. Notices of the Pagan Igorots in the Interior of the Island of Manila. Trans. William Henry Scott. Manila: UST Publishing House, 1988.

Bagamaspad, Anaric & Zenaida Hamada-Pawid. A People's History of Benguet. Baguio City: Benguet Provincial Government, 1985.

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: SAGE Publications Ltd., 2000.

Berreby, David. Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind.  New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005.

Bertens, Hans. Literary Theory: The Basics.  New York: Routledge, 2001.

Cariño, Jack. "Otto Scheerer: True Friend to Baguio and the Ibalois." The Baguio City Yearbook 2008.

De los Reyes, Angelo J. & Aloma M. De los Reyes, eds. Igorot: A People Who Daily Touch the Earth and Sky. Vol. II. Baguio City: Cordillera Schools Groups, 1986.

Finin, Gerardo A. The Making of the Igorot: Contours of Cordillera Consciousness. Quezon City: ADMU Press, 2005.

Gener, Timothy & Gorospe, Adonis A.O., eds. Principalites and Powers: Reflections in the Asian Context. Manila: AMF/ATS, 2007.

Hornedo, Florentino HThe Favor of the Gods: Essays in Filipino Religious Thought and Behavior. Manila: UST Publishing House, 2001.

Howard, David. The Last Filipino Headhunters. San Francisco: Last Gasp of San Francisco, 2000.

Lapiz, Ed. Paano Maging Pilipinong Kristiano [Becoming a Filipino Christian]. Makati City: Kaloob, 1996.

Latourette, Kenneth Scott. A Short History of the Far East. 4th ed. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1965.

Macfie, A.L. Orientalism: A Reader. New York: NYU Press, 2000.

Nelson, Hilde LindemannDamaged Identities, Narrative Repair. New York: Cornell University Press, 2001.

Pagitt, Doug & Tony Jones, eds. An Emergent Manifesto of Hope. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007.

Pinchbeck, Daniel. 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2007.

Rivkin, Julie & Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. 3rd ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1978.

Scott, William Henry. Cracks in the Parchment Curtain and Other Essays in Philippine History. Manila: New Day Publishers, 1982.

_________________, ed. German Travellers on the Cordillera (1860-1890). Manila: Filipiniana Book Guild, 1975.

_________________. Of Igorots and Independence. Baguio City: A-Seven Publishing, 1993.

_________________. The Discovery of the Igorots. Rev. ed. Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1982.

Suk, John, ed. Doing Theology inthe Philippines. Manila: OMF/ATS, 2005.

Teague, Dennis. Culture: The Missing Link in Missions. Manila: OMF/ATS, 1996.

Van Den Muijzenberg, Otto. The Philippines Through European Lenses. Manila: ADMU Press, 2008.

Wilson, Laurence Lee. Skyland of the Philippines. Baguio City: Baguio Printing and Publishing Co., 1955.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Loss of an Ideal's Ideal Character

It has often been pointed out that no ideal can be incorporated without the loss of some of its ideal character.  When liberty gains a constitution, liberty is compromised; when fraternity elects officers, fraternity yields some of the ideal qualities of brotherhood to the necessities of government.  And the gospel of Christ is especially subject to this sacrifice of character in the interest of organic embodiment; for the very essence of Christianity lies in the tension which it presupposes or creates between the worlds of nature and of spirit, and in its resolution of that conflict by means of justifying faith.  It demands the impossible in conduct and belief; it runs counter to the instinctive life of man and exalts the rationality of the irrational; in a world of relativity it calls for unyielding loyalty to unchangeable absolutes.  Clothe its faith in terms of philosophy, whether medieval or modern, and you lose the meaning of its high desires, of its living experience, reducing these to a set of opinions often irrelevant, sometimes contrary, to the original content.  organize its ethics... and the free spirit of forgiving love becomes a new law, requiring interpretation, commentary, and all the machinery of justice -- just the sort of impersonal relationship which the gospel denies and combats.  Place this society in the world, demanding that it be not of the world, and strenuous as may be its efforts to transcend or to sublimate the mundane life, it will yet be unable to escape all taint of conspiracy and connivance with the worldly interests it despises.

- H. Richard Niebuhr, The Social Sources of Denominationalism (New York: Meridian Books, 1957), 4-5.

Easter and the Middle East

"The Middle East remains the oldest established crisis in the world.... [it] remains the region that for years -- centuries -- has shown a capacity like no other to affect the destiny of the world."

- Daniel Schorr, Cradle & Crucible, 16 -

Cradle and Crucible¹ is one of the most incisive analytical work on the social, political and religious problems in the Middle East. Part I of this book ("Longest History") consists of five chapters dealing with a comprehensive historical survey of this troubled land from the 8th century B.C.E. to the early years of the 21st century C.E.  Part II ("Sacred Ground and Sacred Ways") has three chapters introducing the three great religions locked in a hate-love affair across the centuries -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

One of the articles in this work is "Christianity: And the Word Became Flesh" by journalist Charles M. Sennott in which he describes a Holy Week ceremony among the Greek Orthodox Christians as follows:

In the Old City of Jerusalem, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Orthodox Christians gather for the lighting of the "holy fires" the day before, Holy Saturday.  It is a mystical celebration of the arrival of light that Christians believe Jesus brought to the world.  The tomb in which tradition holds Jesus was buried is sealed shut and then 'miraculously' a flame emerges from a corner of the edicule, or empty tomb.  Soon that light is passed by votive candles among the crowd packing the church. And suddenly a wave of light spreads out over the church and a loud cheer rises up in celebration of the new life that Jesus brings through salvation.  The same light is taken by lantern to Orthodox churches all over Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.²

Obviously, this dwindling group of Christians go through this cinematic rite with pride.  And rightly so, for the lighting ceremony  is a fine display of their devotion to their duties and an added color to this tapestry called "Holy Land."

I only wish though that they also pass the lantern to their Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic (Franciscan) brothers.  For while this rite dramatizes the promise of the Resurrection, it also portrays these Christians' failure to resurrect the unitive teachings of Jesus Christ which have been buried under the weight of pompous  ceremonies, sectarian rhetoric, political intrigues, and physical violence.

We recall that just a few months ago, the Orthodox Christians brawled with their Armenian brothers in the same site where their Master was supposedly buried and raised from the dead. With all the verbal and physical infightings among the cross-wearing pious in this Holy Land of Blasphemy, it is no wonder then that Christianity has not contributed much in the resolution of the Middle East crisis.

We note too that fundamentalist Christians, especially the millenarian-crazed section of the  Religious Right in the U.S.A., have fueled the fires of hatred and violence with their insistence that the Holy Land belongs to the Israelis only, notwithstanding the fact that the Palestinians have as much claim to this land as the Jews.³

In the same essay Sennot mentions that the Crusades was instigated by Pope Urban II to "unify the Christian forces of the continent to exert Rome's power" and that massacres during this period were made with shouts of "'Deus vult!' (God wills this!)." 4 Not much has changed since then for in the 20th century Britain and France, under the aegis of the League of Nations, carved up the Middle East without respect for ethnic heterogeneity. Later, the U.S.A would have been the perfect force to help bring lasting peace to the Middle East were it not for its misguided moves that further escalated violence (e.g. Reagan's support of Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, G.W. Bush's conquest of Iraq, U.S. bias for Israel).5  All these machinations were done not only in the name of Democracy but also in the name of Christianity.

This is not to gloss over the terrorism waged by fundamentalist Muslims with each bomb explosion resounding with "Allahu Akbar!"  It is to say that terrorism in the name of Jesus is as detestable as terrorism in the name of Allah. It is to say that this Easter, when we pray for lasting peace in the Middle East we must not forget that  the real Jesus we should pray to is not the Jesus of Sectarian Christianity and  Dispensational Theology.


¹ Fromkin, David, Zahi Hawass, et al. Cradle and Crucible: History and Faith in the Middle East. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2002.

² Cradle & Crucible, 209.

³ Hopes are now pinned on Obama for the implementation of the stalled Annapolis agreement. Among the books that helped me have a good grasp of the interplay of religion and politics in the U.S.A., especially of the American Religious Right's political agenda and its influence on U.S. foreign policy are as follows: Black, Amy E. Beyond Left and Right: Helping Christians Make Sense of American Politics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008; Lanham, Robert. The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right. New York: New American Library, 2006;  Balmer, Randall. Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America. New York: Basic Books, 2006; Edgar, Bob. Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006; Avram, Wes, ed. Anxious About Empire: Theological Essays on the New Global Realities. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2004.

4 Cradle & Crucible, 212.

5 cf. John T. Rourke & Mark A. Boyer, International Politics on the World Stage, 5th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004), 121.

Related Post: "Quotes from Kingdom of Heaven"

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ideals for a Church

Six years ago, I was involved in the establishment of a congregation of the (Stone-Campbell)  Church of Christ in Baguio City.  Heady with the bright prospects of a new, vibrant, non-traditional (well, outwardly at least) church, our mission team set out to craft its mission, vision and core values. After a brainstorming on what we envisioned this new work to be, the team tasked me to organize and write out these statements.

Taking cue from the Saddleback Community Church's statement of core values, I used a part of our church name, "Central," as an acronym (or acrostic) to spell out what principles our church wanted to uphold. I must confess though that when composing these statements I had a particular agenda in mind -- a gradual shift away from the sectarian beliefs and practices of our fellowship.  Those in the know may detect the issues within the Churches of Christ this set of pronouncements alludes to.

Although I already left the denomination, I still hold these core values as my ideals for a church -- whether one hears among these lines a call for reform in a tiny section of Christendom, or the undertones of a naive zeal. :)

Christ is the center of our ministry; He is the sun, we are the rays. As rays, we are called upon to glow in some dark corners and, in so doing, give back the glory to Christ. We bow to no banner but that of the Lord of Lords.

Evangelism is our way of life; we shall strive to preach Christ both by speech and action.We believe that, as someone has well said, "If no one reaches out, no one gets touched."  It is God, not us, who sets the boundary of His Kingdom.  We believe in growth, not swelling.  We do not believe in a method that seeks to convert people by capitalizing on their emotions.  We abhor making money out of religion. We reject a mercenary way of preaching.

Nurturance is our commitment to one another and to other Christians; we exist to help others grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.  We believe that each Christian has an important role to play in the Lord's Body.

Truth, as found in the Scriptures and elsewhere, is our guidepost in our earthly pilgrimage. We believe that Truth must be taught to people in the spirit of humility and love so that our calls to those outside the faith may not become the very barrier to their ears.

Relevance is our way into people's hearts; the house of God is not only the pillar and ground of truth, but a hospital for hurting souls.  The church is an organism existing not only for itself but also for the community to which it belongs. Relevance involves instituting needful and scriptural changes in the church so that we will not end up as tinkling  cymbals full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Aspiration is our inspiration; we aspire for greater work for God's greater glory, a grander purpose in life and a greater hope for better things to come.

Leadership is servanthood and friendship; we value service over position, fellowship over rivalry, mentoring people over making monuments.We believe in participative leadership.


jesus sms11apr09

Thursday, April 9, 2009

C.S. Lewis on Jesus

Christ says that He is 'humble and meek' and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.'  That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet  and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Clive Staples Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1952), 55-56.

The "Booksale" Addict: Catchy Book Titles (1)

A bibliophile and bookworm (translation: a bore -- well, I'm speaking of myself anway... chortle, chortle) will find the Booksale outlet at SM Baguio a cozy nook. Its supplies get replenished twice a week, and its staff are friendly.  What makes a place like this a stress-buster is the thrill one feels upon discovering a sought-after book sold at bargain price, and the amusement one gets upon seeing a catchy book title.

Let me share with you my compilation of these amusing one-liners most of which are a play on the titles of  other literary or artistic works. For starters, let's have  Chris Riddell's The Da Vinci Cod & Other Illustrations for Unwritten Books (Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2005). Among the allusive 58 "Unwritten Book" titles in this creative work, the following are my favorites:the-da-vinci-cod

To Grill a Mockingbird

The Wizard of Odd

The Importance of Being Earless

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe Assistant

The Catcher in the Fly

The Red Badger of Courage

The Apes of Wrath

The Screwtape Lettuce

Large Dorrit

Saddam Bede

Wuthering Tights

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Umpire

The Accidental Tortoise

Of course, to fully appreciate Riddell's humor you have to see the cartoons corresponding to each title. This means you have to either buy your own copy, borrow a copy, or, as we are wont to do in da Pelepens, photocopy it. :)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

US President Pacquiao?

When you are a super-mega Pacquiao fan and a Pinoy Photoshop whiz, you won't miss creating something like this:

Poster by Complex Computer and Printing Shop, 2F Porta Vaga Bldg., Baguio City
Poster by COMPLEX COMPUTER & PRINTING SHOP, 2F Porta Vaga Commercial Center, Baguio City (Snapshot of poster taken on 05April2009)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dalisay to Lecture @ BSU

Dr. Jose Dalisay lectures on "Teaching the Short Story" at the Benguet State University (BSU)  on 17 April 2009.  This is an outreach activity of the "National Writer's Workshop" yearly conducted by UP Diliman's  Institute of Creative Writing.

No registration fee. For inquiries call the UP Baguio CAC Office (074.444.8393).

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Kahlil Gibran on Parenting

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the Archer's hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet (London: Mandarin Paperbacks, 1991),  20, 23.

Allahu Akbar!

The Abu Sayyaf bandits think that by chanting their mantra, Allahu Akbar! ("God is Great"), they could make Allah complicit with their crimes.  But their life of brigandage and terrorism is incongruous to the character of Allah as described in the hymnic Sura entitled, "The Opening," which is equated with the "Lord's Prayer" in the Christian religion:

The Opening

In the name of God

the Compassionate the Caring

Praise be to God

lord sustainer of the worlds

the Compassionate the Caring

master of the day of reckoning

To you we turn to worship

and to you we turn in time of need

Guide us along the road straight

the road of those to whom you are giving

not those with anger upon them

not those who have lost the way.

- Source: Michael Sells, trans., Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations (Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press, 1999), 42-43.

- Recommended Website:

Begging with an Igorot Headgear

If this aged Igorot thinks that the gatud (Kalinga term for the native headgear) is made for begging, how could he then teach his grandchildren to value their indigenous cultural heritage?  Some Igorot kids use gongs to beg for money during Christmas while this old man uses his headgear to receive alms on Holy Week.  Who knows, on another holiday season someone will start using his g-string to catch coins.

I wonder whether there are some livelihood programs offered by GOs, POs and NGOs for this grey-haired brother...

[caption id="attachment_2510" align="aligncenter" width="372" caption="Photo taken on 05 April 2009 at the steps leading to Banco de Oro and SM Baguio"]Photo taken on 05 April 2009 at the steps leading to Banco de Oro and SM Baguio[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2511" align="aligncenter" width="252" caption=""Gatud" is the Kalinga term for this native headgear."]"Gatud" is the Kalinga term for this native headgear.[/caption]

Related posts:

♦"Francesca & Igorots 2"


Jesse Robredo for President? Why Not?

Ramon Magsaysay Award. Civil Service Commission Dangal ng Bayan Award. Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines. Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World. Konrad Adenauer Medal of Excellence as Most Outstanding Mayor of the Philippines.

These are only a handful of the numerous awards Naga City Mayor Jesse Manalastas Robredo racked up in his nearly two-decade public service which has seen his city's rise from a vast stretch of grasses and swamps to a promising urbanized locality with a zoning scheme that evidences a futuristic comprehensive land use plan.

His competence in local governance has also been reflected in the dozens of citations Naga has received, including the following: "Most Cost-Effective City in Asia" (UK Foreign Direct Investment Magazine); "Public Service Awardee for Local e-Governance" (UN Department of Public Administration and Finance); "Women-Friendly City Award" (UN-Habitat & the UN Development Fund for Women); "Model City for Government Procurement (World Bank & Procurement Watch); "CyberCity Awardee for its i-Governance Initiatives (UNDP); "Dubai International Awardee for Improving the Living Environment" (UN Habitat).

But more than all these accomplishments, what I admire most about this Harvard-trained local chief executive (he took up his Masters in Public Administration @ Harvard's Kennedy School of Government) is his humility and simplicity.

Many local politicians today strut around with a cabal of bodyguards -- often a show both of insecurity and of guilt for their known and hidden crimes against the people. A lot behave as if  they were gods over their hapless subjects. Most need to stamp their forgettable and detestable names on every infrastructural project paid for by the people.

Jesse Robredo needs no bodyguards.  You'd see him stroll in the streets in his ordinary flip-flops and shorts and talk to people as if he were just their usual friendly next-door neighbor. Jesse Robredo is a household name in Naga so he doesn't need to throw his weight around and to mark every road sign with his initials.  He is so well-liked in his city that his electoral campaign slogan, Gabos kung Gabos gets heeded by his people by electing him and all his partymates to office.

In a bus to Bicol last week, I was fortunate to have sat beside manong Fred Perdon, president of the Bicol CATV Owners Association and consultant to the Bicol River Basin Project which Robredo himself headed during the early years of the Aquino administration.

It was easy for the two of us to have something of common interest to discuss. For one, his deep involvement in local development advocacy brought me back to my time with the the DILG. We shared some misgivings about governance in the country and I couldn't help admiring his positive outlook and his sustained work in community development despite the usual snags in the work caused by the machinations of traditional politicians. Two, his "high-end" expertise on the telecommunications industry was something that intrigued me for rare are the times when I'd get to meet a  tech-savvy senior citizen. Three, we both salute Robredo who he said seemed inclined to run for Senator in next year's national elections.

Senator? But a TV report says he'd run for President, I said to myself while listening to manong Fred.  But then the more I thought about it I realized that conquering the Senate first before taking the Presidency would be a wiser option for Robredo.  That would not only broaden his national political base but also give him a better view of the dynamics in a Philippine sub-culture called "Congress," something which could be very useful to him when he takes the helm of the nation.

So if Robredo is not going to run for prexy yet, I'd go for Mar Roxas in 2010.  :)

Snapshots taken on 28 and 30 March 2009. SM Naga to open on 01 May 2009.

SM Naga 01 Apr 09 sms photo

SM Naga 01Apr09 (sms photo)

SM Naga 28 Mar 09

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Victor Frankl on Faith and Praxis

franklIf you want people to have faith and belief in God, you cannot rely on preaching along the lines of a particular church but must, in the first place, portray your God believably -- and you must act credibly yourself.  In other words, you have to do the very opposite of what so often is done by the representatives of organized religion when they build up an image of God as someone who is primarily interested in being believed in and who rigorously insists that those who believe in him be affiliated with a particular church.  Small wonder that such representatives of religion behave as though they saw the main task of their own denomination as that of overriding other denominations.

- Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 18.

Caging the "Anito"

anito - sms photo

caged anito - sms photo


The photos above show four anito (Igorot idol) fern carvings on display in a glass and iron cage in front of the Baguio Cathedral.

If the image were to be read as a "text" (i.e. something to be interpreted), it may be seen as dramatically portraying the conquest of an indigenous faith system ("pagan religion," to you theologians) by Christianity (or, more appropriately, the Roman Catholic version thereof).  If that is so, then it matches the Baguio Cathedral's commanding position in the city's "politics of space,"¹ it being situated at the heart of the city and close to the crown of the city's most significant thoroughfare,  Session Road.

On the other hand, the fact that the anito carvings are not encased in an airtight structure and are open to public viewing may be read as depicting the incomplete victory of the colonial religion. If that is so, then it also appropriately  points us to many Igorot Christians' syncretistic practices such as consulting the local faith healer after attending mass and adhering to tribal myths alongside Bible teachings.² Whether these religious expressions are seen as evidences of "half-baked conversions"  or as legitimate and persistent acts of resistance to an imposed belief system, they all the same offer us a view of the interplay between faith and praxis, westernized Christianity and local culture.²

So far from simply serving decorative or tourism purposes, the caged anito projects one of many areas of contestation in contemporary culture.


¹ In the recently held Baguio Centennial Conference at the University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB), one of the 27 panels was titled "The Politics of Place and Space." In this intriguing session, Maureen Z. Macaraeg (UPB), Seng-Guan Yeoh (Monash University, MY), and Ruth M. Tindaan (UPB) respectively discussed the following topics: "Carving Niches: Social History through Morphology and Urban Social Geography," "Showcasing Session Road: A Critical Anthropology of Public Spaces, and "SM Baguio and the Politics of Space."

² Adventist theologian Reuel U. Almocera discusses the issue on "Folk Catholicism" (the intermarriage of Christian and pre-Christian beliefs and practices) in his article "Popular Filipino Spirit-World Beliefs with a Proposed Theological Response" in John Suk, ed., Doing Theology in the Philippines (Manila: OMF/ATS, 2005), 78-98.  Syncretistic practices  among the Igorots of Benguet are documented and evaluated by evangelical writer and Benguet native Mona P. Bias in her essay, "Consulting the Mediums of Endor: Parallels and Analogies," in Larry W. Caldwell, ed., Principalities and Powers: Reflections in the Asian Context (Manila: OMF/ATS, 2007), 100-118.  For a more comprehensive and non-theologian's presentation of Ibaloi/Kankanaey traditional culture, read Anavic Bagamaspad & Zenaida Hamada-Pawid, A People's History of Benguet Province (Baguio City: Baguio Printing and Publishing Company, Inc., 1985), 94, ff.