A plural of crises

2008 April 6

April 06 – The pastoral text of Fr Reuter is this: A mother may suffer from her nine months of pregnancy, but when her baby is put in her arms, she feels, ‘It was worth it!’

Father, I just read two news items – and I have a personal experience – that relates to your text message.

Today, one news item is that our Department of Education (DepEd) is aggressively pushing for a sex education plan for high schoolers (William Sparrow, April 05, atimes.com). The DepEd plan now only needs the approval of the Presidential Council on Values Formation (PCVF), we are told. The PCVF is now reviewing the ‘adolescent reproduction health manuals’ for secondary schools, according to Education Secretary Jesli A Lapus.

The other news items has Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, Chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, warning that ‘the government should not blame the booming population to the impending rice crisis’ (gmanews.tv). I salute the CBCP.

It’s plain to me that the sex education plan of the DepEd has something to do with population control, aka ‘family planning’ aka ‘reproductive health.’ And now they are using the country’s ‘booming population’ as the reason for the rice crisis, when it is a crisis of greed (some traders or their cohorts are hoarding the stocks), and a crisis of selfishness (some families or groups and their minions are buying beyond what they need), causing artificial shortage.

And now I must tell you, Father, that I am the father of children that number twelve, 12, a dozen – 8 lovely girls and 4 handsome boys who all take after their mother (they have only one) – and if there is overpopulation in these Pearls of the Orient Seas, I don’t have to look beyond the apartment we are renting.

Long ago and far away, when we had only about 6 children and our finances were down for (almost) too many years, among other things, my wife wanted a hysterectomy on her; a gynecologist would surgically remove her uterus – the womb is where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant – and that would be that. But I would not allow her; she needed her husband’s consent and signature to have the operation. I explained to her that, on one hand, a hysterectomy was a man-made invasion that the woman’s body was not prepared for; on the other hand, a pregnancy is a natural thing, and that the woman’s body prepares for that one final moment for 9 months. Wasn’t that beautiful? No Father, I was speaking neither as a doctor nor a nurse, but as a husband and father. I was speaking as someone who did not believe in the wisdom of the theory of population eternally overtaking food supply by Thomas Robert Malthus, even if he was a Reverend (Church of England). I reverently disagree! (And no, Father, I did not show this to my wife – she will kill me for it.)


A good husband and father

2008 April 5

2007 April 01 – The pastoral text of Fr Reuter is this: A good husband and father gets more joy from his children than he can ever find in a night club, with a bar girl.

Of course! Father, if I may say so myself, even if I’ve never been to a night club. But it’s not an easy lesson, Father. I wasn’t a philandering husband or anything; I was a computer widower from 1987 to about 2000; years before that, I was a non-performing father, in the sense that I was never very concerned about what was happening to my children, how they were growing up, what they thought and felt about their father who was around almost all the time but wasn’t there at all – physically present, mentally absent. I was the father who refused to grow up. I was minding more my writing, my editing, my desktop publishing; I was always worried, though I hardly told anyone, including my wife, how I could earn more because I knew I wasn’t earning enough. After all, I had 12 children, yes, a dozen.

Then one day, a silent voice gently castigated me for being so proud and selfish of my talents, and for being content with what I had, what we had. Then I learned, although not immediately, to cast all my cares at the foot of the cross. ‘Take all of them, Lord, because I can’t handle them anymore. And, thank you, for another day, another morning, another evening, another rainy day.’

It took me years, nay, decades, to learn to be mindful of my own family, to be glad I had them like I had them. Not that I would say I am now a good husband and father, but that I finally learned to be thankful for everything. And I mean everything.

I think, Father, that the greatest lack in the world as far as marriage is concerned is the education of couples about to get married, about married life, about family life. We have the Marriage Encounter Weekend, of course, but that’s only 2 nights and 3 days. The charismatic groups could fill in this lack if they would.


The best shot

2008 March 13

batac-sisters.jpgUploaded in Batac March 13

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March 13 – The pastoral text of Fr Reuter is this: Try to be like a good photographer. Look for the best side of everybody.

I’m right now in the City of Batac in Ilocos Norte attending a national conference on sweet sorghum and just this morning, in the hillside village of Bungon just outside the city proper during the inauguration of the village-level sweet sorghum initiative of Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) through MMSU VP for Planning and Development Heraldo Layaoen, Crop Research Director Joy Eusebio of Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) was sitting with her best friend Thelma Layaoen and (the girls you see in the photo) and we were talking about somebody’s best angle in a photo. We agreed that not everybody is photogenic, that some people have their best angle, their literal photogenic side.

And then Joy asked me to photograph the two of them as friends, which I did, first counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 13! before I pressed the shutter. I don’t know how to count? That’s a technique of mine, to get you to smile immediately before I press the shutter. The jump in the number is meant to upset your posing and if not smile, be your natural self. In short, that’s how I get your best shot. I always look for the best side of my subjects.

I’ve been doing that for the last 7 months at least as I myself take the photographs I use in my essays such as this one. This photo I have titled ‘Two Sisters’ because Joy said when she saw it that she was amazed at how fast I took the shot and ‘made them’ really look like sisters. The lesson? Fr Reuter has just said it; when looking for the best side of others becomes a habit, it’s good for the others as well as for you.


The sun sits still for me

2008 February 26

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February 26 – The pastoral text of Fr Reuter is this: If you stay still and quiet, you will see the strength of God in the white waves breaking over the rocks. You will see the beauty in the sunset.

Father, I’m one who can’t sit still. But at least, I have learned to look at the waves and the rocks and the sunsets and the sunrises and the smelly trash bags dangling by the gate where you have to pass through, and I have learned to accept completely what life has to offer, or prefer not to offer. I also discovered something about sunrises and sunsets – they’re lovelier to look at when you capture them in photographs. That’s when they sit still for you. The one you’re looking at is a sunrise forever.


Theory & practice of living

2008 February 21

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21 February – The pastoral text of Fr Reuter is this: When you wake each morning, it is a new day. A new life. A beautiful new adventure. 17 words that capture a beautiful attitude.

Now, I’ll try to capture the essence of those 17 in 5 words: A beautiful new adventure anyway! And then I’m going to explain it in more than 17 words:

That attitude is of surrender, acceptance, welcome, immersion, exploration, neighborliness, family-ness, wide-eyed-ness, earful-ness, heart-fullness, innocence, guilelessness, goodwill, fenceless-ness, braveheart-ness, thankfulness. It is, what else can I say, of an embrace.

That’s the theory. Now the practice:

Like not insisting that you are right even if you know you are. Anticipating a problem in the future arising from what you allowed to happen today and yet looking forward with joy anyway.


Love’s passion.

2008 February 13

True love caught in courtship

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12 February – The pastoral text of Fr Reuter is this: Courtship is sacred, because it is meant to be the thoughtful, prayerful preparation for the start of a new family. Yes, Father, including about family, but I wouldn’t mind telling anyone about the passion of true love caught in courtship. I fell in love once and heedlessly – and headlessly – and that was all I needed. That was even before the start of courtship. The first time I saw her, I said to myself, wordlessly to be sure, ‘That’s the girl.’ It wasn’t my head talking; it was my heart.

(The girl in the picture is my shot of my favorite painting of brilliant lawyer-author Tony Meer, which he showed among many others in his first one-man show at the Manila Polo Club last year; I was invited by him. See also my ‘Young At Heart. Tony Meer Paints His Loves,’ upbeloved.wordpress.com.)

She became my wife.

And I had fancied many a girl before her, and oh, to have many crushes in high school! Grace, Epay, Evelyn, Crispina – and not necessarily in that order. And many others. I was a loner, a boy from the village and not the city, and I was in love with all of them at a distance. I could do it – I had imagination. I was busy in my mind preparing to be the best writer I could be when I was older.

In fact I had had a bad, failed engagement with another girl years before – I had disengaged when I realized that I didn’t have enough love for that girl to last indefinitely. Love should be able to last indefinitely; if it has an end, you’re not 100% into it – or it’s just lovely companionship you’ve mistaken for love. Please don’t pretend true love when you know it’s not.


To Love Everyone.

2007 December 10

The Center Of Your Universe?

basket-of-one-226.jpgDecember 10 – The pastoral text of Fr Reuter is this: In spite of all your hardship, in spite of all your suffering, your life will be beautiful if you love everyone and everyone loves you.

Yes and No, Father. Yes, because if everyone loves you, what a wonderful feeling! You are the center of the universe. But no, because I imagine not everyone loves me, or can love me, as I am not the center of the universe, and that’s good enough for me. What is important is that I love everyone, even if not everyone loves me. I cannot wait for everyone to love me before I can be happy; I can be happy right now, loving everyone, including the unlovable. Ah, that’s the challenge, isn’t it? If you want to test your love, try and love those whom you hate, and let’s see what happens to them, what happens to you. Another way of testing your love is to forgive someone whom you cannot forgive, not on your life, never! And, can you lend money without interest? Can you lend money at all? Can you give to the poor, to the beggar, without thinking about how lazy they are? And, can you love those who have been trying to overthrow the government? Love knows no rules, no borders, no limits.