Monday, January 19, 2015

Things to Learn from Pope Francis' Philippine Visit

Let's face it: whether you are a Catholic or belonging to another religion or have no religious beliefs at all, Pope Francis is one big deal and game changer in the world today. In his recent visit to the Philippines, not only has he inspired us, he has also a lot of lessons in store that we should reflect upon. And mind you, these lessons are not necessarily always religion-wise but are more people-oriented and society-oriented in general.


Foreign Countries' Concern on Philippine Corruption

The Pope said himself in his courtesy call in Malacañang that corruption kills. I'm pretty sure he reads the world news and knows what's going on in our country, even more when he got here. And this must be why he wanted to investigate, and indeed he found it true. In fact, there's this circulating joke (in our local language, of course, and not from other countries you onion-skinned people) about his visit that says "if Sri Lanka has elephants then the Philippines had crocodiles", referring to the "buwaya" or greedy politicians. 

Pope Francis is clearly disappointed, seeing that lots of foreign aids could've already made Tacloban better faster than anything else but corruption in the government delayed it so much. He just recently blessed a shelter home in that Visayan area which was directly funded by the Vatican (therefore, no need for months of getting approvals and stuff), which is something that he wants us to change in our volunteering. Ah, but of course, seeing as how Filipinos are ruled by these shameless monsters, the least we could do is hope that the Pope would somehow melt their hearts (though it's more unlikely to happen, sadly).

Discipline of the Filipino People

Now wait a minute, are you saying that we've had the Feast of the Black Nazarene with very unorganized security measures (and 2 fatalities this year) but we've tightened up our security for the Pope? Yeah, it's a good thing, but I guess that's kind of normal with Filipinos to only "play when the cat is away". Even abroad - you won't see Filipinos slacking off and unhygienic like what we see here. They completely adapt to the standards of foreigners, which is a good thing, but bad because they don't practice the discipline afterwards amongst their fellow Filipinos.

What I mean is that discipline should not be just for the Pope, but also for other events even without the Pope or other foreign bodies. Discipline is enforced not to abuse us but to keep things in order and avoid casualties. I guess we're still drunk with too much freedom from countless "revolutions" in the past that we abuse it. I think it's time to tighten up a bit, not for the standards of other countries, but to keep our fellowmen safe and happy.

Let's Just Stop This Fanaticism Nonsense

Do you understand why Pope Francis requested that all pictures of him in the posters be taken down? He doesn't want to gain celebrity status. He is not God and he does not want to be God - he is only a mediator or someone who communicates better with God to convey our messages and prayers. We should not exactly worship him, but simply give him our love and respect - the same equal respect we should give everyone else, regardless of religion.

This anti-fanaticism practice is something that should wake us up, especially with the Feast of the Black Nazarene. I know devotees are like "but the healing power is much better in the feast day", to which I quote Nora Aunor: "Walang himala, dahil ang himala ay nasa puso ng mga tao." (Miracles aren't real - they only exist in the hearts of the people). You can feel blessed even when you're not on Quirino Grandstand and just watching Pope from your TV screen, computer or mobile phone (via livestream) - I myself experienced it (the "Pope Francis fever, I mean", because his smile is just mysteriously enlightening, other than his sense of humor). Your physical visit won't really be enough if you are not sincere enough. On the other hand, you can make miracles happen even if you are far away. I'll explain this in a personal experience.

Our house was supposed to be caught in a neighborhood fire, but because I knelt down and prayed so hard on that night (I even invited my German cousin to do the same), somehow this miraculous thing happened. The wind direction was clearly already aiming at our house (since the fire was just on the next house) but the direction of the wind changed and went straight into the other houses instead (although my grandma's house was burned down). Luckily, no one was hurt in the incident, but it was kind of a waste of antique stuff. Yet still, that's one of the moments that I clearly believe that, as a song in my high school days said, "miracles happen once in a while, when you believe". 

Other instances of unexplained miracles would be the Sunday TV masses of Fr. Joey Faller on ABS-CBN (sometimes, mom catches up on this). He not only gives blessings to those who want to be healed on the actual mass studio, but also from the TV viewers - mom surprisingly had her feet pains disappear after watching and praying in his mass. 

And not to mention (this happened when me and my dad were in Lucena for errands) my little brother, who was feeling ill (had flu-like symptoms) on that afternoon, instantly felt better when he and my mom watched Pope Francis' mass on TV.

Bottom line is that, you don't need to recite a hundred prayers, go to Church every single day (though going to Church once in a while is still good for you) or do other Catholic customs and traditions to make miracles happen. Faith alone is enough. But I guess it's understandable in a country where the corrupt, the capitalists and the people drowning in fame and money reign in their materialistic brainwashing schemes. It's understandable that we are losing faith, and this is why we should be thankful for Pope Francis for at least, causing a bit of ceasefire for all the undesirable things we face everyday.

Some Questions are Just Too Hard to Answer

I am not just talking about that 12-year-old girl (Glyzelle Palomar), who cried when asking why God "allows these things to happen" (prostitution, human trafficking, poverty, slavery, discrimination, etc.) to which there is no simple answer, since humans were naturally born with wild intelligence of good and evil (or as the Bible says, we got it from the Forbidden Tree of Knowledge a.k.a. the apple of Adam and Eve). I am also talking about the 27-year-old Yolanda aid worker, Kristel Mae Padasas, who dies from a fallen scaffolding, who has the same name as me (and also this UP student, Kristel Tejada, who commits suicide after not being able to pay her tuition fees and forced to go on leave).

Indeed, a lot of this same-name and unintentional predictions already happened to me before, but this is kind of, uh, depressing. Am I destined to die? Of course not, stupid. It's just a same-name case. But indeed, because of my personal problems, I feel like I am already slowly dying, maybe not physically, but emotionally and spiritually. And this is why I just, you know, need a hug or something. Even if it's not really a hug, just the sight of Pope Francis somehow makes my problems feel lighter. But the point here is, Pope Francis is just like us - he doesn't know what God is thinking. He doesn't know why our reality is too cruel, either. And this is why all he could ever offer the children is a big, warm hug of sincerity, like most of us do when a loved one dies or during other types of separation.

Crying Doesn't Make You Weak

Pope Francis himself said, "Don't be frightened of crying" after he hugged Glyzelle and the other children, which is pretty much my motto in life, since I have and will always be that one crybaby who is forced by people to just "grow up" and "stop crying". I really feel inspired by this message, because I really believe that crying is not a form of weakness - it's a display of strength and love, because you feel the sorrow of other people (and maybe even yourself, for that matter). 

Pope's closeness to the children is also a reminder that we are not just figuratively God's children - we are also humans who used to be children. You see, "animals and children tell the truth and never lie, now which one is more human, there's a thought now you decide", says Savage Garden. From this example, Pope is trying to tell us to be kids at heart and have an open mind for things - to free our minds from standards and borders that keep us chained in our high-rank positions in life. Children don't necessarily worry about what version of iPhone they are using or what makeup brand they just bought, but because of our materialistic visions, things have changed so bad (I'm looking at those big companies responsible for media brainwashing). I think it's time to preserve children as they are and not "adultify" them just because it's fun. Children perceive the world better than us, and it's no surprise that looking at children and talking to them somehow makes our problems less painful.


While Pope Francis is just a spiritual leader who doesn't really have all the power to literally lift us from the catastrophes of the past (that is the president, government, business sector and the people's responsibilities), he did give us a lot of things to ponder as to why we are one of the most discriminated countries in Asia and in the world due to our really unhelpful "Filipino pride", crab mentality and other selfish habits. 

I'm still praying, too, that the Pope might help me communicate with God and save myself from drowning in my most painful journey yet. He is here to remind us that even though some things don't really have an answer and some problems don't have a solution, the best we could do is to help each other out with moral support and a good-old-hug.

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