Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Street Justice

   Like most third world countries the Philippines has a failing justice system.  When the legislative branch of government is busy making laws that suit the powerful few and the executive branch is busy with its own agenda then the judiciary has no one to answer to.  The long arm of the law becomes scared of executing justice due to a future with no disability pension and leans on corruption just to make ends meet.  All these result in street justice.

   Street justice is an unchoreographed flash mob pouncing on a teenager who picked a wallet or a loaf of bread from a convenience store.  Depending on the number of eager participants the penalty could be short, equal or over the cost of the crime.  

   Another feature of street justice is the hiring of a jail guard to execute an incarcerated murderer.  The guard only needs to claim the man went for his gun.  

   The first crime by man against man in the Bible was the murder of Abel by his brother Cain.  God did not strike Cain dead in fact Cain was marked to protect him from vengeance.  [And God said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And God set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.] (Genesis 4:15).  Was the God of justice unjust?  

   The same God said in Deuteronomy 32:35, “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them.”

   Does God feel for the victims?  He said in Zechariah 2:8, “he that is touching you is touching my eyeball.”  He feels the pain before the victim does.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Nature’s Water Park

   The Philippines has only two seasons, the rainy season and the dry season.  The hot summer months gives a temperature of 79.9 ºF.  The rainy season brings a blitz of storms from July to October.  Manila sits on the shores of Manila Bay.  When a rain storm hits during high tide flash flood appears in low lying areas.  Just like in other countries these floods claim lives and loss in property.  The poor who cannot be picky where they should live are the hardest hit. 

   However nothing dampens the Filipino spirit.  The teens look at the flood and see a business opportunity.  They devise portable bridges or walkways above the water and collect toll fees from people who want to keep their feet dry. 

   Some make homemade boats that would taxi people to a dry area so that women can go to work like it’s a beautiful day. 

   The children look at the flood and see a water park they could otherwise not afford. 

  You can hardy hear one complain.  No one sees tragedy.  No one gives up on life.  It’s just another day in the tropical paradise called Philippines.


   Anderson Cooper of CNN during his visit to the typhoon stricken Tacloban City, Philippines said "Thank you for showing us all how to live."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Rolex

   There are numerous signature wristwatches in the market now.  Fashion magazines are full of them.  Nothing beats the stature that the Rolex watch bestow.  The Rolex is the watch of rulers and dictators, of self-made business tycoons and famous celebrities, of legendary women not just beauty queens.  The Rolex symbol of a crown seems to signify the bearer is set apart from the rest.

   Lenny’s father gifted her with a stainless steel Rolex Oyster Perpetual in 1968 when she graduated from high school.  The whole family was in uproar after all they did not belong to the elite class.  They said a teen wearing an outrageously expensive jewelry in the Philippines could put her life in danger.  They said she should wear it only on special occasions.  They said she can’t wear that and ride public transportation.  Lenny’s father insisted she will wear it to college and everywhere else, and she will ride public transportation with it on.
   Lenny did not care one way or another.  She was too young to appreciate the value of the thing.  She did not know anyone else who wore one.  It was not made of gold so she thought it was overrated.  The new automatic winding feature she thought should not be a big deal.  It was not a heavy chore to wind a wristwatch once a day.  The deep sea water proof feature hence the model was called oyster meant nothing to her.  She did not know how to swim.  She could only go in the shallow end and who wears jewelry swimming.
   A few of the men she dated in college were dazzled by the watch’s promise of prominence.  At least one of them tried to steal it.  Two of them married her because of it.   Her father’s loving gift became a curse making her relationships confusing, unhappy and short lived.

   In 1979, Lenny was married with two sons and still wore the Rolex to work.  She met a handsome man who clearly noticed the watch just like all the rest.  She was smitten besides her husband has been cheating on her since he realized the easy life he wanted was not going to happen.  She dated the new guy without much expectation after so many disappointments.  On their first date they went into a motel.  The man made love to her eight times before they fell asleep.  In the morning she realized the man was hungry for her.  This man wanted the rest of her not what was on her wrist.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Colorful Past

   There are characters in Jesus’ genealogy which had colorful pasts.  One of them is Rahab.  She was a prostitute who helped the Israelite spies hide.  She protected them by misleading their pursuers.  Knowing the spies would definitely be killed had they been caught she risked her life for perfect strangers who she believed had God’s favor (Joshua 2:1-24).  Her faith that same God would appreciate and reward her for her action gave her that spot in Jesus’ lineage. (Matthew 1:5)

   Another is King David who fell in love with a married woman, committed adultery with full knowledge of God’s law against it and compounded the transgression by plotting the husband’s death.  God appreciated King David’s remorse so that he was forgiven. (2 Samuel 12:1-13; 16-24; Matthew 1:6)

   King Solomon asked for wisdom and he was granted more than he asked for (1 Kings 3:6-14).  King Solomon failed to use the unsurpassed wisdom in his personal affairs.  He fell under the charms of foreign women he knew were worshipers of other gods against his own (1 Kings 11:4).  The God still gave him a place in Jesus’ genealogy (Matthew 1:7).

   Most of us have a colorful past.  It takes boldness upon impulse to acquire one.  People who are indecisive or afraid of consequences would most likely dodge it.  No past should color our future.  The future is always a clean slate.

   The God who knew us from birth discerns the clash between the weakness and strength that lies within.  When we fall from grace He understands and forgives according to His will.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Smoker

   It was 1969.  College students were marching against issues they felt strongly about.  Raquel tried to learn the protest songs at heart, mostly patriotic Filipino songs but she was never asked to sing.  Once she tried to sing with an elitist group of students an Astrud Gilberto song.  She was told that she makes a great second voice which kindly meant she was out of tune.  Actually she was horrible at singing.  In her catholic high school she sang hymns with passion.  Her classmates would turn around and whisper to her to quit singing because she was dragging everyone into a wrong melody. 

   Raquel picked up the habit of smoking.  There was no strict law against selling cigarette and liquor to a minor back then.  A short explanation that “her father sent her” would suffice.  She preferred the imported and more expensive Benson & Hedges to the locally manufactured Philip Morris and Marlboro.  She did not really like smoking.  The longer size made her feel sophisticated.  She was dying to be seen with the stick of cigarette between her fingers.

   “Why do girls here smoke in the ladies room?  The boys smoke anywhere they want.  Is it illegal?”  Raquel asked the other five girls clouding up the air in the ladies room. 

   “No it’s not illegal but traditionally only prostitutes and sluts smoke openly.”  Penny replied as she lighted up Raquel’s cigarette.

   “If it’s not illegal is it against university regulations?  Would I be reprimanded if I walked out of here smoking my cigarette?” 

   “No it’s nothing like that.” Penny said a bit annoyed by the girl’s questions.

   “Don’t you think it’s about time decent women get the same rights as the prostitutes?”  Raquel said as she walked out blowing smoke in the hall.

   Penny followed Raquel watching how teachers and students in the hall would react.  The other smoking girls peeped through the ladies room door anticipating trouble for Raquel.  Nothing happened.  Professors and students walked by trying to ignore the brazen freshman.  The other five ladies came out into the hall proudly blowing smoke.  The ladies room has finally given up its secret and Raquel has found something she can do well. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Virtues of Poverty

(Dedicated to the gunman in article The Shallowness of Youth)

   Wealth is not a virtue.  It does not build character nor does it cure what ails society.  One need only see all the diamonds in a jewelry store or read about the billions saved in the banks then watch the 6 o’clock news to realize all the wealth in the world could not take away one pain.  Rich and powerful men die just like the poor.  My grandmother used to say “We are all born naked and each one of us dies alone.”  Jesus in the Bible says “even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses” (Luke12:15)

   Poverty on the other hand teaches patience and endurance.  A Filipino saying “pag maigsi ang kumot mamaluktot” means when the blanket is short one must curl up.  Poverty develops serenity in a person living in turmoil such as 20 years of martial rule.  It instills tolerance towards strangers and travelers since kindness comes from unexpected sources, despite 300 hundreds years under Spanish colonizers, more centuries under Americans and 4 years of Japanese occupation during WWII.  Poverty builds up force to withstand offensives, the courage to fight or forgive and the wisdom to know the difference.  It trains one on survival techniques not learned in the best of schools and the flexibility to adapt to an ever changing world. 

Poverty fosters a sense of humor that keeps children laughing without toys and flood victims smiling as soon as they see a media camera while on top of their roof waiting for rescue.  Poverty gives strength to the tired underpaid worker sleeping soundly on ‘banig’ (mat) laid out on hard floor.

   The Filipinos should thank God for giving just the right amount of poverty that does not cripple the spirit but rather drive to surmount conditions other nations can’t even imagine, as Americans would say “you just had to be there”.

Kubo (shanty)
   Imagine a poor husband telling his wife he will take care of their son, she should go and visit her rich parents, eat all the goodies she wants and watch television with her brothers.  Then the wife comes home too soon saying she would rather be in their shanty (A shanty is a poorly made house in which one can dwell, usually made out of scavenged materials.)

   Should Filipinos be ashamed of poverty?  I know I am not!


   Anderson Cooper of CNN during his visit to the typhoon stricken Tacloban City, Philippines said "Thank you for showing us all how to live."

See also:

Friday, April 5, 2013

Unspoken Prayer

   In the Bible Book of Luke 7:11-15, a bereaved widow on the way to bury her only child crossed path with Jesus and his followers.  She has lost her husband and now her son too.  During her time women did not have careers that allowed them to be independent of the men in the family.  Losing both husband and son could leave her destitute.  Worse of all she was facing the prospect of being alone for the rest of her life.  She was so consumed by grief that Jesus took pity on her.  He stopped the funeral procession and raised the widow’s son back to life without her asking. 

   The Bible says nothing about the widow praying to God for her son’s life.  The Bible promises eternal life in paradise in Isaiah, a scripture that existed long before Jesus’ time (Isaiah 65:20-25).  The widow must have simply trusted that God will let her have him back again someday.  

   That incident showed that God through his son’s action hears unspoken prayers.  In 1Chronicles 28:9, it says “…for all hearts God is searching and every inclination of the thoughts he is discerning…”  In Jeremiah17:10 God says “I am searching the heart…to give to each one according to his ways, according to the fruitage of his dealings.” 

   We all have unspoken prayers.  Some we think are too trivial to ask a powerful God.  Sometimes it is because we think we are unworthy of something so impossible.  If we stop and think back hard enough we will find once or twice in our life God heard and in his love and mercy granted an unspoken prayer.