pop goes the world: boston terror-thon

by JennyO on April 22, 2013

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  18 April 2013, Thursday

Boston Terror-thon

Why does evil exist in the world?

This unanswerable question, asked not only by philosophers and thinkers but by anyone struck by personal tragedy, comes to the fore of global collective consciousness once more with the April 15 bomb attack at the Boston Marathon that killed three – one of them eight-year-old Martin Richard – and injured at least 176.

The images flooding the Internet run scarlet with blood. Pavements are covered with it. The faces of runners and spectators are blood-flecked; others clutch bloody stumps of blown-off limbs. A pair of brothers lost a leg each.  Jeff Bauman, 27, who had come to root for his girlfriend, lost both legs.

Doctors found ball bearings and bits of metal that looked like carpenter’s nails in wounds. Salon.com quotes Rhode Island State Trooper Roupen Bastajian as having estimated that “…at least 25 to 30 people have at least one leg missing, or an ankle missing, or two legs missing,” while Massachusetts General Hospital Chief of Emergency Services Alasdair Conn said, “This is something I’ve never seen in my 25 years here…this amount of carnage in the civilian population. This is what we expect from war.”

The Boston Marathon, held on Patriots Day this year, celebrates the spirit of athleticism in an inclusive event that allows anyone to join, from celebrity runners like Dean Karnazes to ordinary people. Many have interesting stories; it is by sharing these online, along with news and facts, that people are trying to understand this tragedy through mediated communication.

One anonymous runner’s photo was posted on The New Yorker online. Wearing purple shoes, her hands to her face, she looked dazed. She came forward later. Her name is Emily Locher, a lawyer who recently had an elective double mastectomy.

In the photo her hair is barely long enough to tie up in a ponytail; she lost most of it during chemotherapy and had her head shaved. She continued training through most of her treatment – “it means something to do something” – and joined the marathon to mark her return to health.

This touching story is something no one could have anticipated just from looking at her photograph. It drives home the point that behind the images of the tragedy are real people.

To deliberately plant two pressure-cooker type bombs filled with shrapnel by the finish line of a marathon to kill people like Martin and two others and maim people like Jeff and Emily, to deal death and destruction for still unknown reasons upon innocent victims, is a demonstration of the most horrifying evil.

Thinker Howard Bloom says in his controversial “The Lucifer Principle” that the social group, not the individual, is the subject of selection, and that selection processes perpetuated as memes disseminated through culture and manifested as violence are interpreted as “evil,” and are part of our biological make-up.

It is a disturbing concept, that the capacity for evil might be programmed into our DNA.

But Bloom ends his book on a note of optimism.

“There is hope that we may someday free ourselves of savagery,” he writes. “To our species, evolution has given something new – the imagination. With that gift, we have dreamed of peace. Our task – perhaps the only one that will save us – is to turn what we have dreamed into reality.”

Because if evil showed its face in Boston, so did good. Television show host and Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.””

The world saw the helpers. Locher said bystanders handed their phones to runners so they could call their families. Police officers, firefighters, doctors, even former National Football League players, rendered first aid and rushed victims to hospitals. So many volunteers went to donate their blood that the Eastern Massachusetts Red Cross had to turn them away.

Our behavior is a result of impulse, whim, or choice. We face daily the confrontation between right and wrong. Our own actions and our responses to others’ actions have the potential of tipping the balance one way or another.

It is the deliberate and purposeful choice we make for good and against evil that will ultimately save us from our own savagery.  *** 

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pop goes the world: peta pooper

by JennyO on April 22, 2013

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  11 April 2013, Thursday

PETA Pooper

Taking action even in little, but concerted, ways, can bring about positive change.

Recently, CARA (Compassion and Responsibility for Animals) Welfare Philippines, after conducting a social awareness campaign, brought about an end to a planned program by Manila Polo Club to round up and send spayed and neutered cats on their premises to the Makati City veterinarian’s office, where they would be euthanized after three to five days.

CARA’s Tanya Guerrero said on April 6, “We are happy to announce that the Board of the Manila Polo Club has decided to give the club’s cat colony a reprieve. They will work with CARA and their concerned members to establish feeding areas and a vaccination program…We would also like to commend the Manila Polo Club Board for being open-minded and for agreeing to the more effective and humane solution. Thanks as well to all of those who supported this cause and helped spread the word.”

Elimination of the spayed and neutered “insider” cats that have lived at MPC for years would allow non-spayed and -neutered “outsider” cats to come in and reproduce, creating even more problems for MPC. Moreover, cats keep down the rodent population in the horse stables and elsewhere on the premises.

Awareness helps but even if people know about the problem, action must be taken for any change to come about. What’s needed is for caring and dedicated people and groups to actually do something – write letters, make phone calls, approach decision makers.

Be wary, though, of wolves in sheep’s clothing, or those who pretend to be what they are not. The other day, online news source Huffington Post carried a story by Nathan J. Winograd, director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, exposing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal’s “secret slaughter” of puppies and kittens. It seems that not all of the animals brought to PETA to be sheltered make it out of the premises alive.

Says Winograd, “The vast majority – 96 percent in 2011 – exit the facility out the back door after they have been killed.” He adds that the animal bodies are stored in a “giant walk-in freezer PETA installed for this very purpose.”

The freezer allegedly cost nearly US$10 thousand, “paid for with the donations of animal lovers who could never have imagined that the money they donated to help animals would be used to end their lives instead.”

Over the last 11 years, Winograd alleges, “PETA has killed 29,426 dogs, cats, rabbits, and other domestic animals.” The animals are not even put up for adoption. According to a report by the Virginia Department of Agriculture, “Ninety percent [of the animals] were euthanized within the first 24 hours of custody.”

Winograd supplied HuffPo with an abundance of photographs of slain animals, along with a “postcard written and signed by Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s founder, admitting the PETA does not believe animals have a right to live.”

This, says Winokur, is contrary to the public perception of PETA as an animals rights organization.

In another one of those curve-ball coincidences that the universe is wont to hurl, MST published the other day a letter from Jason Baker, vice-president for PETA’s international operations. In it he scored Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim for not allowing Manila Zoo’s aging elephant Mali to be relocated to a sanctuary “at no cost to taxpayers” (he did not elaborate how).

This call to give Mali a “chance at a better life” at a “wonderful sanctuary where she can thrive” is at odds with the expose on how PETA treats small animals in the United States.

The lesson learned is that we must carefully choose the organizations we support. Are you sure your donations are being spent in the manner you intended? In the Philippines, there are several organizations that are hands-on in working for animal rights, welfare, and adoption. Check out which these are and lend a hand as a volunteer or pet parent.

This is no small matter. The Mahatma said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

How we treat even the smallest of our fellow creatures is a measure of our own humanity. *** 

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pop goes the world: random act of coffee

by JennyO on April 7, 2013

NO COLUMN FOR March 28, Maundy Thursday

 POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  4 April 2013, Thursday

Random Act of Coffee

Buying coffee for the needy can be as easy as paying for an extra one the next time you buy a cuppa for yourself.

Last Holy Wednesday, a meme about the “pending coffee” charity concept went viral after it was widely shared on Facebook.

Caffe sospeso (literally “suspended coffee”) is said to be a long-standing custom in Naples and an “old tradition in Italy,” later adopted by “150 cafes in Bulgaria,” according to Examiner.com. Customers pay not only for their own coffee and food, but also in advance for one or more extra orders to be given, at the restaurateur’s discretion, to a needy person.

It’s a variation on the “pay it forward” concept, doing a “random act of kindness” for a stranger that that I’ve read about it being done in many places, where someone pays the toll fee of the car behind her, or for coffee for the next guy in line at Starbucks.

The “pending coffee” idea is different in that the act of charity is institutionalized through the cooperation of the restaurant. You don’t need to be there when it happens, but people get the same warm fuzzy feeling of having been generous without the awkwardness that besets some in that situation.

Within days after the concept was heavily promoted on March 27, I heard of at least one restaurant in the Philippines that will do this.

Blacksoup Café + Artspace in Sikatuna Village, Quezon City, announced on their Facebook page last Saturday that they will implement this concept on a 30-day trial basis from March 31 to April 30 this year. They will accept advance payment for coffee, sandwiches, and meals, and issue stubs for the “suspended” food, which can be claimed by those who need them.

If there are unclaimed stubs after two days, “Blacksoup will go around on a bicycle to give out unclaimed [stubs] to street people/families” who will then sign “tracking papers” which will be posted on the restaurant’s FB page, along with photos if possible, to document that the exchange actually happened.

Blacksoup’s general manager Avic Ilagan says on their page that they anticipate certain cultural norms will not make it feasible for homeless people (the truly needy who deserve to benefit from this concept) to step inside their restaurant, so they “will bring the coffee, sandwiches, and meals to the street people na karaniwan walang kain o isang beses lang kumain.”

This system also will prevent fraud and abuse.

To children, she says, they “will give milk tetra packs instead of coffee.”

As of yesterday afternoon, the post has been liked by 373 people and shared 429 times. Customer support in the comments on Blacksoup’s page has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

Blacksoup reports that as of April 3, they have on their “suspended” tally 19 sandwiches and 19 bottles of C-2, “plus a bank deposit from Australia.” They add, “two volunteers will distribute the unclaimed suspended items on Saturday at 5pm, and and Excel file of suspended items bought and their recipients will be posted and updated every week for all to see and check.”

For this to work, there has to be follow-through by customers and a certain dedication on the part of the restaurateur. Duplication by other establishments would be something to look forward to. Giving and sharing are traits highly valued in Philippine culture, and there is no reason why something like this can’t be adopted on a large scale, meaning nationwide.

This is a positive initiative that brings charity straight to the recipient and addresses an immediate need – hunger.

Sometimes a small act that one doesn’t even remember afterward can be the huge difference between hope and despair or life and death for another person, because some say everything and everyone are connected somehow, the way a butterfly flapping its gauzy wings in the Brazilian rainforest might set off a chain of events that culminates in a tsunami in Indonesia.

A smile, a “good morning,” a free coffee: who knows what kind gesture will touch another soul and kindle a flame of inspiration and transformation?

Check out Blacksoup’s page on FB, as well as a new page – Suspended Coffee PH – and “be a blessing to someone.” *** 

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pop goes the world: systems failure

by JennyO on April 7, 2013

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  21 March 2013, Thursday

Systems Failure

Our systems are killing us.

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court voted 10 to 5 to halt for four months the implementation of Republic Act 10354, the “Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012,” otherwise known as the RH bill.

The 120-day status quo ante order is a setback for RH advocates, who have labored for nearly fifteen years to see this bill passed.  And it was passed by both Houses and signed by President Benigno Aquino III in December last year, but a slew of consolidated petitions filed in January this year led to this outcome.

Supreme Court spokesman Ted Te calls this order “preliminary” and says the highest court in the land may yet rule in favor of its legality.

The Roman Catholic Church, which prompted most, if not all, of the petitions against the RH Bill, hail this development as an answer to their prayers and “God’s will.”

The Department of Health had already marked last March 15 the signing of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RH Bill.

DoH Secretary Enrique Ona said that the law “will empower women through informed choice and voluntarism…” as the IRR provides “improved access to family planning services…provision of mobile health clinics in remote and depressed areas, improvement of PhilHealth coverage on RH services especially for the poor,” and other support services.

Secretary Ona added, “This is just the beginning of our continuing effort to ensure that no woman will die while giving life.”

Statistics from womens’ rights advocate EnGendeRights say 11 women die each day from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Given that, 1,320 women might die during the 120 days of the SQA.

How many more women and children will die from botched abortions, miscarriages, complicated births, and the other risks and dangers of unwanted pregnancies?

Another system that needs revamping is the University of the Philippines’ tuition fee structure.

Because of glitches in the system that misclassified her fee bracket, placed her on leave of absence for non-payment of tuition, and took away her ID card, freshman Kristel Tejada took her life.

She could not bear to go on living when her best efforts to obtain a degree went to naught when, despite her academic performance and commitment to learning, the system failed her.

When I was a UP undergraduate in the days before STFAP, I paid around five hundred pesos per semester. It was a lean time for my family, so an uncle paid my way through college, my entire education costing him around five thousand pesos in tuition fees.

I would not have been able to finish my bachelor’s degree if I had gone to any other school, as it would have been too expensive and we might not have found anyone willing to shoulder a higher cost.

The STFAP was implemented after I graduated and since then no one can obtain a UP education for that little amount of money anymore.

And why not? Isn’t the government supposed to subsidize education in public schools, especially in the state university?

All Kristel wanted was a better life through learning, but the rules of the system made this inaccessible to her.

Education in the state colleges and universities should be made free or as close to it as possible, for the Iskolar ng Bayan to flourish and give back to Inang Bayan.

Government needs to see what’s important and what’s not – and should they need to be reminded, the youth and their proper education are important, for they are the future of the country.

UP failed Kristel, and failed in its mission. This is not the UP I went to. This is not the UP I love and am proud of. This is not the UP that it should be.

Various colleges of UP are holding a luksang pamantasan for Kristel with activities such as indignation rallies and candle-lightings to commemorate her tragedy and fight for change.

Perhaps we should also hold a luksang bayan for all the systems that have failed and continue to fail us.  *** 

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pop goes the world: you can dish it out, but you can’t take it

by JennyO on April 7, 2013

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  14 March 2013, Thursday

You can dish it out, but you can’t take it

Roman Catholic Church bigwigs in Bacolod City who started a campaign against pro-Reproductive Health bill senatorial candidates were red-faced when a text message circulated naming five priests of the Diocese of Bacolod who sired offspring.

The Church in that city hung huge tarpaulins marked “Team Patay” (Team Dead) identifying the candidates they were exhorting people not to vote for, but the tables were turned when the “Team Tatay” (Team Father) messages spread.

Seems the embarrassment could have been avoided if certain people had used contraceptives, hey?

Clergy having children are nothing new; one of my first cousins is the daughter of a monk. It was a scandal in the town where they lived, but not among the unconventional Ortuoste family, a tolerant and liberal bunch. They understood and accepted the situation especially because the monk in question was my uncle. (He left his order, married his partner, and they set up as a family in the United States.)

This problem is so old that no less than the nation’s superhero Jose Rizal wrote about father “fathers,” making the muddle-headed heroine of his iconic 19th century novels the daughter of a priest.

While those randy priests in Bacolod might justify their actions by saying they at least brought their children into the world by not using contraceptives and by not having them aborted, they and like-minded others always fail to take into consideration the welfare of the children. My cousin told us that she had to bear taunts like “anak ng pari!” (child of a priest) from her playmates, and this took a heavy mental toll on her. This was one of the reasons my uncle decided to make their home in the US.

What makes this incident of the Team Tatay – Team Patay appalling is that when the tables are turned on those holier-than-thou, they harrumph and claim they are being “blackmailed,” as Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Commission on Family and Life, alleged.

He said, “We do not deny that there are instances (of priests fathering children) but that is not the issue now,” adding that Team Tatay were “changing the topic.”

“Do not throw stones because we all live in houses of glass,” he also said.

Look, if you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen.

Why are they meddling when separation of Church and State is embodied in the law? If they insist on poking their noses into the things that are of Caesar then they had better get used to having the skeletons in their closets brought out into the light.

* * * * *

Good news for fans of poetry-in-Filipino enthusiasts in general and of poet-activist

Axel Pinpin in particular – his latest collection “Lover’s Lane” is finally in print in a limited-edition version.

The poems are on fire with erotic need, longing, and unrequited love – the stuff of much other writing, stemming as these emotions do from the natural human condition. Yet Axel’s work adds a revolutionary twist that makes these works different from the mainstream, and thus fresh and interesting.

Says writer and activist Ericson Acosta, “In “Lover’s Lane” continues our discovery of the extraordinary range of topic, style, and revolutionary possibilities of the poetry of Axel Pinpin. And here too, in “Pinpin Lane,” in truth, are our own voice – feelings, desires, dreams…”

“My poems are non-fiction,” says Axel, “they are not imagined narratives. They come from my own experiences and the stories of others.”

Here’s “Pusod” in its entirety:

“Ang lalim ba ng iyong pusod / ay siya ring lalim ng iyong puso? / Hayaan mong sukatin ko ito / ng aking daliri at salita / at nang ako’y malunod / at maglunoy sa iyong katubigan, / at mahulog din sa iyong bangin.” (Is the deepness of your navel / The same as your heart’s? / Let me measure this depth / With my fingers and words / That I may submerge, wade in your pools / And tumble into your clefts.”

The poems in “Lover’s Lane” are stories from real life, a curious look into and taking apart of the myriad emotions that war in the heart and soul of each person. In each phrase masterfully crafted by Axel Pinpin are the heat of love and desire and the chill of loss and leaving.

Place orders for the volume on Facebook – search for the open group page “Lover’s Lane ni Axel Pinpin” and leave a message there.   *** 

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pop goes the world: open mouth, insert foot

by JennyO on April 7, 2013

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  7 March 2013, Thursday

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

A senatorial candidate succeeded in offending Filipino nurses all over the world when she disparaged them in a recent debate.

Thanks to social media and the indignation of people in behalf of one of the hardest-working sectors of the nation, Las Piñas representative Cynthia Villar’s remarks on nurses went viral, something she probably didn’t anticipate when she aired her brains on national television.

She said that nurses don’t need to finish a nursing degree because all they want to be are “room nurses” (sic) and that in America all they want to be are caregivers, and as such they don’t need to be that good.

As expected, these utterly misguided views aroused the ire of right-thinking people, nurses included, who made the following remarks on Facebook:

California-based nurse Ivy: “WTH is she talking about? To be able to work here in the US legally, RN’s need to pass NCLEX, IELTS, or TOEFL to be considered for employment…[nursing] is a regulated profession that has standards to uphold. We use our brains to act in life-threatening situations to save lives.”

Misha: “It’s like saying I can become a doctor, lawyer, or accountant without going to school!”

Harwin: “Akala niya ata eh meaning ng ‘RN’ eh ‘room nurse’.”

Dr. Bob: “I am a dentist-nurse….and have had three US nurse licenses. Let me tell you, it is easier to be a senator in the Philippines than to be a nurse in the US. You will never pass the US licensure exam if you have no knowledge and competence. You can be a senator in the Philippines even if you are a certified idiot.”

If the public had a positive or neutral opinion of Villar prior to this, her stupid remarks have tipped the balance over to the negative side.

Will this faux pas be fatal for her chances in the elections?

It depends on how strong the nurses’ bloc is, many of whom are now actively clamoring against her, and how well her campaign handlers can fix this mess.

Nurses are considered heroes of the country. Many of us have nurses in the family working abroad, sending money home to help ill parents and send younger siblings to school. Any remark against them is like setting a match to tinder, as this incident has shown.

No less than United States President Barack Obama praised a Filipina nurse in his recent State of the Union address, saying, “We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, she wasn’t thinking about how her own home was faring…Her mind was on the 20 precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.”

Online sources say Sanchez was born and grew up in Catanauan, Quezon, and obtained her nursing degree at Mary Chiles Hospital in Sampaloc, Manila, before immigrating to the US in the 1980s.

How unfortunate that a Philippine politician should be the one to put down the country’s own nurses, rather than lifting them up.

And to be so ignorant of the facts as to confuse nursing as a profession to merely comprise being “room nurse” and that caregivers don’t need to be all that good is to show the world the quality, or lack thereof, of her mind.

In terms of political communication, specifically with regard to a candidate’s electoral campaign, Villar’s statement makes damage control necessary, before the information spreads and turns off potential voters.

However, that’s too late. Social media has ensured that this has gone viral. In any case, any information that is disseminated over mass media is impossible to take back; all that can be done it to mitigate its potentially negative effects.

This was done by campaign handlers when Villar apologized on her Facebook Page (her statement since taken down) and to the Philippine Nurses Association. It is customary, in order to regain goodwill, to humbly beg for forgiveness – something few, if any, politicians do once already in power.

Political communication is all about symbols – their construction and manipulation. Political aspects are equated with the people running for office – one is “green”, another “incorruptible,” a third “belonging to a family that has served the people for decades.”

Villar and her handlers must now find out what people think she symbolizes. The nouveau riche standing up for her fellow rich and advancing their agenda? The wife of the builder of homes that shelter Filipinos? (Those homes aren’t given away, by the way. People pay for them and enrich the Villar coffers.)

Who is Villar – just another person with money who wants to extend her empire into national level politics? Is she a person with a genuine desire to serve? Both?

The people who can best answer as to her capacity to serve and effectivity as a leader are her present constituency, from whom we have yet to hear.

Is she worthy to become a senator?

From the viewpoint of a communications scholar, it will be interesting to see how Villar’s campaign people handle this in the months to come.

As a voter, for the good of the country, I’m picking people with good brains and kind hearts. Let us select candidates based not on name recognition, but on their principles, platforms, intelligence, integrity, and compassion.

Choose wisely, Pilipinas. *** 

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pop goes the world: slipping off the red shoes

by JennyO on April 7, 2013

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  28 February 2013, Thursday

Slipping Off the Red Shoes

Today marks the final day of Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, 85, as Pope Benedict XVI of the 1.6 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church.

His resignation due to age and health reasons, announced by the Vatican on February 11, makes him the first pope to voluntarily step down from the highest seat in the church hierarchy since Pope Celestine V in 1294.

The news was a surprise to many, especially those among the Catholic faithful who appreciate the conservative stance on church matters that he has taken since 1968. He advocated a return to traditional values as a response to what he saw as increasing secularization.

Now the world waits as the College of Cardinals prepares to hold a conclave at which a new pope will be chosen. Roman Catholic believers will thank Benedict for his service and the care he gave his flock during his time.

However, there are those who point out that his resignation was an entirely appropriate, even necessary, action given the inadequacy of his response to the scandals that beset the church during his tenure.

Benedict served from 1981 to 2005 as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handled the reports of sexual abuse committed by priests. According to bloggers Daniel Bier and David Bier, “he repeatedly failed to act and refused to change procedures to prevent future abuse.”

Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, who founded the profitable Legionnaires of Christ, abused dozens of boys. Benedict denied appeals for an investigation in 1998. It was only when the case came to public attention in 2004 that he sentenced Maciel to “prayer and penance.”

When still archbishop of Germany in 1980, Benedict prescribed “therapy and relocation” for a pedophile priest “who may have raped as many as 100 children;” according to the Biers, this was shown in confidential memos from his office, although Benedict claims he had no knowledge of the problem.

In 1982, Father Stephen Kiesle, who raped 11- and 13-year old children, was suspended and asked to be defrocked. Benedict failed to respond to this request for three years.

According to online publication The Week, In July 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles paid $660 million to “hundreds of plaintiffs accusing up to 126 priests of clergy sex abuse.”

In November 2009, four bishops in Ireland were accused of ignoring abuse reports while five bishops did active covering-up.

In February 2010 came the revelation of “systematic” sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Germany, with Der Spiegel magazine estimating that nearly 100 priests and members of the laity were suspected of involvement.

It is Church policy, implemented by higher-ranking clergy such as Benedict, to keep incidents such as this secret. It is only thanks to excellent reporting by the media especially in the past decade that these and many other cases have been brought to light.

Benedict’s role in the cover-ups through the decades cannot be disputed. The Belfast Telegraph reported in 2010 that in his Christmas address to Rome-based cardinals and officials on December 20 that year, he claimed that “in the 1970s, pedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children.”

He also said, “It was maintained – even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than’ and a ‘worse than’. Nothing is good or bad in itself.”

Tell that to the young victims of abuse, many of whom never received justice, scarred for life by their violation at the hands of men they trusted.

Just recently, a couple of Italian newspapers cited unidentified senior Vatican sources as saying that Benedict received a 300-page report last December about the blackmail of gay priests by male prostitutes in Rome. This, they said, could perhaps be the real reason for Benedict’s resignation. The Vatican denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, at least one cardinal will not be attending the conclave. Benedict rushed Scottish archbishop Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s resignation from March 17 to immediately, given his own resignation. O’Brien was accused by three priests and a former priest of having inappropriate relationships with them.

Benedict had the chance to right many wrongs, but he did not. Stepping down is the best thing he has ever done. May the next pope acknowledge the failure of the Catholic Church to adequately address these issues, make reparation to the victims, and ensure that no one ever gets abused again by its clergy.

May the next wearer of the red shoes be as transparent, open, and humble as Jesus himself was.

We can only pray.   *** 

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pop goes the world: this land is my land

by JennyO on April 7, 2013

No column for Feb 14, Valentine’s Day

 POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  21 February 2013, Thursday

This Land is My Land

A nation hinges its identity and sovereignty on the lands it possesses and the seas that surround it and the airspace that covers it; these, after all, provide a home for the people of that nation.

From childhood we have been brought up to know the Philippines as an archipelago of over 7,000 islands tied together with the bright blue and green ribbons of the sea.

Those of us who have left our country in the diaspora to work and live in other lands feel their hearts skip a beat when they recall the beauty of their hometowns.

As the national anthem goes, no greater thing can we do for our country than “Ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo.”

But when confronted by the idea of war, even the remotest possibility of war breaking out in our lifetime, we feel only fear, and the imperative to protect our families, our land, and prevent fighting at all costs.

China is rattling its sabers by claiming waters and islands in the West Philippine Sea, which are in closer proximity to the Philippines than to China. By common sense and under the law, China has no right to be intruding into our territory.

This has not stopped them, however, from pursuing their claim and asserting this in all venues, even manufacturing globes with the “nine dash line” that encompass the disputed territories and selling these globes to – the Philippines.

Good thing someone alerted one of the sellers, National Bookstore, which discussed the issue with the Department of Foreign Affairs, after which the store’s management decided to pull out the offending spheres.

The Philippine government took the matter of China’s claim to an arbitration panel under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which both countries are signatories, asking that China’s claims be declared invalid.

The other day, Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing met with DFA officials to return the notice on arbitration and a note verbale containing the Notification and Statement of Claim of the Philippine government to begin arbitration proceedings, saying that these contained “serious mistakes both in fact and in law.”

What’s in water and a few rocks? The disputed area is rich in resources – oil, natural gas, fishing grounds, and, I’ve heard whispered, even gold.

With China going so far as to return our diplomatic note and to refuse arbitration, it’s pretty much a given that they will not let go of this.

Will they go as far as a show of military force? It’s not far-fetched to think this – they are becoming mighty aggressive with their claim. As far back as the late ‘80s when I was a student in the University of the Philippines, my political science professor pointed to China as a potential threat to the security of the Philippines.

But we Filipinos are not above letting go of a claim, either. Right now there are Filipinos in Sabah (reports say from 80 to 300), followers of Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III, who crossed the waters to the town of Lahad Datu in the Malaysian state of Sabah.

The sultanate once ruled over parts of Borneo and is still receiving a yearly compensation package from Malaysia for possession of Sabah – proof of their claim to the area, the sultan says.

Fellow MST columnist lawyer Rita Jimeno explained at length in her column last Monday the legal bases for the sultanate’s claim, and they seem pretty sound. However, the claim to Sabah, as an issue, has been dormant for decades.

Is this quite the right time to bring it up, with all we have going on with China?

Let us hope both these issues are resolved peacefully, and that cool heads, diplomacy, and reason will prevail.

Life is hard enough in peacetime, much more so in war. We’ve got a good thing going with the economy posting 6.6 percent growth last year, one of the best performances worldwide. Let’s not put in jeopardy all the gains we’ve made.

But frankly, I’m scared, alab ng puso notwithstanding.

* * * * *

The Freelance Writers Guild of the Philippines is holding a couple of webinars for writers who want to level up their writing skills for the new media.

Today at 1pm in the “Quick Start Copywriting, A Live Webinar” with Lillian Leon at http://conversologie.com/quick-start-copywriting-webinar/, learn the basic principles of good copywriting and more.

On “The Complete Blueprint to Search Engine Success for Writers, a Live Webinar” at 4pm today at http://conversologie.com/blueprint-search-engine-success-writers-webinar/, SEO expert Steve Knight will explain how to develop a superior search engine optimization strategy to attract readers to your website.  ***

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pop goes the world: celebrating love and literature

by JennyO on February 12, 2013

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  7 February 2013, Thursday

Celebrating Love and Literature

Once in a while I feature in this column the literary events of the season, and here’s what’s happening in this month of love:

* * * * *

When you have a lost a loved one, how do you mourn?

Each person finds a way of coping. Support groups help; articles and books yield valuable tips. But ultimately, each one deals with grief and the pain of loss on an individual basis.

University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Letters associate professor, published poet, and performance artist Nerisa del Carmen Guevara lost her beloved to violence last year. This year, she spearheaded an interdisciplinary project at UST that brings together 11 colleges including the College of Science and the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery in a collaborative effort that explores the many different forms and faces of love.

“Making: Love in Fourteen Collaborative Acts” will run from February 11 to 15 at the Main Lobby of the historic UST main building. It will showcase fourteen literary works – poems and excerpts from stories, essays, and plays – translated into other forms of art and science, all focused on love.

The project is organized under the wing of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies (CCWLS) headed by Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo (also professor emerita of the University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters).

“Making: Love” carries further the old UST Creative Writing Center’s project “Brushes with Words and Chords,” which featured works of literature, painting, and music.

The artists and collaborators will be at the exhibit for meet-and-greet and photo opportunities. On closing night, they will read from or perform their work.

Professor Guevara invites the Thomasian community and the public to the event. She adds, “I will be performing on February 15. This performance is called “Elegy.” I have collaborated with an architect, a mathematician, and a musician. I asked them to build me a bridge between life and afterlife.”

This is a love-in of literary, artistic, and scientific proportions. Bring your Valentine to UST to witness, experience, and taste “Making: Love.”

* * * * *

This event comes soon after the revitalized CCWLS under Dr. Hidalgo revived the UST literary journal “Tomas,” during an event that also saw the blessing of the Center’s new offices.

Established in 1998, the center used to be under the Faculty of Arts and Letters but is now an autonomous unit under the Office of the Rector. “Tomas” will be published every semester.

But wait, there’s more from UST. “The Varsitarian,” UST’s 84-year-old student publication, is organizing the 5th UST J. Elizalde Navarro National Workshop in Criticism on the Arts and Humanities and is now accepting applications.

The workshop will be held in Baguio City from May 26 to June 1 this year.

Fellowships will be awarded to 12 promising young critics who wish to enhance their analytical, research, and writing skills. Applicants must submit a scholarly, properly documented essay, 15-25 pages, on the following art forms – painting, sculpture, architecture, dance, drama, music, film, photography, and literature – on or before March 15, along with an updated resume and a recommendation letter from an academic mentor or art critic.

Send email to workshop convener Associate Professor Ralph Semino Galan at ralphseminogalan@gmail.com for details.

* * * * *

The admirers of Jose Garcia Villa will have a chance to see books and papers from his personal library at the Ateneo de Manila University starting today, February 7, 4:30 pm, at the Pardo de Tavera Room of the Rizal Library Special Collections building.

The Villa Estate donated rare Filipiniana, documents, and ephemera to the Rizal Library. The exhibit runs until May 30.

* * * * *

Tomorrow, February 8, the Literature Section of the University of San Carlos will hold “Minugbo: A Forum on Contemporary Visual Media” in Cebu City.

The forum will feature lectures by Jiji Borlasa (who will speak about Cebuano filmmaking), Anne Lorraine Uy (storytelling through pictures), and Diem Judilla (cinematic writing for short films).

This is a parallel event of the short film contest sponsored by the Section.   *** 

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pop goes the world: not moving on

by JennyO on February 12, 2013

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  31 January 2013, Thursday

Not Moving On

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines news website carries a story headlined “CBCP chides Aquino for inability to address PH’s problems.”

The assembly of high-ranking clergy took three days behind closed doors to come up with their “Pastoral Statement on Certain Social Issues of Today,” a “long litany of storms” referring to the government’s failures, from its inability to stem corruption, poverty, and crime to the prevalence of political dynasties.

It was the first time, said some sources, that the Church lambasted the current political culture of making politics a family business.

Which brings up the question: why only now? What took them so long to raise all these important issues in a pastoral statement?

However, what was first on their list was “the promotion of a culture of death and promiscuity,” due to the “slavishness of our political and business leaders to follow practices in Western countries that promote…” divorce (“resulting in more break-up of families and the dysfunctional growth of children”), contraceptives (“leading to more abortions”), the use of condom (“aggravating HIV-AIDS infection”), and “school sex education” (bringing more promiscuity and teenage pregnancy”).

So this is foremost about the RH Bill, really, passed recently after years of struggle by rights activists. The Church is still sore about having lost that battle.

It is admirable that, going by this pastoral statement, the CBCP is deeply concerned about poverty and the lack of “inclusive growth” or “the huge gap between the rich and poor” that remains “despite the government’s much-flaunted idea of high growth and economic development.”

Aside from taking second and third collections from churchgoers and raising funds from private companies and government agencies for their various social welfare programs, one wonders how much farther the Church would go to do their part in helping the needy.

For one thing, they could measurably assist the government in reducing poverty by agreeing to give up their tax exemptions and privileges. That would raise many millions of pesos that would go a long way to relieving the suffering of many poor people.

Note that the Catholic Church in Italy has already been stripped of tax-exempt status and will start paying property taxes in 2013, generating projected revenues of 500 million to 2 billion euros yearly.

The pastoral statement was released last Monday, the same day Manila tour guide and pro-RH Bill activist Carlos Celdran was sentenced to two months to one year in jail for violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, a law from 1930 which penalizes anyone who “in a place of worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony, shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”

Celdran caused a ruckus during a Mass last September 2010 by holding up a placard with the word “Damaso” upon it in front of the Papal Nuncio, several bishops, and sundry other clergy. The words refers to the character of an abusive priest in Jose Rizal’s novel “Noli Me Tangere.”

President Aquino expressed his sympathy for Celdran, saying that while he did not agree with the “methodology of disrupting a Mass,” he “may sympathize with Mr. Celdran’s position,” adding “If our priests and religious leaders look at the Pope as an example, I believe they will find it in their hearts to show Christian generosity and charity and maybe they will be able to forgive Mr. Celdran and move on.”

Would the CBCP be able to forgive Celdran? The President? Can the CBCP move on from any of this?

In their pastoral statement they declared:

“Our position on the above issues is based on our faith…Faith is not only concerned with doctrine but applies that belief in all dimensions of life – social, political, economic, cultural, and religious.”

Based on that, the CBCP is not going to cease, desist, lay off, move on, live and let live. They will pursue their avowed agenda to the utmost because it’s in their job description.

It’s up to the rest of the country, Catholics and non-Catholics, to make their own moves and decisions to shape Philippine society in a manner that includes everyone, because it is unfair and unjust to base governance on the belief system of one religious group.  *** 

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