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Tall tales on human rights situation expected from PH gov’t on 4th UPR

Paglambo Project: Promoting financial inclusion for Muslim communities

Creating Jobs

Economic recovery and going back to the basics

Measuring the impact of advocacy programmes

Financial inclusion and Shari’ah financing

Our Nanays, our community heroes

SRI LANKA: Black Sunday - Mourning the death of criminal investigating capacity

 

MATA-Samar

 

 

 

The story of David and Goliath

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
January 17, 2024

THIS story (cfr. 1 Samuel 17,32-33.37.40-51) simply tells us one important lesson: that as long as we carry out our struggles with God, no earthly obstacle, challenge or trial can really put us down, no matter how formidable they are and how weak we may appear before them.

The youthful David with a sling only as his weapon managed to defeat the vaunted warrior Goliath because God was with him. May this story reassure us that as long as we are doing God’s will and ways, our victory is guaranteed, even if that victory may be in a form that is not in accord with our desires.

We have to learn how to deal with the difficult and the impossible things in our life. Let’s remember that as long as we are here on earth, we have to contend with all sorts of difficulties, trials and temptations.

And as if these are not enough, we also have to contend with the truth of our faith that tells us that we are meant to pursue a supernatural goal that definitely cannot be achieved simply with our own human powers, no matter how excellent they are.

The secret is always to go and to be with God who can make the impossible possible. In all our affairs and situations in life, we should always go to God to ask for his help and guidance, and to trust his ways and his providence, even if the outcome of our prayers and petitions appears unanswered, if not, contradicted.

This should be the attitude to have. It’s an attitude that can only indicate our unconditional faith, trust and love for God who is always in control of things, and at the same time can also leave us in peace and joy even at the worst of the possibilities.

Remember the Book of Ecclesiastes where it says that for everything there is a season, “a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal…” But everything is under God’s control, and even if we are capable of eternity, we just the same “cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (3,1ff) We just have to trust him.

We have to follow the example of the many characters in the gospel who, feeling helpless in the many predicaments they were in, earnestly rushed to Christ for some succor. They went to him unafraid and unashamed and they got what they wanted.

There is no denying that life always has more to offer to us than what we can understand, let alone, cope. And they can come in all shapes and sizes, good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, likeable and hateful. There are surprises and moments when we seem to rot in expectation and still things we long for don’t come.

In the face of all this, I believe the attitude to have and the reaction to make is to be calm, pray hard, and while we do all we can, we have to learn to live a certain sense of abandonment in the hands of God.

We just have to remember that Christ never abandons us and is, in fact, all ready and prompt to come to our aid, albeit in ways that we may not realize, at first.

 

 

 

 

“A holy day has dawned upon us”

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
December 25, 2023

FINALLY, it’s Christmas! A child is born for us! Thus, in the Alleluia verse of the day’s Mass, we are made to say: “A holy day has dawned upon us. Come, you nations and adore the Lord. For today a great light has come upon the earth.”

It’s indeed a day of great, undescribable joy! In the Opening Prayer of the Mass for the day, a beautiful sentiment is expressed: “Lord God, we praise you for creating man, and still more, restoring him in Christ. Your Son shared our weakness: may we share his glory…”

Once again, our Christian faith tells us who we really are. Despite our natural awkwardness in believing this truth of our faith, the truth is that we have been created to be like God, to share in his very life and nature. And no amount of our sins and foolishness can detract from that truth. God will do everything to recover us. All we have to do is to go along with God’s will and ways as far as we can.

We need to process this truth of our faith about ourselves very slowly, because it will obviously astound us to think that we are supposed to be one with Christ. Who, me, one with Christ? We most likely would be tempted to say, tell it to the Marines!

But that’s just the naked truth about us, whether we like it or not. We cannot be any other if we just bother also to know why it is so. An expression that is relevant to this matter is ‘alter Christus,’ another Christ. And it’s worthwhile to know what it is all about.

We are supposed to be ‘alter Christus,’ the goal and ideal that is meant for us, though we need also to do our part, free beings as are, to achieve that status. God, our Creator and Father, wants us to be that way, though he does not impose it on us without our consent that should also be shown with deeds and not just with intentions and words.

We are supposed to be ‘alter Christus’ simply because, if we have been created in the image and likeness of God, and Christ is the Son of God who is the perfect image and likeness that God has of himself, then we can only conclude that we have to be like Christ.

In other words, Christ as the Son of God is the pattern of our humanity. If we want to know who we really are, how we ought to be, all we have to do is to look at Christ and try our best, with God’s grace, to identify ourselves with him.

More than that, because of our sin that defaced the original state in which we, in Adam and Eve, were created, Christ is the Son of God who became man to save us. The immediate conclusion we can derive from this truth of our faith is that for us to know how to handle our sinfulness, again all we have to do is to look at Christ and try our best, with God’s grace, to identify ourselves with him.

So, let’s welcome Christ to our life. At his birth on Christmas Day, we should also remind ourselves that Christ actually wants to be born in each of us, so we can truly be “alter Christus” (another Christ), if not, “ipse Christus” (Christ himself).

Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas, everyone!

 

 

 

 

The virgin birth

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
December 20, 2023

“THE Lord himself will grant to you a sign. Behold, a virgin will conceive, and she will give birth to a son, and his name will be called Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.” (Is 7,14)

Thus, the prophecy about Christ’s birth was announced and was fulfilled in Mary. When she asked the Archangel Gabriel how she can conceive a son since, according her, she had “no relations with a man,” the angel told her about the Holy Spirit who will overshadow her and with that she will conceive a son in her womb. (cfr. Lk 1,26-38) And with her faith-filled “Be it done,” the virginal conception took place.

That a virgin can give birth without human intervention clearly tells us that the birth involves a divine intervention that shows that the one to be born is not only man but is also, first of all, God. He is both God and man, perfect God and perfect man!

What can we derive from this truth of our faith? What we can only conclude is that, indeed, God and man share the same life and nature, without of course blurring the distinction between God who is the Creator, and man as a creature made in God’s image and likeness.

This is, of course, a truth of faith that is really incredible! Given the way we are, we can only say, “No way.” But again, whether we believe it or not, the truth still remains that we share the same life and nature of God. It’s just really up to us, if we rev up our faith, to accept the truth about ourselves.

In this regard, the way to go is to follow the example of Mary whose faith in God is so complete and perfect that she, being a creature, could become the daughter of God the Father, mother of God the Son, and spouse of God the Holy Spirit.

All these came to be because of her response, “Fiat” (Be it done) to God’s messenger. Her openness to God’s will, her obedience to the divine designs for man somehow started the healing of the disobedience of our first parents that plunged all of us into a life and a world of sin.

That “Fiat” is the best example of obedience that man as a creature can have in relation to the will of God, our Creator and Father. It perfectly echoes in a mysteriously anticipative way also Christ’s obedience to the will of his Father – “If it is your will, let this cup pass by me, but not my will but yours be done.”

Mary’s “Fiat” is the perfect model of how our will ought to be conformed to God’s will. We have to be reminded that by the very nature of our will, the very seat of our freedom, our will is supposed to be in synch with the will of its Creator. It just cannot be by itself, turning and moving purely on its own.

It is meant to be engaged with the will of God, its creator and lawgiver. It is the very power we have been given by God that enables us to unite ourselves with God in the most intimate way. All the other aspects of our life—physical, biological, chemical, etc. – are also governed by God-given laws but, by themselves, they cannot bring us into intimate union with God.

It is with this faith that the impossible to us becomes not only possible but would be actualized. The virgin birth is proof to this truth of faith!

 

 

 

 

The end times

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
November 28, 2023

NOW that we are ending the liturgical year, we should not be surprised that the readings and the tenor of the prayers at Masses these days somehow refer to the end times. It’s a good occasion to remind ourselves of this reality, not to scare us but rather for us to be realistic in our life here on earth and learn to prepare ourselves for the end times.

We are told in the gospel that the time will come “when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down,” and that “nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom,” and that “there will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” (cfr. Lk 21,5-11)

To top it all, we are told not be deceived because as Christ said, “many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘the time has come.’ Do not follow them!” It would seem that as the end of time approaches, the enemies of God and of our soul would use the most duplicitous tactics to mislead us. So, let’s be properly guarded.

We have to learn to prepare for this eventuality. If Christ, who is God made man and who is our Redeemer, could not help but had to offer his life to save us, how can we think that our life and the world in general would take a different path?

Remember Christ telling his disciples, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (Jn 15,20) So we have to expect to have the same fate as Christ. And that means that we have to prepare for the worst scenario. The world will end badly. That’s already a given, a truth of our faith.

What we have to do is to always have a proper focus in life. Especially these days when we are easily carried away by many distracting elements, what with all we can devour in the social media, videos, etc., we need to remind ourselves quite strongly that we have to be well focused on what is truly essential in our life.

We have to remind ourselves that our life here on earth is actually a testing and training ground for what God, our Father and Creator, wants us to be, that is, that we be his image and likeness, adopted children of his, meant to share in his very own life in eternity.

Everything that we are, we have and we do in this life should be made as an occasion, material or reason for us to attain that God-given goal for us. Everything should be related and referred to him. Simply being on our own and doing things on our own, without any reference to God, is an anomaly. It would surely end in tragedy even if we feel we are having a good time in our life.

This fundamental truth about ourselves should be proclaimed time and time again because we are notorious for taking it for granted, if not for violating it. We have to remind everyone that we have to take the necessary steps for us to be aware of this truth and to live according to it.

Obviously, what is truly helpful in this regard is that everyone learns really how to pray, how to engage God in a continuing conversation, or at least to have an abiding awareness of his presence and interventions in our life.

 

 

 

 

Official statement of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas on the 10th anniversary of super-typhoon Yolanda

In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of super-typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines.
November 8 2023

On 8 November 2013, category-5 storm Yolanda (international name ‘Haiyan’) made landfall on eastern Visayas in the Philippines. It unleashed a combination of strong winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surges that is almost unprecedented in history. In a matter of hours, it left in its wake severe loss and damage, most notably the deaths of at least 6300 people and destruction of PHP95.5 million across multiple sectors. To this day, some communities in the areas hardest hit by this super-typhoon still struggle to fully rebuild and/or recover from its impacts.

Yet the legacy of Yolanda goes beyond its trail of destruction. It changed how the Philippines viewed climate change, from being just another environmental issue to being a crisis, an emergency that impacts every aspect of development. It exemplified the urgency and importance of the calls of civil society and community representatives in the Philippines and elsewhere for climate justice, for holding big polluters accountable for causing this crisis, and for the victims of climate-related disasters to be given reparations from developed countries and ecologically-destructive corporations.

At the global level, the wrath of Yolanda directly led to loss and damage (L&D) becoming a true focal issue in the climate negotiations. After the intervention of then-Philippine negotiator Naderev Saño, the world agreed to establish the Warsaw International Mechanism on L&D, in recognition that climate-related risks and impacts are becoming too much for developing countries, the most vulnerable communities and ecosystems to adapt to or mitigate. By 2022, the negotiations on L&D have finally led to an agreement to set up funding arrangements to address this climate issue.

Nonetheless, there is so much that still needs to be done. In the decade that has gone by, greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase worldwide. The adaptation needs of developing nations are now up to 18 times higher than the financing currently provided by developed countries. While Yolanda to this day remains the most destructive storm in Philippine history, six of the next nine most damaging tropical cyclones actually came after it.

We from Aksyon Klima Pilipinas will continue to honor the lives lost and the communities affected by Yolanda and other climate-related disasters by advancing our advocacy for urgent, effective, inclusive, just, and sustainable climate action for our collective future. On the 10th anniversary of the landfall of Yolanda, we make the following calls:

Developing countries must continue pressuring developed nations to actually live up to their commitment under Article 4 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change: to provide sufficient finance, technologies, and capacity-building for implementing sufficient, cost-effective, fair, inclusive, and transformative adaptation and mitigation measures. Without this pressure, more incidents like Yolanda will happen in the future, which no individual or community deserves to experience.

At COP28 and beyond, the Philippine government must not shy away from reminding the Global North of our existing vulnerabilities and the L&D that we have experienced, including through the first-ever Philippine Pavilion at the climate negotiations. This is not to perpetuate the image of a nation of victims and reactors; this is to show its true commitment to uphold climate justice for current and future generations by holding developed nations and big corporations accountable for their pollution and other actions that dealt us immense L&D.

Parties at the 2023 UN climate negotiations in Dubai, United Arab Emirates must set up a L&D Fund and associated funding arrangements that is aligned with the imperative of preventing even more peoples and ecosystems from experiencing extreme climate change impacts. Such a mechanism must consist of new, additional, and predictable funding for addressing L&D in the form of grants. It must be based on the principles of equity, polluters pay, and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

The Climate Accountability (KLIMA) Bill must be enacted as soon as possible by the Philippine Congress. Doing so would establish stricter measures for holding corporations accountable for their actions respective to human rights, especially the recently-recognized right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. It would also establish a national fund to address the needs of victims of climate-related disasters, which is aligned with the government’s position of changing the Philippines’s narrative into more of a country of initiators of action.

 

 

 

 

To be a saint requires a miracle

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
November 1, 2023

ON the Solemnity of All Saints, celebrated on November 1, we are reminded that we all are actually called to become saints for the simple reason that we are meant to be God’s image and likeness, sharers of his life and of his nature as God wants us to be. To be a saint is to be God-like.

That is why Christ always compared us to God. “You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect,” he said. (Mt 5,48) On another occasion, he said, “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk 6,36)

Reiterating the same idea, St. Peter said, “You must be holy in everything you do, just as God is holy.” (1 Pt 1,15) St. Paul, for his part, said, “This is the will of God, your sanctification…” (1 Thes 4,3)

But for us to become saints, as we should, we need God’s grace. We cannot achieve that simply using our human powers, even if we are expected to use them to the full. And this means that somehow a miracle must happen for us to become saints.

This is where we have to ask for that miracle. And that miracle can only take place if we have deep faith. Like those characters in the gospel who begged Christ for the miraculous cure of their ailments, the miracle took place because of their faith. In all those miracles, Christ commended those who received their miraculous cure for their faith.

Yes, faith is needed for miracles to happen. We have to be clear about this point. For miracles to happen, especially the most important one which is for us to become saints, to become God-like as we should, faith is needed. This was dramatized in that gospel episode where Christ was presented with a paralytic lying on a stretcher.

“When Jesus saw their faith,” the gospel narrates, “he said to the paralytic, ‘Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.’” Christ said this before he went to cure the man of his paralysis. He cured the man precisely because of their faith, that is, their belief that Christ was truly the expected Redeemer.

Nowadays, many people claim that miracles do not happen anymore. They say miracles only took place in the distant past, the time of the gospel when Christ went around in the land of Judea and Galilee. But now, miracles are considered obsolete, if not an anomaly.

This is like saying that Christ, the son of God who became man, has ceased intervening in our lives, that he was purely a historical man, subject to time and space, and that after death, he is simply no more, completely wrapped in the spiritual world, if ever that exists, and that he has no immediate and tangible impact on our lives.

We have to be clear about this point. Christ is always around and is actively intervening in our lives, directing and leading us to our proper end, in spite of our very erratic ways. He can never be indifferent to us, and is willing to suffer and die for us just to save us. Precisely he came as an expiation for our sins. He is the one who pays for our sins. All we have to do is just to try to go along with him in the best way we can.

What we have to do is to feel that we are helpless without God’s grace, without begging for a miracle for us to become real saints!

 

 

 

 

KATRIBU on the impact of Maharlika Investment Fund on the Moro and Indigenous Peoples

Delivered Speech by Beverly Longid, KATRIBU National Convenor, during the Maharlika Investment Fund forum organized by the First Quarter Storm (FQS) Movement
October 13, 2023

Pagbati sa ating lahat na narito sa Forum. Maraming salamat sa FQS sa pag-imbita sa Katribu na ibahagi ang aming kabuuang pagtingin sa Maharlika Investment Fund and its impact on the Moro and Indigenous Peoples. For far too long, the term 'investment' has invoked anxiety and fear among these communities, as it has become synonymous with large-scale destructive ventures – mines, dams, commercial plantations, and other land conversion schemes. These projects have consistently led to the displacement of Moro and Indigenous communities, robbing us of our ancestral lands, destroying our livelihoods, and disrupting our way of life.

President Marcos Jr. has outlined mining as a key investment policy to aid in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Energy and infrastructure projects are viewed as major indicators of national development. However, these policies have dire consequences.

With mines and dams come the ominous shadow of militarization. Communities that protest against these projects find themselves facing militarization, which, in turn, brings forth severe human rights violations. Since last year, human rights monitors have documented 11 indiscriminate bombings and aerial strafing of rural communities – several are key biodiversity areas and 7 affect Indigenous Peoples.

Lest we forget, it has been over six years since the bombings devastated the Islamic City of Marawi, leading to the forced displacement of 98 percent of the city's population, along with residents from neighboring municipalities. This tragedy resulted in widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure and the loss of countless civilian lives. In the aftermath, several states stepped forward, offering millions of dollars for rehabilitation and recovery efforts. The U.S. government, solely through USAID, pledged $63.6 million (Php3.4 billion), to support humanitarian and recovery work in and around Marawi.

The Marawi program has come under heavy criticism of corruption, cronyism, lack of transparency esp. that the two Chinese firms contracted by government for rehabilitation have been blacklisted by the World Bank for rigging projects in the past, and greater role of the private business entities over community consultation and participation.

Despite the government's claims of liberation and near-full rehabilitation, the harsh reality remains that the Maranao and other residents have yet to be compensated for the destruction of their homes and livelihoods. For many, the possibility of returning to their once-thriving city grows increasingly bleak. Their cries for justice, especially for those who lost their lives during the siege, continue to echo unanswered, highlighting the persistent wounds inflicted upon the affected community.

The MIF’s implementation comes at a time when the human rights situation has worsened with the enactment and implementation of the anti-terror law. Under this law, Moro and IP communities, organizations, and advocates are not only red-tagged and criminalized but are now even designated as terrorists, further suppressing their voices and rights. The first individuals charged under the terror law were Ayta Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, accused of committing acts of terrorism as members of the New People’s Army. Fortunately, the Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) found inconsistencies in the statement of the witness and dismissed the case, ruling that it was a result of mistaken identities.

In January of this year, the Anti-Terrorism Council designated Dr. Naty Castro, a dedicated Lumad advocate, as a terrorist individual. This alarming move was followed by the arbitrary designation of four leaders from the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) as terrorist individuals, leading to the freezing of their organization's bank accounts. Since its establishment in 1984, the CPA has been at the forefront of defending ancestral lands against encroachments and exploitation in the Cordillera region and across the country.

The DBP and Land Bank is mandated to provide funds for rural and agricultural development – this includes development for Indigenous Peoples. However, the implementation of the MIF would exacerbate government neglect and further denial of essential social services to Moro and Indigenous Peoples, as public funds meant for countryside development are siphoned to the MIF and continue to be siphoned away due to corruption. Discrimination and Islamophobia create barriers, limiting their access to social services, economic opportunities, and political participation.

Moreover, these ventures trample upon the sacred right to free prior informed consent, a fundamental right and principle that safeguards Indigenous communities. The environment, too, bears the brunt of these projects, facing irreparable damage that affects not just the Indigenous Peoples but the entire nation.

The cycle of exploitation and marginalization must end. We must advocate for sustainable and inclusive development that respects the rights and dignity of Indigenous Peoples. Let us call for transparency in investments, ensuring that the benefits are equitably distributed and that the environment is preserved for future generations. It is our collective responsibility to challenge the status quo, demand accountability from our leaders, and stand in solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples who are the custodians of our rich cultural heritage.

In conclusion, let us work together to build a future where investments empower, rather than oppress. Let us strive for a society where the rights of Indigenous Peoples are not just acknowledged but fiercely protected, where our wisdom and traditions are celebrated, and where we can thrive in harmony with nature. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

The Guardian Angels in our life

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
October 2, 2023

OCTOBER 2 is liturgically celebrated as the Memorial of our Guardian Angels, reminding us of this tremendous reality that we have these powerful spiritual beings who are assigned to each one of us to help us in our earthly life and, most importantly, to connect us with God.

The gospel reading of this memorial somehow tells us of the crucial role these guardian angels play in our life. (cfr. Mt 18,1-5,10) In it, we are made to understand that there is a connection between being child-like and being great in heaven, and why the angels are important in our life.

When the disciples asked Christ about who is the greatest in heaven, Christ placed a child in their midst and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.” And he further said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”

A little later, he again said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

These words are worth considering very seriously because in them Christ somehow tells us the important role angels play in our effort to become child-like even as we grow in age and experience.

Let’s remember that angels are spiritual beings who upon their creation have made the eternal decision to be with God. There are also spiritual beings who upon their creation have made the opposite decision whose effect remains with them forever. These are the devils.

That the angels of children “always look upon the face of my heavenly Father,” as Christ said, can mean that these children who still are not in the age of reason, are always connected and guided by God. They are yet incapable of separating themselves from God.

In our case, since we already have our own mind and have accumulated a lot of knowledge and experience, we should try our best to be humble so as to be like children, always guided by the angels who are always on the side of God.

In other words, to be child-like is to be guided always by our guardian angels who will always connect us with God. There is a connection between being child-like and being with God through our guardian angels. We should not downplay the role of angels in our life, taking them for granted or, worse, considering them as unreal or just fictional literary devices, etc.

This is a truth of our Christian faith that we should always remember and act on. We definitely have to train ourselves how to be child-like and how to connect with our guardian angels all the time. Christ told his disciples that they had to humble themselves to become child-like, for the obvious reason that they – and us – are notorious for regarding ourselves as mature and totally independent, with hardly any need for God.

It would be helpful that everyday, we have the habit of consciously entering into a close engagement with our guardian angels. We should not dare to face our day simply relying on our own human powers. Each of us is assigned a guardian angel to connect us with God, and vice-versa, for God to enter into our lives, since these spiritual beings are God’s messengers to us.

 

 

 

 

Tribute to LALA: A Lumad Activist, Artist, and Fighter

Kaerlan “Lala” Fanagel

By BEVERLY L. LONGID, National Convener, Katribu
September 18, 2023

It is with a heavy heart that we receive the news of the passing of our colleague and fellow Indigenous Peoples activist, artist, and fighter, Kaerlan “Lala” Fanagel.

On behalf of Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, we extend our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the grieving family, relatives, tribe, and cherished friends who are mourning the loss of Kaerlan "Lala" Fanaguel. According to the military's report, Lala was among the six individuals killed during an encounter between the 47th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the New People’s Army in Bilar, Bohol, last September 7.

We recognize and acknowledge that the right to self-determination and the pursuit of justice in the face of oppression are fundamental principles that guide the paths of many. We hold in high regard Lala's decision to join the New People’s Army (NPA). It was a conscientious, difficult, and mature choice made in response to the relentless threats and harassment he endured from the state. In his eyes, the conventional avenues for seeking justice appeared insufficient to address the escalating attacks on the Indigenous and Moro Peoples. We pay tribute to his unwavering dedication, particularly to the Lumad to which he belonged.

Lala, a native of Barangay Poblacion, Malapatan in Sarangani Province, had previously served as the secretary-general of PASAKA Pasakaday Salugpungan Kalimudan (Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao). He was also a former council member of Katribu, a national alliance of Indigenous Peoples organizations in the Philippines; Kalumaran Mindanao-wide organization of Lumad; and the Sandugo, an alliance uniting Moro and Indigenous Peoples organizations. In these roles, Lala diligently led various activities and protests both in Davao and Metro Manila, tirelessly working to shed light on the challenging circumstances faced by Indigenous Peoples in his region.

The escalating acts of plunder, militarization, bombings, enforced disappearances, criminalization, and the unjust labeling of Indigenous Peoples leaders and activists as terrorists have only fueled the flames of the ongoing armed conflict. In light of this, we fervently advocate for a sincere and collective effort to address the root causes of this conflict. It is our hope that, through such concerted endeavors, we may pave for a future that is more just and equitable future where the suffering endured by many may find its end.

 

 

 

 

ICHRP welcomes acquittal of Maria Ressa in Philippine tax evasion case

A press statement by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP)
September 16, 2023

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) welcomes journalist and Nobel Prize recipient Maria Ressa’s acquittal from a Philippine tax evasion case. The decision was promulgated by the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 157 on September 12.

“Ressa’s acquittal serves not just a victory for Philippine news website Rappler, but also for journalism and democracy at large. This legal triumph proves the politically motivated character of the charges, which sought to silence those who were critical of the grave human rights violations of the Duterte administration,” said Peter Murphy, Chairperson of the ICHRP Global Council.

“While we welcome this development, in no way does it absolve the Duterte government of the crimes it perpetrated against the Philippine press. It must be remembered that his administration was openly hostile to the media, resulting in countless attacks on journalists and on press freedom,” continued Murphy.

It should be noted that while Ressa and Rappler have emerged victorious on their fifth and last tax evasion case, Rappler still faces two charges – an appeal on its closure order before the Philippine Court of Appeals, and a pending appeal on a cyber libel case before the Philippine Supreme Court. Under Ressa's leadership, Rappler was consistently critical of Duterte’s policies, especially his infamous “war on drugs”. This attracted the administration’s ire and prompted a string of legal attacks intended to silence and intimidate all journalists critical of his brutal regime.

Ressa’s acquittal is a small but important victory among the numerous cases of attacks against the press under the Duterte government. As documented by INVESTIGATE PH, his government saw the killing of 23 journalists, the shutdown of free-to-air broadcasts by media giant ABS-CBN, and the threat to sue Philippine Daily Inquirer journalist Tetch Torres-Tupas over her report on 2 indigenous peoples who were the first to be charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

This war on dissent has continued with no let up under the Marcos Jr. government. Some of the prominent cases include the brutal slay of broadcaster Percy Lapid on October 3, 2022, the ambush which led to the killing of editorial cartoonist Benharl Kahil on November 5, 2022, and Rappler journalist Frank Cimatu’s conviction of cyber libel on December 14, 2022.

“We call on the Marcos Jr. government to cease forthwith its abuse of the judicial process and its entire policy of political repression. It must actively put a stop to the attacks not just on press freedom but also on anyone who is critical of its policies. The Philippine government should stop making trumped-up charges against those who are defending the rights of the oppressed people. ICHRP will continue to keep watch and expose the Philippine government’s human rights and international humanitarian law violations,” concluded Murphy.

 

 

 

 

CARMMA condemns DepEd’s whitewashing of Marcos dictatorship in Matatag curriculum

A press statement by the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA)
September 11, 2023

Allow us to reiterate a basic historical fact: the two-decade rule of President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. is a dictatorship. The culpability of the crimes against the Filipino people during that dark and bloody period in our history rests primarily on the Marcoses.

We at the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law flag and condemn in the strongest possible terms the Department of Education’s shameless scheme to whitewash and distort our history with its September 6, 2023 memo to change “Diktadurang Marcos” to “Diktadura” in the Grade 6 Araling Panlipunan curriculum of the newly-launched Matatag curriculum.

It is now undeniable that historical distortion and mass disinformation are being raised to the institutional level. The Marcos Jr. administration is no longer hiding behind its army of online trolls and spin doctors; education is now miseducation. Semantically divorcing the Marcoses from the term “dictatorship” – in a curriculum, no less – is obviously a calculated and sinister plot to absolve the Marcoses of their brutalities during their despotic rule, especially among our youth.

Who is ultimately responsible for the murders, torture, illegal incarceration, and disappearances of thousands of activists, among them youth leaders, during martial law? Who signed the orders to dissolve Congress and for the military to take over media outlets 50 years ago on September 21, 1972? Who ultimately benefitted from the plunder of our nation’s coffers, burdening Filipinos with debt that will be paid by generations to come? The answer to these questions are simple: the Marcoses.

Hence, the compound term “Marcos dictatorship” is different from merely calling the period a “dictatorship” alone. How would the people and particularly the children know who was responsible for the plunder and atrocities of martial law if Marcos is not named? He cannot be Voldemort, he who must not be named! The Marcos dictatorship is a truth that cannot be and should not be denied. It is a truth as well that the people rose in defiance against the Marcos dictatorship that eventually led to their overthrow in the 1986 People Power uprising.

This brazen assault on truth at the cultural level goes hand-in-hand and with the huge so-called confidential and intelligence funds being greedily gobbled up by Department of Education Secretary and Vice President Sara Duterte – the spending of which, cannot be scrutinized publicly, and will most likely be for surveilling, harassing, and threatening educators and students who will defy this directive to distort history.

We call on all freedom-loving Filipinos, especially our teachers and students to denounce this deplorable ploy by the Department of Education to distort history and miseducate the youth. We enjoin all to continue holding the Marcoses and their cronies and allies accountable for their crimes against the Filipino people. Remembering is resistance, and we will never forget.

 

 

 

 

Marriage, divorce and the gender issue

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
August 18, 2023

THAT part of the gospel where Christ was asked about marriage and divorce and that also talked a little about man being created man and woman (cfr. Mt 19,3-12) gives us an occasion to clarify certain points that have become today’s hot button issues due to some ideological controversies.

We cannot deny that these days some ideologies are redefining things that are clearly set forth by our Christian faith and that can be clearly validated by an objective analysis of our human nature. One is that marriage can only be between one man and one woman, and that it is exclusive and is meant to be a lifetime commitment.

Why is that? It’s because for marriage to be true marriage, true love should be involved, a love that includes the use of the body and not just a spiritual love that can and should be given to as many persons as possible.

It’s an exclusive kind of love because once the body is given to another, it cannot be shared with anybody else. And if true love animates it, then everything is involved, and so there is a lifetime commitment involved.

Divorce is therefore a no-no. What can happen instead is what is known as nullity of marriage. That’s when it can be proven that the marriage was entered into with some impediments. Thus, marriage should be entered into with full knowledge of what it is and what it entails.

Marriage is also between a man and a woman because it is meant mainly for procreation, and not just enjoyment of some conveniences and pleasures, though these can also be reasons why people marry.

Of course, they should also realize that marriage has its own burdens for which they have to be ready to bear. It is also meant to raise a family where children are formed to be real persons and children of God as we are all meant to be – a tall order, indeed, but which can be borne as long as those concerned tackle this responsibility with God’s grace and their all-out effort.

Regarding the gender issue, it’s kind of funny that nowadays some people are finding it difficult to define what a woman is and what pronoun to assign to those who think they are women when biologically they are men.

Of course, given our human condition that is always a work in progress, to be consistent to one’s gender at birth requires some effort and work. Masculinity for men and femininity for women have to be taught and learned, knowing that given our human condition that is replete with weaknesses, inconsistencies can easily take place.

There can be same-sex attraction which can happen to anyone anytime, but if one is guided properly by a good understanding of our human nature and of our Christian faith, one would know what to do. It’s when one prefers to be guided simply by his own feelings and estimation of things that he or she or they can get into error.

Anyway, we all know that our human condition in this life requires constant vigilance and struggle precisely because of our human weakness and limitations. But we should try our best to follow the objective guide provided by natural law, moral law and the spiritual and supernatural law provided by our Christian faith.

In any case, charity should always prevail, especially in situations when we have to deal with controversial issues. Our differences and conflicts should not be reason to set aside charity. It’s precisely in situations like these that charity should be best lived.

 

 

 

 

Statement of the IBP in support of the integrity and independence of the Supreme Court of the Philippines

By Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
August 17, 2023

In a television interview on One News Channel, a disbarred lawyer claimed that his disbarment is part of Justice Marvic Leonen’s alleged vendetta against him. He likewise claimed that he was targeted by Justice Marvic Leonen because he is a BBM supporter.

Such claims are baseless, malicious and untrue. The Supreme Court is a collegial body. It takes at least one (1) division, or the Court sitting en banc to render a valid judgment. Statements that give the impression that Justices of the Supreme Court can be influenced by one Justice, or that the Supreme Court’s decision is tainted by politics are most unfair and contemptuous.

The disbarred lawyer’s claim that he can re-apply or file a motion for reconsideration “kapag namatay si Justice Leonen” is equally contemptuous.

More troubling is the disbarred lawyer’s claim that some people in the Supreme Court actually called him the day before his disbarment was announced to the media. The call was supposedly to convince him to request Pres. BBM to call the Supreme Court to withhold the issuance of the decision ordering his disbarment. He insinuates that certain personalities in the Supreme Court wanted to leverage his disbarment for certain favors from the President. Such claims are malicious, disrespectful and also contemptuous.

His tirades, insinuations and accusations have no place in a civilized and democratic country like the Philippines.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) abhors such unprecedented conduct of a former lawyer. The IBP stands by the Supreme Court as it continues to discharge its constitutionally guaranteed procedures and jurisdiction on matters relating to the discipline of errant members of the Bar.

If there ever was any uncertainty about whether this person deserved to be disbarred, his television interview is clear proof that the Supreme Court made the right decision.

The IBP stands squarely behind the Honorable Supreme Court, particularly the Court’s integrity and independence in the discharge of its functions.

 

 

 

 

If privileged, never feel entitled

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
July 25, 2023

WE are reminded of this aspect of Christian life in that gospel episode where the mother of the apostles, James and John, requested Christ to have her sons sit beside him, one on his right and the other on his left, at the Kingdom. (cfr. Mt 20,20-28)

Of course, mothers will always be mothers. They will try to give the best for their children. And so, Christ responded to her delicately that those seats were already reserved for those whom God the Father had chosen.

In the meantime, Christ reminded the mother and the two apostles if they were willing to suffer with him, making them understand that heaven can only be reached through the cross. And to the apostles’ credit, they readily responded, “We can!”

We have to realize then that any privilege, honor or praise given to us is a call for us to be more generous in our self-giving to such an extent that we would not run away from making the supreme sacrifice of giving our life for God and the others, just like what Christ did.

Our attitude should be to sharpen even more our desire to serve and not to be served. Christ made it clear to the mother and the brother-apostles when he said, “The Son of man has not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20,28)

Reiterating the same idea, he told them, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. Not so is it among you. On the contrary, whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”

We should never feel entitled. Christ himself was the first one to live by this principle. Being God, he emptied himself to become man and to bear all the sins of men by dying on the cross, all for the purpose of saving mankind. (cfr. Phil 2,7)

He reiterated this point when he lamented about the domineering sense of entitlement of some of the leading Jews of his time while praising the poor widow who put all that she had into the temple treasury. (cfr. Mk 12,38-44)

While it’s true that we obviously are entitled to our rights, we should not feel entitled to privileges and favors that are above our rights and needs. If they come and we cannot avoid them, then let’s be thankful. But we should immediately realize that when privileges and favors come our way, we are being called to serve more.

Let’s be reminded that these privileges, favors and blessings are meant for us to strengthen our desire to serve and not to be served. But as it is, we should try to avoid them, since they tend only to spoil and corrupt us. We always have to be guarded against this danger.

We need to acquire the mentality of a servant which is actually the mentality of Christ himself. Let us readjust our human standards to conform to what is actually proper to us as taught and lived by Christ. We usually look down on the status of servants. This has to change! We should be convinced that by becoming a servant we would be making ourselves like Christ. Let’s say NO to entitlements.

 

 

 

 

Financial aspect of the priestly ministry

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
July 13, 2023

“WITHOUT cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” (Mt 10,8)

These words of Christ should be the guiding principle when considering the financial aspect of the priestly ministry. It cannot be denied that this financial aspect of a priest’s ministry can pose a very tricky challenge to the men of the cloth.

We know that money and anything that gives us honor and privilege have the tendency, if we are not careful, to corrupt us. It is important that in dealing with them, we have to take care of the purity of our intention which can only be achieved if everything that we do is meant for the glory and love of God and love and concern for everybody else. Otherwise, there’s no other way but for us to fall into some spiritual and moral anomalies.

Given our unquestionable weaknesses and proneness to sin, we have to realize that we really need to have accountability and transparency in dealing with financial matters.

While it’s true that Christ’s ministers are also men who have material necessities, we have to be clear that our ministry should never be used mainly, or worse, purely for some financial or economic gain.

As Christ clearly said, given the completely gratuitous character of our vocation and mission, we need to dedicate ourselves to our ministry also gratuitously, without counting the cost.

This concern can be a very tricky thing to deal with. Priests are no spiritual beings with no need for financial support. We need money also. In a sense, we need to earn, but seeing to it that such financial concern should be pursued with utmost purity of intention.

In this regard, what can be most helpful is to develop a strong conviction that we should not create artificial needs beyond what we truly need to survive, leading a decent life, and to carry out our duties properly.

If done properly, this concern for the financial aspect of the priestly ministry can blend well a lifestyle that can be both personally austere and yet magnificently generous with respect to our dedication to the ministry.

We can truly live the Christian poverty that practices detachment from earthly goods and yet is unafraid and even creative and judiciously enterprising to acquire whatever goods and money are needed to further sincere spiritual and moral help to others.

This is, of course, easier said than done. Thus, there is always that need for regular checking or some kind of auditing to see if indeed the true spirit of Christian poverty is lived while handling money in our priestly ministry.

Some signs that can tell us whether we would already be deviating from the proper spirit of Christian poverty are when we have some items that can be considered already as luxurious or above the common standard of what is proper for priests to fulfill their ministry. These items can be the kind of cars that we use, the places that we go for our needed rest and recreation, etc.

But with respect to items directly related to liturgy and to apostolate, we can be as lavish as we can to show how much we truly care for God and for others. In this area, we should not be sparing or stinting. We have to give as much as we can. And it is for this reason that we can ask also for more donations and support from those who can.

 

 

 

 

What is to pray properly

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
June 22, 2023

CHRIST told us how to pray properly. “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words,” he said. “Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Mt 6,7-8)

In other words, we have to pray sincerely, avoiding just going through the motions of praying. We should see to it that that when we pray, we get to have an intimate and direct conversation with God who is always with us and, like a father, treats us with love and solicitude. He actually is eager to talk with us always. Our problem is that we often ignore him, something that we should correct.

This will require faith, of course, since without it there is no way we can have a real conversation with God. Even if our faith is not that strong, we still can manage to strike a good conversation with God, precisely by asking with all humility and importunity for that faith, echoing what a father of an epileptic son told Christ, “I believe, but help my unbelief.” (Mk 9,24)

And it’s interesting to note that after Christ told his disciples not to babble when praying, he told them the Lord’s Prayer which we usually refer to as the “Our Father.” “This is how you are to pray…,” (cfr. Mt 6,9-15) he said. It’s as if that prayer is the model prayer we have to follow in any personal prayer we do. We should express the same beliefs, attitude, intentions and petitions articulated in that prayer.

We therefore have to realize that prayer is how we maintain and nourish our relationship with God, and that relationship should be that of a father and a child. Prayer keeps alive our desire for God, a desire to be like God as we are meant to be.

We have to realize that praying is to our spiritual life what breathing and the beating of the heart are to our biological life. That is why St. Paul clearly said, “Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes 5,17-18)

When we manage to truly pray, we can also manage to protect ourselves from all kinds of evil, and to heal whatever wounds and weaknesses we may have because of our sins. A sense of holy invulnerability can come to us. We can find peace and joy in spite of the drama of our life.

We have to be careful not to convert our prayer into something that is meant only to foster our pursuit for some self-interest that is separated from our desire to be like God. That is why in the Lord’s Prayer, we address God as our Father, and we express the desire that his kingdom come here on earth and that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

And while we have many things to ask because of our personal needs, we should not forget that the more important thing to ask is forgiveness of our sins which will always be given as long as we also forgive others.

We just cannot resort to prayer during special occasions when we are faced with some difficulty. Prayer is not meant to be the remedy of last resort. It is what we have to do always, both in good times and bad.

 

 

 

 

Get to know who Christ truly is

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
June 9, 2023

WITH all the antagonistic questionings Christ received from some of the leading Jews, he instead offered some clarification about who really was. “How do the scribes claim that the Christ is the son of David?” he asked those around him. (Mk 12,35)

And so, he himself also provided the answer. “David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said: The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your feet.’ David himself calls him ‘Lord’; so how is he his son?” (Mk 12,36-37)

The problem with these leading Jews was that they had a narrow if not wrong understanding of the identity of Christ. They could not believe that Christ is first of all God before he also became man. And that his mission is not only something earthly and temporal – the liberation of the Jewish people from bondage – but is something spiritual and supernatural in keeping with the true dignity of man as children of God.

It is important that we too have a good and correct understanding of who Christ truly is and of the real mission he is carrying out with us. Quite often, even if we already are Christian believers, we still have wrong notions and attitudes toward Christ. We expect Christ to work under our own terms instead of the other way around.

It’s good that from time to time we ask ourselves the question of who is Christ to us. I think that’s a very legitimate question to ask ourselves daily. If Christ is truly alive and is actively intervening in our lives, we should ask ourselves if we manage to see him and deal with him today and always. We know all too well that very often we are good in words only, but not in deeds, in theory but not in practice. We need to close the gap.

Let’s remember that Christ himself said: “I am always with you until the end of time.” (Mt 28,20) If we have faith, these words should never be considered as mere bluff. They are true and operative. We have to learn to conform ourselves to that reality and to behave accordingly.

Christ should not just be a Christ of faith or a Christ of history, as some theologians have described him. The Christ of faith and the Christ of history is one and the same person, and he continues not only to be with us but also to work with us, showing us the way how to live, how to work, how to decide, how to choose, etc.

Christ is actually leading us the way in our life so that we can reach our final destination. He is never indifferent to us, even if we are indifferent to him. He will always find a way to be with us always and somehow lead us in his own mysterious ways.

But we need to be more aware of his presence and more active in cooperating with his will and ways. For this, we have to learn to discipline ourselves to be able to see Christ everyday. He is actually in all things and in all situations.

Our faith in him should be such that we can contemplate him always. He has to enter in our life not only intellectually and spiritually, but also emotionally and physically. We have to wean ourselves from that stage where we think that we are just living on our own. We are living with Christ, and in fact, with everybody else.

 

 

 

 

On Slater Young: Sexual fantasy and Christian morality

By LANCE PATRICK C. ENAD**
May 17, 2023

About three weeks before the Slater Young turmoil broke out, an interesting debate came out in Youtube between Matt Frad, a Catholic influencer and Dennis Prager, an Orthodox Jew pundit. In the debate, Prager argued that it was not in se immoral to sexually fantasize about persons or to view pornography (PROVIDED that no exploitation was involved -eg, annimated) so long as this was not acted out as immoral sexual behavior. This is because the ethics of the Law of Moses is in principle, behavioral. Frad, however, argued that such was inherently immoral using of course the words of Christ in Mathew 5;28 and arguing that pornography damages the individual and contributes exploitation (which although relevant, is really a slippery-slope argument)-a position mainly based on Catholic Morality.

At the outset, it was too bad that Frad, as he admitted, was not able to argue as well as he could have and was constantly caught off guard by the sharp mind of Prager. The debate left the impression that Dennis Prager seemed like the Ethics of Ancient Philosophy (perhaps Aristotle) without the Christian Faith while Frad represented Moral Theology (though he wasn’t able to argue very well).

Interestingly, in the said debate, Prager made a distinction between lust and sexual desire -but that's not relevant as of the moment. Nonetheless, it does bring to the table some interesting questions in ethics and moral philosophy as well as some distinctions between moral theology (or Christian ethics).

Christ, in Mt 5:28, said that “whoever looks at a woman lustfully commits adultery in his heart.” However, it is important to note that He preceded this with the phrase that “However, this I say to you.” This notes that before he gave this new interpretation of the Law of Moses (or to be theologically consistent, perfected the Law), this was not how it was interpreted. Hence, Sexual Thoughts only began to be recognized to be sinful when Christ revealed them to be so. In other words, sexual thoughts are only sinful in Christian Ethics or in Moral Theology but not in Moral Philosophy. This is because the law of Moses which is the interpretation of the Ten Commandments, are the privileged expression of Natural Moral Law or Moral Law without yet the light of Christian Faith -hence Christ gave the Beatitudes in his ethical teachings to supplement the Ten Commandments (a subject perhaps more appropriate on another article about a Christian Gentleman).

Thus, just as pride is a virtue in the moral philosophy of Aristotle but a sin in the moral theology of Thomas Aquinas, Sexual Fantasy insofar as natural moral philosophy is concerned, not inherently wrong (although it can be under certain circumstances such as exploitation) but is only a sin in Christian Morality.

In short, insofar as Moral Philosophy is concerned, there is nothing wrong with Slater Young’s statement about men fantasizing about women -so long as this does not involve trafficking or abuse or other such circumstances. Slater Young’s statement is only wrong for those who hold to Christian Morality -who profess faith in Christ. Slater seems to be, at best, a cultural catholic rather than a devout one -though rooting for him to be so.

The funny thing however, is this: will those (especially the woke mob) who strongly reacted against Slater Young’s statement on the basis of Christian Morality be also willing to profess the other tenets of Christian Morality on perhaps -abortion, homosexuality, divorce, etc.- and not just cherry pick? Christian Morality goes beyond the observance of natural law but is calls even further into self-sacrificing love as expressed in the Beatitudes.

**Lance Patrick Enad, A Cebuano in Manila, Bachelor of Philosophy, Student of Theology.

 

 

 

 

Our need for the cross

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
April 7, 2023

IT’S Good Friday! The mood, the atmosphere takes on a very dark hue. And despite the many secularizing and paganizing elements around these days, somehow we assume a most serious face as we commemorate, bring to mind, and liturgically make present, the very passion and death by crucifixion of the Son of God, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Yes, the readings are long, (cfr. Jn 18,1-19,42) but thanks to God, we have learned how to bear the experience and to make alive and be part of the very events narrated in those readings. We try to draw meaningful and spiritually vivifying insights from the prayers offered on this day.

The main lesson we can derive from this celebration of the death of Christ is that we have a great and essential need for the cross of Christ. We need to know the purpose of the cross because the cross, through Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, is where everything in our life is resolved. Christ’s passion, death and resurrection is the culmination of Christ’s redemptive mission on earth.

Yes, Christ preached. He performed miracles. But in the end, he had to offer his life on the cross because no matter what he did, our sins are such that they simply cannot be undone and forgiven through the preaching of the truths of our faith and the tremendous effects of the miracles. Christ has to offer his life on the cross!

In other words, the cross and all the suffering it involves are the consequences of our sins which need to be forgiven and undone. And that can only happen when with Christ, we go through the consequences of our sin by suffering them with Christ on the cross. Thus, the cross of our sins has been converted by Christ into the cross of our salvation. That’s how we have to understand the cross and all the suffering it involves.

We should not be afraid of the cross. In fact, we should be looking forward to have it if only to help in Christ’s continuing work of our redemption. We need to understand that unless we love the cross, we can never say that we are loving enough. Of course, we have to qualify that assertion. It’s when we love the cross the way God wills it – the way Christ loves it – that we can really say that we are loving as we should, or loving with the fullness of love.

We have to be wary of our tendency to limit our loving to ways and forms that give us some benefits alone, be it material, moral or spiritual. While they are also a form of love, they are not yet the fullness of love.

We have to realize more deeply that the cross heals what is sick and wounded in us, resurrects what is dead, forgives what is sinful. There is no evil in man and in the world that cannot be handled properly by Christ’s cross. That’s why we should not feel at all hopeless when we find ourselves in a deep mess, often created by our own selves, our own foolishness.

The cross symbolizes all evil and sin, and with Christ embracing it and dying on it, the cross gets transformed from being a tree of death to a tree of life. It effects our redemption. We should not be afraid of the cross. In fact, we should learn to love it.

 

 

 

 

Christ is everything to us

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
March 22, 2023

“IF I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.” (Jn 5, 31-32)

These are words of Christ that express his effort to identify who he really is and how he is related to God and us. St. John the Baptist had already given his testimony about him, and during his baptism in the River Jordan, nothing less than a voice from heaven was heard, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mt 3,17) Besides, he did so many miracles and his teachings were so sublime that one can easily conclude that Christ must be at least some special person.

We need to strengthen our belief that Christ is everything to us. He is the God-man that offers us “the way, the truth and the life” so that we can recover our dignity and ultimate identity as children of God, made in God’s image and likeness, and meant to share God’s very life and nature.

We therefore need to develop the instinct of always looking for Christ, making him alive in our life and patterning our life after his. This business of always looking for Christ is a basic duty of ours, a grave responsibility, in fact. Without him, we would just be on our own, relying simply on our own light and powers that, no matter how excellent, can never accomplish our real ultimate need of our own salvation, our own perfection as a person and as a child of God.

We need to look for Christ so we can find him, and in finding him, we can start to love and serve him which is what we are expected to do to be ‘another Christ’ as we ought. This has basis on what Christ himself said: “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you…” (Mt 7,7)

And finding him means that we make Christ alive in our life. He is not just a historical figure. Let’s remember that before he went up to heaven, he promised the coming of the Holy Spirit who would bring to us everything that Christ did and said. More than that, the Holy Spirit brings Christ alive in us.

We just have to remember that with Christ, it is not enough to know him. We also have to love him. With Christ, to know him truly is to love him also. In fact, we cannot say we really know him unless we love him too.

With him, these two spiritual operations of ours merge into a unity, although they have different directions. In knowing, the object known is in the knower. It has an inward movement. The knower possesses the known object.

In loving, the lover is in the beloved. It has an outward movement. It is the beloved that possesses the lover. The lover gets identified with the beloved. The lover becomes what he loves. When we love Christ, we are with him, and become one with him.

For this, we need to exercise our faith to the hilt. When we exercise our faith, we enter into a reality that goes beyond what we simply can see and touch and understand. With faith we can have hope in pursuing our ultimate goal of becoming like Christ. With faith we can manage to live the highest virtue, which is charity, with God as its object and others as its unavoidable co-object.

 

 

 

 

Forgiving others likens us to God

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
March 14, 2023

THAT’S what we can learn from that parable about a servant whose debt with his master was forgiven but could not forgive the debt of his fellow servant. (cfr. Mt 18,21-35)

The parable was said because St. Peter asked Christ how many times one should forgive his neighbor. He was trying to be magnanimous when he asked if one should forgive his neighbor 7 times, which in the culture of that time meant many. Christ corrected him by saying, not only 7 times, but 70 times 7, which means always.

In that parable, the master clearly told the servant who could not forgive the debt of his fellow servant that he should forgive the debt of his fellow servant as he himself, the master, forgave servant’s debt.

“You wicked servant,” the master told the servant. “I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?”

Again, we have to remember that since we have been created in God’s image and likeness, we should try our best to be like God who has fully manifested himself in Christ. How God is, how Christ is, should also be how we should be. In short, we can only have that forgiving heart if we truly identify with Christ.

That surely would require grace which is actually abundantly and gratuitously given. But that grace requires our human cooperation. We need to develop in ourselves, no matter difficult the challenge is, the appropriate attitude and virtues for this purpose.

We have to learn how to be always forgiving. Yes, the requirements of justice also have to be met, but forgiveness should always be given even while the requirements of justice still have to be processed.

One may ask: why should that be? Why should forgiveness be given even if the cause of justice is not yet resolved? The answer can only be seen when we consider who we really are. We are men and women, made in the image and likeness of God. Regardless of how we are, whether sinner or saint, that basic dignity of man cannot be erased.

This dignity of man is alluded to in one of the psalms: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet…” (Ps 8,4-6)

Yes, we have the dignity of being children of God, and not just one more creature of his. No matter how much we misbehave, God, being a father, will do everything to bring us back to him. And that’s what Christ precisely did for us. He even went to offer his life on the cross, offering forgiveness to those who crucified him.

God cannot forget and abandon us just because of our sins. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Is 49,15)

Indeed, God will do everything to bring us back to him. And it’s up to us to show at least some signs of repentance for our sins and to accept the eternal mercy of God. If we do the same to one another, we obviously would make ourselves like God as we ought to be!

 

 

 

 

“Stop red-tagging our bishops and our ministries, instead, seek ways that shall make peace”

A statement by the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) on the red-tagging of Bishop Gerardo Alminaza
March 6, 2023

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos City was maliciously red-tagged by SMNI hosts Jeffrey Celiz and Lorraine Badoy in their program “Laban Kasama ng Bayan” on February 22, 2023, calling the bishops’ peace advocacy and appeal for the resumption of the peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP diabolical and demonic.

These utterances are not only malicious but are utterly despicable and malevolent. The SMNI as a network and its hosts Celiz and Badoy are known to have been in the business of badmouthing rights defenders, church peoples, pastors and priests, peace advocates, and even activists. These malevolent acts of willfully spreading lies through their media platforms to serve their masters in high offices of the government only promote devastation, that endangers the lives of the very people that truly promote truth, justice, and peace. Ultimately, these also belittle such meaningful efforts that would take us closer to peace.

The lies that the SMNI spread in bad mouthing people tell of the fullness of their heart as Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”-Matthew 12:34.

Peace advocacy is integral in the ministry of the Church. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” The call for the resumption of the GRP-NDFP Peace talks is a Christian imperative with the end in view of resolving the roots of armed conflict and ushering just peace in our land. Bishop Alminaza’s call to peace-making and ministry is something that the people of the land needed. Therefore, it should be heard and heeded.

Peace makers are children of God. Calling Bishop Alminaza’s appeal for the resumption of the peace talks, “diabolical and demonic” betrays Celiz’ and Badoy’ true selves.

No amount of red-tagging and badmouthing will deter peace advocates to pursue the path that shall make for peace. The Church will never abandon her task in peace-making no matter what, because her Master and Lord said, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”-Matthew 5:11-12

In this breadth, the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) fervently supports Bishop Gerard Alminaza’s peace advocacy and call for the resumption of peace talks. The call towards peacemaking is an action that is most needed in our society, most especially when people’s safety and lives are at stake. We vehemently denounce the bedeviling and outright irresponsible and malignment by SMNI television hosts Celiz and Badoy.

Issued and signed on the day, 6th of March 2023.

(Sgd.)BISHOP Emeritus Ciriaco Q. Francisco, UMC
Co-chairperson, EBF

(Sgd.) THE RT. REVD. Emelyn Gasco-Dacuycuy, IFI
CO-chairperson, EBF

(Sgd.) THE RT. REVD. Dindo de la Cruz Ranojo, IFI
General Secretary, IFI

(Sgd.) BISHOP Emeritus Joel E. Tendero, UCCP
Treasurer, EBF

(Sgd.) BISHOP Emeritus Deogracias S. Iniguez, Jr., DD.
Auditor, EBF

 

 

 

 

Humanizing God, divinizing man

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
March 4, 2023

THE amazing gospel story of the Transfiguration of the Lord (cfr. Mt 17,1-9) reminds us that in the end Christian life involves a dual process of how to humanize God and at the same time, how to divinize man.

And that’s because if Christ was transfigured, with his face shining like the sun and his clothes becoming white as light, we can expect ourselves to be so transfigured also, since we are actually patterned after him. We have some basis to conclude that the ultimate condition of our life in heaven would look like that of the transfigured Christ.

For this to take place, we have to follow the example of Our Lady whose faith enabled her to conceive the very Son of God in her womb. She made God man. And we can also say – and this is not a gratuitous affirmation – that God wants to be born in each one of us, to be incarnated in each one of us, precisely because we are meant to be his image and likeness, sharers of his divine life and nature.

That God wants to be one with us can be supported by the fact that God became man to recover us from our state of alienation from him. He gave his all for this to happen and continues to do so up to now and till the end of time. Not only did he become man, he also assumed all the sins of men without committing them, conquering them ultimately with his passion, death and resurrection.

For us to incarnate God in us, we should try our best to have the same faith as that of Mary, that faith that was described at one point by her cousin, Elizabeth, in these words: “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Lk 1,45) It’s a faith that shows total and unconditional belief in everything God tells us through Christ and now through the Church as always inspired by the Holy Spirit.

To which, Mary responded with her Magnificat that expressed what she glorified the most in her life: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” (Lk 1,46-47) We should also glorify the Lord in that way.

With God wanting to be born and incarnated in us, we now have to learn how to divinize our humanity. And for this, Christ offers us “the way, the truth and the life.”

Christ not only showed us the way of how to handle our human condition here on earth, nor did he only teach us the whole truth about ourselves. He also instituted the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, so that his very own life, which is both human and divine, could also be possessed by us.

We have to do our best to follow the very teaching and life of Christ. Our faith in him should not only be a matter of profession, intention and nice words. It should be expressed in deeds in a consistent and abiding manner. As St. James said in his Letter, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (2,14)

When we follow Christ and Mary, we can develop a taste and even an appetite for the supernatural life with God and of things supernatural in general. We would be on our way to our own transfiguration and be like God himself in our ultimate home in heaven since we are children of his!

 

 

 

 

Prayer sustains our faith

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
February 20, 2023

“HIS disciples asked him in private, ‘Why could we not drive the spirit out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can only come out through prayer.’” (Mk 9,28-29)

This is the concluding part of that gospel episode where Christ was approached by the father of a boy possessed by a mute spirit. (cfr. Mk 9,14-29) According to the father, “wherever the mute spirit seized the boy, it threw him down; he foamed at the mouth, ground his teeth, and became rigid.” It must have been a terrible sight!

But the father complained that when he asked Christ’s disciples to drive it out, they were unable to do so. That’s when Christ retorted, “O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?”

Somehow Christ was highlighting the need for faith for the disciples to be able to drive the spirit out. “Everything is possible to one who has faith,” he said. And then he asked the father of the boy if he too had faith that the spirit can be driven out.

That’s when the father said the famous words: “I do believe, help my unbelief!” He somehow captured the usual condition we have in relation to our faith. We like to profess that we have faith, but we also know that our faith is oftentimes wavering.

When Christ finally drove out the spirit from the boy, the disciples asked why they could not do it. That’s when Christ made it clear that “this kind can only come out through prayer.”

Somehow from this episode we can make the following conclusion: for us to share in the very power of God, especially when we are faced with extraordinary challenges and problems, we need to have a strong faith. And for that faith to be a working faith, it has to be sustained always through prayer.

In other words, to live our life with God and share in everything that he has as we are meant to be, we need pray to keep our faith going. Prayer should be a constant activity for us. It should be like the very beating of our heart.

We have to realize more deeply that it is a basic need of ours to pray. If we understand our life to be a life always with God, as our Christian faith tells us, then we need to pray always.

Prayer is actually more important and necessary than the air we breathe, the food we eat or the water we drink. We should do everything to learn to pray always. On this, St. Paul clearly said, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thes 5,17)

In fact, in that Pauline passage, what went before and after it are very interesting. St. Paul says that we have to rejoice always and be thankful in all circumstances because that is the will of God for us. (cfr 1 Thes 5,16.18)

We have to find ways of how to conform ourselves to this clear indication of St. Paul. We have to learn how to pray always, converting everything in our life, including those that we consider as negative or bad elements, into an occasion, a means, a reason for praying.

We need to go beyond that common understanding of prayer that pegs it only to the recitation of some vocal prayers or to spending time in some special places to do meditation or contemplation. While these forms of prayer are important and, in fact, are indispensable, they do not have the exclusive ownership, so to speak, of the ways of praying.

 

 

 

 

The truth about Christ

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
February 13, 2023

THE Pharisees argued with Christ asking him for a sign from heaven to test him. So, Christ got exasperated and said: “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” Then he left. (cfr. Mk 8,11-13)

This gospel episode reminds us that we should never dare to test God. We have to believe God first if we want to know the truth about anything and everything, especially about God, about Christ, and about us.

Human as he also was and is, Christ could also feel exasperated when he was questioned about something the proof and evidence of which are all over. He performed miracles, his teaching was very sublime, he showed compassion with everyone, mercy with sinners.

As St. Thomas Aquinas once said, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

It’s always a question of faith if we want to know the truth about God, ourselves and everything else. Without faith, we would just be inventing things. Even if we what we think and invent can appear convincing, without faith we will always miss the truth of anything we consider.

Let’s remember that faith is God, who is truth himself, the creator of everything, the first and last lawgiver, sharing what he knows with us. It’s a tremendous gift that would set us on the right path on the many confusing ways of the world.

We cannot deny that we often get entangled with our worldly ways. This is the real problem of inflation that many people today complain about, but limiting it to its economic terms only. That’s when people complain about high prices and cost of production, because of some increase of money of supply that is not properly spread out and shared by the people, or without the corresponding productivity that money supply is supposed to generate.

Inflation in common terms can be described as that phenomenon where there is a lot of hot air in some persons or in some situation without the corresponding substance that such air should come as an effect.

In terms of our spiritual life and our relation of God, there can also be some kind of inflation – the real and ultimate inflation, in fact – when precisely things are done without faith and, thus, we can appear to be making and producing a lot of things and yet miss the real goal of our life. Christ articulated this phenomenon when he said: “What does it a profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his own soul?” (Mk 8,36)

We should take care of our faith because that is the first means we have to establish our relation with God and to truly get in touch with the true reality of things, not just the reality of our own making.

Faith unites us with God in whose image and likeness we have been made. It gives us the whole truth about ourselves, about who we really are. It provides us with all the means we need to face all the challenges of our life.

It is indispensable in our life as we go through the drama of our earthly pilgrimage. With it, we can manage to have hope even in our worst hopeless predicament, as well as charity especially in those moments when we don’t see or feel love around and instead hatred prevails.

What faith also does is to enlighten our mind, enabling us to see and understand things beyond the simply material, temporal and the natural. It lets us enter into the spiritual and supernatural world to which we are poised.

 

 

 

 

Doing good attracts more customers

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
February 6, 2023

THIS is, of course, a common phenomenon. When we do good, we will attract more customers and favor-seekers. When we give some favors to some people, there is always a tendency that more people will come begging for the same favors. We need to be prepared to complicate our life.

This was classically illustrated in that gospel episode where Christ went to Gennesaret, and once the people recognized him, they immediately brought their sick, begging Christ to heal them. (cfr. Mk 6,53-56) The people must already have heard of the many miracles Christ performed, and so they pursued him wherever he went.

It’s always good to do good as much as we can. We just have to make sure that we also do it with a certain prudence, otherwise we might be spoiling people and end ourselves bankrupt, reduced to a miserable state that would need help from others.

Doing good with prudence is compatible with giving ourselves to others wholeheartedly. True prudence does not undermine charity. It would make sure that charity will go all the way. It helps sustain charity to the end.

We can only persevere in doing good with prudence when everything that we do in charity is done always with Christ in mind and in our heart. We should follow his example. Yes, he was compassionate with everyone, but he also saw to it that he had time to separate himself from the crowd in order to pray and to have some intimate time with the apostles and disciples, teaching them things and clarifying certain issues. He also refused to stay too long in a place in order to go to other places.

Let’s make sure that our prudence is not a mask for getting attached to the things of this world. Christ wants us to be detached completely from the things of this world, but such detachment is not so much a matter of how much we have or do not have in possession as of a spiritual detachment from the things of this world.

We can be a millionaire or a billionaire and still be detached from the things of this world. We should not be afraid to be rich in material things as long as we are detached from them, showing such detachment by being completely generous to the needs of the others and in giving glory to God in the end.

This will require a certain discipline, of course, given the obvious fact that we have the tendency to get attached to the things of this world. In this regard, we should clearly etch in our mind and heart the words of Christ who said that if we want to follow him, we should deny ourselves and carry the cross. (cfr. Mt 16,24) These are clear signs of detachment.

Everyday, let us examine our conscience to see if our charity which should go all the way is also done with prudence. It’s a tricky combination to make. Thus, we truly need to study things well and to pray hard, asking for grace and light from God so we can be properly guided.

There will always be difficult decisions to make, but as long as we make those decisions in God’s presence, everything will always work out for the good, even if in the short run, some mistakes or miscalculations may be committed.

We should also be ready for this possibility, and assume the Christian spirit of sportsmanship, where we can continue to move on, ever hopeful and cheerful, despite certain mistakes and defeats along the way.

 

 

 

 

Love unites, hatred divides

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
January 23, 2023

THAT’S true! Love and all its different manifestations always work for unity among ourselves, irrespective of our unavoidable differences and conflicts. In fact, these latter conditions can occasion a greater and purer brand of love.

At the same time, hatred and all its cohorts do nothing other than divide us. They inflict wounds in us – mental, emotional, moral, etc. – with hardly any care to bind those wounds. In fact, they tend to make those wounds fester even more.

We are reminded of this fact of life when in the gospel, some scribes, filled with envy, suspicion and anger against Christ, made that clearly self-contradicting accusation that “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” (Mk 3,22)

Of course, Christ was quick to note the fallacy and clarified the issue by saying, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him.” (Mk 3,23-26)

Clearly, when one does not believe in God, the very essence of love, and is driven instead by hatred, his reasoning can go off the rails. Even the simplest of logic is thrown out. We need to do everything to always strengthen our belief in God, the very cause, origin and pattern of unity amid the vast and increasing diversity and variety of elements we can have in this world.

Nowadays, we are seeing the intriguing phenomenon of asserting what is right and moral as wrong and immoral, and vice-versa. What is clearly an expression of true freedom is now called slavery, and vice-versa. What should clearly be considered as taboo is now regarded as a human right. The forms of self-contradictions go on and on.

To correct this situation or, at least, to deal properly with it, we need to take care and strengthen our belief and our charity. We cannot take this duty for granted, especially now when the world is sinking in confusion and error as it distances itself farther from God.

And since we cannot avoid having differences and conflicts among ourselves, our attitude should be that instead of being afraid, irritated and stressed out by them, let’s be welcoming to them and take advantage of them. A lot of good can actually be derived from them, even if we are not exempted from being pained and mortified by them.

Our differences and conflicts, which by the way are unavoidable in our life, can actually occasion genuine love and many other virtues to develop and grow. They can purify us, smoothing out the rough edges of our personality, and fine-tuning our views, opinions and preferences.

They can give rise to the development of patience and compassion, and the pursuit for the truth and justice is guaranteed to be more authentic even if it is also arduous.

They can actually expand our world of knowledge and understanding, and trigger the dynamics of a more meaningful unity among ourselves, not in spite of but rather because of our differences and conflicts. The unity we are speaking of here is not uniformity, but one that is richly nuanced and capable of accommodating everyone.

Love develops in us a universal heart. Hatred makes us an isolated heart.

 

 

 

What the Sto. Niño tells us

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
January 14, 2023

ON this Feast of the Sto. Niño, we are reminded that irrespective of whatever status we have in this life, it is always necessary that we be like children. Why?

Christ told his disciples clearly: “Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” (Mt 18,3-5)

Christ reiterated this necessity of being childlike a number of times during his preaching. “Let the children come to me. Do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mk 10,15) St. James, in his letter, made the same affirmation. “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (4,6)

We can ask what it is in children that Christ would want us to be like them? I suppose what can come to mind are the qualities of simplicity, transparency, complete trust to elders, etc.

It’s quite clear that we all need to be childlike even as we grow in age and stature, and even as we accumulate already quite a significant amount of knowledge with our exposure to the world and to life in general.

Yes, children and heaven are almost synonymous to each other. No wonder we feel like we are in heaven every time we see children around. Every time a baby is born, we are very happy because we somehow know that he just did not come out of his mother’s womb, but rather from the very hands of God who created him before the parents procreated him.

In spite of the many limitations of children, what makes them always desirable is their pure, innocent heart, incapable of malice, ambition, pride and haughtiness. They are a source of many other good things.

Their heart is always trusting in the Lord, just like a little kid is always confident with his father. Faith and hope easily grow and acquire strength when nurtured in a child's heart. It's this attitude that leads them to go on and move on no matter what, for life to them could only be an adventure of discoveries.

This feast of the Sto. Niño also reminds us that we really need to take care of the children, teaching them the basic virtues that hopefully will branch out to more virtues until they can have a strong sense of religion. Let’s remember that as a poet once said, the child is the father of the man. How the child is trained and raised will determine how he will be when he grows up.

How important it is therefore to teach the children the basic virtues and values. The teaching has to be done patiently and in a most gradual but persistent way. For this purpose, parents may have to undertake some study to know how to go about this most delicate duty. But, for sure, all that effort and sacrifice involved would be all worth it.

Children definitely need to be constantly accompanied. Especially these days when the environment can be very confusing, it’s important that children are closely supervised so that their inherent innocence can be kept even as they get to know more and more things.

Let’s hope that we manage to train children to be always God-fearing and loving of everyone even as they unavoidably face all kinds of trials and challenges as they go along in life.

 

 

 

 

The importance of a healthy family life

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
December 30, 2022

WITH the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we are reminded of our duty to make our family life as healthy as possible. And by healthy, we mean that we animate our family life with the love that reigned in the Holy Family.

Lest we think that animating our family life with love is something purely theoretical if not impracticable, we have to realize that there are specific and concrete things we can do to make our family life vibrant and healthy.

Obviously, a healthy family life means that time is spent with the family. There have to be customs and practices where the family can be together. It would be good if, for example, all the members can take some meals together, like dinner, after which a little family get-together can take place.

This is important because that’s the way all the members can truly know each other and monitor developments as they come. Life offers endless situations, conditions, challenges, trials, etc. Everyone in the family, but especially the parents, should help one another go through these varying circumstances properly.

With time together, they can see each other’s strengths and weaknesses, peculiarities and idiosyncrasies, and would be in better position to help in some way for the proper growth of each one.

One of the things we can do is first of all to teach everyone as early as possible to be always thoughtful, mindful and caring of one another in the family. This will require some training that ideally should start when the children are still small. Of course, the parents take the primary role in this regard.

Let’s remember that the child is the father of the man. How the child is, how he is trained, will show the kind of man he will be when he grows up. Thus, virtues should be imparted and learned as early as possible.

Children, for example, should be taught how to serve the others, how to deal with the unavoidable differences and conflicts among themselves. They have to learn how to educate their emotions and effectively blend the different faculties and powers they have, so they can attain some degree of inner harmony and move toward human maturity.

Most important, of course, is to train them to develop a working life of piety. As early as possible, children should learn how to pray and how to maintain an intimate relationship with God that is also translated into their proper relationship with others. Obviously, some practices of piety have to be inculcated in them in a way that is most attractive and that befits their conditions.

There has to be a way of regularly assessing how each one is growing. It should be a way that is clear about what criteria, standards and norms to use. With the many confusing things that are at play in the world today, it might be prudent to seek professional and expert advice in this regard.

What is clear also is that to make family life healthy, we have to use both human and supernatural means. Everyone has to be taught to use both reason and faith, feelings and intelligence, study and work on the one hand, and prayer, sacrifice, recourse to the sacraments, ascetical struggle on the other.

The natural and the supernatural, the material and the spiritual, the temporal and the eternal have to blended properly!

 

 

 

 

No mercy for Joma until every CPP-NPA-NDF member surrenders

A press statement by the Eastern Visayas Peace Builders’ and Development Federation (EVPBDF)
December 19, 2022

The Eastern Visayas Peace Builders’ and Development Federation (EVPBDF), a group of former leaders and members of the CPP-NPA-NDF in Eastern Visayas, feel pleased but unsatisfied with the death of Jose Maria Sison.

Pleased because he can no longer advise whenever the communist terrorist group needs crucial guidance on its ideological, political, and organizational disputes. With the king of deception to lure patriotic Filipinos to take up violent armed struggle gone, the CPP-NPA-NDF now is left with two options -- first, the remaining leaders to advance the ultra-left tendency and second, to return to the folds of the law. Ultraleft tendency means more violent means to force the support of the Filipino masses.

As former leaders and members of the CPP-NPA-NDF, our lives were destroyed by the havoc brought by armed struggle. We are extremely unsatisfied with his peaceful death because it is not enough for the lives lost and ruined due to the senseless violence instilled in the minds of Filipinos. Joma should have rotten in jail and felt the agony of losing liberty.

His death is dishonorable and should not be used by the communist terrorist group to advance their ill intention of gathering sympathy from the Filipinos against the government. If they want to bring Joma’s cadaver back to the Philippines, the CPP International Department at the very least should surrender first to our authorities. Upon surrender, they should call on their remnants here in the country to lay their arms down. Only then unity toward just and lasting peace will be achieved.

 

 

 

 

Beware of false prophets and false Christs

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
December 14, 2022

WE are reminded of this warning in that gospel episode where St. John the Baptist told his disciples to ask Christ if he truly was the “who is to come, or should we look for another?” (cfr. Lk 7,19)

And the response of Christ was classic. “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Lk 7,22-23)

Since we are patterned after Christ, we should expect that we would somehow share the prophetic, priestly and kingly powers of Christ. This obviously would be a work in progress in life, requiring a lifelong process that would involve a lot of things.

While each one of us can claim to be “another Christ,” if not “Christ himself,” we should not forget that we cannot yet be definitively, fully and immutably “another Christ” for as long as we are still living in this vale of tears, where we are still being tested.

We may manifest our identification with Christ to a greater or lesser degree. But we should avoid claiming to be fully Christ already, since we are still in some drama where we can expect some measure of success as well as failure in our effort to be “another Christ.”

We should be wary then when somebody would already claim that he is Christ himself. Obviously, we should still love and care for him. He is still a brother of ours. And if we have a chance to talk to him, we should try to explain things to him calmly and charitably.

In this, Christ himself warned us: “There shall arise false Christs and false prophets and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Mt 24,24) In another instance, he said: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” (Mt 7,15)

We have to be wary of these characters because the world is now awash with false prophets and false Christs. It even looks like we have an infestation. Whether we look at the fields of politics, business, the sciences, sports and entertainment, and yes, even in religion, we can readily find dishonest and corrupt leaders, false prophets and lying teachers.

In this life, we can only be disciples of Christ struggling, with God’s grace, to be like him. We may strive as best that we can to identify ourselves with him to such an extent that we can say “I am like Christ,” but we can never replace Christ himself. The fullness of our identification of Christ which we are expected and empowered to be, can only take place with and in Christ, but never replacing Christ.

As disciples and ambassadors of Christ, we can only do things always in reference to Christ and in the name of Christ, and never just on our own. And like Christ, we do things with humility, patience, charity and mercy, compatible with being precise in our teaching. We would know how to blend the exclusivity of truth with the inclusivity of charity.

We would know how to be both active and contemplative, bold and yet knowing how to pass unnoticed, teaching the truth always in charity.

 

 

 

 

The State of Human Rights in the Country, A State of Brokenness

A press statement of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines on the International Human Rights Day 2022
December 10, 2022

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Proverbs 31:8-9, NIV

For the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the state of human rights in our country is in a state of brokenness. When human rights are denied and violated, God’s image is also violated in us, as we are created in God’s image. It is therefore our continuing duty as Christians to claim, restore and defend whatever rights have been denied and trampled upon.

December 10, 2022, is the 74th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration recognizes dignity and rights as inherent and inalienable to all human beings. The Philippines was among the 48 countries that voted for the Declaration and has its principles enshrined in our Constitution.

However, the full enjoyment of human rights by the Filipino people remains elusive.

Prices of food continue to soar especially on agricultural products that were affected by various policies on import liberalization including that of the Rice Tariffication Law. Thus, many families are going hungry each day, as prices of basic commodities shoot up, and people continue to suffer.

Sadly, the solution of the government under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is to resort to more borrowing despite a P12.1 trillion debt that it inherited from the Duterte administration, and to come up with highly dubious financial schemes like the much-criticized Maharlika Wealth Fund.

Meanwhile, the climate of impunity continues to worsen. According to the University of the Philippines Third World Studies Center, there have been 127 deaths connected with the war on drugs from July 1 to November 7 this year, mostly attributed to state security forces.

President Marcos Jr. has also inherited his predecessor’s machinery against legitimate dissent like the Anti-Terrorism Law and the Anti-Terrorist Financing Law. Thus, the constriction of civic and democratic spaces continues and there are more vicious patterns of attacks against human rights defenders. According to Karapatan, 937 human rights defenders have been killed since 2001.

The practice of filing trumped-up charges against activists, and human rights defenders, including among church people, continues in many parts of the country. Rev. Glofie S. Baluntong, of the United Methodist Church who has been serving our Mangyan sisters and brothers on the island of Mindoro for many years, has recently been falsely charged with violation of the Anti-Terrorism Law.

The other church people who are facing trumped-up charges and are currently detained are Pastor Jimmy Teves, a lay pastor of UCCP; Rev. Nathaniel “Dodo” Vallente, of the UCCP, a peasant advocate, and, Aldeem Yanez of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), former NCCP Vice Chairperson for Youth and a composer of hymns.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and the UCCP Haran and UCCP Fatima in Bohol are facing cases related to the Anti-Terrorism Financing Act.

Meanwhile, the NTF-ELCAC continues its red-tagging overdrive of various individuals and groups including churches and church leaders. They conduct smear drives and disinformation in online and offline spaces. The military also “visits” communities and parishes only to sow fear in the people, branding activists, church leaders, and organizations as supporters or members of communist terrorist groups. Recent subjects of their attacks include the UCCP, and Bishop Emelyn Dacuycuy of the IFI Diocese of Batac, Ilocos Norte.

Rev. Edwin Egar, UCCP pastor, and Karapatan Southern Tagalog Interim Officer was visited by elements of the 59th Infantry Battalion of the AFP. He was asked to surrender and was also told that he was a target of a search warrant. He and his wife, Rev. Julieta Egar, and former barangay captain Ronald Ramos, a UCCP member, filed for a writ of amparo against several ranking military officials.

We thus call on the government of President Marcos, Jr. to follow all international human rights standards and to heed the various recommendations made by member states during the 4th cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Councils. Especially recommendations calling for a stop to red-tagging, a review of the Anti-Terrorism Law, and even the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC.

As bearers of Christ's love and righteousness, we fervently call on the churches for continued prayer and action in championing and defending human rights, especially of those who are poor and oppressed and to be united in restoring wholeness and the image of God in all of us.

Signed

December 10, 2022

Rev. Felipe B. Ehican, Jr.
Chairperson

Rt. Rev. Joel O. Porlares
Vice-Chairperson

Dr. Gay B. Manodon
Vice-Chairperson

Ma. Kay Catherine F. Almario
Vice-Chairperson

Ms. Minnie Ann Mata-Calub
Acting General Secretary

 

 

 

 

Approaching heaven by doing good on earth

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
November 16, 2022

THAT parable Christ told his disciples about a certain nobleman who was in a journey to obtain a kingship somewhere and leaving his servants with certain amounts for them to do business with (cfr. Lk 19,11-28), gives us the precious lesson that the way to heaven is through the path of generosity and fruitfulness in our earthly affairs.

The parable was occasioned when the people thought that with Christ speaking to them, the Kingdom of God would appear there immediately. It was meant to tell them that the way to heaven was to take care of their earthly and temporal affairs.

It was meant to tell us that our earthly affairs are actually designed by God to bring us back to him, and it would be up to us to follow that design or not. Of course, knowing how we are, there is always the tendency to follow simply our own designs rather than God’s. And that’s something we have to be wary of and to correct.

We should be very clear about this basic truth about the world in general or about the whole of nature that has been created by God. We need to realize that as God’s creation, the whole world of nature has been imprinted with God’s laws that are meant to give glory to God and to lead us also to him, giving him glory as well. In other words, depending on how we see the world, it is actually a pathway to heaven, to God.

Everything that we discover and make use of in the world should lead us to ask ourselves whether what we are discovering are truly in accordance to God’s will, to his true designs of the world, and whether we can discern how they can be used to give glory to God, which is a matter of loving him and serving the whole of humanity.

We have to be wary of the danger of discovering and using things simply in accordance to our own understanding of them and also to our own interest only. This is a common and abiding danger that we have to be most wary about. We have to do everything to avoid and overcome that danger.

Thus, we have to develop that strong and deep attitude of always referring things to God before we put our hands on them. That way, we would be putting ourselves on the right track that hopefully will lead us to God and to see and use things the way they should be seen and used.

This attitude, of course, would require of us to be guided always by our Christian faith, instead of just being guided by our human estimation of things. And for that faith to be effective in us, we obviously need to be humble. Without humility, there is no way faith can have any effect on us.

Everyday, we should be keenly aware that we need to be fruitful and productive. That’s simply because even from the beginning of our creation in Adam and Even, this has always been God’s will for us.

We should be looking for God always in everything that we get involved in. In all the things that we do or handle, we should be conscious that all those things are for God, rather than being interested only on what are there in those things that are for us.

Let’s always remember what Christ himself said: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mt 6,33)

   

Last updated: 05/27/2024

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