Insights and opinions from our contributors on the current issues happening in the region


Economic recovery and going back to the basics

December 20, 2021

The sun always comes out after a storm. The adage is true, as slowly, the country is moving from a pandemic to an endemic mindset. All regions are now classified as minimal to low-risk from COVID-19, and over 40 million Filipinos (almost 40% of the population) have been fully vaccinated. Herd immunity is becoming a reality, as the Government eyes a second mass vaccination drive to raise the number of fully inoculated to 54 million before the year ends.

Truly, we have a lot of things to be grateful for as the Christmas season approaches. Public transport capacity has expanded, the economy is reopening, and quarantine requirements had been relaxed. Already, economists and multilateral agencies have raised the Philippine growth forecast for this year and 2022.

COVID is still around, yes, but we are learning to live with it. As a social development practitioner and financial inclusion advocate, I propose going back to the basics to sustain these gains. Finally, we are on our way to rebounding from the deep economic contraction in 2020. The challenge for us is to push the momentum towards full economic recovery and social renewal.

Microfinance and Financial Inclusion

Going back to the basics means revisiting our roots. Nowadays, the term “microfinance” is almost passé, having been swallowed by the broader phrase “financial inclusion.” But microfinance practitioners should rally behind the fact that microfinance is the heart and soul of financial inclusion, since the industry pioneered the transformative vision of making financial services accessible to poor people. Much remains to be done to reach the unserved and underserved. The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the situation, with more people becoming poor, and the poor becoming even poorer. While digital transformation among microfinance providers -- as well as the rise of fintechs -- have improved access to financial services, the digital divide remains a challenge among the poor population.

Why is there a need to focus on microfinance? From a developmental perspective, any improvement in capital markets reaching the margins is a good thing. A lot of research has examined the positive impact of microfinance on peoples’ lives and its positive benefits to the country’s economy. At first glance, microfinance seems counter-intuitive given its goal of facilitating poor people’s access to much-needed financial services and integrating them in the formal financial system. In a manner of speaking, the goal is to ‘graduate’ them from microfinance, and therein lies the rub.

Microfinance has a long way to go. Because the problem of the poor is more than just access to financial services. Poverty eradication advocates and microfinance advocates understand this. Giving financial aid is crucial, but beyond that, the poor needs financial literacy, capacity-building, marketing support, and a gamut of services that will allow them to be productive members and change-agents in their communities.

And how does microfinance relate to financial inclusion? Microfinance -- the extension of financial and other support services to low income groups -- is a very important economic conduit designed to facilitate their inclusion in the formal financial system and assist the poor to work their way out of poverty. Financial inclusion aims to give everyone access to banking and other useful financial tools, while microfinance seeks to ensure that the use of those tools leads to positive benefits for the poor. Simply put, microfinance aims to address more than the problem of access; its ultimate goal is to give impoverished people an opportunity to become self-sufficient. And that is why microfinance is more important than ever.

Rural Development and Agricultural Financing

We also need to revisit the crucial role of microfinance in the rural development process. Agriculture remains the backbone of the Philippine economy, and 75% of poor Filipinos live in rural and agricultural areas. The way is clear, as we should go where we are needed – that is, towards providing financial support to help farmers, agricultural workers and agri-preneurs. Agricultural financing will help us make a dent in the country’s poverty situation while also contributing to our food security. The latter is especially important, as the COVID pandemic has disrupted the food supply chain, which is everybody’s concern.

The Philippine Statistics Authority has reported that the Philippines’ value of production in agriculture fell by 2.6% in the third quarter of 2021. The drop was attributed to the decline in production of crops, livestock and fisheries during the quarter. The provision by the government of agricultural credit, the opening of the economy and the relaxation of rules on travel and community quarantine have given breathing space to farmers and fishers, but a lot remains to be done to help them recoup their losses from this year’s typhoons and the pandemic.

To respond to this need and also given its background, the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Mutually-Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) has always prioritized support for agricultural and agribusiness endeavors. Its approach is holistic. CARD MRI provides microcredit, microinsurance, capacity-building, and market support to farming families, giving priority to poor women in rural areas. Its agri-loan program finances agricultural production and related activities, e.g., acquisition of farm equipment, poultry and livestock, fishery products, crops, fruits and vegetables production, seedlings and ornamental plants production. In addition, the CARD Crop Assistance Program (CCAP) assists clients whose agricultural business has been damaged by natural calamities. It also implements a credit-with-education program as part of its agri-loan product, and links clients to individual and institutional buyers. Its business development services include trade fairs for agri-preneurs and facilitation of their clients’ partnership with industrial buyers. CARD MRI has a long-standing partnership with the LBP, IFC, BPI, BDO, PNB, and other commercial banks for the provision of microcredit to poor people in rural areas.

Why Advocacy is Crucial

Be that as it may, and despite its outreach of 7.8 million clients nationwide, CARD MRI is just one industry player in an ever-growing sea of low-income agricultural families needing support.

Thus, we need to intensify our advocacy and place microfinance, financial inclusion, and yes, agriculture, at the forefront of policy debates as the country braces for the 2022 election. A vibrant agricultural sector is the key to faster economic recovery, and our next batch of leaders should be made cognizant of this, as well as the crucial role that the microfinance industry plays in the country’s development and in combating poverty.

Microfinance is important because we need more than just institutions providing financial aid to the needy; we need a transformative relationship that goes beyond access to banks or credit provision. The government must ensure that those who are marginalized even by the digital revolution are served. And we need to stay the course, because when there are a lot of challenges, the only way to go is forward.

We are now on the right track to economic recovery. Even with the threat of new COVID variants emerging, the Philippines -- like the rest of the world -- can move forward. We can do this if we will just go back to the basics, and not lose sight of our poor brethren.





What really is God’s word?

November 25, 2021

“HEAVEN and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Lk 21,33)

With these words of Christ, we should feel the need to know what exactly is God’s word. Why will it not pass away?

The simple answer is that God’s word is not just an idea, a doctrine, an ideology. It’s not just a strategy, a culture or a lifestyle. Of course, God’s word involves all these, but unless we understand God’s word as Christ himself, the God who became man to reveal to us all that we need to know, all that we need to do to be God’s image and likeness as God wants us to be, we will miss the real essence and character of God’s word.

We have to realize that the word of God cannot be separated from God himself. That’s because God is so perfect as to be in absolute simplicity. As such, God has no parts, no aspects, no quality or property that are distinct from his very being. His word and his being are just one. There is no distinction at all in him.

Of course, from our point of view, we cannot help but to describe God according to our own terms and ways that cannot help but make distinctions between the essence of a being and its properties and qualities. But in himself, God does not have distinction between his essence and the properties that we attribute to him.

Of course, this is a mystery, a supernatural truth that our reason cannot fully fathom. That is why we need to have a strong faith to be able to accept this truth. And once we accept by faith the absolute unity between God and his word, then we will realize that reading and meditating on the gospel is actually having a living encounter with God through Christ.

Thus, St. Jerome, a father of the Church, once said that to read the Scripture is to converse with God—“If you pray, you speak with the Spouse. If you read, it is he who speaks to you,” he said.

Only when we realize that God’s word is Christ himself and that reading it is like having an encounter with Christ can God’s word truly be as the Letter to the Hebrews described it: “Alive and active. Sharper than any double-edge sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (4,12)

Of course, we have to be that good, rich soil referred to in that parable for God’s word to take root in us and be fruitful. Otherwise, no matter how powerfully effective God’s word is, if the reader of that word does not have the right condition, that word would have no effect. It would fail to produce fruit, “thirty, sixty and even a hundredfold,” as Christ assured us.

That means that we should handle the word of God with great faith and piety. We should not just treat it as some literary or historical or cultural reading. We have to realize that we are listening to Christ and that what we hear from him should be taken very seriously.

That means that we have to involve our whole being when reading God’s word. It should not just be an intellectual affair, though we have to make full use of our intelligence and all our other faculties when reading and meditating on it.





An urgent call for the full transparency on the sale of the Malampaya natural gas resource

A press statement by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
November 24, 2021

The Malampaya Deepwater Gas-to-Power Project under Petroleum Service Contract (“SC”) No. 38 is a vital resource in the country’s energy mix. The project employs deepwater technology to draw natural gas that fuels three gas-fired power plants and provides 30% of Luzon's power generation requirements. Data from the Department of Energy (“DOE”) indicate that given the present production level and continuous decrease in reservoir pressure, the drop in supply is expected by 2022. SC 38 will expire in 2024 with no certainty of an extension. Only through further exploration will the extent of Malampaya’s life is determined.

It is thus with deep apprehension and concern that the Integrated Bar of the Philippines view the latest developments surrounding the ongoing divestment being done by two parties, Chevron Malampaya LLC (“Chevron”) and Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (“SPEX”), the operator, under the Joint Operating Agreement (“JOA”) of SC 38.

There have been numerous allegations against the assignment of Chevron’s 45% interest to a subsidiary of Udenna Corp. and the ongoing divestment of SPEX’s 45% in favor of another Udenna subsidiary. The assignment of interests, which will ultimately enable Udenna to takeover the Malampaya facility is allegedly detrimental to national security and interest. Regarding the transfer of Chevron’s 45% interest to Udenna’s subsidiary, UC Malampaya, a criminal complaint was filed with the Ombudsman on 18 October 2021 against officials of the DOE, Udenna, Chevron, SPEX, and the state-owned Philippine National Oil Corporation (“PNOC”) and its subsidiary PNOC-Exploration Corporation, alleging among others:

• Udenna’s subsidiary is financially and technically unqualified to be the as- signee of the interest;

• The DOE and PNOC grossly and inexcusably neglected government’s right to match Udenna’s offer to buy out Chevron’s 45% interest; and

• Officials of the DOE and PNOC criminally conspired with the private respondents to give unwarranted benefits to Udenna and its subsidiary causing undue injury to the government arising from the questioned sale transaction.

In light of the strategic importance of the Malampaya energy resource to national security and economic interest, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (“IBP”) supports the ongoing Senate Committee on Energy’s investigation in aid of legislation on the interest divestments to the Udenna subsidiaries. The ongoing Senate investigation will determine if the DOE was transparent in determining the financial and technical qualifications of the Udenna companies to acquire the 90% interest in SC 38. In the meantime, while the Senate investigation is ongoing, the IBP calls on the DOE to:

• rescind its approval of Chevron’s transfer of its 45% interest in Malampaya to Udenna’s subsidiary, UC Malampaya; and

• hold in abeyance, its approval of SPEX’s transfer of its 45% to another Udennna subsidiary, Malampaya Energy XP.

The IBP also calls on the DOE to thoroughly review, study, and consider the extension of SC 38 in favor of the original Malampaya consortium – SPEX, Chevron, and PNOC EC. In this way, the original consortium will be able to conduct further exploration on SC 38 in light of the forthcoming depletion of the Malampaya natural gas field. The extension will also incentivize the original consortium to continue operating SC 38 with their proven technical and financial track record in petroleum exploration and development in contrast to a buyer with no proven experience in operating a highly-technical and capital- intensive operation.

In the event that Chevron and SPEX proceed with their plans to divest their respective interests in Malampaya, the IBP calls for PNOC to exercise its right to match any offer laid before Chevron and SPEX under the JOA. The IBP believes that PNOC being a state-owned petroleum company has the mandate and wherewithal to raise funds for acquiring the controlling interests in Malampaya. A PNOC takeover of SC 38 will be financially advantageous to the Philippine government since Malampaya is a producing field with an existing infrastructure for other petroleum discoveries. In view of this, the IBP calls on Philippine legislators to review and amend the possible legal restrictions imposed by various legislations on PNOC-EC as a government-owned and controlled corporation, such as Republic Act (“RA”) No. 9184, “Procurement Law”, and RA 10149, “the Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations Governance Law”.

Malampaya’s 500-kilometer gas pipeline to mainland Luzon is a vital link to the possible development of potential natural gas resources in the Recto Bank, located within the disputed West Philippine Sea maritime area. With PNOC assuming control of the Malampaya operations, the Philippines can be assured that its energy resources will be protected from any possible foreign interference inimical to national security and interests. To fund further exploration and development, a buyer who is not technically and financially capable of operating Malampaya may tap companies from foreign countries having adverse interests in the West Philippine Sea dispute. This will place our strategic energy resources and infrastructure in the hands of hostile foreign interest.

Finally, the IBP calls on the Office of the Ombudsman to expeditiously resolve the complaint against the officials of the DOE, Udenna, Chevron, SPEX, and PNOC in light of the fact that this matter is of utmost economic urgency since the Malampaya field is nearing its depletion and the DOE appears to have no viable alternative to replace a major source of power for Luzon. The DOE must exercise transparency in evaluating transactions in relation to critical energy resources and ensure that developers are financially and technically competent. In this way, the government can forge a sustainable balance in creating a stable investment climate and establishing good governance practice in the management of the country’s energy resources.





Hope on the horizon: Amidst COVID, microinsurance protects the poor

October 26, 2021

With 2,643,494 recorded cases and 39,232 deaths as of October 8, 2021, COVID has wrought unprecedented hardship for the Philippines – despite the adoption of stringent lockdowns since the pandemic started in 2020. The spikes in COVID cases, especially the recent surge caused by the Delta variant, not only placed pressure on the national health care system, it also hampered plans to expand health insurance coverage due to the ensuing economic challenges. It highlighted the insurance gap in the Philippines, where penetration stands at around 1.71 percent of GDP.

But there is a silver lining. With the health crisis came an increase in insurance awareness and greater demand for health insurance. Even those from low-income groups now understand the need for financial protection against unexpected shocks, recognizing that an illness or death in the family could bring them deeper into poverty. Last May, the Insurance Commission (IC) reported that the number of lives covered by microinsurance products in 2020 hit 50.35 million, an 11.56 percent increase from 45.13 million in 2019. Amidst the COVID pandemic, microinsurance has become a lifeline for Filipinos, even those with low income and limited access to mainstream insurance services.

Clearly, the government needs to support microinsurance and facilitate protection coverage to the most vulnerable sectors. This is crucial, especially during this pandemic.

Microinsurance MBAs

Poverty alleviation is central to our development agenda, as outlined in “AmBisyon Natin 2040” and the “Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.” This involves building people’s socioeconomic resilience through the provision of universal and transformative social protection, including insurance mobilization. Unfortunately, health insurance under PhilHealth, with its limited coverage and benefits, remains inadequate, while mainstream insurance companies have failed to penetrate the low-income and poor market segment.

Enter microinsurance. As the name suggests, this pertains to affordable insurance products intended for the poor and low-income families. These are usually offered by mutual benefit associations (MBAs) which must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and apply for license from the Insurance Commission (IC) as a non-stock, nonprofit association and insurance provider in line with Sec. 404 of the Revised Insurance Code. The IC laid down the policy framework for microinsurance fifteen years ago, through Memorandum Circular 9-2006, which introduced Microinsurance Mutual Benefit Associations (Mi-MBAs). These are member-owned and governed microinsurance providers that offer insurance to members, pay claim faster (within a few days from the date of claims notice), and distribute products using the social distribution network of partner microfinance institutions (MFIs). This Circular regularized previously informal MFI and NGO arrangements in microinsurance provision, and Mi-MBAs eventually became key drivers of microinsurance development, providing simple, affordable, and accessible microinsurance products to low-income families.

The 2010 National Strategy and the Regulatory Framework for Microinsurance facilitated further growth of the microinsurance industry, with rural banks, thrift banks, and even mainstream insurance outfits and fintech companies becoming players. Within this ecosystem is a niche for Mi-MBAs, led by the Microinsurance MBA Association of the Philippines (MiMAP), which presently covers 62 per cent of the microinsurance market.

A total of eighteen Mi-MBAs under MiMAP have a combined outreach of 7 million individual members nationwide, majority of whom are micro-entrepreneurs, small farmers and fishermen. As microinsurance coverage is extended to the members’ families (with 4 as average family size), MiMAP currently insures 28 million Filipinos. The Mi-MBAs provide basic life family microinsurance plans and a range of optional life plans that include coverage for health and retirement. In 2019, the mobilization of such membership accumulated a total of P4.81 billion in contributions and premiums, paid P1.43 billion in claims benefits, and reserved P1.95 billion in refundable equity value to members. These Mi-MBAs have significantly contributed to greater financial inclusion and financial literacy for poor and low-income Filipinos.

Tax Exemption

Mi-MBAs are crucial to financial inclusion, as they are community-based organizations able to penetrate hard-to-reach and frontier areas where conventional insurance providers dare not go. During this period of pandemic, Mi-MBAs helped in alleviating the plight of the poor and those most vulnerable to economic shocks. Even as they suspended the collection of contributions and extended the grace period for payments, Mi-MBAs continued to pay claims benefits. Under very difficult operational and business circumstances during the first five months of community quarantine from March to August 2020, Mi-MBAs paid a total of 27,657 death claims worth P613.54 million, 667 of which are COVID-related deaths.

Since Mi-MBAs are non-stock, non-profit microinsurance providers that operate for the exclusive benefit of their members, they are exempted from paying tax on corporations, tax on life insurance premiums and documentary stamp tax under the Insurance Code and the National Internal Revenue Code. Unfortunately, not all Mi-MBAs are able to avail of these exemptions as tax authorities vary in their interpretation of the applicable provisions. MiMAP reports that some of their members have been issued notices of tax deficiencies, while others were denied tax exemption status. Many Mi-MBAs, in fact, are still waiting for the BIR ruling on their application for tax exemption.

This is sad, since Mi-MBAs already operate on very thin margins because of their restricted capacity to spend only up to a maximum 20% of their contributions for administrative and operating expenses. The situation exacerbates their resource constraints, inhibiting them from optimizing or upgrading their management information systems.

It behooves the government to ensure that Mi-MBAs enjoy the tax exemptions granted to them under the law. Mi-MBAs, after all, are managed by grassroots organizations composed of low-income families. Their members and target clients are also poor, mostly belonging to the informal sector. They provide necessary financial services to the most vulnerable, contributing to poverty alleviation and financial inclusion. Mi-MBAs could serve more Filipinos if they can fully enjoy their tax exemptions, which could help them digitize their operations – a necessity given that mobility and face-to-face interaction are greatly limited by the pandemic.

Tax Reduction for Non-Life Insurance

Tax rules also impede market development with respect to non-life insurance. Usually, as the market matures, a more diverse range of products is expected, to serve broader customer needs and to diversify insurers’ risk portfolio. This is not the case here, because general taxation for the non-life insurance sector reaches as high as 27 percent, one of the highest in Southeast Asia. This discourages insurers from offering complex products, such as disaster and agricultural insurance, both highly relevant to the low-income population. The tax on nonlife insurance products, including crop insurance, should be reduced to 2 percent, or the current rate imposed on life insurance products. Cutting the tax on non-life insurance premium will significantly raise the number of private insurance offerings. There will be no need for government to subsidize agri-insurance because the regime will be market-driven.

Microinsurance has come a long way in the Philippines. From a coverage of less than three million low-income Filipinos in 2007, the number has surged to more than 50 million last year. Microinsurance MBAs, in particular, significantly contribute to poverty alleviation, financial inclusion and literacy by providing affordable and relevant risk protection to poor and underserved households. But millions of poor families remain unprotected and vulnerable. With natural disasters always a possibility given climate change, and the threats posed by the COVID pandemic, we should find ways to support the growth of the microinsurance industry. As the 2022 election draws near, those who aspire to be the country’s next leaders should champion financial inclusion for the poor, and include microfinance and microinsurance in their battle-cry. Their campaign to provide affordable and relevant risk protection to millions of Filipinos from low-income families would serve them well come election time.





On the proposed directive in barring cabinet members from attending the hearings in the senate

A press statement by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
October 5, 2021

It is the objective and purpose of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to uphold the rule of law, improve and assist in the administration of justice and foster and maintain high ideals of integrity, public service and conduct. This call to service is engraved not only in its By-Laws but in the very Rules of Court (Section 1, Rule 139-A).

In view of the brewing conflict between the Executive and the Legislative branches of the government, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines calls for calm, sobriety, and unity among the said two (2) branches of government and its agencies, and for the same to cooperate and work together to combat corruption and abuse.

It is imperative for our government to fight corruption, wherever it maybe, and to assist, rather than obstruct, any investigation that seeks to identify the root of corruption and the perpetrators behind them.

Corruption is measured not just in the billions of pesos of our taxpayers’ money lost to government malfeasance, but more importantly, in the deficiency of effective healthcare and medicine that could have saved the lives of many of our countrymen, as well as financial assistance to households and businesses in distress due to the pandemic.

A transparent government is one of the hallmarks of a truly republican state. The only way to succeed is for all branches of government to work together in combating corruption and abuse.

We call on the President to heed the words of the Supreme Court in the case of Senate vs. Ermita (G.R. No. 169777, April 20, 2006) which provides as follows:

Ultimately, the power of Congress to compel the appearance of executive officials under Section 21 and the lack of it under Section 22 find their basis in the principle of separation of powers. While the executive branch is a co-equal branch of the legislature, it cannot frustrate the power of Congress to legislate by refusing to comply with its demands for information.

We thus urge the President to reconsider his decision to bar his Cabinet from attending the Senate investigation on the alleged irregularities in the Department of Health (DOH) spending related to the COVID-19 pandemic program. It is only by granting our Congress free access to information that we can empower them to formulate policies that fully reflect the will of our people.





The true nature and purpose of marriage

October 1, 2021

THERE is no doubt that we need to revisit the true nature and purpose of marriage, since this basic human and Christian institution is now besieged with so many misconceptions and malpractices. What the gospel once narrated about some leading Jews asking and testing Christ whether divorce was lawful (cfr. Mt 10,2-12) is now being played out even in our own country.

With all the forces and elements now undermining the true nature and purpose of marriage, there is an urgent need to clarify and show the real face and beauty of this human, natural as well as supernatural institution.

Countries and nations, supposedly developed and quite rich, are now legalizing forms of marriage that really have nothing to do with marriage. Same-sex unions, divorce, civil marriages among Catholic, temporary unions and cohabitations are not only spreading but are also getting legalized.

There are those who are quite convinced, and wrongly convinced, if I may say, that marital problems can be solved by legalizing divorce. We need to talk a lot about this issue.

Our problem is that we now have a world culture that has lost the capacity to think deeply and thoroughly. It’s an ethos that is held captive by the quick and easy way of thinking and reacting, dominated mainly by worldly values like convenience, practicality, popularity, etc.

The full and global picture of who and what we are is ignored if not ridiculed. This, of course, determines our proper attitude and praxis about marriage and the other institutions related to it—family, education...

The spiritual and supernatural dimension of man is set aside. Instead only the material and social aspects are considered. The dynamism of today’s world, now heavily dependent on new technologies, has made people to be thinking, studying and praying less, and to be just more practical, if not more self-absorbed and self-seeking.

There is a need to realize and appreciate more deeply that marriage, not only as a natural institution but also and especially as a sacrament, is a path to sanctity not only for the husband and wife but also for the family, and from the family, for the society and the Church in general.

We need to see the organic link among these key elements: the marriage between man and woman, and the family they generate, as well as the society of which the family is the basic cell and the universal Church of which the family is considered the domestic church.

Seeing that link, we would appreciate the crucial and strategic role that marriage plays in the life of men and women in the world. We would appreciate the tremendous potential good that marriage can give to all of us.

That is why everything has to be done to make marriage achieve its fullest dignity. And that means that we have to purify and elevate the love that is the very germ of marriage to the supernatural order.

That love has to develop from simply being natural and body-emotion-world reliant to being more and more spiritual and supernatural, driven by grace rather than by mere natural forces.

With the sacrament of marriage, the love between husband and wife is already guaranteed to have all the graces needed to make that marriage reach its fullness. What is needed is the faithful and generous correspondence of the parties concerned to those graces.





Angels are real

September 28, 2021

ON the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (September 29), we are presented with that amusing gospel episode about the calling of Nathanael. (cfr. Jn 1,47-51) We might be wondering how Nathanael’s vocation is related to the existence of angels.

My personal take on this question is that Nathanael, whom Christ described as a man without guile, must have been enabled to recognize Christ as the Son of God, the King of Israel, through the help of the angels.

When Christ told him, in response to Nathanael’s question about how Christ knew him, that Christ saw him under the fig tree before Philip came, some angels must have been involved in that event.

We can somehow support that speculation by referring to the fact that at the end of gospel episode, Christ told Nathanael, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” What Nathanael was doing under the fig tree must have something to do about who the Son of Man is, and about heaven and angels.

In any event, our faith tells us that angels are real and that they are our great ally, helping us in all our needs, from the most trivial to the most important. Yes, angels exist. They are real. We need to say this now since angels, if they are ever referred to nowadays, are often considered as mere figments of our imagination that at best can be used as literary and sentimental devices.

Obviously, faith is needed to believe in angels. They are creatures whose presence goes beyond what our senses can perceive. They can however assume bodily forms as mentioned several times in the Bible. But essentially, they are pure spirits. As such, they are readily available to help us, since they are not limited by time and space.

We have to develop and popularize a devotion to angels, especially to the archangels. They are great allies that we can count on especially during our difficult moments. They are so close and so identified with God that we can refer to them as God’s organic or vital extensions of his own self, if we may describe them that.

Remember what Christ said about angels in general? It was when he talked about the angels of little children whom the disciples wanted to shoo away from Christ for being a disturbance. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones,” he said. “For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” (Mt 18,10)

Our guardian angels, for example, are very helpful to us in our task of navigating the most tricky spiritual and supernatural realities. When there are strong temptations, or when some unknown evil spirits seem to bother us, or when we are undertaking a spiritual and supernatural project like coming up with an apostolic initiative, our guardian angels make themselves available to help us in any way.

It’s important that we be aware of the existence of these very powerful angels who, for sure, would be most willing and most happy to help us in their own way. We just have to enliven our faith in them and develop the appropriate devotion.

Many great saints have benefited from the help of the angels. It would be good if we train ourselves to develop an intimate relationship with them. To be sure, only good things can come out of such relationship!



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