Boinkie's Blog


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fiesta time in Luzon

Right now, it is "summer" in the Philippines.
It's hot. There is no rain, and nothing grows without irrigation, so work slows down in farm areas.

The rains start in May. So by late May, it is time to start mulching the rice fields to prepare them for the rice seedlings, that are planted by hand.

Thanks to handplows (sort of a large rototiller) the tilling is a bit easier than the old days of using a waterbuffalo, but no matter how it is done, rice takes a lot of work to get a good crop.

But right now, there is little rain, the fields are fallow, so it is fiesta time.

There are all sorts of fiestas in the Philippines, most of them celebrating the local saints.

Each town has a large church, but every neighborhood has a small open air chapel used for prayer meetings and weekly mass.

Our town's church patron is the Three Kings, so there is a fiesta in early January. And our neighborhood is San Lorenzo, St. Lawrence. The next neighborhood is San Vincente, St. Vincent Ferrar. You get the idea. Then there are fiestas and processions for Christmas, Easter, Holy Week, etc.

Humans have a need for celebration. In secular societies, we celebrate everything from our local sports team to Independence day. Here, we celebrate the saints.

The fiestas are a way to teach the young about God, through stories that teach them about Catholicism, both dogma and morality.

The big fiesta in our town is "the Divina Pastora", which roughly translates as "the Holy Shepherdess". A local website tells the story of how a dream led to a visit to an Augustine friar, who gave the lady an image of the Spanish Divina Pastora: Mary as a Spanish shepherdess, with staff and widebrimmed hat, caring for her sheep.

The statue at first was only placed in the family shrine, but soon it's fame and association for miracles spread, until soon it became the center of the small town's local devotion.

All of this at first seems strange, since there are no sheep in this area (goats yes, but no sheep). But of course, the image tells us that Mary, the mother of God, is a loving mother caring for her wandering children, and that story transcends cultural boundaries.

Mama Mary may be dressed for the fiesta in gold brocade and given a crown, but everyone knows she is wearing the hat of a farm wife and is busy working watching the sheep. She is one of the common people, not a rich lady.

Mama Mary is one of us.

Perhaps at this point I should point out that when the friars came, they taught religion via fiestas, stories, and images. Jesus became Kuya Jesus (older brother Jesus), Mary was Mama Mary, and God the father was, well, the father in charge of his large extended family.

Devotion is quite personal. Most people have small shrines in their homes, with various images which are decorated with flowers and leis on holy days. Lourdes shrines are commonly found in middle class homes. And many Catholic families pray the rosary every day after supper.

With the modern world changing things, we see a change in culture.

Often, the more "americanized" Filipino, especially the business community, becomes Protestant. They join a church full of other intelligent, upright, hard working businessmen, and hear sermons which teach a strict set of moral rules. Teaching is via bible verses, not by stories, and is very exact and proper.

And that influence has led Catholic groups to stress bible study, so that educated Catholics now learn where their beliefs were written in the Bible.

Yet the Protestants have brought another way to worship that has energized the Catholic church:the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements where singing and praise allows people to feel a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and empowerment of the Holy Spirit as part of their lives.

But the Catholics, even those involved in the charismatics, still love the fiestas to express their religion.

Here there are two parades. The "official" one is May 1, but the religious one was on Saturday.

First there was an afternoon Mass, with the crowning of Mary.

This was followed by a parade of groups from the small parish churches in each neighborhood (barangay) in a parade.

The statues of the saints came first, followed by the parish groups. Many groups were dressed in local costumes, others in traditional garb. Many of the poorer groups only had sashes or ponchos to identify their group. But they marched as a way to show their devotion to Mary, and as a way to honor God.

Photos from the parish website HERE show the 2002 fiesta.

And then came the street dances and parties. The parties continue through May 1st. Lots of people use the fiesta as an excuse to travel home and visit extended family.

Of course, these celebrations are frowned on as quaint and pagan by the more sophisticated, but Hey, we're Filipinos.

We figure if Jesus could do his first miracle to keep the wedding party going in Cana, he won't mind if we eat some lechon and drink a Cola or San Mig to celebrate him and his mom.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Taking God seriously

When one reads that pro abortion politicians have plainly decided to receive communion from the Pope in a public forum, one wonders if these politicians take God seriously at all.

For Catholics, going to mass isn't a "feel good" exercise but a way for us to worship God, and to receive him in our hearts.

The sacrament of communion isn't just a symbol: it means "We believe that the Word became flesh, and that we receive his flesh in the Lord's supper. ..with him we form a unity which is in God...from the Lord's own words: This world will see me no longer, but you shall see me..." (St Hilary, On the Trinity)

The Eucharistic celebration is not a way to celebrate ourselves as the people of God as much as a way for us to worship God as both individuals and united as a large family who care for one another. There is a communal aspect to the mass, which was lost and reemphasized after VaticanII, but too often "reformers" went too far the other way, losing site of the redemptive side of the mass.

So now we see Catholic politicians who insist they will receive communion despite their support of abortion.

For John Serrano, attending the mass means "celebrating who we are as Catholics".

For John Kerry, it means to reflect on the ways we can contribute to the common good, address global issues of poverty, disease and despair.

Ah, but what it does "the common good" mean?

Because Kerry supports a socialist government that supplies all material needs for people, this means he is doing God's work?

Similarly, a prolife Robert Casey Jr., who ran as a pro life Democrat, defend his support of Senator Obama because of Iraq, national health care, and economic positions, explaining that abortion may not even come up during the next presidency.

This, of course, ignores that Obama will appoint judges to the Supreme Court, and that in the past, activist judges have changed many laws, including abortion laws, that were based on the religious beliefs of much of the public.

Nancy Pelosi resents the church insisting that politicians who are Catholic try to act on their belief that the child in the womb should be protected. She sees a church instead as being too bossy. The church has to realize that if politicians don't support abortion, they won't be elected to do all those other good things for people.

If this is so, then why did the Democrats go out of their way to seek abortion opponents such as Senator Casey to run in the 2006 election cycle?

Back in the 1970's, the Democratic party was hijacked by an elite who imposed a litmus test to support abortion on those seeking office. No abortion support, no funds from the national party. This led to many previously pro life Democrats (including Al Gore and Bill Clinton) to change their opinions.

Why not? The dirty little secret is that in the turmoil after Vatican II, when the church's stance on sexual purity and against abortion was under siege, there was essentially no way for pro life Catholics (who often were working class Roosevelt Democrats) to have a say in the party. Without anyone opposing the pro abortion groups, the Democratic party caved into their demands.

Given the choice between losing money for their campaigns from the pro abortion party or being fully accepted, they chose the expedient way.

To paraphrase Henry IV: A throne is worth a few dead babies.

So politicians who support abortion are saying: The pregnancy is not a real child, so it doesn’t matter. Well, maybe that little blob of tissue does matter to a God who says he knows us before we are knit together in our mother’s womb, but fighting for "justice" is more important than this small life.

Like Caiaphas, expediency came first: "one man to die for the people , that the whole nation perish not." Or in this case, it is better for an unwanted pregnancy/a small baby to die so that we can win elections.

There may be real reasons for a woman to seek an abortion, but like all killing, it does matter to God. Indeed, God might consider that child more important than balancing the budget or getting elected: what ever you do for my little ones you do it to me.

That is why one shudders when pro abortion politicians receive communion in public.

Don't they think that God is real? Don't they believe that receiving communion is asking God to enter into your life, and that to ask God to guide your life while you support killing his little ones is a blasphemy if you really believe?

So I suspect the politicians don't really take God seriously.

The Mass and Holy Communion is not a real thing where we stand in awe in front of the deity who made the earth and who came to teach us how to live. It’s a celebration of me, me, me. I want to be happy, so how dare you stop me from showing off.

All of this of course will be ignored by the press and most of those at the Mass.

But I suspect Benedict will pray for their souls.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Pop psychology test

Your dessert tells us what you are:

1. ANGEL FOOD CAKE -- Sweet, loving, cuddly. You love all warm

and fuzzy items. A little nutty at times. Sometimes you need an ice

cream cone at the end of the day. Others perceive you as being

child - like and immature at times.

2. BROWNIES -- You are adventurous, love new ideas, and are a

champion of underdogs and a slayer of dragons. When tempers flare up

you whip out your sabre. You are always the oddball with a unique sense

of humour and direction. You tend to be very loyal.

3. LEMON MERINGUE -- Smooth, sexy, & articulate with your hands,

you are an excellent after-dinner speaker and a good teacher. But don't try

to walk and chew gum at the same time. A bit of a diva at times, but you have

many friends.


humorous, not very grounded in life; very indecisive and lack motivation.

Everyone enjoys being around you, but you are a practical joker. Others should be

cautious in making you mad. However, you are a friend for life.

5. STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE -- Romantic, warm, loving. You care

about other people, can be counted on in a pinch and expect the same in

return. Intuitively keen. Can be very emotional.

6. CHOCOLATE ON CHOCOLATE -- Sexy; always ready to give and receive.

Very creative, adventurous, ambitious, and passionate.

You can appear to have a cold exterior but are warm on the inside.

Not afraid to take chances. Won't settle for anything average in life.

Loves to laugh.

7. ICE CREAM -- You like sports, whether it be baseball, football,

basketball, or soccer. If you could, you would like to participate, but

you enjoy watching sports. You don't like to give up the remote

control . You tend to be self-centred and high maintenance.

8. CARROT CAKE -- You are a very fun loving person, who likes to

laugh. You are fun to be with. People like to hang out with you. You are a

very warm hearted person and a little quirky at times.

You have many loyal friends