Friday, January 28, 2011


(This column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! It’s another weekend and the streamers are all over the place announcing that in the next few days Calbayog will be EVRAA City.

It’s all systems go for EVRAA 2011. It’s the second time that the City of Calbayog will be hosting the said sports meet. Last Saturday, Mayor Reynaldo Uy met with the chairpersons of the various EVRAA 2011 committees for some final updates on the said event. And last Monday, he called on all employees and all Calbayognons to extend their support to the sports event.

All 10 Schools Divisions of Eastern Visayas have confirmed their attendance to the sports meet. The delegations will be billeted at various public and privates schools in the city. Biliran Division (at the Trinidad Elementary School), Calbayog City Division (Calbayog East Central School), Eastern Samar Division (Trinidad National High School) Leyte Division (Calbayog Pilot Central School), Maasin Division (San Policarpo Central School), Northern Samar Division (Calbayog City National High School), Ormoc City Division (Carayman Elementary School), Samar Division (San Policarpo National High School), Sourthern Leyte Division (Calbayog City SPED Center) and Tacloban City Division (Christ the King College).

EVRAA 2011 will officially commence on Sunday with the grand parade at 1:00 pm. It will be followed by the Opening Ceremonies at the Northwest Samar State University Oval. The day’s events will be capped by simultaneous welcome dinners at the various billeting quarters; and a fellowship dinner and cultural program for the officials and superintendents. The fellowship dinner dubbed as “Pagtigman” will be held at the Nijaga Park.

There will be 18 official events during EVRAA 2011. These are Archery, Arnis, Athletics, Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Boxing, Chess, Football, Gymnastics, Softball, Sipa, Sepak Takraw, Swimming, Taekwando, Tennis, Table Tennis and Volleyball.

These events will be held in different venues namely the Calbayog City Sports Center, the Calbayog Cultural and Convention Center, Frs. David and Leopold Auditorium (at Christ the King College), La Milagrosa Academy Auditorium, NwSSU Campus, the new Calbayog Land Transport Terminal, Marju Krisel Resort Swimming Pool, Brgy. Carmen Covered Court, Calbayog City Joggers’ Basketball Court, Brgy. San Policarpo Covered Court and Calbayog East Central School.

To our athletes, the various committees and to Calbayog, let’s all put our best foot forward and ensure a successful EVRAA 2011.

* * *

And what is my column without my usual comments (opinionated as these maybe) about the world around me? Well, it’s sad that it took a bomb for PNoy to be so Presidential. I mean when he appeared on TV to make an official statement after the incident. Oops, that’s not my comment yet. Right after the event happened, while the police were trying to do their job, suddenly those who are not exactly friendly the President were up on their toes lambasting who else, but PNoy. Well, on the part of PNoy, or any President for that matter, such pakikisawsaw a.k.a. harsh words and criticism and what have are part of the job, or maybe more like occupational hazards. C’mon guys lets give it to the man, I mean the President and for the authorities to finish their jobs, and then go, I mean do the comments. I guess after the Luneta hostage fiasco, the police had learned to do its job. But on the other hand, when lives are involved, you can’t help but turn to God and afterwards, the government (I hope I can hear you say yes to that). I do not disagree with a TV anchor when he said something like Mr. President sana naman ang daang matuwid ay di puno nga karahasan.

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This is it for now. We wish all athletes and officiating officials of EVRAA 2011 the best in forthcoming competitions. And to PNoy, we also wish you the best. Nice weekend everyone! Ciao!

Monday, January 24, 2011

huff and puff

(This column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! It’s another week and we are days away to EVRAA 2011 which Calbayog will be hosting from January 30 to February 4. An invitation has been sent to Congressman Manny Pacquiao to be the guest of honor during the opening ceremony, so far there still is no advice regarding his attendance.

And what’s with today’s title? It occurred to me a few days ago while I was trying to get rid of smokers around me. So, you want more funds for the government? Let’s not talk about oil, we will always be at the mercy of the Arabs. Instead of raising mrt fare and what have you, why not raise taxes of tobacco, like really raise taxes. You’ll make a good number of people happy, you raise revenues, you’ll make Kim smile, you’ll make Cabral, Ona and the DOH guys smile. Of course that is on top of putting graphic pictures of damaged lungs and other body organs on the cigarette packages. It’s not a question of raising taxes of tobacco, it’s a question of having the balls to raise taxes and make a pack of cigarette cost something like 200 pesos. Well, that would be the day. Wait, did I mention the lobbyists? Well, that’s not exactly a different story. And I rest my case, for now.

* * *

Last Friday, I featured the account on Fr. Cantius Kobak’s Archeological Expedition in Samar. It was read during the reopening of the CKC Museum. Here’s the second part of that account:

"They (the group of Fr. Cantius) even went to Homonhon, the island where Ferdinand Magellan landed centuries ago. Unfortunately it was fiesta and there was no opportunity for diggings, albeit the priest and the people received them with wonderful hospitality."

"Back to Guiuan, they explored the high mountains believed to have protected the place from the treacherous waves of the Pacific Ocean. They found hundreds of pieces of shell bracelets that are both broken and in perfect shape."

"On November 18, 1968, they visited Laoang, Batag and Kahayagan in Northern Samar. In Barangay Burabod in Batag Island, the people presented them with large burial jars with stone lids. In a little hill in another barangay of Batag Island, inquiries from old folks led them to finding “a small Chinese stoneware bowl”. Since it looked broken, Fr. Cantius took off a large portion and it revealed as small skull in deteriorated state. Digging gently further, longer arms or wrist bones with five shell bracelets appeared, all indicative of a child burial. Other archeological items were also found: rusted daggers, ancient agong (bell), beads and a golden earring."

"On December 28, 1968, they found some fine treasures in Capul, Mungulbungol (now San Vicente), Dalupiri (now San Antonio) and Samputan Islet, west of Capul. A kind individual in Mungubungol gave them a blue and white Chinese burial urn with lid, small jars, beads, bracelets and carnelian gemstones. It was a child-burial jar of a Datu (class). In Dalupiri, the group was given a fine precious celadon dish."

"On February 1969, Fr. Cantius requested the Filipino friar who was with him in Batag Island to go back and see. The said priest went to Batag and came back with two sacks of broken stoneware, earthenware, porcelain dragon jars and other archeological recoveries. When as family cleared a hill for two hectares, broken recoveries were given to the friar while the good ones were sold. Fr. Cantius was happy even with the broken recoveries. He restored three dragon jars and a lot of porcelain and earthen wares."

* * *

The CKC Museum was established. While recoveries were being made, a large hall (at the CKC campus) was allocated for the planned museum. At that time some Professional American Archeologists heard about the finds and came to Calbayog to see it. They dated, labeled and described all the materials recovered from burial sites.

In 1969, the Christ the King College Archeological Museum was formally opened for public viewing. It was temporarily closed in 2005 when the Padua Building was renovated.

The Museum’s Second Spring. In November 2009, two months after the 5th death anniversary of Fr. Cantius, the City Council of Calbayog passed a Resolution declaring him as “An Honorary Samarnon and Adopted Son of the City”.

Before the end of 2010, it was deemed fitting that in its reopening the CKC Museum be named in his honor, he who was known as the Historian of Samar and the Bisayan region.

* * *

This is it for now. Have a nice week everyone! Ciao!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The CKC Museum

(This column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! It’s another weekend which hopefully is a sunny one. Yup, it’s the history buff in me again. Today’s column is still about the CKC museum. As I have mentioned in my previous columns, the said museum has been reopened as the Fr. Cantius Kobak, ofm – Samar Archeological and Cultural Museum. I obtained a copy of the narrative detailing how the said museum came to be. It was during the reopening program by Mr. Venancio Bajet, the Dean of the CKC College of Education.

I thought I’d like to share with you the info I got about the only museum in Samar Island.

* * *

The Archeological Expedition of Fr. Cantius in Samar. Shortly upon his arrival, Fr. Cantius J. Kobak, ofm began to take great interest in the local history and culture of the place. He collected and compiled histories of Samar and Leyte towns and of the Colegio (de San Vicente de Paul), Bisayan songs, poetry, dramas, riddles, dictionaries, etc.

In 1965, the Bishop (of Calbayog) and the Rector of the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral began the renovation of the said Cathedral. Interested in church furnishings that were being cast aside, Fr. Cantius was given permission to salvage several items. Among the items offered were an old altar with a Franciscan coat of arms, a wheel with some twelve small bells attached to it on a stand with a crankshaft (it was used to ring bells during the sanctus, elevations, communion, processions, etc), few candelabras, an old painting of a saint and several items in poor condition.

From Capul Island, a pastor brought him a discarded old chalice, a ciborium and a monstrance. These items created an interest in other materials such as wooden statues of saints (some with ivory faces and hands), crucifixes, stone cereal grinders called gilingan, antique charcoal flat irons, jewelry boxes, old Spanish coins, jewelry, rings, earrings, bangles and Chinese porcelain plates and jars.

He also collected Bisayan publications like old Spanish-Bisayan dictionaries and the Pasyon which was chanted by elderly women during the Holy Week.

In 1967, some public school teachers brought him ancient stoneware and jars which were found near Gandara. This triggered and sparked his interest in visiting the ancient burial grounds in Samar Island. It was the Jesuit priest Ignacio Alcina who, in his “Historia” gave some accounts on how and where the ancient Samareños buried their deceased. It was with this knowledge that Fr. Cantius made plans to visit these burial grounds during the semestral breaks.

On April 1968, Fr. Cantius gathered a group of college students and began the first archeological expedition in Oras, Eastern Samar. The caves that were searched yielded pottery shards and bones. (15th century blue-white) Chinese porcelain were found in a small opening in the shore cliffs. Upon the suggestions of old folks, the group proceeded to Tubawbaw, an islet facing Oras. Broken stoneware, porcelain shards, human bones and teeth were recovered from the site.

Upon returning to mainland Samar, Fr. Cantius saw a boy carrying fermented wine (tuba) in an ancient dragon jar. He asked the professors who were with him to buy the tuba and the jar. The boy hesitated because he needed the jar to sell more tuba. They offered to triple the price of the tuba and the boy sold it with the jar.

From Oras, they went to the town named McArthur. They were introduced to the Parish Priest and the Town Mayor who told them to the Minalungon Island where there was a cave used for ancient burials. Lungon is the bisayan term for coffin or casket.

The cave was littered with broken earthenware shards, bones and pieces of wood. They learned that for some time, foreigners arrived and dug at the island since as early as 1923. Fr. Cantius’ team attempted some diggings, but the artifacts seem to have been exhausted by the previous digging expeditions; and the fisherfolks who were in the area did not like the idea (of more diggings) because they believed it might cause strong typhoons.

On May 24, 1968, the group went to Calicoan, Lilibucan and Cando Islets in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, where an American Naval / Air Base was constructed during the second World War. They found nothing except an artillery piece which Fr. Cantius took as a souvenir unaware that it might explode. He would later call this “a foolish venture carrying it in our jeep on such bumpy dirt roads.” He stored it in a cabinet at the museum, it rusted, leaked a yellow sulfur-like substance and burned the cabinet a bit. (to be continued…)

* * *

The SOS Calbayog Community will have their celebration of the Feast of Sto. Niño tomorrow. Mass will be at 9:00 am at the SOS Children’s Village in Barangay Dagum.

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This is it for now. Have a nice weekend everyone! Ciao!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Damn if you do, damn if you don’t

(This column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! It’s a new week. Take your pick, PNoy’s new car, the nominees for the post as new COMELEC chair (thanks Balay and Samar groups), the PAO head’s CESO exam result and yes, Sharon falling flat onstage during a concert.

So PNoy bought a new car, so? Why rant about it? Why, did he re-align some government funds to get it? Let’s not even start discussing what they will say if the President bought it after his term. On top of being a thankless job, I mean job in government, it’s a damn-if-you-do-damn-if-you-don’t existence. So, my take on the issue? Let it go. Or should I say, so what?

Let’s pan our sights somewhere where we can take things lightly. So things are going up, thanks heavens there was something err, someone that went down - poor Sharon. Let me give me give you what The Professional Heckler has to say on this news: “Sharon Cuneta tripped and fell down flat on her buttocks while taping a birthday concert at the Big Dome stage last Tuesday. Cuneta’s husband, Sen. Francis Pangilinan says the megastar is now okay. He didn’t give any update though on the condition of the stage.” Oops, no offense meant to her fans, like the professional heckler, just wanna make you smile today.

* * *

Last Friday I featured the first part of the speech delivered by Dr. Rolando Borrinaga during the reopening of the Fr. Cantius Kobak, ofm – Samar Archeological and Cultural Museum. The event was held at the CKC campus last December 29, 2010.

Dr. Borrinaga is a professor at the U.P. Manila School of health Sciences. He was the co-translator of the late Fr. Cantius in the book Reseñan de la Provincia de Leyte (the colonial Odyssey of Leyte, 1521-1913) by Manuel Artigas u Cuerva. This book won the National Book Awards for Translation in 2006 by the Manila Critics Circle. Dr. Borrinaga also authored The Balangiga Conflict Revisited and Leyte-Samar Shados.He is an active members of the Board of trustess of the Philippine National Historical society.

Here’s the second part of Dr. Borrinaga’s message:

Our co-authored book came out in 2006 under the title The Colonial Odyssey of Leyte(1521-1914), and this won the 2006 National Book Award for Translation given by the Manila Critics Circle. I am donating a copy of this book to the museum along with two other books I have written and published – The Balangiga Conflict Revisited, which came out in 2003, and Leyte-Samar Shadows: Essays on the History of Eastern Visayas, which came out in 2008.”

I am also donating a copy of Vol. 54 of The Journal of History, published in 2009, which includes my paper titled “The 1984 Scott-Kobak Correspondence: A Sharing that Reconstructed the Sixteenth-Century Bisayan Society and Culture.” The title is self-explanatory. Also in this volume is the paper titled “The Pulahan Movement in Samar (1904-1911): Origins and Causes,” which was written by George Emmanuel Borrinaga, my son who now teaches history at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, and who accompanied me here.”

Finally, I would like to turn over a mounted picture of Father Kobak. At the back of the frame are written his signature and the dateline – “Calbayog, January 1970.” Let me tell you how this came into my possession:

Around March 2004, Father Kobak learned after a routine medical check-up that he was suffering from cancer of the lymph glands. It did not take him long to accept the fate that he was going to the Great Beyond. He offered to bequeath to me the last items in his personal archives – including books, documents, and manuscripts that he had held on for years. I humbly accepted the offer, and promised to take care of them. He sent the items in about 10 mail parcels which contents eventually measured about two meters in thickness. Some of the parcels arrived after he had passed away.”

I am now working on a few manuscripts left behind by Father Kobak, which hopefully will see publication over the next few years. One of these is the English translation of Vocabulario de la Lengua Bisaya, the oldest Bisayan dictionary compiled by Fr. Mateo Sanchez, SJ, in Dagami, Leyte around 1616 and published in Manila in 1711.”

Father Kobak may be gone, but aspects of his work are still coming out in the historical literature. And with the reopening of your museum, all these are assured of a house to go home to – in Calbayog, a place that always meant a lot to him.”

“Thank you and good afternoon.”

* * *

The late City Councilor, Educator and Calbayog Historian Patrio “Nonong” Barandino will be laid to rest today. Viewing at the Sangguniang Panlungsod Session Hall will commence at 8:00 am. A mass will be said at 9:00 am, it will be followed by a necrological service. He will be buried at the Oquendo cemetery after the 1:00 pm mass at the Holy Infant Jesus Parish Church.

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This is it for now. Have a great week ahead! Ciao!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Meeting Rolando Borrinaga

(This column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! It’s a weekend ngan patrun buwas sa Oquendo. It’s the history buff in me which made me decide on the topic for today’s column. It’s actually the speech delivered by Dr. Rolando Borrinaga during the reopening of the CKC Museum.

Dr. Borrinaga is a professor at the University of the Philippines - Manila School of Health Sciences. He was invited by the CKC President, Fr. Marcelo Tubac, ofm to deliver a message during the reopening of the Samar Archeological Museum which many of us simply refer to as the CKC Museum. The museum has been transferred to its new home and has been renamed The Fr. Cantius Kobak, ofm – Samar Archeological and Cultural Museum. The simple program was held last December 29, 2010 during the TARAGPO 2010. Among those present were some Franciscan friars, Mr. Pio Santos, Dr. Francie Santos, Councilor Rey James Uy, artist Raul Isidro, the new officer of the CSVP-CKC Alumni Association.

I thought it was going to be just one of those speeches. Needless to say, it introduced me to the man who had the most extensive contact with the late historian of Samar – Fr. Cantius Kobak. I have decided to feature Dr. Borrinaga’s speech in this column.

Here’s the first part of that speech:

It is my great pleasure to have been invited to attend the reopening of the Fr. Cantius Kobak, OFM – Samar Archeological and Cultural Museum at the Christ the King College (CKC) in Calbayog City. With this development, a very symbolic one, you have reclaimed Calbayog City’s prominence as the center of historical and cultural research and preservation in the entire island of Samar. I would like to congratulate your president, Fr. Marcelo Tubac, OFM, the Franciscan community of CKC, and civic-oriented citizens of Calbayog for making this possible.”

The reopened museum is appropriately named after the late Fr. Cantius J. Kobak, OFM, who will forever remain a giant insofar as research on the history and culture of Samar is concerned. His generosity in sharing his source materials also helped other scholars such as William Henry Scott and Bruce Cruikshank to write and publish scholarly studies that have expanded and deepened the understanding of Bisayan history and culture during the past 30 years.”

Father Kobak’s greatest scholarly achievement, however, was the tracking, transcribing, translating to English, and publishing or preparing for publication all extant copies of the manuscripts of Fr. Francisco Ignacio Alcina, SJ, which is known in the academic community as Historia de las Islas e Indios de Bisayas … 1668. This is the only comprehensive ethnographic and historical account of the Bisayas region in the seventeenth century. Parts of the Alcina manuscripts now appear as books in English translation under the title History of the Bisayan People in the Philippine Islands (Vols. 1, 2 and 3). These were co-edited by Fr. Lucio Gutierrez, OP, and published by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. Only Volume 4 remains to be published, but the manuscript is already there.”

By sheer chance or fate, I happened to be the Filipino with the most extensive contact with Father Kobak during the last two years of his life. He posted a note in the guestbook of my Internet website sometime in late 2002, and that led to our exchange of e-mails and snail-mails which provided each of us with needed new data and information about the local history and culture of Leyte and Samar.”

Then somehow we agreed to collaborate on the English translation for possible publication of a book on the history of Leyte. The book was titled Reseña de la Provincia de Leyte by Manuel Artigas y Cuerva, which was originally published in Spanish in 1914. Father Kobak had done partial translation of the book, and I supplied the other half after its bound photocopy, which had been mailed to CKC, was retrieved and delivered to my house in Tacloban by your former president, Fr. Rodrigo San Jose, OFM. I completed the manuscript on August 14, 2004. The next day, Father Kobak passed away in the U.S. at the age of 74.” (to be continued on Monday)

* * *

Obit. Former City Councilor Patrio “Nonong” Barandino returned to his creator last January 10, 2011.

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This is it for now. Have a nice weekend everyone. Ciao!

Monday, January 10, 2011

My New Year postscript

(This column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! Belated Happy New Year everyone! It’s been nine days since we welcomed the new year, but I believe it’s never too late to share my usual (annual) whining about the world around me. First things first. It happens every time (or should I say every year?), I mean these new year’s resolutions. And I was tempted to call today’s column just that – My New Year’s Resolutions. I think I said this last year, and I’m saying it again this year. If my memory serves me right, during my elementary school years, among the things we were made to do after the Christmas break were just about that – New Year’s resolutions. Needless to say, I always had a hard time coming up with a composition enumerating things I promise to resolve in the next twelve months. Well, it was hard for me until I realized that a new year’s resolution is nothing but a list of (empty) promises that one does not intend to keep.

So, what’s my New Year’s resolution? After failing to make good the good number of resolutions I made many ‘New Years’ ago, I have decided that my new year’s resolution is not to make new year’s resolutions anymore (redundant ano?). Seriously, does it always have to take a new year for us to mend our ways? The not-so-good ways, if I may add.

* * *

Flashback to December 31. Pagpaligad ponkan tikang sa purthan tipasulod san balay, lukso pag abot san alas dose, pagsabrag sensilyo sa mga parte san balay, abrehe an ngatanan nga suga sa panimalay, pagpatingug san sensilyo sa bursa. And let’s not even start discussing why people love paputok so much. So, did I miss something else? I mean the various pamahiin on how to attract luck or good vibes during the new year. Oh yes, while we are into it, we might as well include taking a bath before the event. It’s more than a month away yet, but feng shui experts (both the real and fly-by-night types) are all over the place doing the forecasts for the Chinese New Year. Suddenly I’m lost on which animal they are celebrating next year. So what about it? I just can’t understand why many among us should get gaga over it. I’m still having a hard time looking at the connection between Filipino belief and traditions (or should I say Catholic faith?) and that of the Chinese. Well, the (Chinese) food of course is a different story. And yes, I remember many among us collected twelve (or was it thirteen) round fruits on Christmas eve. I’m sure a good number of households ended up with rotten fruits days ago. Thanks (again) to that belief of collecting fruits in time for the New Year. Oh, it’s such a colorful mix-up, I mean our Catholic faith and the Chinese practices for good luck. I wonder where the RH bill can come in.

* * *

Just an afterthought . . . aside from the fruit vendors, the paputok vendors and the soothsayers raking it in in time for the new year, the usual New Year scenario was about the paputok. If they did it in Davao, why not do it all over the country? Why not ban these firecrackers? I don’t think the DOH ran short of reminders as to the dangers of the paputok. And it just occurred to me, they the (DOH) always took time to warn the people of the dangers of that stuff, but come New Year’s eve, they (the DOH) or the doctors are same people on the frontline to treat people who got injured by – no need to emphasize - paputok. No question about those who got hit by accident, but for those who put the injury upon themselves, meaning nabuthan ngan nadigasya kay nagaputok, why not just leave them alone to learn their lesson well, and if possible let them bleed to well, wherever, you provide the answer. Or, why not have the DOH charge all those expenses on ADs and treatment to those paputok vendors in Bocaue and all over? Just a suggestion. (Smile, it’s a new week)

* * *

Local updates. The City of Calbayog and DepEd Calbayog are set to host EVRAA 2010. A coordinative meeting was held last Saturday, January 8, 2011 at the DepEd Calbayog Conference Hall. I’ll give you details next issue.

Christ the King College has reopened the (CKC) Samar Archeological Museum. It has been renamed The Fr. Cantius Kobak, ofm – Samar Archeological Museum. A simple opening ceremony and ribbon-cutting was held at the refurbished CKC Music Room (the museum’s new home) at the Technical Building grounds of Christ the King College. Among the guests was U.P. Professor Rolando Borrinaga. More details in the coming issues.

* * *

This is it for now. Let me leave you with some lines from Dr. Rolando Borrinaga’s speech when he paid tribute to the late historian of Samar, Fr. Cantius Kobak, ofm: “The reopened museum is appropriately named after the late Fr. Cantius Kobak, ofm, who will forever remain a giant insofar as research on the history and culture of Samar is concerned. His generosity in sharing his source materials also helped other scholars such as William Henry Scott and Bruce Cruikshank to write and publish scholarly studies that have expanded and depended the understanding of Bisayan history and culture during the past 30 years.”

Friday, January 7, 2011

My Christmas postscript

(This column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! It’s nice to be back. So we have started the New Year with the usual bunch of soothsayers (just wondering, what I.Q. score or degree does it take to be one?) giving this and that prediction that’s either happy or grim. Well, I’d rather settle for the happy ones, and the predictions on fashion and techie trends and yes, trends in carrying out one’s love life (oops, what am I saying?). Along that fantasy line (pardon the term), come the realities of life, at least as reported on TV - new toll fees, new taxi flag down rate, the higher mrt fare, gas and taxes (forget the last two, it’s there since the time I can remember). And yes, the same salary. So what else is new? Oh well, let’s not include the floods and death or injuries that go or went along with it, it’s one of the sad realities of life. But, so are taxes and bad governance too (lest I forget).

Back to the predictions of these astrologers or whatever you call them, I still have to hear one of them predict if there will be more or lesser crime in the year to come. Surely there will be less of these in May when Manny P. goes to the ring again.

Problems, problems, problems. What is life without these? I guess Evita (or the creator of the character of the musical) was correct when she sang this line during her waltz with Che, “… (problems) from war to pollution, no hope of solution even if I live for 100 years” Very well-said madame.

* * *

My Christmas postscript. Christmas in my hometown. Let me give you what I got from the web. It’s the article entitled “What is the origin of the Nativity Scene (creche)?” by Fr. William Saunders.

The story of the origin of the Christmas creche rests with the very holy man, St. Francis of Assisi. In the year 1223, St. Francis, a deacon, was visiting the town of Grecio to celebrate Christmas. Grecio was a small town built on a mountainside overlooking a beautiful valley. The people had cultivated the fertile area with vineyards. St. Francis realized that the chapel of the Franciscan hermitage would be too small to hold the congregation for Midnight Mass. So he found a niche in the rock near the town square and set up the altar. However, this Midnight Mass would be very special, unlike any other Midnight Mass.

St. Bonaventure (d. 1274) in his Life of St. Francis of Assisi tells the story the best:
It happened in the third year before his death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of Grecio to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus with great devotion, [St. Francis] determined to keep it with all possible solemnity; and lest he should be accused of lightness or novelty, he asked and obtained the permission of the sovereign Pontiff. Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed. The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis, the Levite of Christ. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem. A certain valiant and veracious soldier, Master John of Grecio, who, for the love of Christ, had left the warfare of this world, and become a dear friend of this holy man, affirmed that he beheld an Infant marvelously beautiful, sleeping in the manger, Whom the blessed Father Francis embraced with both his arms, as if he would awake Him from sleep. This vision of the devout soldier is credible, not only by reason of the sanctity of him that saw it, but by reason of the miracles which afterwards confirmed its truth. For example of Francis, if it be considered by the world, is doubtless sufficient to excite all hearts which are negligent in the faith of Christ; and the hay of that manger, being preserved by the people, miraculously cured all diseases of cattle, and many other pestilences; God thus in all things glorifying his servant, and witnessing to the great efficacy of his holy prayers by manifest prodigies and miracles.

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So why devote precious editorial space who one piece of religious history which most of us would frown upon? Well, I gave it much thought after being at Christ the King College for the recent Taragapo. There were Nativity scenes all over the place. And then I realized that in Calbayog, Christmas is when the workers start erecting the giant Christmas tree at the plaza. The same tree that seemed to have grown thinner in the past few years. Sign of the times perhaps? (Oops, me and my mouth!). Yup, the Christmas tree meant that people will once again drink and eat in the Plaza, and yes it’s Chrsitmas.

Of course it’s nor only in Calbayog that we see the tree during the Christmas season. Try installing one during the other months of the year and it’s not only the funny glances and stares that you will get. Yup, it’s (or it was) all over the place – the Christmas tree, Santa Claus, bonuses, 13th month pay (oops not all private employees got this, if I may tell you), the bazaars, the Christmas sales, and yes, even Oplan Isnabero (thanks you DOTC).

Certainly Christmas has come a long way. Yup even the Nativity scene has been glamorized. Nope I’m not here to give you a lecture on the significance of the season which ended last Sunday. We have more than enough of our share of sermons, err homilies, talks on TV and write-ups in our dailies (do I have to mentions blogs too?). There is one thing that remain about Christmas in my hometown and I suppose in everybody else’s hometown – that people still take time to reflect on the greatest gift that the Almighty has given to all of us. And this is found in the generosity that a good number of people showed by giving food and gifts to the prisoners, the elderly and even the street urchin around the corner. Again, it’s nice to note that we have reserved a few days before the end of the year to do acts of goodwill to our fellowmen, seasonal as it may be. (Smile, it’s a weekend)

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Back to the story of the Nativity Scene. Let me end today’s column with the words of Fr. Saunders: Although the story is long old, the message is clear for us. Our own Nativity scenes which rest under our Christmas trees are a visible reminder of that night when our Savior was born. May we never forget to see in our hearts the little Babe of Bethlehem, who came to save us from sin. We must never forget that the wood of the manger that held Him so securely would one day give way to the wood of the cross. May we too embrace Him with all of our love as did St. Francis. To my readers, I wish that you had a very holy Christmas. Ciao!


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