5 Ways Filipinos Insulted the Pope in his Visit

1. Insulted the Church face-to-face

Imagine you have a guest, one who is beloved by your housemates. As a way of greeting him, you say to him: “Hey, your children suck”. See anything wrong with it? If yes, congratulations, you are normal. If not, congratulations, you are Presidential material. At least you know how a President should treat a guest of honor such as the Pope.

We thought it wasn’t too much to ask that Noynoy Aquino not follow his standard speech template of 1) blame the past administration 2) glorify my family legacy 3) anyone who criticizes me is irrational for welcoming the Pontiff. But we were DEAD WRONG.

(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here)

2. Media ‘dumbed down’ the Pope…

Do you know why Pope Francis is super popular, even compared to previous Popes? Well if you ask Philippine media (particularly TV and radio broadcasters and commentators),  it’s because of his smile, what he ate for breakfast and lunch, his seemingly boundless energy, etc.

No, really, if I was just some ordinary Filipino and I hadn’t learnt about Google, then that’s what I would think. Because that’s virtually everything about the Pope that local media focused on.

What did the Pope say about corruption, lack of social services, and continuing extreme poverty under the Aquino administration IN FRONT of Noynoy Aquino himself? It doesn’t matter! Pogi naman yung kumakanta sa misa. That’s how stupid the local media coverage of the Papal visit was.

3. … and so did some of the ‘faithful’

I’m being nice with the word some. At times, I ask myself whether I’m waiting for the Pontiff, or in the UAAP Cheerdance Competition. Because man, everyone’s wearing a Papal shirt, beating the heat with Papal fan, and buying food from a fastfood joint with a Papal tarpaulin. Oh and if that’s not enough, vendors are selling anything Papal all the way to dolls and pillows that are meant to look like Francis.

It’s like a fiesta where everyone is celebrating, but if you ask the original religious significance of the fiesta, only a few people can remember (come to think of it, I think this was my comment on the Sinulog).

4. Military bullies priests, nuns, and other religious (and Church officials allow it)

This is where shit gets serious. Remember how Aquino mentioned in his speech ‘Martial Law’? Apparently, he wanted to demonstrate to the youth today (those born after 1986) how that worked. So the Armed Forces arrested some nuns in the province of Leyte simply because they previously criticized the incompetence of the government’s relief efforts after Yolanda (and despite those nuns having done MORE than the government in that specific field).

They also tried to prevent people, led by both Catholic and Protestant priests, from seeing the motorcade because their banners called on the Pope to ‘help them against corruption’ (something which the Pope is against with, in the first place). Finally, they tried to prevent a Catholic priest from attending the Papal activities in Tacloban (even though he was in the guest list), again, because of his criticisms of the government’s Yolanda efforts.

What did the Pope say again in front of Aquino? “The great Biblical traditions enjoins on all peoples the duty to hear the voice of the Poor”. Baka dapat ata Tagalog para maintindihin ni Noynoy.

And worst of all, the Church (or at least, top officials of the Catholic Church in the Philippines) were part of it. At the very least, they allowed themselves to be bullied. At most, they were guilty of the same paranoia and anti-poor biases as Aquino.

5. The poor were silenced, censored, and airbrushed

At every step of the way, the poor, the main reason the Pope came to the Philippines, was kept out of his way. Street children and vendors were swept off the streets as if they were garbage. High fences were erected to hide slums. Farmers from the island of Samar were blockaded so they could not enter Tacloban.

No wonder this guy doesn’t look happy…

sadpope is sad

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“Adelante, compatriotas!” 5 HENERAL LUNA lessons on being better Filipinos

#1:“Mas masahol pa sa Amerikano ang sinumang inilalagay ang kanilang sariling interes

Filipinos, especially the youth, love the so-called ‘alternative’ kinds of activism and taking part in nation-building: ‘clicktivism’ (activism through the Internet), volunteering during weekends, charity, etc. While many have good intentions, it cannot be denied that many do so because they only want to do good as long as they don’t step outside of their comfort zones.

In the Heneral’s time, this has led to many of the main characters making decisions that would harmed the Revolution: Buencamino and Paterno sought to sabotage the war effort against the U.S because the Revolution was bad for their businesses. On the other hand, the Heneral and Isabel broke off their relationship because it interfered with what they saw their priority: their roles as members of the Philippine Revolution.

Filipinos today should recognize that truly contributing to nation-building requires sacrifice. In the words of Luna himself, “Hindi nakakamit ang kalayaan sa pag-aaruga sa kanilang mga mahal sa buhay… kailangan nilang magbayad… Dugo at pawis

#2: “Isinusuka ko ang digmaan… Pero ang kompromiso?

Pwede na. Lesser evil. These are words we get to hear a lot, especially now that the national elections are a few months away. Many of us love to compromise, from choosing to submit an essay for school that is just enough to give a passing grade (even if you can do so much better), to voting for a candidate that isn’t the best but is just the least corrupt among those who actually have a chance of winning.

We are afraid of sacrifices so we make compromise: we believe that there is another way to achieve our goals. But look at where that has led us: the leaders of the Revolution compromised with the Americans, and we ended up being a colony. We compromise with our election choices, and we keep ending up with corrupt, self-serving politicians.



#3: “Kung panaginip lamang ang umasa sa pag-unlad, managinip tayo hanggang sa kamatayan

Because we are afraid of making sacrifices, we tend to dismiss our visions of a better country as ‘impossible’ and a ‘utopia’. Elimination of poverty, enough money for all social services, free education and health services for all, a government that will work for these goals: they are all branded as ‘dreams’.

Our predecessors back in 1898 didn’t want to sacrifice and compromised with the Americans instead. We have been afraid of ‘dreams’ since then, and our nation has remained stuck in mediocrity.

Let’s not compromise and aim for these ‘dreams’. And how do we achieve these? The Heneral himself says: “Kailangan natin ng radikal na pagbabago. Dahil may mas malaki tayong kalaban sa mga Amerikano… ang ating mga sarili”. We need a kind of social change that is not limited to what we are told are the limits. We need a kind of change that does not depend on the traditional ways: elections, legal avenues, polite methods. We need to have the same imagination and daring that our heroes had back in 1896.

#4: “Alam ng mga Amerikano kung bakit natin ipinaglalaban ang kasarinlan… Iba ba tayo sa kanila? Wala ba tayong karapatang mabuhay ng malaya?

One of the biggest lies perpetuated by our history books concerns the Filipino-American War and the U.S occupation of our country. We were taught that America civilized our nation, and made us better people. HENERAL LUNA shows us the brutality and barbarism of how they ‘civilized’ us (more than half a million Filipinos died, mostly civilians). It also hinted on their real motives for invading us: “It’s always about the bottom line” (profits).

This wrong view of our history affects us until today: we believe that the U.S is our friend, particularly against China. We conveniently turn a blind eye to the fact that the things America did to us a century ago were repeated over and over again until today: Korea, Vietnam, Latin America, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

#5: “Negosyo o kalayaan? Bayan o sarili, mamili ka?

To achieve our dreams, we must be prepared to make sacrifices and shun compromises. We must also recognize that what we thought was our friend is actually our enemy. And finally, we must get rid of the modern day Aguinaldos, Buencaminos, Paternos, and Kawit Brigades. Whatever social movements we become part of, these should not be led by people who let their own personal interests be prioritized over the needs of our people.


*Picture from Interaksyon.com


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[Review: Heneral Luna] A Fearless Movie about a Fearless Hero


Heneral Luna the man was a masterful tactician, a fiery man, and a dedicated nationalist. Heneral Luna the movie is a masterpiece, showcasing both his fiery and more ‘mortal’ side, and is dedicated to bringing a relevant nationalist message. There is no better tribute to one of Philippine history’s most important yet most forgotten heroes.

I remember when me and my girlfriend watched Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo (the spiritual prequel of HL), her insight was that the problem with many of the previous Filipino historical films was that it was too obsessed with being ‘historically accurate’ at the expense of delivering either a relevant message to the audience, or a beautifully-made film.

She compared it to historical films in other countries which made the audience sympathize with the heroes/heroines, and ensuring that we would watch it in the first place. Films such as Braveheart, Gandhi, Les Miserables, Glory, and 300.

Now, less than a year later, it seems the film gods and goddesses have heard our wish.

I would watch, without any hesitation, any film that seeks to expose long-buried historical truths, such as the betrayals made by Emilio Aguinaldo, Manuel Buencamino, and Petro Paterno against our nation. But the quality of the actual movie makes me want to: over and over again.

The actors’ performances trigger the right reactions from the audience: Luna, the epitome of masculinity and his refusal to take any bullshit from politicians; the slimy Paterno and Buencamino with their schemes; and Aguinaldo who seems like the epitome of every double-talking trapo today. There is never a dull moment, and ‘baduy’ scenes, which bring down other local historical films, or other local films in general, are kept to a minimum.

There is so much visual detail for historical nerds, as well as casual filmgoers who love to have their breath taken away. In the category of the former is the Heneral’s model for his entire ‘War Plan’ (which combined both the trench warfare which would make the First World War infamous, as well as the guerrilla warfare being practiced by the general’s descendants today).

But really, the whole review of Heneral Luna can be summarized in two sentences: for the first time, you HAVE to see it. For the second time, you WILL WANT to see it again.

P.S Don’t leave immediately when the credits start rolling. Think Avengers.

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Six Biblical quotes to reflect on

oscar romero

At the time of his death, Oscar Romero was an archbishop in the Latin American country of El Salvador. He was assassinated by the military, after celebrating Mass, because he spoked out against military abuses and social injustices in his country.


In this predominantly Catholic nation, the Holy Week is traditionally a time for Catholics to reflect and meditate. Whether you are doing so in the traditional way, or while couch potato-ing in front of your computer, or in the beach or some other vacation getaway, here are some passages that I recommend you reflect on:


If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? – James 2:15 – 16


Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.- James 2:17


Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”- Zechariah 7:10


Then I will draw near to you for judgement. I will be a swift witness against… those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless…- Malachi 3:5


Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
– Isaiah 58:6 – 7


Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword – Matthew 10:34

dom helder camara

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“I want to serve the people… full time”: Six messages hidden within ‘Crazy Beautiful You’

1. Immersion trips

Barely hidden by the mandatory shallow love story between the lead actor and actress, the film portrays a very important event in the lives of many student and middle class activists: the so-called ‘remoulding’ or radical transformation of one’s values, beliefs, outlook in life, culture, ideology, etc.

Activists from comfortable backgrounds often experience this after being exposed to poverty. This happens almost always in communities of farmers or indigenous peoples, factory picket lines of workers on strike, and informal settler communities facing demolition.

In the film, Kathryn Bernardo portrays a spoiled brat who is punished by her estranged parents by making her join the mother’s medical mission to an IP community in Capas, Tarlac. She experiences culture shock as her privileged upbringing clashes with the extreme poverty of the community. After interacting with Daniel Padilla, who portrays the local mayor’s bastard teenage son who raises his siblings (by working many odd jobs while assisting medical missions in remote communities) in the absence of his gambling-addicted mother, she is ‘magically transformed’ into someone who is compassionate and caring.

2. A 21st century community stuck in the 20th century

The film’s audiences must have been unable to relate to the description of the IP community where most of the movie takes place: no electricity or cellphone signal, accessible only by all-terrain vehicles because there are no paved roads leading to it, there is no hospital or even a clinic, and the only source of water is a communal well. After all, this is the 21st century where everyone has a smart phone and a Twitter account.

But shockingly (for them), this is still the reality in many parts of the country. In fact, every province outside of Metro Manila has at least a few dozen communities there are as undeveloped as Sitio Tarucan.

3. The government’s dole-out mentality

While portrayed positively in the film (since everyone is smiling and laughing and thanking each other), the medical mission in which Kathryn participates is a symbol of many of the government’s (and even NGOs) so-called ‘development’ projects: something is meant to promote someone’s candidacy for public office (mostly incumbent officials, as evidence by the uniforms worn by Daniel and the other volunteers).

4. The return to the hotbed of rebellion

Oh, did we forget to mention that Capas, Tarlac (where Sitio Taruman is located) is the birthplace of the New People’s Army?

5. Battered Women Syndrome (BWS) is real

Part of the reason why Kathryn’s character is such a pain in the neck is the fact that her mother left her when she was young. But what was only revealed midway in the film is that the mother was a victim of constant physical abuse. In one particular episode where the father threatened to kill her, the mother fled and only managed to take Kathryn’s older brother. When the mother tried to take Kathryn also, the father prevented access.

Yet somehow, the mother manages to still have cordial relations with the father. Which is what battered wife syndrome is about: the victim still empathizing with her abuser.

6. Full-time activism

Kathryn was only convinced to take part in the medical mission because her mother offered to finance and support her dream of studying in the U.S. But when she finally finished her mission, she instead said:
“I want to help people… full-time”

That in itself is something you wouldn’t expect to see in a teeny-booper film, or even just any Filipino movie. But when taken in the context of activists, Kathryn’s single sentence takes an even more dramatic turn.

When activists, often those from the ranks of students, say they are going ‘full-time’, it means they are quitting their studies to devote all of their time as organizers of peoples’ organizations.

So while the movie doesn’t exactly send a message for radical change in Philippine society, it does portray a transformation of a student from a privileged background to someone who is compassionate, caring, and willing to devote his/her time to improve the lives of those less-fortunate: in other words, an activist.

According to my friend Veronica from GABRIELA, the character of Kathryn’s mom actually shows an empowered woman. First, it is because she managed to separate from her abusive husband, showing that women can actually break free. Second, the mother chose to become a doctor serving marginalized communities.

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Three reasons why the government’s to blame for the next ‘Yolanda’


A recent study by a U.K-based ‘risk analysis’ company shows that 21 cities in the Philippines are among the 100 most-at-risk-of-disasters cities in the world, the most for any nation on Earth. According to those who conducted the study, a major reason for the high risk is the country’s “high corruption” and “high levels of poverty”.

For some humanitarian workers in the Philippines, this is no longer news. But for the rest of us mortals, here are a few simple reasons why our country’s “high corruption” and “high levels of poverty” puts as at “high risk of disasters”:

1. Not all storms are disasters because the latter is man-made

This is something that a lot of Filipinos, especially the government and mass media, gets wrong. For humanitarians and professionals, typhoons, floods, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes are not disasters. They are called ‘hazards’ or ‘hazard events’.

A hazard event only becomes a disaster when the effect of the former is greater than the ability of the affected person/s or community/communities to cope with it. For example, flooding is a very common experience in the informal settler communities living alongside the Tullahan River in Metro Manila. Even a light drizzle or the high tide can cause one. When that happens, people transfer their households items on the first floor of their homes to the second floor.

But during the ‘Habagat’ floods in 2012, the waters reached up to the roofs over their heads. Many of their belongings, including valuables, were destroyed. They could not go to work for days. Since many of them were poor, they did not have any savings to use. If it wasn’t for aid sent by humanitarian groups, many would have resorted to scavenging, looting, or would have starved to death.

So why is it the government’s fault?

2. Poverty makes people more vulnerable to disasters

As shown in the example above, the economic status of a person and community affects the impact of hazards on them. The rich can easily replace destroyed belongings and have extra resources to replace them. The poor, on the other hand, are not able to do the same.

A year after typhoon ‘Yolanda’ devastated many parts of the country, many of the rich and the middle class were able to rebuild their houses. But on the other hand, thousands of families were still living in relocation sites. It’s no surprise that not a single one of these families are classified as ‘rich’ or ‘middle class’.

With the government not doing its mandate to reduce poverty, many Filipinos remain at risk of disasters. Even when foreign governments and simple kind-hearted citizens pour in billions of pesos in assistance, as in the case of typhoon Yolanda, people will remain vulnerable to disasters as long as they are poor.

In fact, some of my colleagues living in Eastern Samar said that in their barangays, houses which were repaired by NGOs after Yolanda were destroyed during typhoon ‘Ruby’ last year. Since they remained poor, they could not rebuild their homes with stronger materials.

3. Corruption means less resources to make us resilient against disasters

Ideally, public funds can be used in a variety of ways to protect us from disasters. It can be used to reduce poverty, build infrastructure to shield us from typhoons (such as evacuation centers, sea walls, and flood pumping stations), and organize systems to handle hazards (orderly early evacuations, stocking of relief goods).

But even under the supposedly ‘clean’ administration of Noynoy Aquino, corruption persists. And to make way for corruption, money has been removed from important services, such as disaster risk reduction.

As I mentioned earlier, this is not something new. This something that some concerned groups and individuals have been trying to convince our government with for decades. These people hoped that Yolanda would finally shake up our authorities to take action. Now, even foreigners are paying attention. And if the government ignores even this, then it’s only a matter of time before the next Yolanda strikes us.

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A list of what government will try to hide next

If you agree that Dinky Soliman should’ve hidden the street children of Manila from the Pope, here’s 9 other things/people that should be hidden the next time a VIP comes around

like a rolling stone


After successfully hiding the poor during the Pope’s visit, here’s a list of other things government will be trying to hide in the future. As proven by DSWD secretary Dinky Soliman, no problem is big enough that it can’t be hidden from the world.

  1. Metro Manila traffic – Government desperately wants to hide this after the Philippines ranked 9th worst in the world recently. Since providing efficient mass transportation is not on the government’s agenda, Davids Blaine and Copperfield are being tapped and paid to create their biggest illusion ever, a traffic-free EDSA during rush hour.Metro Manilans' daily calvary. Thanks to Inquirer for photo.

  1. Pork Barrel Scam Congressmen/Senators –It would be good to see them finally behind bars. However, that would require actual hard work and political will; two things that are sorely missing in this government. And so, to avoid all of those complications, the accused congressmen and senators will remain hidden in some far-away resort where they…

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