For the long weekend, avoid the cemeteries
First of all, I wish to greet one of the outstanding agencies in the Department of National Defense on the occasion of its 47th founding anniversary, the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO). The current head of this vital government agency that looks after the welfare of our veterans is retired Lt. Gen. Ernesto G. Carolina. He was appointed to the position in June 2010 by President Benigno Aquino III, reappointed by President Duterte, and is now on his ninth year as PVAO administrator.
The PVAO is possibly the best example of a government agency enjoying the benefits of a progressive, professional leadership that has been provided adequate time in office to make a difference. Too often, many of our government institutions appear to be way stations in the bureaucracy to accommodate protégés or prepare them for retirement with little concern for the long-term effects on the organization of such actions.
On Carolina’s watch at the PVAO, three long-term objectives have been and continue to be addressed: First is the well-being and public stature of veterans with pension upgrades, arrearages being paid, and medical reimbursements outside the Veterans Memorial Medical Center increased. Second is the propagation of the heroic deeds of our veterans, contributing to pride and love of country. My personal concern here, however, is that too much attention is focused on World War II events as though our fight for freedom has only been against Japan. If we only strive harder to look into our past, we would find many events that would be a source of much pride for our people in their fight against foreign powers. Third is the unification of the Filipino veterans’ community under a service philosophy— “Serbisyo sa Beterano ay Serbisyo sa Bayan.”
Continuity in the PVAO’s organizational development can be traced effectively to continuity in the leadership.
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For more years than I can remember, I have advocated that we avoid the cemeteries on All Saints’ Day. With the worsening traffic problem (or crisis) that we have in Metro Manila, with more vehicles on the road and still counting, with no additional roads to handle the increasing load, it is sheer lunacy for all of us to head for the cemeteries to visit and honor our departed loved ones on this particular day as we have done in the past.
There are some traditions worth observing; there are others that can and should be discarded because developments in
our society, in our growing communities, make the continued practice of those customs and traditions unwise, impractical and, in some cases, even dangerous. But perhaps, this trip can be saved for another day, a day of memories so that it truly means something special to be with them. Most likely, only a few people would be around, and your visit would be in an atmosphere of quiet dignity and attention instead of being in surroundings resembling a noisy and crowded marketplace full of vendors and hawkers.
The All Saints’ Day tradition, which calls for us to head for the cemeteries as an act of remembrance and homage, dates back to the Spanish era and is part of Roman Catholic Church rituals that have stayed with us through the years. Today, some of those rituals have changed, if slowly.
When I was an altar boy serving at Mass, we faced the altar along with the priest. Everything was in Latin. The Sacred Host used to be distributed only by priests, today lay persons assist in giving Holy Communion. The practice of cremation used to be prohibited by the Church. Today, the Church allows cremation. Instead of having to go to Mass on Sunday, we have the option of attending services on a Saturday. These are all signs that a tradition whose time has long since passed can be set aside. Nothing is lost by moving your trip to the cemetery for another day.
For many years now, I have visited my parents, my sister and brothers not on All Saints’ Day but on their birth dates. I had them all to myself, and we probably heard each other better. On this occasion, we remember Virginia Balmaceda Castro who passed away last week. Only recently, she celebrated her 90th birthday surrounded by family and friends. She was the widow of former Rizal provincial fiscal Mauro Castro and the daughter of secretary of commerce and industry Cornelio Balmaceda, the man who brought the Asian Development Bank to Manila.
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