A roller-coaster week of highs and lows
The week of Aug. 18-25 carried us on a roller-coaster of momentary highs and protracted lows. Jesse Robredo’s body was lifted from the depths on Aug. 21, the death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino who seemed to hover over the historical moment.
Am I growing superstitious or telepathic? Do I hear Ninoy saying “Do not mourn; it’s me all over again, reminding you that another life must be taken, the best and the brightest, nothing less, because the trapo are at the gates again”?
So it was that I was stunned when Robredo’s plane crashed on Aug. 18. Each time I passed our newspaper stand, I couldn’t bear to see pictures of his smiling face so poignantly alive, set against the sea that took him. So I turned the paper over, embarrassed at why I was so affected by a man whom I didn’t know and who didn’t know me. Was I being maudlin? Little did I know that the feeling had spread nationwide. Every person to whom I confessed my feeling was grieving and weeping, too.
Just a few days ago, I was on a high, musing that the torch was being passed. The 50s and those pushing 50 were entering the stage: Noynoy, 52; Leila de Lima, 53; Kim Henares, 52; Jesse Robredo, 54; Br. Armin Luistro, 50; Erin Tañada, 49; Koko Pimentel, 48; Risa Hontiveros, 46. Bright and promising men and women who will not be eaten up by the system, unlike some of the “Spice Boys” of the early 2000s who succumbed to the politics of their elders. Now again, history is telling us that the time for this “successor generation” is at hand. But first, oh, inscrutable hand of God, one had to be plucked!
Another blow landed on the front page: “Church goes after Ateneo professors for heresy” (Inquirer, 8/21/12). That, to me, was personal for I have had ties with Ateneo de Manila since my prewar childhood years fetching my brother at Ateneo Intramuros up to an MA in one-story, post-Liberation buildings on Padre Faura.
Now, even for those already jaded about sundry “doctrinal” claims and rules of the institutional Church, this frontal engagement was still a surprise, last-ditch attack. “Venting” through text and telephone bristled: “Grabe,” “disgusting,” “I am disturbed,” “Ignore,” “r u surprised?” (and, worse, expletives I won’t repeat).
Run by a religious order long known for a fearless history, vast learning and superior articulation, Ateneo surely would make some kind of a stand. Fr. Jose Villarin, SJ, president, is “bright and brilliant, liberal, articulate” (and 52 like the young leaders). The confounded reader would want to know, for example: What exactly constitutes “heresy”? What if some “teachings of the Church,” the Church’s benchmark for a good conscience, were wrong, misleading, not exactly honest? (It happens, Virginia.) And certainly, Ateneo would not abandon its faculty.
Ateneo blinked—“a polite atras,” said an alumnus. How little I realized the naked power of ecclesiastical warning: “Toe the line or end up in hot water” (Inquirer, 8/21/12). How little I realized the dilemma Ateneo may be in. Was this a no-choice situation?
But comfort came, assurance, too, and enlightenment. Education is too enormous and fluid a field to be fenced in. Ateneo will not investigate the defiant professors. The Villarin memo “appreciate[s] their social compassion and intellectual efforts, and urge them to continue in their discernment of the common good.” John Nery went upbeat and suggested the memo “as signaling support for the constructive engagement approach…”—i.e., to “continue in-depth study” of and “support amendments” to the Reproductive Health bill (Inquirer, 8/28/12).
“There is no dogma involved here,” Sen. Miriam Santiago said (Inquirer, 8/23/12). So, where’s the heresy? “You can no longer punish Catholics for their freedom of conscience.” Raul Pangalangan (8/24) and Randy David (8/26) raised fine distinctions between “institutional academic freedom” and “individual academic freedom of faculty,” implying a delicate choice when clash arises between being a Catholic school regulated by the teachings (right or wrong) of the Church, or being a true university with its free flow of ideas and “reasoned debate.”
Moral theologian Fr. Eric Genilo, SJ, in “Crossing the Line,” concludes: “The use of political threats against pro-RH bill politicians reveals a dangerous fundamentalist mindset among some church leaders who are convinced that only they hold the truth on the RH bill issue and that there can be no room for dialogue….” (more in column of Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, 8/27/12).
In the most informal, entertaining, affectionate, memorial service ever (no tears allowed, P-Noy warned), the week ended on a literal high note as Cabinet members sang to Leni Robredo and family, gave their homespun spiels on “Sec Jess” and unveiled his 4-point “tsinelas leadership” to knock some compunction in the hard heads of our venal public officials. We go into hibernation so often, how many wake-up calls will it take for us to stay on course? If the Cabinet can (try to) sing “Impossible Dream,” so can we.
On Aug 25, like a “golden” jubilee, the first woman chief justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno, 52, was appointed, joining the rest of the 50s group now at the helm of our country.
Asuncion David Maramba is a retired professor, book editor and occasional journalist. Comments to marda_ph @yahoo.com or fax 828-4454.
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