An Indian by choice | Inquirer Opinion

An Indian by choice

/ 01:55 AM December 28, 2015

Last week the Vatican announced that Mother Teresa, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1979 and founder of the Missionaries of Charity, an order of nuns working among “the poorest of the poor,” would be canonized in Rome in September next year. The canonization ceremonies are to be part of Pope Francis’s Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Of the many stories told by Mother Teresa in “Reaching Out In Love,” a book compiled by Edward Le Joly and Jaya Chaliha, this one on her citizenship is my favorite. Perhaps it is timely, considering how the issue of citizenship continues to hound some presidential contenders.


“In 1979, the year Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize, many organizations, governmental and non-governmental, held meetings to congratulate her. In Calcutta, her own city, the West Bengal government convened an open air civic reception in her honor, presided over by the Chief Minister. Television crews from several countries and hundreds of photographers and journalists were constantly ‘shooting’ the chief guest.

“After the meeting, a journalist said: ‘Mother, you must now consider yourself as a citizen of the world.’ Mother answered: ‘I am a citizen of India.’


“Another media person took her up on her answer, ‘Do you really consider yourself an Indian?’

“The small, sari-clad figure wrapped in an oversized navy blue cardigan replied, ‘Yes, and I feel Indian to the most profound depths of my soul but there is a difference’. And, addressing the Indian gentleman who had posed the question, she said: ‘You are an Indian by accident of birth; I am an Indian by choice.’”

Most of us are Filipinos by accident of birth but how many of us are Filipinos by choice? That is a question of the heart.

* * *

My own personal meeting with Mother Teresa came about in 1982. She had won the Nobel Peace Prize a few years earlier “for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress which also constitutes a threat to peace.” During the ceremonies in Oslo, she refused the traditional banquet given to laureates and instead asked that the funds be turned over to the poor of India.

The purpose of her visit to my office at the Port Area was to personally thank the bureau for its assistance in the expeditious release of donations for the local chapter of the Missionaries of Charity. She could easily have sent one of her assistants to represent her but instead insisted on making the call herself.

It was a great honor to receive Mother Teresa and her party of fellow Missionaries of Charity. One could feel that we were in the presence of a humble and saintly person.


A few weeks later, I received through the regular mail the following letter:

25 November 1982

Commissioner of Customs
Colonel Farolan
South Harbor, Manila

Dear Commissioner,

I thank you for the many times you have helped my sisters to release their shipments of relief goods from our benefactors overseas. Without this help, we would not be able to help our poor to the extent that we can. May God bless and reward you for the many times that you have given your staff and at times, your own money to help.

May I wish you and all those who work for you in Customs all the joys of this blessed Christmas season and we pray that the New Year will be filled with His peace and joy for all of you.

May God bless you all,

Mother Teresa M.C. (Sgd.)

On Sept. 4, 2016, which happens to be the birthday of my wife Penny, she will be known as St. Mother Teresa.

* * *

In the next few days, the Supreme Court will decide on the disqualification cases filed against Sen. Grace Poe and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. At the Comelec level, Senator Poe has already lost and her last hope is for the Supreme Court to reverse the Comelec rulings. Mayor Duterte’s certificate of candidacy has been accepted by the poll body and he is now a substitute candidate for PDP-Laban’s Martin Diño in spite of some procedural errors. His case has also been elevated to the Supreme Court.

The idea of “letting the people decide” these cases has been bruited about by a number of highly-placed individuals who believe that both Poe and Duterte should be allowed to remain on the list of candidates. In effect they would leave it up to the voters to decide on who they wish to elect as their next president regardless of the absence of qualifications that are called for in the Constitution and the laws of the land.

I am not a lawyer; neither am I a political analyst. But simple common sense tells me that the “letting-the-people-decide” philosophy can only lead us down the road to anarchy and instability.

• We have a Constitution and election laws that have been passed after much debate and deliberations. Are we going to throw them out of the window, and “let the people decide” just because a noisy section of the community wants to change the rules in order to favor their interests?

• We have some 130 candidates for the presidency. The “let-the-people-decide” principle would allow all to be on the ballot, including “Archangel Lucifer,” “Kapitan Kuryente” and other similar characters. Our laws call for nuisance candidates to be disqualified. Let us observe the law and in the process, avoid the creation of a double standard that would exempt certain candidates from legal requirements merely because enough noise has been generated on their behalf.

• A policy of “let the people decide” is in some aspects similar to the condonation principle that was recently discarded by the Supreme Court. This principle forgave candidates of transgressions committed in office; provided, they are successful in their reelection campaign. Instead of the courts adjudicating the matter, things are left for “the people” to decide.

As the saying goes, “the road to hell is sometimes paved with good intentions.” Let the courts, not the people, resolve the issues in accordance with established rules and regulations.

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TAGS: canonization, Citizenship, Mother Teresa, Nobel Peace Prize
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