Friday, December 30, 2005

New Year's Message 2006


As the year 2006 steps hesitantly into our life and history, I would like to extend this message of hope.

2005 has been a tumultuous year. Endless inquiries in the senate and in the house of Congress, rallies and political protests in all their eerie forms and grotesque shapes, accusations and counter-accusations, exposition of unheard-of scandals and variegated scams allegedly perpetrated by our top leaders, wiretapping, destabilization talks, revolutions, civil disobedience, what have you, have been the main course for the days, weeks, months of the year 2005. All these did not bother me so much. I know, after all, that “tayo ay mga pinoy”, that is, we can go over it. But when the congressional investigation of the "hello Garci case" started, I shuddered. I said to myself: this is it, this is our end. The investigative process seemed to dramatize that there is nothing wrong in flaunting with the law provided we are wise and crafty. It wrongly projects an image that the law is there to be used as a shield, a safety net for one’s wrong doing; that it is easy to tamper with the law and get away with it by flourishing the magic wand of one’s knowledge of the law, manipulating it to one's selfish advantage, mixing lies and truths together in one single stroke. I tremble, because no society can long stand when its laws that bind members together in a harmonious and dynamic whole are used for selfish motives, with complete disregard for the common good.

But then, something happened. There was a sudden relative silence on the issue in the whole nation and the mass media, the papers, radio and television veered on other interests than political squabbles. The atmosphere of December got clearer and cleaner, the people became more calm, composed, serene. What happened? It was just days before Christmas. People were seen retiring to the silence of their homes and places of prayer. They braved the otherwise dumpy and dark night to attend the Misa de Gallo novena days, as if seeking for the needed respite from the world. I myself went to these nights of novenas, starting from Arteche to San Policarpo, Can-avid, to Giporlos, Salcedo, Guiuan and Borongan. In all of these churches, inspite of the stormy weather and the black outs, people were seen in throng, praying on their knees. There, I concluded: Our nation will survive in spite of the rather hopeless situation. We have citizens who know how to solve their problem: they know well the power of the night and the power of prayer.

We are best touched by night. Perhaps it is because it gives one the sure reenactments of childhood experiences, a time when one sees his early tender years with full clarity and force. It is a time when our estimate of the world is not so confident, when it contains things and events that make us shudder. Sooner or later, the night finds us alone. And man is not prepared to face himself. He is afraid of the dark, he is afraid of himself. This brings us to the story of Adam and Eve, who were ashamed of their own naked bodies after eating the forbidden fruit. When God called them up, they were hiding behind the tree, more afraid to present themselves naked to God. God has to cloth them to keep them calm. I too remember the story of a great existentialist philosopher of our times. The story says that one day he looked at himself in the mirror. He could not recognize himself; he was so disgusted at what he saw that with bare his fist he shattered the large mirror that reflected him.

Yes, it is not easy to face oneself. And yet, it is only in this act of facing and confronting one’s own self that man finds his inner strength, his hidden resources, his power, which man cannot do unless he is covered by the magical canopy of the darkness of the night. The story of the beauty and the beast bears this out articulately. Society saw this prince-turned-into-beast as an ogre to be avoided, a beast to be feared. This man-beast in reaction to the cruel treatment of the people against him came to believe himself as a real beast and so he acted as a beast, terrorized others as beasts should do. He cannot do anything about it. It was his nature to be a beast. Until the beauty enter into the story incarnated in a young village girl, fresh and vivacious, a toast of the young men in that area. But she was not only beautiful; she too was virtuous, a saint. Turn of events found the beauty thrown into the castle of the beast and it was here that the story unfold ed in all its dramatic effect – the beast started to see himself more and more clearly reflected as in a mirror by the presence of the beautiful girl in front of him. He was ugly, a horror, an abomination, even to his own estimations. Yet, with the prodding of the beauty, who saw the real person of the beast, he started seeing something more than his being a beast. He has other resources, virtues, talents. Then something miraculous happened. He discovered that he is capable of loving, he can love. Yes, he discovered that he had a human heart. The night of searching, confronting, accepting his ugliness, getting out of his wrong estimate of himself, ended for him a handsome young man who can love, a man who can die for another.

Or, I am sure you are familiar with the biblical story of Jacob, the son of Isaac. He was a man of reason, of high I.Q. He used these talents to trick his elder brother Esau, depriving him of his rightful inheritance and even of the blessing reserved for the first born child. Because of this, he has to run away from home when their father died. He feared his brother. With the help of his mother, he went to his uncle for refuge. In that far away country he was able to get on to life. Intelligent, he knew how to make business. After twenty years of his stay there, he was able to marry the two daughters of his uncle, got richer at the expense of his uncle who owned the business. The uncle flared up in anger and threw Jacob out. Jacob had to go home, for he had nowhere to go. But to face his brother was unthinkable. He greatly feared his brother. But with a growing family, he had to settle at the place of his birth. Determined, he kept to himself that night. He wanted to plot the best way out, but he was left to face his own deceitful self. The problem after all was not his brother; it was his own manipulative self. He sweated for hours until, according to the Bible, God helped him discover himself, his ugly self, his other resources, his true strength. This process is accounted for in the Bible as an angel wrestling with him the whole night. At the end, he was given a name, a new one, a new beginning because of what he discovered in himself. He was called “Israel”, that is, strong with God. That night experience gave Jacob the strength to face his brother and all the other succeeding events of his life. He was reconciled not only to his brother, but to himself. The night helped him did that.

Yes, the night offers inwardness, it offers aloneness. Freed of vision, we see inside. Primary concerns emerge; much that seemed demanding and important is now seen as a trick played by the light. As one poet said: “Darkness is the black cape of the magician laid gently upon the world, until all that seemed certain vanishes, and we question comprehension itself. We can then search in a new way. .

It is no wonder that God works at night. When he created the sun, the moon and the stars, the birds of the air, the fishes in the sea, the beasts in the field, and finally man, he was actually hovering in the darkness of chaos, of night. When he freed His people from the slavery of Egypt, he was there under cover of the night, fighting alone the enemy of his chosen people. And when the fullness of time came, God came into this world to bring peace to all men of good will, - it was night.

And so, when I saw our people braved the nights of Christmas and shook off with disdain
the heavy rain, the muddy road, and the black outs, then with high hope I said: OUR NATION WILL SURVIVE. IT NURTURES PEOPLE WHO KNOW THE POWER OF THE NIGHT AND THE NEED FOR GOD.



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