A look twice at icons-A A +A
Saturday, June 30, 2012
YOU weren’t surprised by the reaction coming from several levels of the society to the filing of House Bill 6330, a bill which if passed would have banned religious icons and the holding of religious ceremonies in public offices and property.
“Sus, gaba-an ta!”
The quick reaction of my friends to the bill was that it would take the spirit out of governance, sort of.
But the latest development is that Kabataan Partylist congressman Raymond Palatino has withdrawn the bill with an apology, if the act offended anyone, “our (Party-list’s) desire was to uphold and promote religious sensitivity and harmony.”
Religion and government are in our life. On the one hand, there’s the experience of life as man knows it, relating with each other in big and small groups, in villages, towns and nations in political supremacy. Then there is what the prehistoric man couldn’t explain quite simply, regarding the world or life’s cycle which man refers to as the divine intervention.
Religiosity and supremacy in governance affect each other. There was a time in the world (and perhaps in some small nations now) when the people’s religion was the state and the head of the state was the religious leader.
The human being holds on to a source of Power bigger than the world, wider than the sky, deeper than the human mind. Thus he relates with others living, working, administering and growing together as families in a village, state or nation.
House Bill 6330 would have banned religious rites, display of icons in government offices, in public spaces and hallways in this Catholic country.
Grandma, a simple Catholic, would have protested. She wasn’t the religious type but she was aware of freedom of worship in her country. And her religion was entrenched in her being.
When she was near 80 years old, Grandma was forgetting her language so that she made signs to be fully understood with what she wanted to say. It struck me when one day during a meal with the family, she pointed to a dish on the table and I expected her to say, “Taga-i ku ana, palihug.” But what she said to me proved how deeply her religion was entrenched in her being, at least in this aspect. She had forgotten words, names, faces. But she reached out for the dish she liked and recited Hail, Mary, “Dios te salve Maria!” up to its third line in the prayer, stopped talking when she got the dish, smiled, and continued eating.
It’s like saying religiosity is so much a part of the Filipino.
And there is freedom of religion in our democracy. What some non-Christians see as restriction of worship is actually perhaps simply the result of a difference in the greater or smaller number of worshippers.
It took time and some distance for me to look for a church in Manhattan on my first Sunday there. When I found one, it was almost vacant---just me and about three families in the pews while the priest was saying Mass. In our country, the nearest church (or barangay chapel) is, as I’d call it, just at the bottom of the stairs. If you’re lucky, you get an empty seat.
Thus, icons and relics and inspirational messages need space in the Filipino life, whether at home or up in government offices and in public spaces.
In the world in past times as now, the relationship between the Church and State has been unforgettable anywhere in the world, including a history of of heartbreaking religious wars. In ancient times, cult groups were associated with the ruler, also in state religions, like in the Roman Empire with the emperor considered chosen by God.
One thing is clear, that in our relation with the quiet voice in us which is the Soul, no one else should touch it. It’s basic, indispensable. Even the atheists have their kind of gods.
As a friend who’s working in a public office puts it, after the attempt of someone trying to put out House Bill 6330, she now turns a head towards the small icon of Jesus in her office for a look twice and more, this time around protectively.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 01, 2012.