Relevance-A A +A
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
SPAIN'S mission to Christianize the Philippines was subordinate to her dream of empire. Thus she planted Christianity, a religion of love and justice, against a background of the injustice of divesting the natives of the land of their ancestors.
In the name of Christianity, the erstwhile communal owners of ancestral lands became the serfs or peasants of Spanish landlords.
The Christianity of the friars legitimized the social situation of injustice as God’s will for the natives. Groaning under cruel masters, the natives were taught to ask special favors no longer from ancestral anitos but, in traditional song and dance, from Sto. Niño, the Black Nazarene, Virgin Mary and the saints who, they were made to believe, were more powerful anitos that would take care of them if they behaved.
On hindsight, it is clearly not what Christianity is all about. The problem is that, after all this time, it is still basically the Christianity that Catholics practice today. While public officials continue colonial Spain’s second-class treatment of ordinary citizens, successors of the friars continue to favor religion’s peripherals like long prayers and elaborate rituals over corporal works of justice and mercy, the hard-core essentials of Christianity.
Thus, the meaning of the feast of Sto. Niño today is a mere shadow of its past. For that matter, the feasts of the Black Nazarene, of the Virgin Mary and of the saints have not been given new meaning and fresh relevance either. The rituals connected with these feasts remain what they were during colonial times, namely, a corporally and spiritually neglected people’s tit-for-tat negotiation with deities for special favors in exchange for a devotional pana-ad.
Many improvements have been introduced like bigger and grander venues, better traffic management and crowd control, more adequate provisions for security and emergency medical aid. Yet, no innovation has so far been introduced to give these feasts new meaning and fresh relevance to life today.
Once again, since Sto. Niño is a child, why can the Foundation not do something to make the Sinulog relevant to the abused, prostituted and trafficked children of Cebu?
If Christianity is about love of neighbor why, for instance, can the clergy not collect money during the novena of Masses for the relief and rehabilitation of victims of natural disasters, starting with Pablo’s victims, instead of haranguing people with threats of damnation and more calamities for disobeying the bishops on the RH Bill?
Truly and sadly, the Sinulog, for all its human development potential, is all pomp and ritual and no mercy. It is irrelevant and meaningless to the least of Christ’s brethren.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 16, 2013.