My reflections

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Sunday, April 20, 2014


AFTER a two-day respite from work on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, I was back at the office early yesterday to write this column. I wanted to get it done during the break, but it didn’t feel right…working on days with such heavy religious undertones.

For a Catholic that is, which I am one, practicing or not, which I’m not. I initially wanted to go out of the city, but I remembered Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma’s call to the faithful to spend the Holy Week reflecting instead of looking at it as a vacation.

So heed Palma I did. That meant the beach and swimming were off my list. Who was I to argue? I stayed home and reflected, while I caught up on the latest episodes of Grimm Season 3.

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I was especially interested in the Filipino Catholics’ show of piety on
Good Friday; the insistence on wallowing on the macabre, on death, instead of focusing on celebrating the Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Does this have anything to do with the almost two-and-a-half centuries of theocratic isolation and economic torpor that the archipelago underwent after the Spanish conquistadores realized that the Philippine was unlike its colonies in the New World that had civilizations ripe for plundering (note, the Aztecs in Mexico and the Incas in Peru) and precious minerals and spices ready for the taking and picking? At least, that’s how American author Frank Hindman Golay described the state of the Philippine colony prior to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898 that led to the US purchase of the Philippines from Spain for a paltry sum of $20 million in his book, “Face of Empire: United States-Philippines Relations, 1898-1946.”

While the rest of Western Europe and Spain underwent social, intellectual and religious revolutions, the Philippines languished in the Middle Ages so to speak. To the Spanish friars, who basically had the run of the colony, the reconquista was not yet over. (The reconquista refers to the almost 800-year period Roman Catholic rulers fought to kick off Muslim Moors, mainly North African Berbers with some Arabs, who gained a foothold in the Iberian Peninsula following their conquest of the Visigoth kingdom of Hispania in 711.)

Who could blame them? Spanish authority never took hold in the hinterlands and the southern portion of Mindanao. Northern Mindanao, the islands of the Visayas and some parts of southern Mindanao were subject to frequent raids by Moro pirates.

And with Mother Spain so far away, the church could do whatever it wanted to the populace. And it did.

But I digress, which brings me to an interesting point my dad raised. The highlight of the Holy Week in Spain (and the Philippines) is Good Friday. Friday is basically what Sunday is to Muslims.

It’s hard to wipe out Muslim influence from a society or culture it had contact with for almost 800 years. In 1502, the Spanish crown ordered all Muslims to convert to Christianity. Catholic paranoia later led to the persecution of thousands of Muslim and Jewish conversos, culminating in the expulsion of those who refused to renounce Islam or Judaism from the peninsula in 1609.

The paranoia persists to this day in Cebu. The elders used to warn children not to go out on Good Friday because “dakpon nya sila sa mga Hudeyo,” although this may have more to do with the Jews’ hand in Christ’s death.

My logic is somewhat muddled. That episode where Nick’s mother Kelly arrived at his house with Adalind and her baby was really riveting.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 20, 2014.

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