HAPPY birthday to my friend, Romeo Raganas! Roming is a silent type of guy who diligently performs his duties as a member of the NFSP Training Center staff.

Click here for Election 2010 updates

Though burdened with problems typical to struggling heads of families, Roming is quick with his smiles and is always ready to help friends who need his technical expertise. Happy birthday, ‘Ming!

* * *

Congratulations to my son, Miguel, for placing 6th among the two sophomore sections of Bacolod City National High School’s Special Science and Math Class. He also bagged a special award in Math. Sunod gid sa iya Mama. According to his teachers, Migz is well-behaved and has a pleasant demeanor. Sunod gid sa iya Papa.

* * *

Times, indeed, have changed. In the days of my lola, women who go to church wear veils to cover their faces as well as long-sleeved shirts and equally long skirts to cover their limbs. Now, men who go to church wear dark glasses so that their eyes cannot be seen ogling and staring at the exposed parts of the scantily dressed women in the church.

During last year’s Holy Week, I wrote a column titled “The Malpracticing Catholic”. You may access it at www.sunstar.com.ph/bacolod/bacaoco-malpracticing-catholic.

In that column, I decried the changes in the way we celebrate Lent. Instead of being observed as a period of repentance and contemplation, the season is viewed more as a holiday second only to Christmas.

The column elicited a reaction from one of our readers who identified himself or herself only as “Ron”. The comment was sent last April 18, 2009 but it still retains its significance, particularly the last part on the politicization of the pulpit. Ron wrote:

“I must commend Butch on his article. As an American who has spent the last few Easters in Bacolod, I have observed a huge change in the Catholic observances of all the Catholic teachings and traditions.

I attend Mass every morning when I am here in the US and also there in Bacolod. The first Easter that I observed in Bacolod amazed me! I came back to the US and told everyone about the traditions and respect that the people of Bacolod had for the risen Christ.

The second year I just had to take pictures of all the events during Holy Week. I did this not to make it a party atmosphere but so I can tell the people here in the US how Catholics of Bacolod respected and lived the holy events of the week.

Something happened. This year it was so much different. I as an observer from a different culture was shocked.

All the events seemed to be for show. The people seemed to lose the respect! This year there was not the early morning stations every morning. As a matter of fact, when the stations of the cross were scheduled for Holy Thursday, all the churches canceled them. Not only did they cancel the way of the Cross that day, they canceled all morning masses for the day, so there would be a larger crowd for the cathedral called the Chrism Mass.

I do not want to say anything negative about the mass. The Chrism Mass is an important mass, but why cancel the early morning masses? Most of these masses would have been said at 6 am or 6:30 am and that would still allow plenty of time for the clergy to get downtown for the Chrism Mass.

Instead, the decision was made to cancel all masses in all the churches, even those far away, therefore depriving those who could not make the trip downtown. I can see no justification for this except to make the crowd downtown bigger and therefore less people attended mass that day in Bacolod than any other day.

I even attended masses while I was in Bacolod where the priest would tell the people from the pulpit that they did not have to give up meat on Friday during lent. They could just do an act of kindness and then they would not have to give up meat. I thought that fasting and refraining from meat was a church rule and not a local decision.

I understand in a poor nation like the Philippines, some people have to eat what they can get but that does not exempt the rest from fasting and not eating meat. Instead, on Good Friday you would even find food vendors selling junk food on church property! I was waiting for Jesus to turn over their tables.

Lastly, since this comment is too long, I would just like to mention that this year when I attended mass I was stunned by the political teachings of the Catholic Church in Bacolod.

I have talked to people who told me they don't go to mass anymore since it is too political. I am not saying that the Philippines does not have its political problems. However, I am saying that it is not right to run a political campaign from the pulpit.

Teach the people Christ's teachings and they will make the right decision when they have to vote and make political decisions. The Catholics of Bacolod do not need the Church to tell them that the politicians are evil.

If they are taught Christ's teachings, they would already know this. I cannot find one time in Christ's teachings that He even commented on the politics of His day and during His time the country He lived in was ruled by a foreign power.

Give to Caesar those that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's. Please give God back His Church.”

(For reactions and suggestions, email bbacaoco@yahoo.com.)