Sunday, December 31, 2006

Vegetables in Baguio City (Philippines)

Because of the El Nino phenomenon, the weather up in the Cordilleras has been milder than usual. It almost seems like the so-called "summer months" -- in reality, the Philippines is one eternal summer place. But up in the mountains, it can get chilly especially from December until February. This year, the absence of frost has yielded an abundant harvest for gardeners. Photo above was taken on Jose Rizal Day, December 30, 2006 at the Baguio City Public Market.

We pray this will be a precursor to the quality of life in the new year to come. That in spite of irregularities in human or geophysical events, we can still benefit from the opportunities given to us by our God.

May the Earth yield its bountiful fruits for all peoples of the world. And may heaven heed our petitions for a lasting era of cooperation and peace among nations.

Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Confessions of a Constant Adulterer and a Would-Be-Rapist

You may cringe at the thought of reading someone divulge his most loathsome desires as much as I do so in writing such a too-personal and too-honest a confession. Man as I am, there is in me that carnal desire to satisfy a basic biological desire. That is why I got married. In marriage and through the process of siring three children, the sexual desire took a vital and powerful role that I must admit I had not been prepared to properly handle. With all the academic, technical and spiritual education I’ve had, this blinding force could not be easily subdued or disregarded without somehow affecting the very essence of my own personality. I would not be who I am without my manhood and my sexuality as a man.

I guess this is true for every other person alive.

As a child, I remember my cousins and I crawling behind bushes to watch our pretty neighbor making out with her boy-friend on the balcony. The arousal created in a four-year-old was no less overpowering and titillating than the ones I would have as an adult. Kids do such things not because they understand what’s happening but because they already feel the attraction for the opposite sex. Curiosity arises not from the novelty of a thing but from the built-in appeal it has for one who also has the capacity to experience the carnal act. Hence, we all need to satisfy a desire that is there in the first place even before the mind can totally comprehend (if that were possible) the meaning of that attraction. Much less before anyone can even gain the self-control to resist the desire or at least to avoid satisfying it inordinately.

If we were to apply Christ’s definition of adultery even to such “not-so-innocent“ kids, we would have been considered as adulterers. We looked at a woman with lust in our hearts. If lust ranges from a childhood desire to ravish a woman (within the limited scope of a child’s ability to imagine what sex is all about) to that of all-out mental or virtual coitus, I was and still am an adulterer, many times over. A bona-fide violator of the 7th commandment. For even within a nano-second of the mind’s powerful ability to imagine, I could not escape or be excused from judgment. Who can I? And with movies making it so easy for us to unleash our wildest imaginations, who can withstand this plague?

Not that God is that quick to condemn a person for such lustful thoughts; or that He is ever on the guard to catch us violating the command. For we could easily fault Him for having created the opposite sex to be beautiful and desirable. Why would the natural reaction to His original design be thus considered abominable to Him? As people often say, “It is not wrong to appreciate beautiful women or handsome men.” What is wrong is to desire something that is not rightfully yours. This is the most obvious intent of the command.

Hence, even if the thing desired is willfully given, if it is not proper, then there is adultery. What is proper? Age, ability, maturity, status and propriety are just some of the factors that may come into the picture. Rape falls into that category of not only being improper but also reprehensible. What is not given and not “giveable” cannot and should not be taken. A person who thinks in his heart to sexually possess a woman not only commits adultery but also, in a figurative sense, rapes that woman. This idea will not stand legally though. However, it does have the power to produce the act. Just as Christ said that the lustful desire created the act itself of adultery, the imagination propels the act itself of rape.

One need not interview a real rapist to know that the deed committed in violation of a woman’s dignity began with the person deciding to implement what was first in the mind. A would-be rapist is not any farther from becoming a rapist in reality than a lustful person is from becoming an adulterer. If the lustful person can be branded as an adulterer, the aggressively desirous may likewise become a physical abuser.

But does this apply to those who are married? Some say so; others do not agree. A friend told me he masturbates when his wife doesn’t give in to his advances to make love with her. In the process, is he not violating not just himself but also his wife? Perhaps not but it gives us something to think about in trying to understand how our motives become actions. For we all know that there are many who rape their own wives: a case of legal rape or simply illegal entry?

Which brings us to the nagging question: Who should be blamed, the rapist or the one who led him/her to do so?

Obviously, the wife cannot cover herself sufficiently or behave indifferently in a futile effort to prevent her husband from being seduced to rape her. The mere assumption that she is his wife (though not a willing sexual partner at some point) can bring about a wild sexual drive. So it is with any single woman who may happen to be in a place or situation (whether of her making or not) where a man is throwing away his golden halo in exchange for red horns.

As with a child who has within its mind and its genitals the capacity to conjure and even produce sexual arousal (and fulfillment, if given the chance or time), much more so with a mature person who has the means to force the issue. (Pun is accidental.)

Does this mean I have had such aggressive desires that would have led me to rape someone? Perhaps I have at one time or another. But if I did so, it was not something I feel happy about. Or more precisely, it was because I was not happy about how I was being deprived or how I wasn’t able to respect a woman or to control my own desires at a moment when things were not ideal.

Yes, there may not be an ideal moment in any relationship or any situation involving sexual desires. The honeymoon stage may be the smallest window of bliss given to man and woman wherein they can experience that utopian sex we all constantly dream about from childhood to senility.

As long as women are women and men are men, the sexual stimulus will drive some people crazy enough to do heinous things. Our laws are there to help us subdue our minds, if not soften our hearts and other organs. Death or lifetime imprisonment may be a cruel punishment and deterrent for those who fail to do so, but it is the legally and socially acceptable sentence for the crime. Such crimes happen because some think they can cross the line between the mind and the body, not knowing that the mind overshadows the body. You violate your own mind; you violate your own body. In the process, you may violate another person’s body.

My confession serves me no purpose if I did not express my deep remorse over such evils thoughts that I harbor within me. Knowing that God hears me and that He allows me the grace to move on with a clear conscience daily, gives me enough hope that someday I may attain perfect self-control. I have responsibility for my own purity and my own perfection. A woman who wears tight or skimpy clothes may and will eventually lead me think lustful thoughts but I have no right to rebuke her for leading me to do so. I do have the right to tell her that how she dresses or behaves arouses my manhood. I do have the right to tell those who exploit women and lead them to appear and act seductively on the TV or in print that they violate my freedom. I do have the right to tell people that I am a sinner in the process of perfection by the hands of the Lord and that those who work against it knowingly or unknowingly will have to answer for it to Him.

Now, since I have made it known to all, I expect the same treatment from others that they should expect from me. Cover yourself well or behave yourself well and I will try to control myself as much as I can. This is not too much to ask from women or men, is it?

Finally, I may not totally understand how women feel and why they behave the way they do and vice versa. As such, expressing myself in this manner may be one good way that I can co-exist with women and those who may use them for selfish gains. Social norms and taboos exist to protect every person from pervert acts. As it is, society has loosed all controls and so we reap now the evil consequences.

The mind is the first and final frontier of all human experience. What we imagine or do there has a great bearing upon what happens in the real world. Letting others know who and what we really are may somehow help them adjust their own thoughts and behavior accordingly. I believe that is the only way we can achieve social harmony.

(Photo: Acacia trees and silvery clouds in UP Diliman.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

The “Gospel” of Judas Changes Nothing

Why all the fuss? Nothing has changed with the discovery of Judas’ Gospel. Jesus rightly said: People are so easily turned away from the truth.

But before anything else, we shouldn’t consider this book “Good News” for it discredits the more acceptable testimonies of four other reliable and corroborating witnesses – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – regarding the real relationship between Jesus and Judas. Why a single apocryphal document should be granted so much exposure and importance could only point to media’s inherent desire for attention and, naturally, revenue. Especially coming from a network that openly espouses the still-unproven Theory of Evolution, this latest scoop could be nothing but a relapse of National Geographic’s “sensationalistic, unsubstantiated, tabloid journalism”. (From “A Whale Fantasy from National Geographic at

If there is anything that we find fresh in this circa-AD-300 manuscript, it is the emphasis it puts on the attention Christ has for Judas, the supposed author of the book. That He should be seen as more intimate with Judas than with any other Apostle, merely points to the writer’s intention to divert us from the more commonly accepted viewpoint. At the very least, it provides an alternative perspective which highlights Jesus’ efforts to reach out to His would-be betrayer.

However, the logic of Jesus trying to convince Judas to betray Him in order to give way to His sacrifice mimics the logic of Satan tempting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and offering the same to Adam in order for them to become like God. It practically pushes Judas to commit a sin, something that Jesus would not have thought of doing or teaching. This alone puts the whole idea under suspicion. It must be out of an abysmal desperation that Jesus would do such a thing as if he had not recognized Judas’ real character that would eventually lead to his greed and his act of betrayal. Why have to go through the pain and agony of sweating blood and water and the crucifixion itself if He Himself had taken the effort of convincing a dear friend to fulfill His supposedly masochistic desire to die a loathsome death? Or wasn’t it altogether because one of His disciples would betray Him while the rest would desert Him and that even His Father would “forsake” Him that led Him through such intense agony?

The romantic if not glossy picture we get from the Gnostics’ version of the Gospel, for all intents and purposes, destroys all our presumptions of God having given human beings “free will”. It makes a robot or a puppet out of Judas as it makes a schemer out of Jesus. It divests the two protagonists of any semblance of “being what they really are” – the products of all that they had been taught or destined to become: one, the sent from God and, the other, the sent from Satan. The very substance of their characters is lost in this apparently make-believe or fictional and mystical concept.

Finally, it takes away the real force of evil or wickedness that Satan portrays in Scriptures as well as in real life. With Jesus whispering to Judas what He wanted him to do, who needs Satan in the picture? Gospel of Judas? Make that “gossip spell” or “Goss-spell” of Judas.

Ultimately then, these things have not changed with the presentation of this new Judas character, namely:

  1. Jesus was betrayed by a close friend, was crucified and then resurrected and ascended to heaven. The word “betrayal” presumes a reversal or a destruction of deep trust, something that Judas actually did. Obeying Jesus’ instructions to betray Him would be “obedience” not “betrayal”.
  2. Judas made money betraying Jesus and hanged himself for his lack of repentance – an avenue he could have easily utilized if indeed he had his “marching orders” from Christ. On the contrary, Satan won him over – Satan’s ultimate intention -- when he (Judas) despaired over his dastardly deed.
  3. Judas was replaced by Matthias (Acts 1) in the circle of Apostles who would carry on the work of Christ. Had he repented, Judas could have been a better witness to people particularly the Jews than all the rest of the Apostles just as Paul -- a persecutor of Christians – was to the Gentiles. A betrayer-turned-saint could have only been a great asset to His work if Jesus had intended it that way. Perhaps, He did out of His great compassion but that Judas missed the chance.
  4. That Judas killed himself points to the reality and the depth of the guilt he experienced from betraying Jesus. Had Jesus given specific prior instructions to Judas to “do his deed”, then such guilt would not have been present at all or, in the least, would have been so easy to bear. Either way, Judas would not have behaved so violently upon himself as if he had no initial knowledge and approval from the Lord Himself. We know he never had.
  5. Finally, our faith in Jesus is not at all affected by this new twist in Judas’ character as our worship is directed to the Savior and not to the betrayer. Our attention is toward the Giver of Life and not the Harbinger of Death.

And this is all that this manuscript aims in doing: To divert the focus of humans from their responsibility of trusting and worshiping the Jesus revealed in the four Gospel accounts. By diluting the import of valid witnesses to the life of Christ, this “bad news” diminishes the clarity of the picture we have of our Lord’s sufferings by incorporating false motivations and erroneous history. Mystics aim to mystify, if you haven’t heard the news.

They say that the making of this book as well as others that propose modern views of Christ, such as The Da Vinci Code, supposedlycreate history” in the sense that they supply us with new perspective with which we can reevaluate or reengineer the character of Christ and thus our attitude toward Him – that is, our faith or lack of it. In short, people simply make new suppositions or wantonly distort foundational history to destroy the faith of millions, if not to support their lack of it.

This is not a new strategy. It is as old as Satan. To destroy the hero, make the villain look good. To discredit the leader, make his followers look and feel lost. The serpent did that to God by telling Adam and Eve, “God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." And so after sinning, Adam and Eve learned how to pass on the blame to others. Eve blamed the Serpent for her sin and Adam blamed Eve for his own. Guess who the Serpent blames? Who else but God. In this case, Jesus is made to appear as a benevolent hero-villain, all rolled into one. How very clever of Satan: pointing the spotlight as well as passing on the blame on Jesus while he (Satan) lurks in the darkness.

You want to make people forget how evil you are or that you even exist? Just focus on the good guy and make him appear a bit evil or untrustworthy – no, genially manipulative -- and you just might succeed. That is the story of the “Gossip-spell” of Judas.

Good try. BUT BE WARNED: Satan will try and try again.

(Photo is that of the Fort Bonifacio War Memorial in Taguig City.)