Wednesday, April 20, 2005


It was a worldwide relief that the Catholic Church has already found a new pope to take the helm of Vatican, and to lead 1.1 billion Catholics worldwide (myself included). After the second casting of votes of the 117-man conclave, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, 78, was elected the new Holy Father. This was recorded as one of the shortest conclaves in the history of the Catholic Church.

He is Cardinal Ratzinger no more. Hail to thee, Pope Benedict XVI.

I will post Pope Benedict's XVI translated homily during the funeral mass of our beloved John Paul II. It is a very good read and reflection piece. Taken this from Cardinal Ratzinger's fansite (to my surprise, even Cardinals have fansites!). Here goes:

Cardinal Ratzinger's Homily at John Paul II's Funeral Mass

"He Roused Us From a Lethargic Faith"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2005 ( Here is a translation of the homily Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave at John Paul II's funeral Mass today in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

"Follow me." The Risen Lord says these words to Peter. They are his last words to this disciple, chosen to shepherd his flock. "Follow me" -- this lapidary saying of Christ can be taken as the key to understanding the message which comes to us from the life of our late beloved Pope John Paul II. Today we bury his remains in the earth as a seed of immortality -- our hearts are full of sadness, yet at the same time of joyful hope and profound gratitude.

These are the sentiments that inspire us, brothers and sisters in Christ, present here in St. Peter's Square, in neighboring streets and in various other locations within the city of Rome, where an immense crowd, silently praying, has gathered over the last few days. I greet all of you from my heart. In the name of the College of Cardinals, I also wish to express my respects to heads of state, heads of government and the delegations from various countries.

I greet the authorities and official representatives of other Churches and Christian Communities, and likewise those of different religions. Next I greet the archbishops, bishops, priests, religious men and women and the faithful who have come here from every continent; especially the young, whom John Paul II liked to call the future and the hope of the Church. My greeting is extended, moreover, to all those throughout the world who are united with us through radio and television in this solemn celebration of our beloved Holy Father's funeral.

Follow me -- as a young student Karol Wojtyla was thrilled by literature, the theater and poetry. Working in a chemical plant, surrounded and threatened by the Nazi terror, he heard the voice of the Lord: Follow me! In this extraordinary setting he began to read books of philosophy and theology, and then entered the clandestine seminary established by Cardinal Sapieha. After the war he was able to complete his studies in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University of Krakow.

How often, in his letters to priests and in his autobiographical books, has he spoken to us about his priesthood, to which he was ordained on November 1, 1946. In these texts he interprets his priesthood with particular reference to three sayings of the Lord.

First: "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain" (John 15:16). The second saying is: "A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). And then: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love" (John 15:9). In these three sayings we see the heart and soul of our Holy Father. He really went everywhere, untiringly, in order to bear fruit, fruit that lasts.

"Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way!" is the title of his next-to-last book. "Rise, let us be on our way!" -- with these words he roused us from a lethargic faith, from the sleep of the disciples of both yesterday and today. "Rise, let us be on our way!" he continues to say to us even today. The Holy Father was a priest to the last, for he offered his life to God for his flock and for the entire human family, in a daily self-oblation for the service of the Church, especially amid the sufferings of his final months. And in this way he became one with Christ, the Good Shepherd who loves his sheep.

Finally, "abide in my love": The Pope who tried to meet everyone, who had an ability to forgive and to open his heart to all, tells us once again today, with these words of the Lord, that by abiding in the love of Christ we learn, at the school of Christ, the art of true love.

Follow me! In July 1958, the young priest Karol Wojtyla began a new stage in his journey with the Lord and in the footsteps of the Lord. Karol had gone to the Masuri lakes for his usual vacation, along with a group of young people who loved canoeing. But he brought with him a letter inviting him to call on the primate of Poland, Cardinal Wyszynski. He could guess the purpose of the meeting: He was to be appointed as the auxiliary bishop of Krakow.

Leaving the academic world, leaving this challenging engagement with young people, leaving the great intellectual endeavor of striving to understand and interpret the mystery of that creature which is man and of communicating to today's world the Christian interpretation of our being -- all this must have seemed to him like losing his very self, losing what had become the very human identity of this young priest. Follow me -- Karol Wojtyla accepted the appointment, for he heard in the Church's call the voice of Christ. And then he realized how true are the Lord's words: "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it" (Luke 17:33).

Our Pope -- and we all know this -- never wanted to make his own life secure, to keep it for himself; he wanted to give of himself unreservedly, to the very last moment, for Christ and thus also for us. And thus he came to experience how everything which he had given over into the Lord's hands, came back to him in a new way. His love of words, of poetry, of literature, became an essential part of his pastoral mission and gave new vitality, new urgency, new attractiveness to the preaching of the Gospel, even when it is a sign of contradiction.

Follow me! In October 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla once again heard the voice of the Lord. Once more there took place that dialogue with Peter reported in the Gospel of this Mass: "Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep!" To the Lord's question, "Karol, do you love me?" the archbishop of Krakow answered from the depths of his heart: "Lord you know everything; you know that I love you." The love of Christ was the dominant force in the life of our beloved Holy Father. Anyone who ever saw him pray, who ever heard him preach, knows that. Thanks to his being profoundly rooted in Christ, he was able to bear a burden which transcends merely human abilities: that of being the shepherd of Christ's flock, his universal Church.

This is not the time to speak of the specific content of this rich pontificate. I would like only to read two passages of today's liturgy which reflect central elements of his message. In the first reading, St. Peter says -- and with St. Peter, the Pope himself -- "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. You know the word (that) he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all" (Acts 10:34-36). And in the second reading, St. Paul -- and with St. Paul, our late Pope -- exhorts us, crying out: "Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, beloved" (Philippians 4:1).

Follow me! Together with the command to feed his flock, Christ proclaimed to Peter that he would die a martyr's death. With those words, which conclude and sum up the dialogue on love and on the mandate of the universal shepherd, the Lord recalls another dialogue, which took place during the Last Supper. There Jesus had said: "Where I am going, you cannot come." Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied: "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow me afterward" (John 13:33,36). Jesus from the Supper went toward the Cross, went toward his resurrection -- he entered into the paschal mystery; and Peter could not yet follow him. Now -- after the resurrection -- comes the time, comes this "afterward."

By shepherding the flock of Christ, Peter enters into the paschal mystery, he goes toward the cross and the resurrection. The Lord says this in these words: "when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go" (John 21:18).

In the first years of his pontificate, still young and full of energy, the Holy Father went to the very ends of the earth, guided by Christ. But afterward, he increasingly entered into the communion of Christ's sufferings; increasingly he understood the truth of the words: "someone else will dress you." And in this very communion with the suffering Lord, tirelessly and with renewed intensity, he proclaimed the Gospel, the mystery of that love which goes to the end (cf. John 13:1).

He interpreted for us the paschal mystery as a mystery of divine mercy. In his last book, he wrote: The limit imposed upon evil "is ultimately Divine Mercy" ("Memory and Identity," pp. 60- 61). And reflecting on the assassination attempt, he said: "In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love. ... It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good" (pp. 189-190). Impelled by this vision, the Pope suffered and loved in communion with Christ, and that is why the message of his suffering and his silence proved so eloquent and so fruitful.

Divine Mercy: the Holy Father found the purest reflection of God's mercy in the Mother of God. He, who at an early age had lost his own mother, loved his divine mother all the more. He heard the words of the crucified Lord as addressed personally to him: "Behold your Mother." And so he did as the beloved disciple did: "he took her into his own home" (John 19:27) -- "Totus tuus." And from the mother he learned to conform himself to Christ.

None of us can ever forget how in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing "urbi et orbi." We can be sure that our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the Father’s house, that he sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

[Original text in Italian; translation issued by Holy See]


Trivia trivia: Based on my research, it is really not compulsory for a new pope to change his given name. Name changing of popes were more like a tradition (not sacred, though) than a rule. The new pope may always opt to retain his given name. The first pope to change his name was John II (533 A.D.). He changed his name because his given name, Mercury, was taken from a Roman god. He chose John II to honor former Pope John I, whom he admired the most.

Monday, April 18, 2005

A tribute to heroes...

This is a brief entry that simply aims to honor our brethren in the streets who never cease to lend a helping hand in times of trouble.

I was driving home from my lady’s house when my car fell in a deep pothole on Pedro Gil Avenue. Pedro Gil is really famous for its potholes because engineering people there just don’t stop digging. They must be looking for the Yamashita Treasure or something. Anyway, I got stuck in that pothole for a few minutes. I tried to get out but my tires just screeched and I never succeeded.

Luckily, a driver of an FX taxi stuck in traffic I created approached my car and tried to help. He jokingly uttered, “Swak kayo sa butas Sir ah. Marami talagang nabibiktima diyan eh.” Surprisingly, he stepped out of his FX taxi and tried to help me out by pushing my car backwards. I also tried to accelerate backwards while he pushes the car, but it won’t budge because the hole was deeper than we thought. Then suddenly, more men, around 6 or 7, helped out in the pushing. Thanks to them, I managed to get the car out the pothole. It was totally unexpected, and I really appreciate their help.

Bayanihan is far from dead. This culture stays in the Filipino psyche wherever and whenever they may be. Even the most dreadful catastrophe or the most advanced technology could not take this positive trait out of the Filipinos. The incident that occurred to me last Friday just made me realize that it feels good to be in your native country. Because of guys like them, I never give up hoping for a bright future for the Philippines. It is in guys like them that I am proud of being a Filipino. Mabuhay kayo!

Trivia trivia: The movie “Constantine” was based on the comic book “Hellblazer.” The producers decided to change the tile to Constantine so as not to mix it up with the movie “Hellraiser.”

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Eyesore on Philippine TV

As I was watching my favorite Sunday noon time program SOP (trivia: SOP means Sobrang Okey Pare. But now, the network uses it as an acronym for seasonal tag lines such as “Summer’s Only Party,” etc.), I was surprised to see performer KEITH MARTIN onstage with Ogie Alcasid and Kyla. I thought he already left the country for good after staying off the limelight for quite some time.

But no. Keith Martin never left the country since performing on a major concert at the Araneta Coliseum (I think) about a year or two ago (or is it three?). I thought after months of vacation and partying in the posh streets of Manila, he got tired of the slow and third world life in the Philippines and decided to leave for his homeland… But nah. He lingered. He stayed. I heard he even purchased a condominium unit in a luxurious residence site in Makati.

I also hear that he still performs weekly in some five-star hotels and casinos in Manila and other Metropolitan cities. And he has this VJ girlfriend. In fact, I saw this couple around December last year at Greenbelt 3. My lady and I took the shabby taxi cab they rode on the way. Even the taxi driver was surprised to have Mr. “Because of You” as his passenger that evening.

Does he have the necessary papers? I recall that sometime last year, a reporter from ABS-CBN attempted an ambush interview with our “overstaying” foreign performer. All she received were skirts and kilts, and she never really got the answers she needed. And as an icing on the cake, Martin even made derogatory remarks about the reporter’s line of questioning. He even called the entire interview “stupid,” if I recall correctly. What a way to pay back the people that resurrected his career.

I was appalled to see him around in shows and other programs in local TV. I have to admit that his song “Because of You” became the national anthem of Filipino lovers because we are natural suckers to melodrama and romance. However, after a few months of making to the top of the Filipino music charts, economically speaking, there was a diminishing marginal utility for the song once it is aired and heard over and over again. The enthusiasm for the song slowly waned, and eventually diminished. And after multiple revivals from the country’s best singers (e.g. Jed Maddela, Kyla), I think his version has already been forgotten.

His attempts for a follow up were rather futile. He made a follow up album, but I don’t think it even reached platinum in record sales. His second single did not touch the hearts of Filipino romanticizers the same way Because of You did. Even in the Philippines, he is a familiar “one-hit-wonder.”

I really don’t know what his plans are in the country, but I do believe that he does not deserve as much attention as the other premier native vocalizers. In fairness, Keith Martin has a wonderful voice, but that is not a reason for him to stay in the country longer than expected. Are the immigration officials into this?

This just reflects our negative culture of colonial mentality in the arts. Even though his music was hit several years ago, Keith Martin’s presence was embraced by Filipinos by the mere fact that he is foreign. He was not the first one to do it on Philippine soil. Remember David Pomeranz? And the latest: the Cascades?! They capitalize on nostalgia and Western appeal just to revive their already forgotten careers. What hurts more is that we Filipinos get to pay them their value centuries ago even if their value in their native homeland is nil at present time.

Well, the bottom line is I don’t know why he is still here…

Monday, April 04, 2005

Farewell to thee...

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Let me offer this entry to our beloved Pope John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla), who passed away at around 3:47 a.m. Sunday, 3 April 2005 (Philippine Time).

A certified record holder for being the most traveled, not to mention the most approachable, loved and omnipresent Pope, truly he has touched the lives of billions of people, even Non-Christians.

Truly he will remain in the hearts and minds of Christians wherever they may be.

John Paul II, thanks for the wisdom, strength and love you've shown us in your 26 years of Papacy.

Now, you are with God...