By Fr. Roy Cimagala

I JUST read the official statement of the president of the US Episcopal conference regarding the current economic crisis there, and sorry, I can’t help but compare it with the views of some of our local bishops.

It’s almost like black and white the contrast that can be observed. The American bishops show a lot of restraint and moderation, not rash and reckless claims, in their reading and judgment of the situation. They focus on the essentials offer a lot of magnanimity and concrete positive directions, not sweeping and beefless indications.

Besides they speak as one voice, not a clatter of many discordant voices, some shrill, others boorish, most often all of them jarring and irritating. They show admirable solidarity, not further division and finger-pointing. “We are all in this together,” they said. How truly nice to hear that, not anymore thinking now of who is to blame!

Their unity is certainly not uniformity. There are shades and nuances of differences of views. But at least from what can gathered in the media, no one is playing games undermining that unity by abusing their titles and playing petty politics. Not quite what we have here. We have naughty and mischievous bishops with Pavlovian instincts.

The statement was concise and direct to the point, not staggering under some biased theologizing that rationalizes difficult and even unacceptable points and deodorize suspicious, one-sided assertions. Besides, very few people can last reading, let alone digesting, pages of long-winded declarations.

It looks to me as well studied and thoroughly deliberated. It correctly respects the autonomy of our temporal affairs as in business and politics, and leaves people to act freely according to their formed consciences in their particular circumstances.

It shows that bishops cannot go into technical questions, sensitive to what they can touch and what they can’t, for that would already be an infringement of people’s legitimate freedom and the unavoidable plurality of opinions in temporal matters. They inspire, and they don’t dictate.

In the end, the statement expresses a clear indication at once prudent, respectful of legitimate freedom and autonomy of men’s affairs, cognizant of people’s strengths and weaknesses, spiritual, supernatural, universal and pastoral in effect. It avoids being partisan in a situation where there will always be various if not conflicting parties, all of them with valid reasons.

Here’s the statement of Cardinal Francis George, entitled “Solidarity at a time of economic crisis”:

“As the Catholic bishops of the United States gather in Baltimore and as servants of Jesus our hope, we bring with us our concern for people in our dioceses, and we want to express our active support and solidarity with all those who are being hurt by the current economic crisis. As pastors and bishops, we see the many human and moral consequences of this crisis. Clearly, the impact is greater in some regions than others.

“However, across our nation families are losing their homes; retirement savings are threatened; workers are losing jobs and health care; and many people are losing a sense of hope and security.

“This disturbing and complicated situation brings home a universal truth: we are all children of God. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. We are all in this together. Hard times can isolate us or they can bring us together. The Catholic community will continue to reach out to those in need, stand with those who are hurt, and work for policies that bring greater compassion, accountability and justice to economic life.

“Pope Benedict XVI has outlined our goals in his 2008 World Day of Peace message: “The family needs to have a home, employment, and a just recognition of the domestic activity of parents, the possibility of schooling for children, and basic health care for all.” He also insists that society and public policy should be “committed to assisting the family in these areas.

“We offer our prayers for the families and individuals, our sisters and brothers, who are hurting, anxious or discouraged in these difficult times. We also pledge our prayers for our wounded nation and suffering world. We pray that, working together, we can find the courage, wisdom and ways to build an economy of prosperity and greater justice for all.”

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

I WAS happy to learn that there are annual conferences for Church communication personnel organized by a pontifical university in Rome. My immediate wish is for this kind of conferences to be replicated in our dioceses.

Aside from the massive regular information that has to be given, the increasing number of hot issues the Church has to grapple with now makes the task of Church communication personnel very challenging.

This year’s theme, for example, already evokes an intriguing character: “Church communication and the culture of controversy.” Yes, the Church officials simply have to know how to navigate in our complicated environment today.

With her stature and historical standing, it’s pitiable to see the Church in the different levels of her structure fumbling miserably in this aspect of communication. She’s like an aging mother needing precious help from her children.

Already the technical requirements are daunting. Besides matters of language and style, officials, to be effective, have to do continuing research and updating, enrich their sense of perspective and timing, master the fast-developing technologies.

They have to be quick in identifying and resolving issues. Thus, they should always be in the lookout, energetic in gathering relevant data, open to everyone and all parties involved in a given question.

I’m impressed, for example, at how some American newspapers do their stuff. There’s thoroughness in their data, balance and good manners in the treatment of issues. Straight news is clearly distinguished from editorial and opinion items.

Professionalism is all over. A wide network of competent writers gives their readers great depth and scope of the issues. Though they have a specific perspective, there’s also openness and serious but polite discussion of conflicting views.

These qualities and ideals are difficult to build. They don’t come overnight and they require tremendous resources. But they just have to be pursued day in and day out, using whatever means we have.

To top it all, it has to be clear that Church communication assumes the spiritual and supernatural character proper to the Church. It just cannot be a bureaucratic process of making and transmitting statements.

It cannot be treated as business-and-politics reporting. It is an integral part of the Church’s ministry of evangelization. It has to be nothing less than the living water spoken of in the Gospel that nourishes souls and peoples, with traces of divine inspiration marking it.

The skill to combine the divine and the human elements, the sacred and the mundane, the absolute and the relative, the eternal and the temporal, should be developed. It may not be a sacrament, but it has to reflect the Church’s true nature and serve her authentic goal.

Therefore, it has to be a product of prayer, a manifestation of one’s sincere effort at sanctifying his work, himself and others. This obviously is no guarantee that there’d be no imperfections and errors, but it will leave one’s work exuding a certain aura perceptible to the soul’s finer faculties.

Besides, those involved in Church communication should have a good feel of what the Church is, what she needs at the moment, what she desires to achieve, etc. They should strive to be able to read the signs of the times.

It is this “sentire cum Ecclesia” (to feel with the Church) that can spawn a continuous flow of ideas and initiatives. It can also determine the timing and the manner in which issues are presented and discussed.

For this, it is necessary that those involved, while individually responsible and competent, should be adept in the ways of collegiality and teamwork, dialogue and consultation, to somehow guarantee a balanced writing worthy of being a Church communication.

There has to be a vital link with the bishop and ultimately with the Pope, so that the character of communion proper to the Church can be lived. With our advances in information technology, this vital linking could be better facilitated.

With these dispositions, it is hoped that what come out truly irrigate people’s minds and hearts, clarifying, encouraging, removing us from spiritual dead ends, and stimulating us to pursue the genuine purpose of our life.

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By Fr. Roy Cimagala

IT’S EXPECTED that every New Year, people in different fields make year-end reviews and projections of how the New Year would likely be as far as their interest is concerned.
     The media is fond of this. But so far, this exercise seems to be confined only to the political and business sections. At the moment, we are fed heavily with all sorts of reports and forecasts in this regard. They serve a purpose.
     Of course, the lifestyle and entertainment section cannot be outdone. In this area, gossips are made to spill like rampaging lava from an exploding volcano.
     The big difference is that instead of running away from it, many people like to be buried by this molten flow of red-hot rumors and juicy blind items. As of now, I’m afraid there is no cure yet for this lunacy.
     I believe that this annual practice should also be done-and even with more reason-in the area of faith and religion as far as these would be assessable in their human and temporal expressions.
     I know that life is largely a mystery. Even if we are talking of ordinary, well-known daily events, that mystery is hardly diminished. Well, our faith and Church life are even more of a mystery!
     But this does not excuse us from doing what is humanly possible to gain some kind of control and sense of direction in our spiritual and Church life. Yes, everything depends on God, but things also depend on us. Let’s do our part.
     If everyone is prodded to do an examination of conscience not only at the end of the year, but in fact, at every day’s end, then some kind of review and forecast should also be done in the bigger and higher levels of Church life.
     Like, how did a particular parish perform last year? And what are its prospects for this year? Any religious organization, diocese, and even the bishops’ conference can ask similar questions if only to infuse a sense of professionalism to their pastoral work.
     From there, more people could be better aware of what happened in the past and of what are planned for the future. There’d be more sense of solidarity in our collective effort to be more consistent to our faith.
     We have to overcome whatever awkwardness and amateurism we may still have with respect to our Church life. With the pace of development we now have, this attitude is really and laughably out of place.
     It’s true that the Church is hierarchical and its main thrust is on the spiritual and the supernatural life nourished by God’s word, dogmas and doctrine, the sacraments, etc.
     But it also has temporal and human concerns that require active participation as much as possible by everyone. It’s more in this area that some public assessment of things can be made to generate wider participation.
     And the media can be a big help. As long as it realizes its need for continuing formation, it can carry out this delicate function properly. This is a challenge for media to assume greater responsibility in Church life.
     Obviously there are differences of opinions, and even mistakes can be committed. But it would be wrong if the media just focuses on stoking controversies and denouncing mistakes and scandals.
     It has to do a more constructive and cooperative effort by making a kind of running account of developments in the Church and going deep into the task of making Church life more appreciated by everyone.
     It can do better than just announcing town fiestas or reporting the external aspects of whatever events, good or bad, may take place in the parish or the diocese.
     It can, for example, make suggestions based on studies or wide consultations on how the continuing task of evangelization can be made or improved.
     It can make their views known on how a certain aspect of the faith has affected or will likely affect a particular group of people. Is their growth in the people’s spiritual life, is there a greater sense of Church among them, etcetera?
     The media can do many things to deepen and strengthen our spiritual and Church life. If need be, they can hire experts or consultants in Church affairs. An awful lot can be done!

By M. V. Asuncion

Iba talaga ang simoy ng hangin pag pasok ng buwan ng Disyembre. Ang lakas, lamig at dampi nito sa katawan ay tunay na nagbabadya na papalapit na ang Pasko.

Hindi lang ang hangin ang nag-iiba. Pati ang kapaligiran, na sumisigla dahil na rin sa mga palamuting pampasko at patay-sindi na ilaw.

Masaya ang kapaligiran. Dalawang selebrasyon, pista na, Pasko pa. Inaabangan ang mga gabi-gabing palabas sa Baywalk at siempre, ang pagbubukas ng higanteng X’mas tree. Sa kapitolyo naman, inaabangan ang pagbubukas ng Christmas Animated Display at ng mga Xmas trees sa loob ng compound nito. Mga Xmas parties at exchange gifts para naman sa mga iba-ibang opisina.

Sa Pilipinas lang marahil ang maypinakamatagal na selebrasyon ng Kapaskuhan. Isang buwan, 2 linggo. Sa ibang bansa, lalo na sa mga mayayaman na bansa, isang araw lang ito. Mismo sa araw ng Disyembre 25 lamang itinatakda ang non-working day.

Matagal man o maiksi ang selebrasyon, nasa sa atin yan. Nasa sa atin kung simple lang o magarbo ang pagdiriwang natin ng kapaskuhan. Ang pinaka mahalaga sa pagdiriwang ng Pasko ay ang pagkakaisa at pagmamahalan ng bawat-isa at ng ating pamilya.

Kung paano ipapakita itong pagmamahalan ay iba na ring istorya yan….

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Ang Kapaskuhan ang kadalasan ay pinupuntirya ng mga may masasamang-loob. Tumataas ang kriminalidad. Dito lang sa ating lunsod ilan na ang nabalitang nilooban ng mga magnanakaw. Marami ng kaso, ang ilan pa nga ay first-time nating nabalitaan dito. Lumalakas na kaya ang loob o talagang ganito na kahirap ang panahon.?

Wala ng pinipili sa ngayon na bibiktimahin. Mapamahirap o nakaka-angat sa buhay. Mainit sa mata ng mga magnanakaw ang mga maliliit na mga gadgets tulad ng cell phones, mga MP4, digital cameras, at ang all-time favorite na alahas. Madali kasi ang mga itong idispatsa. Kaya, ingat talaga.

Pag-iingat din ang dapat gawin natin sa mga nangingikil dahil Pasko. Posibleng gumawa nito ang mga nasa pampublikong serbisyo. Pati na nga ang ilan sa mga tricycle drivers na nais kumita ng malaki ay maniningil ng sobra lalo na sa mga ina-arkila. Meron din na mga nangingikil para kuno sa kanilang xmas party. Puedeng in kind o kaya cash.

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Konting hinay-hinay din sa pagkain ngayong Pasko. Sabi ng health experts, tumataas daw sa panahon na ito ang mga inaatake sa puso at hypertension. Ito ay dulot ng dami ng masasarap na pagkain na maaalat, matataba, at matatamis. Payo nila, bantayan ang sustansiya ng pagkain nang di mapinsala ang mga sistema ng katawan lalo na ang puso.

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UNTI-UNTI nang bumabangon ang ekonomiya ng ating bansa. Ang patuloy na pagtaas ng halaga ng piso laban sa dolyar ay malaking tulong diyo. Batay sa National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), umaabt 7.5% ang  gross domestic product (GDP) ng Pilipinas sa unang anim na buwan ng 2007 kung ikukumpara noong 2006 na 5.5% lamang .

     Isa sa mga dahilan ng pag-usad ng ating ekonomiya ay ang pagdagsa ng malakas na programa upang makaakit ng maraming negosyante na mamuhunan sa ating bansa. Ang pag- reporma sa ating mga batas pamumuhunan, pagsasaayos ng sistema sa pagnenegosyo at pagpataw ng mababang buwis sa mga dayuhang mamumuhunan ang ilan sa mga hakbang na ginawa ng pamahalaan upang makaakit ng mga negosyante na maglagak ng negosyo sa Pilipinas.

     Ang pagpapalakas ng ating bansa sa industriya ng pagmimina ay isa sa mga pamamaraan kung kaya natatamo natin ang pagsulong ng ating ekonomiya. Batay sa datos mula sa Department of Environment and Natural Resources umaabot sa humigit-kumulang US$500M ang naipasok na bagong pamumuhunan ng industriya ng pagmimina sa bansa sa taong kasalukuyan. Ang industriya ay nagbukas din ng 3,250 na bagong trabaho sa unang tatlong buwan pa lamang ng taong 2007. Ang bilang na ito ay sumasakop lamang sa 24 na pangunahing kompanya na nagmimina sa bansa.

     Dito sa lalawigan ng Palawan, patuloy na lumalaki ang kontribusyon ng pagmimina sa pagkakaloob ng trabaho at maraming tulong panlipunan. Batay sa datos na nakalap ng Kabuhayan, Kaunlaran at Kalikasan, Inc. (KKK) umaabot sa mahigit-kumulang 1,700 Palawenyo ang regular na empleyado  ngayon ng mga minahan na miyembro KKK. Hindi pa kasama dito ang mga contractual at napakaraming manggagawa ng mga contractors. Maliban pa dito ang mga lokal na negosyante ay direktang nakikinabang sa pagkakaroon ng gawain ng pagmimina sa isang lugar. Ang buwanang bayarin sa suweldo ng mga manggagawa ay napakalaking halaga. Lahat ng ito ay pumapasok sa lokal na ekonomiya. Ito ay ilan lamang sa napakaraming benepisyo na naibibgay ng industriya ng pagmimina para sa kaunlaran ng isang lugar.

     Isa sa katotohanan na hindi maaaring mapapasubalian ay ang pagbabago na dala ng Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation at Coral Bay Nickel Corporation sa bayan ng Bataraza, at ang pag-asa na hatid ng Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC) sa Bgy. Berong, Quezon, Palawan. Sa pagsasalaysay ng mga taong nauna sa bayan ng Bataraza, salat na salat umano sa kaunlaran ang lugar.

     Walang kalsada na madadaanan kaya nagbabangka sila upang makarating sa bayan ng Brooke’s Point, walang ospital, laganap ang malaria at walang kabuhayan. Sa ngayon, ang bayan ng Bataraza ang isa sa pinakamapalad na bayan sa lalawigan. Ang presensya ng RTNMC ang nagbigay sa kanila ng bagong pag-asa na malampasan ang kahirapan. Lalo pa itong umunlad nang dumating ang CBNC at magkatuwang na ipinapatupad ang maraming programang panlipunan.

     Ang Bgy.Berong ay nasa liblib na bahagi ng munisipyo ng Quezon. Katulad ng kuwento ng bayan ng Bataraza laganap ang kahirapan sa lugar. Malayo sila sa mga serbisyong panlipunan na ibinibigay ng pamahalaan at ang kita ng bawat pamilya ay umaabot lamang sa dalawang libo bawat taon. Maraming kabataan ang hindi nakakapag-aral dahil ayon sa mga guro walang kakayahan ang mga magulang kahit pambaon na kanin at ulam lamang ng kanilang mga anak sa elementary.

     Dahil sa Berong Nickel Corporation, ang komunidad ng Bgy. Berong at mga karatig barangay ay sumigla. Kung dati ay halos walang pumupuntang sasakyang pampubliko sa kanila, sa ngayo, ang biyahe ng mga jeep ay halos tatlong beses sa isang araw dahil sa pagbabago sa ekonomiya sa lugar. Makikita ang pag-usbong ng maraming negosyo sa lugar. Lumaki rin ang bilang ng mga kabataang nag-aaral sa ngayon.  Ito ay ilan lamang sa maraming magandang pagbabago sa Bgy. Berong.

     Kung madalas nating marinig na “hindi nararamdaman ng mga Pilipino ang pag-usad ng kaunlaran”, sa mga lugar na kung saan maayos na nagagawa ang pagmimina at natutupad ang isinasaad ng batas, tunay na nararamdaman nila ang pagbabago sa kanilang buhay dahil sa pagpalakas ng pamahalaan sa industriya ng pagmimina.

     Bagama’t napakaraming pagbatikos tayong naririnig sa industriyang ito, hindi natin mapapasubalian na kung wala ang presensya ng mga kompanya ng mga minahan sa mga lugar na ito, ang kaunlaran at pagbabago sa antas ng pamumuhay ng mga komunidad ditto ay mananatiling pangarap lamang.

     Nawa’y tingnan natin ng ay bukas na kaisipan ang kabilang mukha ng pagmimina at huwag lamang tingnan ang umanoy negatibong aspeto nito. Kasabay nito, kung nais natin maiahon sa kahirapan sa ating bansa, mag-alok tayo ng alternatibong programa na matatapatan din ang benepisyo na hatid ng industriya ng pagmimina sa isang lugar. Ang katotohanan ay kumakatok sa pinto ng bawat pamilyang hikahos sa pamumuhay- walang makain, walang pasilidad upang agarang matugunan ang kanilang pangangailangan tulad ng ospital, kalsada, edukasyon at marami pa. May karapatan din mabuhay tulad mo, tulad natin ang mga kababayan natin na sa matagal na panahon ay tinatanaw lamang ang mga luntian at masaganang kalikasan. Maaari bang isakripisyo natin ang maliit na bahagi n gating kapaligiran para mabilis nating tugunan ang pangangailangan n gating mga mahal na kababayan?

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