Frustrations

Frustrations

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

Frustrations are not confined among laymen. Even religious people are experiencing these. In the role that they play – as shepherds of the God’s flocks, they too, have expectations. Foremost of these is that what they preach on the pulpit every time they say Mass is not given substance or not put into practice by those who religiously attend the service.

During an informal gathering of bloggers that I attended, I met a guy whom I did not suspect to be a priest. He was simply clad in t-shirt and denim like the rest of us. In his blogs he uses a different name (as expected) because his forte is criticism. I came across his blog site and in fact I had been tagging my comments in poetry which made him took note of my name, hoping that I would attend the occasion. He could have felt perhaps that he can trust me, that is why he confided to me his identity. He is young, about in his early thirties. Nobody knows about his identity as a blogger, not even his family.

 

When he told me that he is frustrated about the attitude of most purportedly Christians, I told him I was not surprised. I even told him that I knew of a priest who got married after realizing that his efforts as a priest have been useless. Before he could relate more frustrations, I cautioned him about his vow of secrecy. It was of course a joke. He laughed, assuring me that his frustrations are based on observations that cover even politics, but most especially, the religious community, of which he is a member.

He shared his thought about those who claim to be Christians or Catholics but don’t act as such. I told him it is “normal”. But added that God is not blind. I reminded him that the hypocrisy that has been catching his attention has been observed since the Spanish regime. That is why some have been made into jokes, most popular of which is about a religious woman who heads a legion of Virgin Mary. She donates flowers for the altar and big sum during offertory. She goes to church in immaculate white dress, but when she arrives home, she would start berating her dog that pissed at the gate, scold the maid for some reasons, calls her children names. Neighbors would know she has arrived from the church because of her loud voice that can be heard, two houses away. She also gossips a lot.

I told the blogger/priest that like him, serious and honest community leaders and politicians are also frustrated because of corruption around them. Even the home is not spared by it. Some parents are frustrated about  their children who are not serious in their studies, most especially, if some yet, are hooked to prohibited drugs and other vices. Some wives are frustrated about their philandering husbands. Some husbands are frustrated about their nagging wives, and worst, spend money as if they own a bank. Some children are frustrated about their parents who just got no time for them.

I was thankful that he listened to me.  I encouraged him to keep on blogging about religious issues, especially, because we have a new non-traditional pope, but suggested to soften his punches, as he relates his blogs to some political issues such as pork barrel, corrupt politicians, vote buying, etc. I promised to keep on tagging my comments in poetry which he likes. Before I could ask about his parish, he asked me to visit him, giving me an address which is familiar to me. When I went there the following Saturday, he introduced me to his superior, the parish priest. I pretended to know the family of my priest friend which is the reason for my visit. Deep in me, however, I was sorry to have doubted the honesty of my new found friend. During the occasion during which we met, I just entertained him for the sake of conversation, but doubted his being a priest.

This all happened in February of this year. Two weeks ago, we met again. He told me that he is leaving the parish. I thought he would go on a vacation or be assigned to another one. I was shocked when he told me that he is leaving priesthood. He will join a community outreach organization based in Cambodia. He will stop blogging for awhile so that he could concentrate on community projects in Cambodia. He is excited as this group has projects even in Africa. I wished him the best for his new-found advocacy and asked him to keep in touch with me through emails.

Frustration is part of life. On how we carry its weight on our shoulder is part of God’s challenge to test our faith in Him. For us to forget about such burden, we can do something else to fulfill our desire just like what my friend did – exert his effort in another advocacy.

 

 

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Beware: Pride Closes the Mind

Beware: Pride Closes the Mind

By Apolinario Villalobos

Some people think that accepting the mistake they made is humiliating. They also think that people who give them advice are intruding into their intellectual domain. Worse, these same people who are buoyed by money and intoxicated by success think that they are above the rest of humanity…and, they just cannot imagine themselves looking back or looking down to where they came from. Blame pride, arrogance, conceit.

Self-esteem should be maintained despite material gains. But it should not be tainted with pride. Moving on is part of life and those who gain by dint of hard work should compose themselves as successes are gained along the way. Studies show that one reason why some successful people refuse to look back or cut off their relationship with former colleagues is their fear that the latter would ask for a share of what they gained. These people not only refuse to look back but they also close their mind.

They not only move on, but move up – climbing the ladder of  society to find a new environment where they can move with ease, thanks to their new glittering trappings and money. Among newfound friends, the successful people open their minds. But since money is not everything in life and relationship with newfound friends is not deeply rooted, happiness is short-lived. As these people grow old, they found parties, golfing with rich buddies, weekend jaunts to first class resorts, dinners in 5-star hotels, etc. –  boring. They start to long for childhood friends, relatives in barrios and slums. But they are ashamed to make a turn around and trace back their steps to where they came from. And, since, they cannot bring along their wealth with them when they bid the world goodbye, their death could be lonely.

(I based this blog on the story of a couple who lives in an affluent village in Makati City, Philippines. Between the two, I could surmise that the wife should be blamed for their situation now. The wife is arrogant and obviously has the hand in all their affairs. Both of them came from Davao City  where they also earned their bachelor’s degree from a prestigious Catholic educational institution in that city. They met in Manila while she was working as a secretary in a pharmaceutical firm and he was with a travel agency. After getting married, the wife resigned from her job and went into direct selling of beauty products which prospered. The husband also resigned from his job and joined his wife but expanded their line of products. They were blessed with 2 children. It was while they were enjoying the fruit of their hard work that they almost forgot about their families and friends back in Davao city. When at first they were helping their respective family, later on they stopped, thinking that their families are milking them of their hard-earned money. Actually, the idea came from the wife who also said that those in Davao should also work hard like them (this bit of information was given to me by the husband, confidentially). In time, communication was cut off. Their two children are both in the United States now with their own families. With advancing age, he is 81 and she is 79, they are now full of regrets. I was referred to them by a friend as they want their “success”  story written down into a book. But I suggested to them that for their story to have a happy ending, they should swallow their pride and go back to Davao to mend the broken relationship with their families which they did. But whether they did it with sincerity or not, I can never tell.)

Faces of Charity

Faces of Charity

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

Many of us perceive charity in the form of money, but not so. Helping others may be done in some other ways. Listening to a grieving friend as the latter unloads his woes is one. Others may be in the form of prayers, or giving up a seat for an elderly, handicapped or pregnant women, also, behaving properly so that others will not be offended.

In practicing an act of charity, the intention should come from the heart. Unfortunately, for the hesitant to help others, the excuse is, “charity begins at home”. For the opportunist, the reason is obviously selfishness…and, for the hypocrites, to gain publicity. Others justify publicity as an effort in soliciting more donations that can be given to the needy. But, is appearing on TV the only way? Can’t letters be sent out directly to prospective donors? Some give donations as they can be reimbursed through tax deductions when income tax is filed – fine, some sort of a give and take practice. Unfortunately, wise benefactors pad their reports for bigger deduction!

Whatever is given out as help should not be counted and expected to be returned. It would be nice if the help is extended to other needy by the beneficiary…but this intention should be made clear by the benefactor. Do they do it? Most importantly, the benefactor should not identify himself to the beneficiary and make a big deal about his act. But for the limelight- greedy, it is an opportunity that they just cannot let go.

Through the different broadcast media – newspapers, TV, radio, that amplify the different faces of this act, we will know the kind of face we have, every time we extend our hand to others. It only needs one question: Am I like these people who blub about their acts? Whatever answer that comes out should be accepted wholeheartedly.  Some honest answers may not be encouraging. Truth hurts… but accepting it with sincerity can relieve the pain. Honesty in accepting the truth can push us to make amends as we move on.

We can fool others and ourselves by hiding behind any face that takes our fancy to satisfy ourselves. But… what about our conscience?

 

The Old Lady “Barker” of Divisoria

The Old Lady “Barker” of Divisoria

 

By Apolinario B Villalobos

 

 

She is 64 years old  but looks like she is only 50. She shouts destinations of jeepneys amidst the din of noise in the corner of Ilaya and Recto Streets of Divisoria (a bustling business district of Manila), as early as six in the morning. She does it until noon when she would give herself a respite while sipping a glass of buko (young coconut) juice. By this time, she would have earned about Php80 out of which she would buy 1 serving of rice and half serving of vegetables that come with free soup – her lunch for the day. She would resume her job at 2pm and continue enticing passengers to take certain jeepneys until 6pm. Her afternoon routine would earn her a lesser amount between Php40 and Php60.

 

She whiles her remaining time for the day observing the arrival of wholesalers of vegetables who come as far as Baguio (summer capital of the Philippines) in the north and Batangas (a prime province north of Manila) in the south. At this time, kids who are waiting for a chance to be hired as porters huddle around her. With her earning during that day, she treats them to cheap bread and buko juice. For the night, she sleeps in a pushcart whose owner lets her use it while he sells re-bundled vegetables along the former railroad track. The pushcart is parked in the sidewalk of a side street.

 

She wakes up at about 3AM, go to a pay toilet and bathroom where she answers the call of nature and does a quick bath. I found out that she leaves her backpack in the care of the owner of the toilet facility. The backpack that contains several t-shirts, shorts, underwear and a towel are all she has. That is her daily routine. She practically leads a Spartan way of life.

 

I saw all these because I spent one whole day with her and one night on the sidewalk beside the pushcart where she slept. To prepare myself for this I brought with me a dismantled corrugated carton to protect me from the cold of the pavement and a malong to serve as my blanket.

 

She told me that she is from Cebu (a prime city in central Philippines) and added that she is doubling her effort to save for her fare back home. She left the comfort of a cousin’s shack in Tondo (an old district of Manila) after finding out that her live-in lover is a drug pusher in the area. Her cousin is a manicurist who plies her job in Luneta (Rizal Park).

 

She came to Manila to try her luck despite her age. She was a laundrywoman back in Cebu. Unfortunately, her daughter and son who have their own families seem not interested to take her in. She was able to send her two children through high school.  They practically drifted away from her when they found jobs. She has maintained patrons for her laundry service but earnings were so meager as these patrons paid her less than the prevailing rate. She had no choice, afraid that she might lose them. She thought her cousin in Tondo would be able to help her, so with a few pesos left after purchasing her boat fare, she took the risk.

 

Finally, she confided that she was apprehensive as to what would happen to her when she sets her feet again on the soil of Cebu. She did not regret coming to Manila, though. Philosophically she told me that life in Manila for people like her is no different from the one lived somewhere else. Her last statement lingers in my mind until now. She has no plan of contacting her children when she arrives in Cebu. She said that she would rather live alone than be hurt by their rejection. She has no regrets in working hard for her children so that they can go through even just high school. In doing this, she is practically left with no savings for her own. Foremost in her mind that time was her being their mother and that she has an obligation to raise them up properly, the best way she could.

 

By the way, her name is Adela. She denied my request for her photo. To show my respect and appreciation for the opportunity she gave me, I did not attempt to take even a single stolen shot while she was doing her job or while she was taking the most needed rest in the pushcart. As an added show of appreciation, I treated her to a simple breakfast sold by ambulant sidewalk peddlers.

 

I wished her the best of luck when we parted ways after our breakfast. On my way to the corner of Ilaya and Recto streets for a jeepney ride, I thought of my mother who skipped meals while selling dried fish. She would wake up at dawn to open her small stall in the market. Through her ways she showed us the dignity in hard work. Just like Adela, my mother did not complain a bit…until she died of cancer.