True Faith Does Not Need a Grandiose House of Worship

True Faith Does Not Need a Grandiose House of Worship

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

True faith regardless of leaning is found in one’s heart and not impressed upon a person by ceremonies in a grandiose house of worship. One need not go to an impressive church or cathedral full of antique icons to show that he or she has a strong faith in God.  If God is All Knowing… in other words, Omnipotent, He should be able to hear the faithful who prays even under a tree while resting after toiling his rice field, or out in a field while harvesting vegetables, or out in the open sea, while casting his net.

 

Instead of spending money for the expansion of an already comfortable house of worship that could accommodate the faithful, these “representatives of God on earth”, should instead build chapels in far-flung villages for an effective effort on spiritual outreach, as this is what God wants in the first place. As implied in the Bible, the shepherd is supposed to be herding the flock which can only be done if he goes to them, and not the other way around, in which the flock goes to the shepherd.

 

As regards the effort of the “shepherd” in going to the “flock”, this is true in the case of the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches. They have simply-built chapels in the midst of the less privileged such as slums and villages. Their house of worship is a simple chapel made of light materials. On the other hand, the “shepherds” of the “other churches” conduct spiritual service in the chapels and multi-purpose halls of subdivisions that are conveniently and comfortably visited in a car. Commendable also is the effort of New Christian evangelists who make do with open spaces, vacant stalls that saw good old days as stores, old garage, etc. which they convert into house of worship.

 

Along this line, “shepherding of flocks” should result to closeness between the “shepherd” and the “flocks” for better spiritual administration. But how can some of these supposedly “shepherds” develop close affinity with their “flocks” if they are pulled out from their assigned “religious territory” after a certain number of years of “duty” which is akin to a wordly or temporal corporate operation? Is not “shepherding of flocks” supposed to be a spiritual advocacy? How can these “fathers” be able to effectively reach out to their “children” if after a certain number of years, there is a switching of posts? Questions…questions…questions…that can lead one into asking more, but which hypocrites view as signs of faithlessness.

 

Lack of “shepherds” is not a plausible alibi why it is necessary to centralize the worship in a parish church or cathedral. Why not train volunteer catechists in villages, so that even simple sharing of the Words can be made? On the other hand, while “religious groups” are practically teeming in any parish, they are observed to be occupied only in social bonding and prayer meetings, as well as, attendance of church activities. For any one or two, or several members of these “religious groups” to have even attempted to conduct catechism in a slum or a barrio is a big question.

 

Again, there is a nagging question as to who among these supposedly “shepherds” or church “heads” are willing to do the task of reaching out to their far-flung “flocks” when they even consider the one day/week rest a necessity since, as they insist, they are only humans who need to rest. But why not come up with a schedule for a 7 days/week “duty”, such that while the “leader” takes a day- off on a certain day, the “assistant”, can take his on another day…thereby, leaving no gap in the their spiritual administration? Why must the two take their day off at the same day?

 

I was prompted to write this blog after a friend told me that she “loves” to attend a Mass in the Cathedral near their home because the “ambience” is very different…very captivating, and that by just closing her eyes makes her cry!  By the way, this lady friend hired a fourteen-year old girl from their province, and whom she pays one thousand five hundred pesos a month wage. The housegirl serves the family of six – the woman and her husband, and their four children. The woman also “lovingly” calls the housegirl “punyeta” and “tanga”, which I heard when I visited her several times.  One time, the housegirl told me discreetly that she has no day off. So there’s our “faithful” woman who cries a river inside a cathedral because of its ambience…what a faith!

Hangga’t Hindi Malawak ang Pagpakalat ng mga Isyu tungkol sa mga Binay, at hindi buo ang kumokontra sa kanila…may pag-asa sila

Hangga’t Hindi Malawak ang Pagpakalat
Ng mga Isyu tungkol sa mga Binay, at hindi buo ang
kumokontra sa kanila…may pag-asa sila
Ni Apolinario Villalobos

Ang Pilipinas ay binubuo ng mga isla, at ang mga tao sa mga liblib na isla ay halos hindi pa nakakakita ng TV o nakarinig ng radyo. Pero yon namang may radyo ay mas gusto pang makinig ng drama. Mayroon pa ngang hindi alam kung sino ang bagong presidente. Ang mga taong nakatira sa mga liblib na lugar na ito ay hinahakot kung may eleksiyon ng mga pulitiko upang masiguro ang hatak nila. Sa ganyang sitwasyon, paanong asahang malalaman ng malaking bahagi ng populasyon ng Pilipinas ang mga kaso ng mga Binay, lalo na ng ama na gustong maging presidente? Paano na kung diktahan ng mga opisyal na malapit sa mga Binay ang mga botante na hinakot nila?

Putok ang mga balita tungkol sa mga Binay, pero sa mga malalaking lunsod at bayan lamang. At, dahil sa katusuhang ginawa ni Binay upang dumami ang mga “sisters” ng Makati City, dumami ang mga bayan at lunsod na nakadikit dito, lalo pa at may mga fringe benefits ang mga opisyal ng mga “sisters” na ito kung mamasyal sila sa Manila – libre hotel at pagkain.

May mga nagsasabi na ang iba raw ay nagbubulag-bulagan sa mga ginawa ng mga Binay, dahil sa lakas ng hatak sa kanila ng mga kaalyado nito na natapalan naman ng pera. Namimilosopo na lang sila na uunahin daw muna nila ang tiyan ng kanilang pamilya.

Ang mas lalong nakakabahala ay ang pagkakawatak-watak ng mga taong kontra kay Binay. Sa dami ng mga gustong maging presidente na kokontra sa kanya, inaasahang hindi na magiging solid ang makukuha ng boto ng karapat-dapat na kandidato. Kaya siguro halos hindi kumikibo ang kampo ng mga Binay ay dahil sa nabanggit na sitwasyon na pabor sa kanila.

Ang pinakahuling pag-asa ay ang simbahan na gagamit ng pulpito upang magpakalat ng mga impormasyon, at mga eskwelahan sa pamamagitan naman ng kanilang mga estudyante. Sa pagkakataong ito, sa tingin ko ay hindi masama kung makialam ang simbahan dahil kapakanan ng mga tao ang nakasalalay. Ang problema lang pala ay kung may mga simbahan na ring nahatak dahil sa pangakong suporta sa mga proyekto, ganoon din sa mga eskwelahan nila.

Is the theory of Evolution still Relevant?

Is the Theory of Evolution still Relevant?
By Apolinario Villalobos

I got introduced to the theory of evolution when I was in high school, such being part of the Biology subject. That time, I was awed by our teacher’s presentation on how genes changed, developed, etc. from a simple form to a complicated one, the highest of which is man.

But today, I practically removed such nonsense from my mind. My reason is that, if such theory is true, there should be new tribes now in Africa and other continents where apes and chimpanzees which are supposed to evolve into men, abound! But, no…they still remain the same hairy creatures just like their ancestors thousands of years ago! Other creatures that are said to evolve such as fish, lizards, crocodiles and many more, are still the same until today. Some may have developed helpful appendages but only as part of their environmental adaptation which is normal.

A simple doubting Thomas like me, also asks why the peoples of the world have different features. Why are Europeans fair in complexion? Why are Asians shorter in height? Why are some tribes in Africa gigantic in stature, and why are they black? Why do orientals have chinky eyes? Etc., etc.

Genes can be manipulated. That is a fact today. Plants are even injected with animal genes to make them hardy. That is why there are super veggies as a result of their manipulated genes – the GMO’s. Human body parts can be transplanted…another fact. It will not be far from now that the head can also be transferred to another body. Semen can also be stored to be rejuvenated thousands of years from now. Glutathione medications can make people fairer in complexion which indicates “tampering” of cells. The heart can be made to function using a mechanical contraption, and the same is true with other organs. For so many years now, the so-called stem cell therapy has been practiced to repair malfunctioning and weak organs, thereby, extending the life expectancy of a person – a major manipulation of man’s physical make up.

The question now should be “who” did the first manipulation of genes in order to come up with humanity on earth? Was the first man, the result of manipulation made by “aliens” millions of years ago, using some parts from their own body in combination with those from creatures that they found on earth when they came to visit thousands of years ago, during which they were regarded as “gods”? For how long was their experiments done to finally come up with an “intelligent man”. Were the “aliens” themselves of different races back in other heavenly bodies where they came from?

I do not hesitate to bring forward my question, although, it definitely seems to be wild. But were, flying machines, steel ships, “submersible” ships, amphibian cars, landing on the moon, space travel, organ transplant, “talking” and “singing” machines, etc. not considered as “wild” ideas hundreds of years ago?

My asking about aliens as suspects in the manipulation of genes to come up with “intelligent man” does not mean that I am an atheist, because I also consider the “aliens” themselves, as among the creatures of God, just like the whole of universe, down to its last molecule. Despite my seemingly wild view, I still maintain my opinion that there is just One Ultimate Cause for all creations…and that is Him!

My simple mind thinks that the “legends” in the Bible have basis after all. The primitive perception of the early men, differ greatly from the perception of the modern men. For instance, during the Biblical time, the flight or flying is symbolized by wings, hence, they came up with “angels”, supposedly sexless creatures with wings. But, today, flight contraptions are already in use, such as “hang glides” and “parachutes”, but we do not call the men who use them as “angels”, but “sky jumpers”.

Religion should not set people apart from each other. Nobody should not fight to death, about the “supremacy” and “truthfulness” of his or her religion. Each one should focus on love for each other which in the first place is what He wanted and still wants to prevail. Differing faiths should be nurtured in the heart and not in the head that tends to jumble them because of the so-called “intelligence” that has obviously gone out of control!

My SUGGESTED caution is never compare religions…as it is subjective, being man’s “invention”….and most importantly, leave others to their own kind of faith.

Finally, to answer my question on the relevance of evolution today, my personal view is NO, because I still believe in creation, but perceived as already explained above.

On Respecting the Exemplar Biblical Personalities…and the non-believers

In Respecting the Exemplar
Biblical Personalities…and the non-believers
By Apolinario Villalobos

My views about the Bible are very personal. I have always been honest about my limited knowledge of this Book, as I do not delve on “deep analysis”. For me, it is enough that I know the parables and the sayings as understood by simple lay people like me. What is important as far as I am concerned is their impact on my life so that I can put them into practice and I do not give a hoot what others say. For as long as I do something good for others, because I love God, that is enough for me. I leave it to others if they want to emulate my ways or not, as I do not perceive myself as a saint, anyway. What I am trying to share is that I put into practice what I read and such effort did not kill me or give me disease. Simply said, everything good that comes from the Bible is an inspiration that guides human actions.

If man’s faith has not been polluted by doubts because of unnecessary “analysis” of the Bible passages by “wise people”, the world would not have been divided into so many religions, sects, and occults that try to outdo each other in preaching the “right way”, based on…of all things, the Bible itself! And worst, NOBODY will ever be able to tell who among these groups is telling the truth.

So, what other things will these “preachers” still do to further pollute the mind of the faithful? Had there been respect, since the very start that the differences developed, there could have been no competition as to who has got the “best” religion. Without their knowing it, these “preachers” have caused some faithful to leave their church to become agnostics and atheists due to confusion, aside from giving rise to sects and occult groups. In other words, these “preachers” have dismally failed in many ways. And, since these non-believers have lately come out in the open with all honesty, nothing can be done about it but give them due respect for their choice.

All the venerated personalities in the Bible, including Jesus are with sins. If I say that the Virgin Mary was born with sin, I will surely earn the ire of the Marian devotees. But in my understanding, the “virgin” attached to her name refers to the “virgin birth of Jesus” which is even questioned, and not to her person who just like any man and woman born into this world has been tinted with the “original sin”, that is why Jesus, as they say, had to die to save mankind from it. Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc….they did not lead ideal lives. However, what made all of them remarkable was their unquestionable Faith, and that is what I am trying to bring out in this blog. And, more so with Jesus who died on the cross to save mankind which then was His greatness. Why don’t we just leave it that way? Why not just respect and emulate their deeds which are not evil?

If we go deeper into the character of each Biblical personality, mankind will be left with nobody to emulate, not even God, who showed His cruelty in the Old Testament by commanding the Israelites to practically annihilate the tribes who blocked their effort in claiming the Promised Land. The “preachers” are oozing with “revelations” and “exposures” about just everything in the Bible – God, creation, Jesus, Virgin Mary, etc. The poor listener becomes the victim of these all-knowing guys, and he becomes confused, instead of being enlightened.

Rather than feel victim to these “all-knowing” guys, why can’t we just maintain, at least, our “respect” to the Biblical personages whom we have been taught early on, as the sowers of Faith? And, since the sowed Faith blossomed and bore numerous branches, why not also just respect those who prefer any of them? All branches came from just one seed, anyway.

My Encounter with a “Retired” Priest

My Encounter with a “Retired” Priest
By Apolinario Villalobos

First of all, I am not in favor of using the secular term “retired” to the priests who are advancing in age and who need to rest due to ailment. The ailing and aging priests are handicapped but they should not be considered as retired. The word is most inappropriate for them because of their spiritual vow which is supposed to be for their lifetime. The priests should not be treated like ordinary employees who retire at age 60 or 65.

I met a religious guy in Divisoria while I was taking my lunch in a sidewalk carinderia. He was neatly garbed in a black polo shirt and denim, but his age showed on his furrowed face. He was stuttering which as I learned later was due to a mild heart attack. I came to know about his real identity when he was addressed by the owner of the carinderia as “Father”. I got curious, so I broke the ice by admiring his bracelet made of cat’s eye beads. I was also glad that he accepted the coffee that I offered.

Like me, I found out that he has friends, too, living in Baseco compound. That noon, I found out that he walked all the way from the said place to Divisoria which for a guy his age, could be taxing. In all honesty, he admitted that he was a “retired” priest. He stopped saying Mass because of his stutter. In my ignorance, I asked him if “retired” priests with handicap like him are not allowed to co-celebrate a Mass, by just sitting on the side of the altar but still garbed in appropriate garment for the Mass. He said, he was not offered such invitation, yet. I asked such question because I witnessed Masses, especially, those intended for well-known personalities, with plenty of co-celebrators who just stand behind the celebrating priest. So, I thought, why is it not possible for a handicapped one to just sit on the side? All he told me was, it’s difficult to be retired, especially, if it is against one’s will.

My new-found friend is now living with his nephew who assists him in his continuing advocacy of reaching out to the children of financially-handicapped families. Some weekends, his nephew would be with him to distribute goodies that he would collect for weeks. When I asked him for future plans, he replied that for as long as his two feet can still carry him to wherever he wanted to be, he will never get tired of reaching out to his “children”.

Advocacies similar to what the priest practices are not difficult to develop in the heart of any person who is willing to share. All one needs is a resolute compassion. It can be done and the priest has proved it.

Religious are Meant to Ispire not to be Adored

Religious Images are meant to Inspire
Not to be adored
By Apolinario Villalobos

The images of Christian saints, Virgin Mary, and Jesus are supposed to give inspiration. They are not intended to be adored. Something must have gotten wrong during the early stage of conversion that made the practice of image adoration prevalent and deeply-rooted among Filipinos. God has no image, and He is the only One who, mankind should worship. Today, however, the “new” Christians have practically done away with the display of images, while the Catholics have maintained the practice of filling altars with them.

While most Catholics understand the purpose of the images, there are still some who boast their idolatrous adoration of the images, especially, during the fiestas in honor of patron saints. Some even offer foods to them on the altar.

Those whose fervent prayers to the saints are said to have been answered, more than double their devotion, making them their “personal saviors”. Devotees wear scapulars and medallions with images of saints, keep their small photos with short prayers in their wallet, and the more enterprising even come up with prayers and novenas for them to be sold in the sidewalks outside the Catholic churches.

With all those, the Catholic church just look the other way, although, some priests have become vocal in calling the attention of the devotees about their idolatrous practices, just like what they did during the fiesta of the Black Nazarene.

But, can the devotees be blamed for their action after they have exhausted all means for the alleviation of their lives? The only one thing that they forgot is to call on God…although, some did, but in so doing, blame Him for their misfortune, instead of thanking Him for the received blessings!

The Vicious Cycle of Repenting and Erring

The Vicious Cycle of Repenting and Erring
By Apolinario Villalobos

I know that many viewers will curse me, especially the avowed “religious” with this discourse. But I cannot help myself from expressing my observations. This is not just an observation about a particular religion… this is an observation in general.

It all started with the people of the Old Testament, the Chosen People who observed festivities, one of which is about atonement of committed sins, complete with offering of live animals. The tradition or rather, this practice, though already assuming different names are observed today by the different religions and sects. Every year has days assigned for atonement. The faithful always look with much expectation to these days, which have practically taken on a festive garb. The Roman Catholics even go beyond what is prescribed in the Bible, with their self-inflicting acts that eventually, became tourist attractions. The Church tolerated the practice as opposing it might create animosity among the faithful. Other acts are in the form of marathon singing of the story of Christ’s suffering, joining processions on bare feet, hiking to pilgrim sites, visiting as many churches as they can, and the simplest is “giving” alms to the poor.

So what’s next? I mean, after the repentance? Sadly, it is back to the good old days of erring. The wise penitent can always be patient as the acts take only a few days. Those who let themselves be nailed on the cross, console themselves with a few days of healing, just like those who joined long processions with bare feet who limped for a couple of days or a little more. Those who sang the passion of Jesus Christ need only to drink ginger brew to give relief to their sore throat. The enthusiasm to be part of the repentance festivity is made more exciting by the trendy selfies to be posted in the social networks of internet. Excited religious groups post selfies taken in front of antique altars of churches that they visit and also with self-flogging penitents in the foreground or background. Some blog the distance covered by their “pilgrimage”. Some post photos taken in resorts and beaches where they “unwind” after their hectic involvement in church activities, with the farther journey and more expensive destination, the better for their self-esteem.

Back to their old selves again, the penitents are not worried as the next season for repentance is coming, anyway. Truth hurts, but that is the reality of life…otherwise, the world would have become a paradise long, long time ago, as the faithful would not have erred again after repenting for the first time…everybody would have been free from sins.

But then, the world must go on existing – on businesses derived from the seasonal activities… what with tons of commemorative t-shirts to be printed, thousands of candles to be lighted, hotel rooms and resorts to be filled, flights and ships to be crammed with travelers, tons of foods and drinks to be sold, love offerings and donations to be collected. Yes, truth hurts…and it is a vicious cycle. And, being a cycle, it has no end. Does it need another Christ to put an end to it?

Appreciating the Bible and Other Books

Appreciating the Bible

And Other Books

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

The first religious book I had was given to me as a prize for beating the rest of the contestants who were my senior in an extemporaneous writing contest in English. I was in first year high school and the book was the freshly circulated “Imitations of Christ”, which today is one of the best sellers. I just kept it, forgetting even the name of the author.  A friend borrowed it and decided to keep it for good. Then, a lay minister whom we fondly called, “papa Joe” gave me a King James Version Bible which he fondly marked with a dedication. It occupies a space together with the Koran, two other versions of the Bible, Apokalipses of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a book about mankind’s search for God.

 

When a friend saw my collection, he asked what I will do with them. Despite the silliness of the question, I told him that I need to know what I am supposed to know. He used to be a staunch Roman Catholic but when he joined the Masonic Temple, he seemed to have drifted away and sounded different. I told him that for me, all books contain information that everyone must learn, especially, those “special” ones that discourse on religion, cult, God, church, Christian movement, Marian devotion, archaeology, astronomy,etc. I could have told him more, but noticed his irritation. So I closed my statement with the short, “knowledge is power” with a tone of jest. I just did not want to embarrass him with a remark that he is the only “Mason” I know who does not believe in God. I pitied him for his choice to be ignorant.

 

Had not my curiosity made me interested in religious books, I may not have known that:

 

-the eldest son of Abraham was Ismael, and whose mother was Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah;

-in the Old Testament, the Israelites were told to always have a trowel as a household

tool so that they can use it to dig the ground when they move their bowel;

-in the Old Testament, one of the Lord’s instruction was not for the wife to join in a fight in which her husband figured, and most especially, not for her to grab the testicles of her husband’s foe as her effort to help her husband;

-in the New Testament, it says how Jesus lost his temper and cursed a fig that did not bear fruits that he could have eaten that day;

-in the New Testament, it says that the chosen people of God were also partaking of dried fish as a staple food;

-the legend of the flood was universal, meaning, practically, every race has a knowledge about it, but with their own different version;

-the “Mother and Child” devotion is not limited among the Catholics but also prevalent in other religions and cults;

-there is also universality in the belief about end of the world.

 

Those are just a few of what I have gained from browsing the pages of the books which others abhor because doing so would mean that they already “believe” in God or rather, develop in them an attachment to a religion, a church or worse, God. I cannot understand such attitude, because, how can you hate something that you do not understand well enough?

 

Going through the pages of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, which is the basis of other religious books is like browsing through the pages of National Geographic. Its historicity interspersed with “legends” made it some sort of a mini-library. I have the same interest when browsing through the pages of other similar books. There is a popular allegation that getting seriously immersed in these books would result to confusion and eventually, alienation from God. It did not happen to me. In fact, it developed in me more respect for others who are so dedicated to their own kind of evangelism to the point of fanaticism. 

 

In the Philippines, despite the deeply- rooted Catholicism among the majority of the Filipinos, there is enough space left for ecumenism that is why, in every activity of the national government wherein there is a need for invocations, different religious sectors are represented. This atmosphere is a great consolation among Filipinos who have diversified culture, yet united in their view as a race about the universality of God.

Nelia

Nelia

(para kay Nelia Gumiit)

 

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

 

Mga hakbang na halos ay kanyang bilangin

At wari sa kanya’y nagpapalutang sa hangin

Kampante at nagtitiwala sa kanyang paligid

Kaya’t di na niya kailangan pang magmasid.

 

Di tulad ng ibang babaeng maraming dahilan

Upang pantanggal ng bagot ay mapagbigyan

Si Nelia ay iba, walang luho, simple’t mabait –

Kapiraso mang kahilingan ay di niya iginigiit.

 

Araw –araw ay hindi nawawalan ng panahon

Upang kanyang magamit, maglingkod sa Poon

Inuunawa naman ng mahal na asawa’t mga anak

Kabaitang di talaga matatawaran at  mahahamak.

 

Sa paglipas ng mahigit nang dalawampung taon

Pagliban ay di ginawa masama man ang panahon

Yan si Nelia, pambihirang babae na katula-tularan

Na maski minsang pagsimangot ay hindi nakitaan.

 

 

 

(Nelia is a Mother Butler of the St. Martin de Porres parish church

in Bacoor, Cavite for more than twenty years now. Not even a burning

fever can prevent her from diligently fulfilling her spiritual duties

almost every day.)