Pope Francis of the Vatican and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines



By Apolinario Villalobos


In the August 2015 issue of the National Geographic, I found an item that details how the bombs of the USA and her allies devastated Laos during the controversial Vietnam War that rendered the laid back country into a crater-filled wasteland after the war. Laos is the venue of the ASEAN summit 2016 being attended by Duterte where he was supposed to meet Obama on the sidelines but unfortunately, did not materialize due to the impertinent question from a Reuter reporter which incited the Philippine president to “explode”.


The same issue of the magazine features the cover story about Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio) which I did not give much thought at first. But after a nonchalant perusal, I was struck by several information on the pope that appear to be in synch with those about president Duterte’s.


Pope Francis was elected to the papacy just when the Vatican was at its darkest period due to piling up scandals that rocked the Catholic Church. The Philippines was in the same helpless situation in view of criminalities and political scandals, forcing the Filipinos to take the “risk” of voting for Duterte after realizing that the country needs a change that only one with a steely resolve can initiate.


The pope being from Argentina, broke the tradition of papal racial origin which should be either an Italian or at least a European. Duterte who claims to have a Muslim blood, is from Davao, a city in the southern island of Mindanao, broke the political tradition of the Philippines whose past Catholic presidents were from Luzon.


The pope, even while still in Argentina, was espousing the welfare of the have-nots. Duterte can cry unabashedly at the sight of an exploited, especially, raped and murdered innocents.


The pope considers himself a “street guy” or “callejero”, just like Duterte who shows his true humble color without hesitance if only to let those in the lower rung of the society know that he belongs with them.


The pope lives in a simple apartment, Casa Santa Marta, instead of the Vatican palace. Duterte’s staying at the guest house of Malacaἧan is just a compromise as given the choice he prefers to stay in a much austere accommodation. Both prefer the simple food that they used to partake.


The pope, while as archbishop in Argentina took the subway and had the habit of strolling along streets of unlikely nooks of Argentina. Duterte drove a taxi at nighttime to personally check on his constituents as best as he could, aside from using a simple pick-up type of car as his official vehicle as mayor of Davao City.


On the day of his proclamation as the new pope, Francis took the bus used to ferry the cardinals instead of the officially assigned limousine. Given the choice, Duterte preferred the old car that he used in Davao, instead of the luxurious one assigned to the president of the country.


Both Francis and Duterte are spontaneous…always, not afraid to blurt out what are in their mind…a feat that earned them enemies, albeit, during rare moments showed their down-to-earth person.


The pope has no plans of changing existing doctrines. The Filipinos are assured by Duterte of due process and fair justice system despite slight deviations that according to him are necessary  to help him in his cleansing efforts…and that, definitely, he will not resort to the Martial Law.


Francis has been telling friends that he needed to “start making changes right now”, since the day of his proclamation. Duterte is being propelled toward “changes” by his desire to have a transformation, hence, assuring the Filipinos that “change is coming”, thereby, seemingly in a hurry to cleanse the country of the drug menace and other forms of criminality first, to be followed by the rest of the cleansing that he promised to undertake.


Both are immensely misunderstood, though, unmistakably charismatic.



The “Overwhelming” Papal Power

The “Overwhelming” Papal Power

By Apolinario Villalobos

As every Christian knows, the Apostles spread themselves to proclaim the teachings of Jesus Christ. Congregations were addressed by authors of Epistles in the New Testament, and these messages contained instructions. Among these congregations were those located in Rome where, Christianity was supposed to have been planted after the Pentecost. Traditionally, the congregations had elders who served as administrators, but nobody among them acted superior than the rest. The elders acted with equal authority, during which time there was no so-called “bishop” or “pope”, yet.

The development of the “monarchial” leadership was during the second century. But the title “pope” was first used by the Bishop of Rome, Callistus, during the third century. Later, the title evolved as a firm official reference to the Bishop of Rome exclusively, as insisted by Pope Leo I. He also used the pagan title “Pontifex Maximus”, which is still used until today, although, such title was also used by the pagan Roman Emperors until the end of the fourth century. Leo I based his insistence on what Jesus said about Peter as the first among the Apostles, therefore, the St. Peter’s Church in Vatican should be the premier Church among the rest of Catholic Churches. With this basis, it was made clear that while “the emperor held temporal power in Constantinople in the East, the pope exercised spiritual power from Rome in the west”. Such authority was manifested when Charlemagne was crowned by Pope Leo III as the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Governments around the world viewed the pope, as the “ruler” of a separate sovereign state – the Vatican City. In this view, the Roman Catholic Church unlike the rest of religions, has the privilege to send officials vested with diplomatic authority to duly recognized governments around the world. Among the titles of the pope are: Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor to the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Sovereign of the Vatican City. When attending official ceremonies, he is accorded with pompous honor, appropriate for the Head of a State.

Could the current pope, Francis, have realized the overwhelming papal power that he cringed with remorse, thereby, deciding to live in an “apartment” rather than the “palatial” official residence? Compassion is among his advocacies…and this can only be done if he lives among his “flock”.

Francis, Santong Patron ng mga Hayop…at ang bagong santo papa

Francis, Santong Patron ng mga Hayop
…at ang bagong santo papa
Ni Apolinario Villalobos

Ang santong si Francis ay patron ng mga hayop. At, ang bagong santo papa ang unang gumamit ng pangalan niya nang mahirang ito na pinuno ng simbahang Romano Katoliko.

Nang hagupitin ng bagyong Yolanda ang Tacloban, mga karatig nitong bayan at probinsiya, isa ang bagong santo papa sa mga unang nagpadala ng pakikiramay sa mga nasalanta. Natanim sa isipan ng santo papa ang masidhing pagnanasa na makarating sa Tacloban upang personal na makiramay sa mga tao.

Sa pagdating ng bagong santo papa, dapat lahat ng mga taga-Senado at Kongreso, pati mga opisyal sa gobyerno ay dumalo sa misang pamumunuan niya ang pagganap sa Luneta, Linggo, 18 January. Sa okasyong yon kasi, maliban sa mga tao, magbabasbas din ang banal na papa ng mga hayop, upang isakatuparan ang pagka-tokayo niya sa patron ng mga ito!

Maliban sa mga una kong tinukoy na mga hayop, dapat umatend din ang mga hayop na drug lords, drug pushers, human traffickers, illegal recruiters, manggagantso, etc. Hindi nila dapat palampasin ang pagkakataong once in a lifetime na pagbasbas ng isang santo papa sa mga hayop!

Dadalo din pala ako upang makinig ng mga awit na ginawa para sa kanyang pagdating, at upang mabasbasan din…

God’s Omnipotence

God’s Omnipotence

By Apolinario Villalobos


Instead of being negative to the realities about man’s fallibility such that he keeps on sinning after the almost regular repentance, we should look deeper and seek the reason or reasons for it. There are two issues about man’s existence – whether his fate is pre-destined or dependent on his free will. But first we have to accept that the cycle of sinning and repenting is happening. We cannot just play blind, dumb or worse, be hypocrites.


God’s omnipotence is such that He deemed it necessary for man to work hard for his existence.  That is why life is floating on temptations – a reality from which we can never escape. So what is wrong with the truth that indeed, we commit sins again and again but we try our best to show our intention to repent, also, again and again?


The activities or the things that go with life such as the businesses that flourish during religious festivals are part of the phenomenon of existence. God knows that we have to work and earn in order for us to live. So what is wrong with the tons of candles being sold to the faithful to be lighted during processions and vigils? What is wrong with the t-shirts sold to be worn by the faithful to identify themselves as members of certain religious groups?


What I am driving at in my observations (blogged: The Vicious Cycle of Repenting and Erring), is the hypocrisy of some “religious” who swear to heavens that they are sure of salvation and even go to the extent of despising others who cannot join religious activities. Also, the gull of those who visit churches in the guise of fulfilling a vow but in reality would like to brag to others through selfies that they have indeed, “been there”. And, for those who flog themselves, well, I have plenty of friends who do such penance, and after a week, they “celebrate” their “redemption from sin” by going into drinking binges for days…one of them even go back to his sideline of selling illegal drugs, and still another one continue with his habit of beating his wife. Most especially, I am not alone in these observations because even the Catholic Church keeps on reminding the faithful about their behavior, even radio commentators and TV anchors are one in their reminders about the excessive practices.


I just want to emphasize that nobody is free from sin. Whatever righteousness we do and show to others can help us lighten our load, but not totally free us from such. Hypocrites of today should take the cue from the new pope himself, Francis, who confessed to a priest. The pope has been humble enough to accept his sins, but did not confess directly to God as expected of him, instead, he whispered all his misdoings to a priest. Is the pope’s gesture not enough to open our eyes so that we can accept the realities of man’s vulnerability? The ultimate show of humility is Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet. He bowed to them as He did it, to show that there is nothing wrong with being humble in anything that we do, including the acceptance of our shortcomings as man. This could be all part of God’s omnipotent plan for mankind – that by the time we die, He will know who among us are consistent enough in repenting and really mean it, until our time of reckoning finally comes, so He allows the vicious cycle of sinning and repenting to happen. I am not being judgmental because I, too, am a sinner. I am just being observant and loud about it, because I cannot stand hypocrisy.

Francis and Jesus

Francis and Jesus
By Apolinario Villalobos

There is no better choice to head the Vatican of today than Francis in view of his radical effort in reforming the papacy. His refusal to live in the posh papal quarters more than symbolized his humility. In his simple ways, he sheds off the royal trapping that for him sets the pope apart from the people. His actions are always with implied reminder that in the eyes of God, everybody is equal. His stubbornness to project simplicity irritates some Roman Catholics, but for the rest, he is Jesus personified.

During the time of Jesus, the community he lived in was also beset with hypocrites who regard themselves as authorities on the Jewish traditions and the proper worship of God. This kind of “faithfuls” are still very much around, cloaked in different colorful uniforms of religiosities to distinguish them from the “sinners” . That is why, just like Jesus who practically resorted to almost any way possible to carry out his mission, Francis today, even mingle with the people in the Vatican’s square and “invaded” the social media to be able to reach out to those who decided to join other flocks, in an effort to bring them back to the fold of Universal faith.

Francis and Jesus did not promise anything with monetary value. Both just showed their real selves and dwell on the doable expectations of God from us. Just like Jesus who was pestered by his detractors who patiently waited for his missteps, Francis is being watched keenly not by those belonging to other denominations, but by Roman Catholics themselves who abhor reform. Criticisms about Francis are already coming out in the social media.

Those who belong to this generation should feel lucky for witnessing a radical religious reformation, the tableau being completed by different assemblages of fanatics who profess to be the real messiah. Aside from proving the truth in the adage, “history repeats itself”, those who read the Bible will also realize that the prophesy about the coming of false prophets is already happening.