Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Renewed push for RH in House despite defective procedure and worse provisions. St. Pedro Calungsod model for Pinoy youth. Recalling Bro. Richie Fernando’s heroic martyrdom 16 years ago.

There's a renewed push in the House to pass the RH bill, now couched in what its proponents seek to pass off as the "compromise bill." They claim to have amended those provisions that pro-life groups have vigorously objected to. Because it was introduced on the floor last Oct. 15, this new version is now known also as the “Oct. 15 version,” or the “Belmonte bill,” as it’s also being passed off supposedly with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte himself as the main proponent.  

I surmise the reference to the Speaker as main proponent is being done because the new bill failed to go through the committee and thus is procedurally infirm under the rules of the House. Staunch anti-RH leaders are said to be preparing to question first and foremost the procedure of introduction.


Actually the House would be racing against time if it pushes this new version, for having adjourned last Wednesday, Oct. 17, it will resume session on Nov. 5 up to Dec. 17, the start of the Christmas break. But even before last Wednesday’s adjournment there has been no quorum and this would get worse when it resumes in two weeks. For the fact is that the most of the House legislators are already in a campaign mode and many of them cannot be expected to show up in Manila any longer.

Besides, in this election year many of them are also trying to keep the peace with their respective bishops.


 A friend who’s a staunch pro-lifer has studied the new RH “compromise” version line by line and opines that it’s actually “worse” than the earlier bill—which is why he thinks the pro-life groups would be persuaded to accept it. The interesting question is, why do our pro-RH solons keep pushing for this bill?

The attractiveness of the Philippines as one of the purported top investment destinations in investors’ radar screens these days lies  mainly in our having a young, trainable labor force---compared to the graying populations of the developed economies. Why don't we learn from the sorry lesson of Singapore which is now in danger of becoming extinct, as its former PM Lee Kuan Yew laments aloud. Pagsisisi nasa huli for Lee.

Under his leadership two decades ago the progressive island state deemed it best to artificially reduce---and drastically---its population in order not to hamper its growth? Now, despite all the enhancement offers Singapore couples are not taking the bait and, said Lee, it might be forced to be extinct.


St. Pedro Calungsod
Tomorrow 3 pm. Manila time, the bells of the Vatican will peal as the portrait of the second Filipino saint, Pedro Calungsod of Cebu (or Bohol or Iloilo as he’s being claimed now) hanging from the majestic façade of St. Peter’s Basilica is unveiled---after the proper intonation by Pope Benedict XVI. There will be great jubilation in our country as this young man raised to the altar of the saints is offered as a model of selfless heroism for the faith---especially for the Filipino youth beset today by so many problems.

It’s significant that both Pinoy Saints Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod were heroic martyrs for the faith in the same period (1637 in Nagasaki, Japan, for San Lorenzo and 1672 in the Marianas, now present-day Guam, for San Pedro).  But their proclamation becomes doubly significant as our country looks forward to the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity here in 1521, and in the current Year of the Faith recently opened by Benedict. 

As famed Jesuit theologian Fr. Catalino G. Arevalo, who wrote a fascinating fact-laden booklet titled "Pedro Calungsod---Young Visayan Proto-Martyr,"  points out, our brand new Filipino saint, together with Blessed-in-waiting Mother Ignacia of Binondo, founder of the RVM Order, represent "two embodiments of Gospel holiness...both of them truly Filipinos" who are "genuinely reflective of the Asian face of Christ."


Through the mists of over three centuries, not much expectedly is known about San Pedro C., especially since he lived and worked in Asia and the Pacific where recording was not advanced as in the Old World. But yeoman’s work in piecing together the puzzles of his mystique was undertaken painstakingly by Fr.Arevalo and this canonization blog as well as the whole nation are deeply indebted to him.

By way of stirring some kind of 'intrigue' among the religious orders, it’s being said in some quarters that it’s the Jesuits’ turn now to produce a saint, even if San Pedro was not a full-blown Jesuit but their catechist-helper in the Philippines and in the Marianas. On the other hand, our first saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, a Chinese-mestizo parish hand in Binondo, was trained by the Dominicans.


Calungsod was only 14 years old when he left in 1668 as part of a group of Jesuit priests led by the Spanish Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores to christianize the Ladrones, in the tradition of that great Spanish missionary, St. Francis Xavier. Fr. Arevalo’s account said that some 30 Filipinos---all laymen, some of them aged about 14-15, formed part of the mission team.

From accounts there appears to be other young assistants who lost their lives in the mission work there; but San Vitores and Calungsod were raised to the altar of the Blessed earlier in the papacy of John Paul II because they suffered martyrdom together in a most brutal way. On April 2, 1672, they were accosted by a beach by natives who felt threatened by their proselytizing---they were mercilessly speared in the chest and then their heads were split open with a cutlass.


The 44-year old Blessed San Vitores, the first Apostle of the Marianas, still awaits sainthood, while Blessed Calungsod has raced ahead to the altar of proclaimed saints. One can surmise that it’s because the Vatican deemed his martyrdom more heroic. Fr. Arevalo wrote that since Calungsod was known to be strong and agile, he could have perhaps escaped his ill fate by fleeing to the nearby woods; but he instead chose to defend his superior “and if he cannot save the priest’s life, then he is ready to give his, to die together with the ‘Magas’ who has been to him teacher, father and friend.”

I can also surmise that Rome feels the acute need for a second Filipino saint, especially to inspire the youth of this land to greater love for God.


In his booklet Fr. Arevalo explores the psyche of martyrs and what makes them conquer their fear of death and give up their lives for love of God. He wrote that such martyrs pray for the gift of martyrdom, “not because they ‘dis-prize’ this world"---but because, "from a greater love and longing they put it within the perspective which the promises of God hold forth to our faith.” 

Arevalo also recalls the heroism of another Jesuit missionary, the scholastic Richie Fernando,S.J.,  who gave his life to save his students at  Banteay Prieb in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Oct. 16, 1996---12 years ago almost to the day.


Bro. Richie Fernando S.J. in Cambodia 
with a young ward
I actually came to know Richie as my husband served as ambassador to Cambodia at the time. The day he was killed I was in Manila and I received a long-distance call about it. Richie, who was serving part of his seminary days there as a teacher in a technical training school, attempted to protect his students from another one who had a gripe against the school authorities.

The angry student held a grenade and threatened amid loud screams to pull its pin. Richie tried to pacify him but he refused to listen; then he pulled the pin the Jesuit seminarian jumped on top of it and it ripped his body. When his students recovered from their shock they lovingly collected Richie’s blood in a vial and erected a monument to him in the school garden where they embedded the vial.  When I got to Phnom Penh some weeks later I visited the monument which was covered with flowers.

To this day Bro. Richie is a hero and a legend to the students of Banteay Prieb.  He is a perfect model for our Pinoy youth.  

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