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, March 29, 2014

In this 4th Sunday of Lent, let’s ponder on Davao Arch.Emeritus Fernando Capalla’s touching reflection on last March 15 slaying in Oton, Iloilo, of his younger brother, former political activist/detainee-turned-business entrepreneur and manager of Panay Fair Trade Center, Romeo Capalla, and how he sought to alleviate poverty of his countrymen and prick conscience of the rich. Former CBCP President Capalla titled his homily, delivered at his brother’s funeral mass, “Romeo R. Capalla, A Living Water for the Poor.”

Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla delivering his homily at his late brother's funeral mass

“Water is a basic, daily human need. Without water we thirst. When we are thirsty for too long, our body gets dehydrated. And the moment extreme dehydration sets in we die.

“The First Reading from the Book of Genesis pictures the Jews complaining against God through Moses, for they were dying of thirst in the desert with aridity aggravating dehydration. Through God's power Moses touched a rock with his rod and water flowed in abundance.

“Centuries later even in the Promised Land water was still scarce. Water wells were the common sources of water. (Last Sunday’s) Gospel pictures a Samaritan woman fetching water from a well to quench her own thirst, and Jesus sensing both physical and spiritual thirst offered her the living water of faith and conversion.

“Here God in human form, Jesus the Christ, the new Moses, offers Himself as the Living Water that could quench all kinds of human thirsts. And as the four gospel writers tell us, His Living Waters were His words of wisdom, His healings of the sick in mind and spirit, His raising of the dead to life, and, most precious of all, His living water was His gracious Love hidden in suffering and bloody death on the Cross.

“Because we are followers of Christ and must be Christ-like, we can and we have to be living waters for the poorest of the poor who thirst for justice, that is, social, economic, political, and cultural justice which are different forms of loving our  materially and morally poor neighbor. Otherwise, injustice will continue to keep them dehydrated in social relations, economics, politics and culture in the arid desert of modern day Philippines. In other words, food, money, governance and education, which can be compared to the seventy percent water in a healthy human body, would remain miserably lacking and disastrously fatal to life.

Former political activist-turned-business entrepreneur/chair of Panay Fair Trade Center,
the late Romeo R. Capalla

“My brother Romy and I, from way back in the early days of Martial Law government, would often talk about the three most important questions then and today: Who are the poor? Where are the poor? Why are they poor? Smart guy that he was, Romy was able to find his own answers to these questions and their possible solutions.

“When he retired from political activism and became a successful business entrepreneur and head of a corporation, the Panay Fair Trade Center, that exports banana chips to Germany and muscovado sugar to Balzano, Italy, and other parts of Asia and Europe, he found the Where and How to help the materially poor and touch the conscience of the rich and the powerful who are morally poor. And he did all these in a quiet, simple, humble, unpretentious and unobtrusive way, which has deeply created a big impact on people. Hence the expression, "Silent waters run deep".  On this point I would like to ask the friends and admirers of Romy and all the Capallas as well, here and abroad, to continue his humble approach without public fanfare and showy demonstration. Let this be his most important and enduring legacy to us all. 

“As to why the people are poor, Romy believed, as many us already do, that injustice in all its forms is basically caused by the interlocking of social-economic-political-cultural systems which must be changed---not just the leaders in them. This systemic situation is reportedly influenced by foreigners. And here he encountered disagreements and oppositions as many of us also do. These have developed into rivalries and enmities creating mutual and mortal enemies. It is ironic that we who are laudably united in loving the poor are extremely divided and disunited in helping them.

“In the present wide spectrum of political organizations, open and subtle violence has been, and still is, employed by these groups to achieve their goals and objectives, and even to eliminate each other. On this point I disagree with those who use violence but I respect their ideological or religious reason for it.

“On the part of Romy, while seemingly aware that malicious suspicions and fabricated rumors made his life unsafe, he never had a security guard as he moved around easily and peacefully, often alone, for his business concerns. He projected an image of one who is never afraid.  This was something strange to me. Did he already give up any means to protect himself? What, and Who was his security, his source of confidence?  An enigma, a paradox, a mystery? I use these words in a positive sense but I am not sure and I don't know.  We will know the truth in the next life, I am sure. As of now we can only guess. And I have a guess.

“There have been persons in the past, and Romy seemed to be like them, persons with great visions and ideas which they exemplified in their personal lives. Somehow they believed there was energy and power in these visions and ideas in favor of the poor, for good ideas and good examples never die. Which might explain why they were not afraid of violent death. They are people who are great in life and but are much greater in death.

“On this very important issue of violence, I have to say the following as a bishop of the Church and as the elder brother of Romy: Our Faith teaches us that God's Commandments prohibit most forms of violence. Therefore it must be condemned. Romy is the victim of that brutal violence perpetrated in the presence of his 92-year old-mother-in-law, Purificacion Gemarino whom he was helping to get seated in his car when the assailants shot him from behind, hitting him in the upper part of the nape. This act in the sight of an elderly person aggravates the gravity of the crime.

“Therefore we strongly condemn this heinous and unconscionable crime. We demand justice for my unarmed brother Romy and for many other victims like him. We condemn this barbarous act before his disabled mother-in-law. We ask everyone to pray for the eternal repose of Romy's soul and for strength and composure for his wife Makoy and his three daughters: Paula June, Romina and Katrina Ann.

“And, while the demands of justice are being pursued -- if they can still be pursued within our flawed justice system -- we as Christians must forgive the criminal assailants and the people behind them, and pray for their conversion. For, without forgiveness there is no future for our country. As Blessed John Paul II put it, "there is no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness". The spiral of violence will only increase in intensity and will eventually destroy us all. Active non-violence and a forgiving heart motivated by love is the only Christian way of cutting off the spiral curve of hatred and revenge.

“Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ, God in human form, took our sins with him on the cross, and allowed His body to be tortured.  He who had no sin paid with His bloody death the punishment our sins and crimes deserve. In the dark and ugly horror of that Friday, amidst jeers and insults, Christ's glorious love, which was beauty supreme, radiated in unsurpassable splendor on the cross to heal the physical and social wounds created by sin and crime, thus glorifying suffering human flesh and giving meaning to human death. All deaths like the death of people like my brother Romy, who had shown a humble and compassionate love for the poor, acquire a special meaning because of the death of Jesus on the Cross.

“Because Jesus resurrected to new life, the death of the humble and the compassionate are also like His passage from darkness to light, like the death of winter to the springtime of life. Yes the deaths of the humble like Romy's are new  springs in the arid desert of our socially dehydrated society. The power of their good example flows as a strong surge of living water that gives hope and new life, a life of love and compassion, of selfless non-violence, of justice and freedom, of total human development and peace.

“This is what we celebrate here through the sacramental symbols of the Christian liturgy. Here we proclaim the death of Jesus and profess His resurrection, and through the sacred words of consecration make Him present in order for us to receive him and commune with Him heart-to-heart, and thus avoid being  spiritually dehydrated.

“In the name of Makoy, PJ, Mingming and Katkat, and also in the name of my sisters Gloria, Blanca and Elisea and of my brothers as well, Paquit and Ramon,  I thank everyone here for being with us in prayer and worship. To those who are not here but who condoled with us through the media, the emails and mobile phones, sent flowers, Mass cards, gave material and monetary help, and prayed for Romy and visited his remains during the wake in Oton, our heartfelt thanks. Let us continue to pray for one another and support one another quietly and humbly as Romy used to do. Amen.”

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