08 April 2004

A Time To Reflect and Pray

Lenten season in the Philippines is simply exceptional. No work. No malls. No banks. No movies. No restaurants. Almost every establishment is closed. No TV shows. No radio. No newspapers. No campaigning politicians. No people loitering in the streets. A heavenly sensation of nothingness. Pure quietness. It is like waking up the day after a massive nuclear meltdown. All the structures are there and are intact, but a lot of people are gone. Its Maundy Thursday today and its already sedate here. Wait until tomorrow, which is Good Friday, and I bet you, it will get quieter.

Vacation officially started yesterday and will last up to Sunday. Actually the pilgrimage to the provinces began as early as Monday. If you are a crazy military general, this is the best time to launch a coup. If you abhor traffic, now is the time to drive around the metropolis. I can guarantee you a 99% chance that you can drive stress-free until Saturday. And if you are like me who is just tired of the daily dosage hustle and bustle, this is a huge break for you. I belong to the lucky few who has been left in the metropolis to appreciate what the Desiderata writer termed as "peace in silence." This is simply great!

Strictly speaking, the lengthy sabbatical is meant to be used to reflect on the Passion of Jesus (yes, it's not just the movie, it happens here yearly). It is a period of penance, prayers, and fasting. The ceremonial details can be read here. Much like Ramadhan for the Muslims. It is supposed to bring back to mind the essence of the sacrifices made by Jesus and in doing so, help us become better individuals.

But does that really happen?

No. The majority who trooped out of the metropolis see this as pure vacation, a time to hit the beaches like Boracay, or go to cool Baguio City, or if you are affluent enough, it is an opportunity to travel to Europe or the US, where it is spring time. There are a few who reflect on the spiritual essence of Lent, but they are just that---they're few. Meanwhile there's a lot of noise and fighting happening in another part of the globe, in far Falluja, Iraq.

The sharp contrast between peace and silence, the reality of us relaxing here in Manila while there's a lot of action in Iraq right now was editorialized today by the PDI while quoting heavily from the searing April 1st Washington Post article of Philip Kennicott in which he deplored the "dispassionate objectivity," which makes "an enemy, an occupier or an animal" capable of unlocking and proapagating "the possibility for war, revolution and genocide."

Silence and detachment indeed makes you reflect long and hard on things like "dispassionate objectivity," and why we ever tolerate it. We have lots of time to think here, and even write about what all of our thinking will reveal to us, but our brothers in Iraq have no time to do so. In hard times like these and in the light of the briliant sarcasm employed by Kennicott in his article, what can we really do?

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