Tagged Philippines

AlDub and The Thrill of the Chaste

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Of all the things I could write about here at Patheos, I didn’t think I’d be writing about a Filipino love team. And yet here I am, prompted by this video making the rounds. Here’s a good primer. Since I’m in the US, I comment as an outsider, piecing together what I’ve heard from friends and online sources, but here’s my 2 cents’ worth.

A few basics to understand the AlDub phenomenon:

  1. Filipinos are social media maniacs (and I say that in the most loving way possible). They’re into every new gadget and trend out there, so millions of tweets propelling this pair to world famous status isn’t surprising at all.
  2. Filipinos are nothing if not romantics. Courtship and dating rituals are part of our heritage.
  3. Filipinos are all about family.

Combine those and you get the winning formula that is AlDub. Let’s go a bit farther.

According to the latest survey, there are 2.3 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) — that means 2.3 million Filipinos separated from their families, often not by choice but by necessity. Family members often have to live in separate continents in order to survive, to finance educations, to seek greener pastures and secure futures, to develop independence and be able to start new families. Government corruption and unfavorable conditions for jobs and businesses in the homeland force people into these lifestyles, which often lead to broken relationships and broken families. Not surprisingly, many of the usual shows portray (and even glorify) what has become the norm for many — infidelity and mistressing.

AlDub is a refreshing break from the usual, and fills the gap that other shows have missed. It is entertainment that spans continents — it’s shared experience — one more way to connect for those who are physically separated. The values it promotes are values parents want to impart to their children: lessons on love, dating, and courtship that they are not able to teach firsthand because they are absent. Fans live vicariously through the celebrities they admire. Sometimes, that admiration even turns into emulation.

AlDub highlights what many Filipinos have gotten right: courtship, within the context of family, because relationships don’t develop and grow within a vacuum. Of course, people tune in for what Filipinos call kilig — roughly translated: THRILL. And though the majority of fans probably won’t even think about this, they tune in because of what Dawn Eden calls The Thrill of the Chaste.

What is kilig about? It’s excitement at POSSIBILITIES. People tune in because they anticipate that this couple will end up together, at least onscreen if not off. But beyond that, this early in the game, and despite historical evidence to the contrary, social media commenters are already imagining a lifetime for this pairing, using words like asawa (spouse), kasal (wedding) and anak (offspring). Though celebrity pairings are rarely permanent, it doesn’t stop people from hoping anyway.

The celebrity relationships that do last are seen as occurring outside of the norm, and therefore unrelatable. And yet people remain in want of stories showing exactly that. But it’s often seen as elusive, and therefore un-sell-able, hence the default to the common denominator which mirrors Filipinos’ lived experiences more: pain, suffering, heartbreak.

That’s something writers and producers could perhaps chew on, though AlDub is an accidental hit and one that’s difficult to manufacture or copy. While intrigue and melodrama will always sell, people’s hearts are most engaged when something hits them at their core — not just their Filipino-ness, but their human-ness. That AlDub fans are attracted to the concept of permanence demonstrates not shallowness, but truth. People are attracted to anything that ultimately speaks to the deepest longings of the human heart: the need to belong, to be loved, to find out what a happy ending is like. For many Filipinos for whom reality = separation, AlDub is not just an escape from the humdrum of daily existence. The thrill, excitement, and anticipation that a pairing could go on indefinitely keeps people watching. It’s the HOPE that they all have for themselves, and for their family. Everyone wants a happily ever after.


I was just about ready to hit publish when I stumbled on this interesting discussion on AlDub and The Four Loves (!!) in the combox of this post: AlDub Love Defines the Country. “You, me and all others who can see beyond the craze must draw up a plan or something to move the love to agape level, which is what Philippine love should be.”

Whether the AlDub pairing lasts remains to be seen, but the positive impact it’s making can’t be denied. Here’s one for starters: AlDub’s contribution to the common good: LIBRARIES!!


More reading:
The Social Significance of AlDub

No To Divorce (A Guest Blog Post)

[This is a blog post from Veronica Cleofe-Alejar. Nikka is wife to Dong Alejar, and mother to four, two girls and two boys ages 2 to 10. She gave up her broadcasting career after the Lord converted her, but continues to use her skills and talents in the service of the Lord in church activities. She is also a baker and co-owner of Veronica’s Kitchen. You can read her whole life story and eventual spiritual conversion in Peaceful Wife Philippines.

As a young teenager, I would usually get teary-eyed at old couples who held hands in church. I would stare from my pew, and pray to God, “I want to grow old with my husband like that…”

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Well, God answered my prayer and I am growing older with my bestest friend in the world who still holds my hand, kisses me in public, and considers me the “hottest woman on the planet”, eleven years after our wedding and after four (body-altering) children.

This is nothing short of a miracle considering that the marriage of my parents was far from ideal. It was full of deafening silence and a dearth of warmth. I do remember thinking to myself that when I did get married, I wanted it to be full of joy and laughter, because I seldom heard my parents talk to each other with fondness, and they rarely exhibited loving gestures to one another. They even slept in separate beds! I remember that our family outings were the most awkward ever, but despite this, we were a unit. They almost separated at one very low point in their lives, due to the extreme jealousy of Mama over an alleged affair of Papa… but, thank God, they still managed to stay together.

Some would think that given my parents’ “miserable situation”, they should just have separated. “It would be better for the kids to have their parents separate than to be witness to a ‘loveless marriage’”; “If the husband philanders, the wife should not put up with it and leave him to show him that she is not a martyr.”; “The modern woman must not put up with any failings of her husband. After all, he is just a man. One can find another husband!”… or so the modern and feminist society says.

Well, they stuck it out with each other! This, despite that Mama was every bit of a modern, feminist woman. She, it was, who believed so much in superstition, she stepped on her groom’s foot after the wedding, so as not to be “under” her husband. She, it was who had a kick-ass career and who competed with Papa in terms of achievements… But, despite her unsubmissive nature, she stuck it out with Papa even when she could have very well given up on him and their marriage.

When she got cancer in 1992, it was Papa who took care of her. Whereas before, I never saw them hold hands, I then saw them giving each other tender kisses on the cheek or on the lips, and would even hear them locking the master’s bedroom’s door! On Mama’s death bed, she told Papa, “If God would give me a second chance, I will make our marriage work. I will prioritize you…” But that was not the Lord’s Will for her. She died at the young age of 43, but not without first realizing that “Ah, mahal pala niya ako…”

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I am now nearing the age that Mama died. In three years, I too will be 43. I have been married for 11 years to a very loving (and handsome) man — my best friend, my lover, my greatest moral support. We were not without our own trials though. I got my mother’s feministic streak and refused to submit to my husband as head of the family. Before the Lord converted me and transformed me in September 1, 2013; I was very prideful, judgmental, self-righteous and controlling. I was, unsurprisingly very miserable and seething in resentment against him. But, if there is one thing I learned from my parents, it was that “marriage is ‘for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part’.” It was from having observed this, that despite our lowest point, I told myself, “I am in this for the long haul, even if it seems so bleak right now…”
Mama was not given that chance to “fix her marriage”. But with God’s Grace and Mercy, I was able to “fix” mine. My whole life journey leading up to that could be read in the blog that the Lord directed me to write and which my husband encouraged me to do after my spiritual conversion. My journey from frenetic wife to peaceful wife can be read in http://peacefulwifephilippines.blogspot.com.

Divorce is never the answer. The person you said your vows to before the Lord is a flawed and imperfect human being. But wonderfully enough, these very same flaws and imperfections are the very means by which the Lord will use to hone us, smoothen our rough edges, and mold us according to His Image. Marriage, as a sacrament, is truly a married person’s means towards holiness. Use Holy Matrimony as your means to get to heaven.

No Need for Divorce in the Philippines, Part 3 (Q&A)

Image Credit: Maria Go, https://marythedefender.wordpress.com/
Image Credit: Maria Go, https://marythedefender.wordpress.com/

Link to Part 1.
Link to Part 2.

Q. What about people who can’t afford legal services?

A. There are legal aid offices which provide free legal services in the Philippines, though not many.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines has chapters all over the Philippines.

If they are in Manila, they can try the University of the Philippines Office of Legal Aid. This is the legal clinic of UP Law, where all UP Law students have to do internships, under the supervision of a lawyer.

There are two kinds of annulment: civil and church. If someone got married in church, then they he/she would need to get both a civil and church annulment. The first step would be to see the parish priest where the couple got married.

Re church annulments: A church annulment because church tribunals are understaffed. There very few canon lawyers, and canon law procedure is different, so they have to think about matters that non-canon lawyers don’t have to think about. The tribunals are overworked. That said, there are grounds that do not need too much investigation. For instance, if a person was not of the right age when he/she got married, all he/she has to show is his/her birth certificate and the wedding certificate. There cannot be 100% free annulments because there are administrative concerns and those cost money.

If a psychologist is needed, there are low-cost, competent psychologists with the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH).


Q. Divorce allows an abused woman to leave the relationship *and* remarry. Are you against an abused woman remarrying?

A. Several points here.

  1. Abuse itself isn’t solvable by divorce. With regards to abuse itself, there is already Republic Act No. 9262, although as I’ve pointed out before, it only addresses women and children. There is no such corresponding law to protect abused men.
  2. Remarriage sounds easy to “prescribe” for abusive relationships but
    • While we want to be benevolent towards the victim, divorce will also allow the abuser the opportunity to marry and abuse another victim.
    • There are exceptions, but some women have a pattern of getting into abusive relationships. It’s not their fault that they’re abused of course, but the pattern does exist. Abuse is a HUGE issue with so many other interconnected, underlying issues, that we cannot possibly cover it adequately here. Suffice it to say, the answer isn’t a simple “She needs a new husband.” (See Page 2 for a preliminary list on revictimization and other related issues). Note that RA 9262 only covers Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) but abuse in relationships can happen to men or women and everyone else in between. That doesn’t mean, of course, that the law is useless for those whom it benefits.
    • Acrimonious relationships don’t go away just because of divorce. Consider this nugget from Wallerstein, Lewis and Blakeslee, authors of the book The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce:

      In our study, a third of the couples were fighting at the same high pitch ten years after their divorce was final. Their enduring anger stemmed from continued feelings of hurt and humiliation fueled by new complaints (child support is too burdensome or too little) and jealousy over new, often younger partners. The notion that divorce ends the intense love/hate relationship of the marriage is another myth of our times. Like many divorced people, Karen’s mother frequently called her ex-husband and got into shouting matches. As a result, the children were exposed to the hurt and anger that led to the breakup throughout their growing up years. Millions of children today experience the same unrelenting drama of longing and anger that refuses to die.

      (Source)

    • Divorce may seem like an easy escape, but nothing is easy when it comes to abusive relationships. Divorce can just as easily exacerbate the long-term negative effects on everyone involved. There are no guarantees.

  3. Remarriage may seem an attractive option when we look at things from the emotional standpoint; sob stories abound. And from the Western/modernist point of view, any discussion about divorce is moot. It’s taken for granted that marriage is no longer the permanent institution people once believed it to be.

    But what we do know is this. Divorce has not solved the problems it was supposed to solve. We have more messed up people and marriages today than we did 10, 20, 30 years ago. The sexual revolution has been tried and found severely wanting; divorce is only one of its fruits. Therefore the discussion on marriage and its permanency and indissolubility shouldn’t be tabled.

  4. Neither divorce nor remarriage occur in a vacuum, therefore they need to be evaluated not only in terms of the spouses but everyone else in that immediate circle, especially children.
  5. Once remarriage is allowed into the equation, one has to discuss subsequent marriages. It’s not about thinking “too far ahead” but simply taking the logic to the next step: If I can have a second marriage, why not a third or a fourth?
  6. It’s telling that in the US, “No longer are abuse and infidelity the main reasons given for divorce (although some research suggests infidelity occurs around the time of most divorces). Rather, divorcing spouses routinely claim they have simply “grown apart.” (Source)

What’s really needed:

  1. better preparation before marriage, so people don’t end up marrying the wrong person
  2. better support system — society, friends, programs like retrouvaille for troubled marriages — that help shore up and strengthen marriages rather than help break them down.

Suggested Reading:
The Lamest and Most ‘Gasgas’ Excuses for Divorce in the Philippines (Updated)
Is Divorce the ‘Fire Escape’ of Marriage?
20-point critique of the Explanatory Note in HB 4408: Introducing Divorce in the Philippines

No Need for Divorce in the Philippines, Part 2

Image Credit: Daxx Bondoc
Image Credit: Daxx Bondoc

I received several comments on my previous blog post on divorce, so here’s Part 2.

Mostly what I’m seeing is that people have a lot of misconceptions about what divorce is vs. annulment. I myself am not an expert and rely on people to educate me on these things, but I did find this useful link from the Archdiocese of Baltimore: 12 myths about marriage annulments in the Catholic Church. I suggest that readers look at that list to get basic questions answered. Here’s a more detailed discussion on annulments, from Catholic Culture: Isn’t It Just a Catholic Rubber-Stamp on a Divorce?. Beyond that, I’m not an expert, but I will forward any questions to those who know the answer and will be happy to write about them here.

Whether all of these will be applicable to the Philippine situation is unknown. But based on those, and my conversations with people on the ground, here are some additional insights:

  1. There’s no reason to believe that annulment will be more expensive than divorce if the bill passes. The cost could be more or less, but there are no guarantees. There is nothing in the proposed bill that regulates lawyers’ professional fees. Unless charges are subsidized by the government, the idea that divorce will equalize rich and poor has no basis. One article says the average cost of divorce in the US is $15000-20000. Converted to Philippine pesos that would be PHP600K+. A friend who has gone through the annulment process told me that the average cost comes to PHP300K.

    From a lawyer friend: “I don’t know if regulating lawyers’ fees will work. The intent may be good in principle but there might be unintended consequences, such as lawyers deciding not to practice law anymore and going for more lucrative jobs (contrary to popular belief, not all of us lawyers earn that much money), and thus making legal services less available in general. Plus, lawyers may not be motivated to provide quality services if there’s a limit on what they can earn. Definitely lawyers should be encouraged to be reasonable in setting their fees, but to impose an all around ceiling might do more harm than good.”

  2. On the subject of abuse, note that in the US:

    No longer are abuse and infidelity the main reasons given for divorce (although some research suggests infidelity occurs around the time of most divorces). Rather, divorcing spouses routinely claim they have simply “grown apart.”

    (Source)

    Note also that having had divorce legal since the 18th century hasn’t solved the problem of intimate partner violence in the United States, as shown by a 2014 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which in fact says that married people are less likely to be abused than those who are divorced or separated.
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    Source: Nonfatal Domestic Violence, 2003-2012

  3. And of course, in this discussion, we can not afford to forget children, who are the main casualties of divorce.
  4. The question of legitimacy was brought up in one of the comments. The first and second links provided above answer that question as well, but in addition, consider this: If children truly ARE a concern, then that concern needs to go beyond legitimacy. There are more consequences tied to being a product of divorce or annulment than simply that one issue. Helpful reading: Annulments, from the site For Your Marriage

There is more to discuss but it will have to wait until next post. I have a confession to make: I do not enjoy writing about divorce at all, as it is depressing, draining, and exhausting, so I will try to limit myself to one post a week on this matter. Next time, perhaps we can look at things from other people’s point of view.

Recommended reading:

Adam and Eve After the Pill

Link to Part 3.

No Need for Divorce in the Philippines

Image Credit: Maria Go, https://marythedefender.wordpress.com/
Image Credit: Maria Go, https://marythedefender.wordpress.com/

In just the past week, Philippine news outlets, plus several international ones, published almost 50 articles on divorce, and how oppressive it is to keep Filipinos from having access to this ‘unmet need’. There are too many intertwined issues which cannot all be covered here, but here are some important points to consider.

The Philippines is the last country besides the Vatican that has not legalized divorce. According to Senator Pia Cayetano, this is no cause for national pride. But there are countless reasons why keeping divorce illegal in the Philippines isn’t about patriotism. It’s about not giving up the fight for marriage and for children.

Unfortunately for some Filipinos these days, that may be cute but is no longer representative of Filipino sentiment. For sometime now there has grown a general disillusionment about and disdain for traditional marriage, parenthood, and family. Who can blame these commenters? These are the voices of pain, experience, and long-suffering. We cannot continue to ignore them, not as a Church who tends to Her wounded and does Her best to keep more wounds from getting inflicted. Adultery, second and third families, separations legal and illegal, have all become part of the national narrative. Though families intact and healthy still exist, even Filipino pro-lifers lament about modernist values that have crept in and taken hold. Too many children have already grown up broken, some of them beyond repair.

The proposed solution, divorce, however, cannot be considered “greener pasture”. The devastation that divorce has wreaked in its wake, in the United States and other countries, is well documented and readily observable. Why would anyone want the Philippines to jump from the frying pan into the fire?

Divorce is simply a stopgap measure that doesn’t address the roots of the problem. It does nothing but perpetuate cycles of fatherlessness, trauma, instability, and poverty. While there are divorce survivors who seem to have adjusted quite well, the best option is still to promote healthy marriages and families. The effects of divorce ripple across society and touch everyone. The consequences of legalizing divorce in the Philippines won’t be available for scrutiny until decades later, when we will look at each other’s faces and ask, what have we done?

Divorce proponents tout the recent SWS survey that says most Filipinos now want divorce legalized, but as a research analyst friend points out, the sentence used in the survey is too complex to quantify properly.

Gaano po kayo sang-ayon o hindi sang-ayon sa pangungusap na ito: “Ang mga mag-asawang hiwalay na at hindi na maaaring magkasundo pa ay dapat pahintulutang mag-diborsyo para ang mga ito ay legal na makapag-asawa uli?”.
(Married couples who have already separated and cannot reconcile anymore should be allowed to divorce so that they can get legally married again. Agree or disagree?)

He states, further, “Open ended questions are ideal, except that they are more difficult to survey; but the data would be richer than that provided by SWS.” A better line of questioning could and should have been presented thus:

  1. What is marriage?
  2. Are you married?
  3. What is divorce? (Some people may not know the distinctions between legal separation, which is available in the Philippines, and divorce.)
  4. Are you in favor of divorce or not?
  5. What are your reasons?

Not surprisingly, the Church and religious freedom are yet again under attack, but the Philippine clergy are standing firm.

Besides this, there are already laws and agencies in place for those wanting to end a marriage.

Abuse could be a sign that there are indeed grounds to have a marriage declared null and void, though not necessarily. Halfway houses and women’s crisis centers are available to victims of abuse, and the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Law (Republic Act No. 9262) already protects them. The obvious consideration here is that men can also be abuse victims, and there is currently no law in place that protects or benefits them.

Legal separation is also available, though not many avail of it these days. While nothing stops couples from separating, a legal separation works like divorce, without the right to remarry. The conjugal partnership is dissolved and the custody of children decided by the court. Obtaining a legal separation benefits abandoned spouses and children.

For Catholics who want to remain faithful to Church teaching, annulment is available. A declaration of nullity says that the couple was not really married in the first place, and can therefore marry. People object that getting an annulment is too tedious and expensive to bother with, but there is no guarantee that divorce will be less tedious or cheaper to obtain. Clergy and laity alike agree that reform of the annulment process is needed, and this discussion is ongoing. More canon lawyers are needed to solve the problem of tribunals being understaffed. Besides this, there is still the task of making sure Catholics understand what annulment is and why determining if a ground really does exist takes time.

For civil annulments, most fees are actually lawyers’ fees. Of course, there is the additional problem of the Philippine judicial system, as a whole, having a huge backlog; courts’ dockets are consistently clogged.

Right now, House Bill No. 4408 is pending in Congress. But Filipinos would do well to pay attention to and understand other pending bills. One option is to consolidate these and take the good, choosing provisions that will help strengthen marriage, encourage marital fidelity and penalize marital infidelity, while protecting/benefiting the victims, thereby serving the Filipino family better.

We could argue that Filipinos are naturally resilient, and they are, but that doesn’t absolve us from the responsibility to find the best answer possible. This is a difficult task, but not insurmountable. Both Philippine Church and state can respond to citizens’ needs AND still say no to divorce.

ETA helpful link: Some Clarifications on Divorce, Declaration of Nullity, and Legal Separation

Click here for Part 2.
Click here for Part 3.

Contraception vs. NFP in Catholic Philippines

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Oh yes, it’s Lent. It seems the anti-life and anti-family movements are out in full force again. Did funding come in recently?

In just the past week, several articles have been published targeting the Catholic church yet again for its [archaic, primitive, bigoted, misogynistic — take your pick] stance on contraception. The Gates- and Ford-funded PRI’s newest series is nothing but recycled material. Periodically trotted out and updated with newer pictures, these articles predictably harp on the same theme year after year: women need/want contraception and abortion, but they are being oppressed by a Church that refuses to get with the times and change its teachings. Ho-hum.

It is well-known among Filipino pro-lifers that this “contraception saves lives” mantra is being globally pushed by those with an agenda. Unfortunately, most people, even Catholics, don’t have a full understanding of Humanae Vitae and Natural Family Planning, much less Theology of the Body. Too many people still don’t have a clear grasp of the innate dignity of human beings, God’s design for sex, and why contraception — whether you look at it from a scientific standpoint or a moral one — is detrimental to marriage, family, and society in the long run. The International Planned Parenthood Federation and its local branches, along with Marie Stopes, Guttmacher, partners from big pharma, foundations like Gates and Ford, and secular NGOs take advantage of this knowledge gap. Contraception is constantly presented as some sort of panacea, ostensibly to prevent abortions, with the ultimate goal to legalize abortion.

The Philippines is one of the few remaining countries where abortion is still against the law. That does not mean abortion is non-existent. It just means that clinics like Likhaan, highlighted in another Sonia Narang article, operate unhindered, connecting women with underground abortionists, a practice that founder Junice Melgar readily admits. Many in government seem to have bought the lie that abortion helps women and therefore are happy to just let these happen under the radar, the law notwithstanding.

What’s not revealed by the PRI articles is the already ongoing, illegal implementation of the Reproductive Health Law. The Food and Drug Administration has completely ignored petitions from pro-life groups detailing specific contraceptives’ abortifacient methods of action, petitions the FDA itself solicited and which are required by law prior to recertification. Since the Philippine constitution unequivocally protects the life of the unborn, the sale and distribution of these items is prohibited, but that prohibition only exists on paper and is not enforced.

In reality, except for continued efforts by the Church to educate Catholics on Church teaching, nothing stops the government or these NGOs from doing what they want to do. Such contempt for the law is possible only in countries steeped in corruption, and where votes for proposed legislation are regularly bought and sold.

The Reproductive Health law actually mandates that other family planning choices be made available to couples, yet funding is only provided for contraceptives, the Church-approved NFP largely left to the laity and private organizations to fund and promote.

Three oft-repeated arguments used to justify contraception and abortion are spousal abuse, extramarital affairs and sexually transmitted disease. Forgotten and ignored is the fact that these problems aren’t cured by making abortion and contraception available. These problems need to be addressed at the root, and bandaid solutions merely perpetuate the cycle of abuse, and do nothing to curb adultery or unethical sexual behavior. Provide men with condoms and women with pills, sterilize them if you will, but only a proper understanding of sex and marriage will eliminate these problems.

That women are “asking” for contraception is largely untrue. For years now, organizations like IPPF and Marie Stopes, the UNFPA and USAID have been pouring money into ““social acceptance”, “demand creation” and other contraceptive “scaling up” projects, many of them funded by US taxpayer money. These all-out media campaigns include TV shows and commercials, magazine ads, and traveling caravans that go from city to city offering free or subsidized contraception.

The Church has no such propaganda machine. Some would argue that it has the pulpit, and others would rightly point out that except for a few brave priests and bishops, hardly anyone ever speaks about the moral implications of contraception and abortion. In fact, there is no ban on contraceptives, they are relatively affordable, and even minors are able to purchase them at drugstores that are supposed to restrict their sales.

Revitalized by Pope Francis’ recent visit and his clear denunciation of threats to marriage, family, and life, however, more Catholics, clergy and laity alike, are initiating new programs and getting involved in the race to preserve the culture of life in the Philippines. Perhaps that explains the most recent round of attacks being hurled anew at the Church. Portraying the church as enemy always has been and always will be the primary tactic employed by these movements. But only the church truly promotes the dignity of the human being, man and woman alike.

One last point: those of us in the first world have the advantage of having easy access to information. Fertility awareness methods and natural family planning are increasingly being recognized as the real solutions to women’s reproductive health needs, and not just by Catholics. If a poor woman with 7 kids living on $2 a day contracts cancer or develops blood clots possibly leading to a stroke or a heart attack because of contraception use, there is no government solution in place that will take care of her family.

Then as now, what women in third world countries need is basic help — food, clothing, shelter, education (not just sex ed), and jobs.

There are many organizations that need and deserve your support. Here are two that Filipino pro-lifers endorse and are directly involved in. In coming weeks I will share information on other worthy organizations where you can send help.

Pro-Life Philippines
http://www.prolife.org.ph/?page_id=112

Caritas Manila
http://caritas.org.ph/

It’s Not About Rabbits, But Maybe It’s Not About You Either

It’s been a little over 24 hours since I woke up to Facebook hopping (pun unintended) because of a remark the Pope made on the plane to Rome from Manila, where he spent four days with the Filipino people, celebrating, teaching, loving.

Many are upset because once again, the Pope said something that just *hit* them the wrong way.

I am a Filipina who came to the US when I was 18. I’ve lived here, got married, had kids and raised them for the next 28. Today I also work with a pro-life group in the Philippines. The entire transcript is a must read if one wants to fully understand, but I ask that you not stop there. Please consider reading the transcripts from his four days in Manila. The Pope’s rabbit remark has to be evaluated not just within the context of everything he said on that plane, but ALL the teaching he did in the third world last week. I am hoping that today’s clarification helps.

In a nutshell, and because I tend to ramble on, he’s basically teaching BALANCE. In Manila he taught a lot about being open to life, about GENEROSITY. Prompted by further quetions on the plane, he continued the lesson, this time highlighting RESPONSIBILITY. These two go hand in hand. His words on the plane did not cancel out what he said in Manila, as some claim. On the contrary, they are but parts of a whole. But there are farther nuances I’d like to point out if I may.

PopeFrancis_Glyzelle
(Image Credit: ofelio.com)

He came to the Philippines to be with the poor. While there he addressed corruption, the cause of so much suffering there, as opposed to the liberal anti-life mantra of overpopulation. He spoke against foreign ideologies, many of which are funded and exported by us US taxpayers. Instead of helping them with the basics like food, clothing, shelter, education that uplifts them and upholds their dignity — we give them instead contraception, abortion, pornography, and contribute to their corruption. Pope Francis described this ideological colonization as insidious. The colonizers of old may have used guns and swords to conquer other lands. Today they use books, movies, music, social media, to conquer hearts, minds, souls. In addition, programs brought in by population controllers and eugenicists do irreparable harm.

In that same homily, he reiterated the Church’s teachings on the value of human life. During his trip he also traveled to see the victims of Yolanda, and spent time with the youth, many of whom experience suffering as a daily reality. (The rest of the transcripts are at Salt and Light TV.)

When he got on that plane, it’s reasonable to assume that his mind was still on the people he encountered. I’d like to propose that his words on RESPONSIBILITY AND GENEROSITY cover so much more than what appears on the surface:

He was calling pastors to shepherd their flock well, to catechize better. In the Philippines, many are cultural Catholics. They live the faith, but have little understanding of the Church’s basic teachings, especially Her teachings about sex. Many men still think it is their right to have on-demand sex and many women still think they are obligated to comply. Yes, this is partly a failure on the part of the clergy. The Pope is saying they need to teach more effectively; their flock need to listen and understand better. It is a pressing need and Pope Francis addressed it, for which I thank him.

Each person with his pastor seeks how to do that responsible parenthood.

When the Pope talked about responsibility, however, he was addressing not the first-world mother who has access to modern hospitals and well-trained doctors and the newest technology. A woman having an 8th caesarean section in the US is different from a woman having an 8th child in a third world country, caesarean or not. Here in the US, we have 911; they don’t. Here we have a medical team, in the Philippines you’re lucky if you can afford to go to a private hospital. Midwives there are not the same as midwives here. The Philippine maternal mortality rate has improved, but it is not the same as first world numbers.

Please don’t get me wrong, as the mom of 5 who has a lot of mom friends, many of whom live heroic lives of sacrifice, I do have some sense of the confusion or, as one commenter put it, devastation, that some of them felt when they heard the phrase. I have great compassion for them who have been so generous with their lives and with their bodies; and it’s not about the number of children anyway. That’s not the point and never was. Church teaching is clear that it’s a prudential decision left to husband and wife, and that’s beyond the purview of even us pro-lifers. But while those of us who have more than “the experts’ ‘required'” 2.1 kids sit here, tweeting, Facebooking or blogging away, getting our voices heard, what about the moms who don’t even have access to a computer or even a phone, much less good medical care? What about their voices?

Pope Francis was talking to the parents about being responsible because each child needs a mother and a father. In the first world, a mother’s chance of surviving childbirth is higher than it is in the third world. A child losing a parent in the first world, while he/she would not be any less devastated emotionally, would almost certainly have better access to material support and resources than his or her third world counterpart. We may have homeless and jobless people here, but in poverty-stricken Philippines, if a mother is lost, where do the orphans end up? If not in orphanages such as the one Pope Francis visited, they end up in the streets, begging for their food, or prostituting themselves. Trafficking is a huge problem, and it is directly related to poverty. The Philippines is easy prey for those who believe contraception and abortion to be the answer to these ills.

Understanding what responsible parenthood is about and getting access to what Pope Francis refers to as licit ways to plan the family aren’t the same either. NFP instructors have a hard time promoting NFP because those “insidious programs” that Pope Francis talked about refuse to give it priority or simply pay them lip service. The recently passed RH Law, for instance, mandates that people get access to whatever contraceptive method they choose. Millions are budgeted for artificial birth control, with subsidy coming in from outside sources; zero for the Church-approved NFP, which is left entirely to the laity to fund and promote.

NFP instructors have to deal with the “Pinoy macho image”. They hesitate to teach NFP outside of the Catechism *because* they need the Catechism to provide the backbone — there are places where the secular or scientific approach won’t be adequate or appropriate. Often the responsibility falls on the woman. And while that in itself isn’t a problem specific to the third world, the difference is that in the poorest areas of a third world country, men who don’t understand NFP and/or Church teaching fully end up raping their wives during the fertile period — this from a veteran NFP instructor. In the population controllers’ eyes, this is one more reason to accuse the Church of inefficiency and oppression, and one more excuse to promote aggressive anti-life measures.

I ask that you keep these in mind as you read the Pope’s words. All these are part of the whole, and when we take that whole apart and nitpick what is offensive to us, we not only turn a blind eye to those who are most in need of compassion, we undermine our own Church’s and our Pope’s ability to speak out on these issues that we may not fully understand but nevertheless exist. More than that, I am afraid that we also undermine our own efforts to reach those who see the Church’s teachings as archaic and oppressive, and to open their eyes to the truth.

Recommended Reading:
Breed Like Rabbits: The Pope and an Anti-Catholic Slur
Someone is getting lost in all this talk about Francis and rabbits
Pope Francis and Catholic Rabbits–5 Points to Consider
The Pope Said What about Rabbits? And I said Ee-I-ee-I-oh!
“Breeding like rabbits”, eh?
About the Pope’s “don’t be like rabbits” remark UPDATED

The “Ideal” Family Size

our "ideal" family size, for now anyway
Prompted by this news article.

I’ve been closely following the RH bill debate in the Philippines for several months now. One of the biggest reasons proponents of the bill give for pushing for the bill is that the bill will legislate helping families achieve their ideal family size. I know. Doesn’t make sense, does it? Let me say that again. The bill will legislate helping families achieve their ideal family size. The bill also mentions that two children is ideal. Hm.

How a bill (or eventually a law, if passed) would do that, I have no idea. How exactly do they propose to do this? I can imagine the conversation now.

Family Planning Official: Good morning, sir, ma’am, what is your ideal family size?
Husband/Wife: Two children. Can you help us achieve that?
FPO: Certainly! We have these contraceptives available for free or at low cost. Take your pick.

Okay. So I don’t really have a clue how that conversation will go down. Do you? I have so many questions I don’t know where to begin.

Why would any country have to enact a law to help families achieve their ideal family size?
Isn’t this a decision that belongs to the married couple and the married couple ALONE?
Except in a communist country, I don’t see how the government could take this decision into their hands. And as far as I know, the Philippines isn’t a communist country. Maybe they’re headed that way. For their sake, I hope not, but stranger things have happened.

How exactly would they help these families ACHIEVE that ideal family size?
Are we talking counseling sessions here on how often to have or not have sex? Are we talking a supply of pills? Are we talking sterilization advice? Are we talking counseling sessions after every child to make sure the parents are “on the right track”? There are so many scenarios running through my head as to how this “achieving” would be accomplished. None of them sound remotely appealing to a married woman like me. I don’t relish the idea of ANYONE, much less the government, butting into a conversation my husband and I should be having IN PRIVATE.

And that word IDEAL. I shudder to think that any person, much less any government entity, would presume to speak to my husband and me about an IDEAL family size. Aren’t we getting too presumptuous here?

My husband and I have been married twenty-one years (thank You, Lord!) and to this day we don’t know what our ideal family size is. Was it when we had only two kids? Was it when we got to four? Is it ideal to stop now that we have five? Whether we plan to have more or not isn’t even an appropriate topic (I don’t think) for this blog. That’s just too private a matter to discuss in public. You’d have to be a VERY, VERY CLOSE, INTIMATE FRIEND to even know what my husband and I think about this.

THAT’S the element, I think, that’s missing in all this talk about ideal family size. So much about marriages, sex, and families have just been assumed to be a matter of public debate the last few years. We have lost so much in terms of privacy and respect and recognizing the autonomy of the individual. We think we can decide for others what’s ideal for them and what’s not. Who am I to tell my friend who has 12 kids, “Enough is enough”? Who am I to tell my friend who has 2, “You need to have more”? Don’t we have enough problems and decisions in our own lives, don’t we have enough on our plates? Why do we even feel it’s necessary to talk about what’s IDEAL for anyone?

It truly pains me to see this happening in my beloved country of birth. I honestly don’t see it leading anywhere that’s good or holy or beautiful. Even if they decide that ten kids is the “ideal family size”, there still would be something inherently wrong in making that pronouncement.

Only a husband and wife have the right to make this decision for themselves. And for the Catholic couple, this is something that’s strictly between them and their God. Neither you nor I, and certainly not legislators, have ANY RIGHT WHATSOEVER to influence this process of prayer and discernment and soul-searching. No one deserves this kind of patronizing, condescending attitude foisted upon them — that SOMEONE else knows better and that they’re not smart enough to figure it out for themselves. No level of intelligence, no economic situation warrants this kind of trespassing, rude interference in the affairs of the individual and the couple. The RH mantra, “Keep your rosaries out of our ovaries”, goes both ways. We don’t wish to impose Catholic morals on anyone. Neither do we want government’s concept of “ideal” foisted upon those who are most vulnerable.

And as a Catholic, it pains me to see that we can presume ourselves more knowledgeable than God when it comes to what’s ideal. I could never have known which child would be my most sensitive, or most loving, or most in need of care, or most in need of physical closeness. I could never have foreseen which child would bring me to my knees. And it’s not one child that will do that; it’s not just one season. Every child, for one reason or another, brings us closer to Him who designed all of these — the sizes of our families, their personalities, their quirks. That this subject would be tackled in the pages of a Filipino newspaper brings me an incredible sadness. God has His plans. It is not up to us to question, or insist that we know better. We don’t know better (though we’d like to think that we do). We trust, we follow, we grow in holiness as we learn to accept and obey. There is blessing in everything He touches. Even in the poorest of the poor, His hand is there, guiding, nurturing, bringing plans to fruition. I shudder to think of where we might drive ourselves if we continue to insist on grabbing the reins instead of sitting back and simply enjoying the ride.

Response to “Reproductive Health Bill: the Bible’s Viewpoint vs. the Catholic Church’s”

Well, I’ve spent the last fifteen minutes trying to post another reply at this blog post over at Definitely Filipino — and my comment just won’t go through, so I’m doing it here.

The latest missive from “Kizmet”: Reproductive Health Bill: the Bible’s Viewpoint vs. the Catholic Church’s

LOL indeed Stef.

Those Bible texts were under the Mosaic Law. I meant Christian laws please. We are not under the Mosaic law today, are we?

Please try harder. ~_^

Kizmet:

Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it. He Himself said it in Matthew 5:17-19:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

He didn’t say, “Now that I’m here, forget all that Mosaic law rubbish. We’re starting over.”

You’re the one not doing your homework, my dear. Nice try. Here’s your assignment:

1. Show us where it says in the Bible that we should contracept or abort.
2. Show us where it says in the Bible that Jesus Christ proclaims Mosaic law as passé and should now be ignored or dismissed as such.

When you’ve done that, we can talk again. And seriously, I *am* listening, and I am keeping an open mind. Hope you are too. 🙂


And since I’m here, might as well respond to these:

At times, the Catholic Church fails to understand a simple statement as that. Despite being written in elementary English, the Bishops and the Pope after many years of burning their brows about theology are a disappointment to humanity. They erroneously lay claims to righteousness.

And we should take this person’s word as more credible and authoritative than the Pope’s and Bishops’ because……???? Are we expected to slap our foreheads and say, “Oh my gosh! That *IS* the truth! Now why in the world did we never hear of that or think of that before? Such wisdom in the youth!” As Chesterton says, “First it must be remembered that the Church is always in advance of the world. That is why it is said to be behind the times. It discussed everything so long ago that people have forgotten the discussion. St. Thomas was an internationalist before all our internationalists; St. Joan was a nationalist almost before there were nations; Blessed Robert Bellarmine said all there is to be said for democracy before any ordinary worldling dared to be a democrat; and (what is to the purpose here) the Christian social reform was in full activity… before any of these quarrels of fascists and Bolshevists appeared.”

Your “insights” have long been trumpeted by atheists, agnostics, and Catholic Church haters. Nothing new there.

As the American Standard Version Bible puts it: “Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? to his own lord he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand.”-Romans 14:4

And this means….? The Church proclaiming the truth is judging? Hmmm…. another “new idea”. Not.

As an institution of faith, it does not belong to the Catholic Church’s leaders who are themselves imperfect human beings the right to render judgment against their followers merely because the latter chooses to heed what the Bible really teaches.

But the author hasn’t adequately explained yet “what the Bible really teaches”. We wait with bated breath, Kizmet. Please show us where the Bible says we should contracept or abort.

Mankind does not exist to propagate only. If couples choose not to include pregnancy in constituting a family by employing any of the contraception methods, that is their decision to make, and no one reserves the right to judge them.

Strawman. You came upon this statement where? See if you can find it in the Catechism or any encyclical where it says, “Mankind exists to propagate only.” And again, “speaking the Truth” not = judging. I’ll grant you this: it may feel like judging to those who are not ready to see the Truth from the Bible’s or from the Church’s perspective. That’s okay. We can’t really help that sometimes. But I can tell you this: we hate being judged just as much as you do, so when we speak what we believe as Catholics, at least for my part, I am *not* judging you at all. I am a little frustrated that you can’t see things from my/the Church’s perspective, but that doesn’t mean I see myself as better than you in any way.