Throughout the 40 days of lent, we are made to focus on three things that we should observe during the season: prayer, alms giving and, abstinence.
The start of my holy week proved to be very fruitful. I had the opportunity to go home to my beloved province of Southern Leyte. We gathered people from all sectors of society for a day. Each one was aptly represented: youth, women, labor, farmers, fishermen, businessmen, professionals, and senior citizens. There were approximately 1,600 people huddled in a public gym patiently awaiting the arrival of the Undersecretary for Political Affairs, Jose Luis “Chito” Gascon.
My hometown has been besieged with a culture of fear for some time. People are afraid to voice out their thoughts for fear of local “politicos'” retaliation. The majority rely on government to survive. There is little effort made to allow personal growth. This has created a high level of dependence on certain individuals who have called themselves “the three kings”. These are people who occupy positions in government, and continue to cultivate patronage politics. People are treated like subjects in a make believe kingdom. These public officials have delusions of grandeur and truly believe that they are enthroned as royalty, and people dare not defy their orders.
The trials that our team had to put up with were daunting. We had a permit to use the public gym, but this was cancelled when officials heard the confirmation that our guest was coming. The organizers had to brave the barangay hall and assert our rights. On the day itself, we realized that the fuse was removed from the fuse box so there was no power in the venue. Volunteer electricians had to use their skills to remedy the situation. People came down from the mountains bringing, bananas, camote (sweet potato), and gabi (taro) to share with everyone. It was a replica of the story of the multiplication of the bread. There was enough food for everyone.
Shortly after lunch, Usec Chito Gascon arrived and the crowd swelled. Tricycle drivers stopped to listen, and the streets were quiet. He discussed President Aquino’s social contract with the people. There were cheers from the crowd as he explained in very explicit terms how oppression is not tolerated by this administration. The ordinary “Juans” couldn’t believe that they were having a dialogue and speaking directly to an official from the President’s office.
I have said the same things in the past but the effect of the words coming directly from the Undersecretary was akin to magical. To say that he was motivational and inspiring is an understatement. I guess it is biblical – it is difficult to be a prophet in your own land.
The effect is spreading through my province like wildfire. The following day, we had a group of sectoral representatives from three municipalities. Usec Chito Gascon gave a talk as well. There was a group from Limasawa Island who crossed the sea to listen to him. Their pump boat got damaged en route to the venue and they didn’t have the money to repair it for the return trip. Someone from the crowd volunteered to “pass the hat” in the spirit of solidarity with brothers fighting for the cause of good governance. It was a clear statement that we were in this together. The delegates from Limasawa were moved to tears. I almost choked from the emotions stuck in my throat. Everyone dug into their pockets to share their precious coins.
This brings me back to my soul searching of what it truly means to be a Christian. It is easy to say the rosary, hear mass, recite novenas, join processions, and participate in all the many rituals that we are taught. But, it is truly difficult to BE a Christian.
I enjoin everyone to include our government, our country, and our people in your prayers this holy week.
Kahlil Gibran said, “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Thank you, Usec Chito Gascon, for making time in your busy schedule to visit Maasin City. You have rekindled the dying embers of hope for good governance in my home.
Abstaining calls for sacrifice. However, if it is done for love, it shouldn’t be difficult. Do we love our country? Let us ask ourselves how we have shown this.
I have learned in this journey for good governance that we should take deliberate action to do what is right. Those who persist in doing evil have made this their conscious decision. There will always be those who will put personal interests above country and people. My father said, I must remember that among the apostles there was Judas. Even among angels, some have fallen.
Therefore, the fight goes on. We should make that conscious devision to choose good versus evil; right versus wrong.