Habemus Papam, et non ex Philippines

“We have a Pope!…and (he is) not from the Philippines.”

Too bad, Cardinal Luis Tagle did not make it, no matter how hard the Filipinos hoped and prayed.

After Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, the Filipinos were ecstatic about the possibility of Cardinal Tagle becoming Pope, no thanks to the local media. Ahem, just because Tagle was ordained a cardinal last November 2012? At 55 years old, considered young for Pope standards, and new to the College of Cardinals, that was highly unlikely, of course.

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Whatever people may say, even if you’re voting for the head of a religious institution, you have to deal with the earthly politics of men. And that can be a bitch.

The Conclave, the meeting called to elect the Pope, is a very secretive one. The faithful see only the smoke, whether white or black, as the indicator of the result of that particular round of voting. As you may also have seen, there was a list of potential front-runners that international media displayed all over their channels. But as the election of this Pope showed, anything is possible.


Too bad for Pinoys, there is no text voting involved in the Conclave. I’m pretty sure they would have loved a chance to make their manok win, just like how they did with Efren Peñaflorida in the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year.

I do wonder, I was half-expecting Filipinos to be indignant about Tagle not having been elected Pope. I was half-expecting someone to cry foul that there’s a conspiracy against non-Europeans from becoming Pope. As if someone from the Philippines can speak for the 115 cardinals in that room with regards to what they value collectively.

However, I believe that the way the Conclave was portrayed in some media channels, as some sort of beauty pageant or dog and pony show, underscores some sort of missing the point and losing the plot with regards as to what the real implications and principles are at work when choosing the next Pope. As a bit of a nod to the Roman Catholic Church, the job of Pope is not merely as a symbol for it; he has an arduous and thankless job of deciding the direction of the Church and its flock with regards to propagating its faith. It requires a balance between adherence to fundamental beliefs, and a willingness to adjust to a rapidly changing world where the flock’s number is slowly dwindling.

Filipinos may not have had an opportunity to shout Pinoy Pride, but the fact that Pope Francis is a Jesuit will most likely have a subgroup within the Filipinos tooting their own horns:

The Pope is a Jesuit! Atenista pride yeah!

Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, is supposedly a Pope of several firsts. He is the first Jesuit to become Pope. He is also the first Pope since Gregory III who isn’t European-born. Naturally, he is the first from his country, Argentina, ever to be elected to that position.

He is supposedly known for living a simple, austere life, and is known to shun an ostentatious lifestyle. Whereas other cardinals have their own cars, for example, he would rather supposedly take public transport. He is also known for being very concerned with social inequality, especially around Latin America.

Payak na pamumuhay – doesn’t that sound familiar to Ateneans, hmm?

The question is, though, are you still going to hold on to your Catholic beliefs, if you are one, once you learn of the hard line stance Pope Francis takes with regards to LGBT’s (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender)? Are you still going to consider yourself a member of the Church once this Pope reveals the extent of his conservatism?

If I remember correctly, the Church discourages “supermarket” Catholicism, where you can pick the things you want to believe in and ignore the rest. It’s either you believe in every detail of the stance that the Church takes, or you don’t.

In the context of the Philippines, I guess it was wishful thinking to assume that Pinoy Pride died when Manny Pacquiao lost to Juan Manuel Marquez last December, coincidentally at the same time that typhoon Pablo hit southern Mindanao. An additional nail in the coffin would have been Janine Tugonon losing the Miss Universe 2012 last December

To briefly define Pinoy Pride, or Filipino pride here, it is “a knee-jerk reaction of Filipinos whenever someone with a semblance of Filipino blood makes it big outside the Philippines.”

The trouble with Pinoy Pride is that Pinoys want to take the individual accomplishment of that Filipino, and brandish it as one of the entire ethnic group. In other words, they ride on the success of one individual and use it as an excuse to claim that their society is great, even when their current social, political, and economical situation proves otherwise.

For a more detailed explanation of Pinoy Pride, check out this article of mine.

Pinoy Pride, I guess, never truly dies; it merely lies dormant and waits for the next individual Filipino to make a name with the rest of the world. Then it sticks itself like the leech it is.

Could you imagine the outpouring of Pinoy Pride that would have occurred if Cardinal Tagle was elected? A Manny Pacquiao win, a concert from any or all of Jessica Sanchez, Charice, and Arnel Pineda, all combined would pale in comparison.

And yet the ugly side of Filipino Catholicism and Filipino society will not be able to keep from showing itself to the rest of the world.

Filipinos are a judgmental and self-righteous people. They would have taken the election of a Filipino Pope as validation that Filipino Catholicism is not only important to the world, but superior. Filipino society values religiousness but not spirituality. Only in Filipino society can sex be not openly discussed, while at the same time philandering and machismo, with emphasis on having as many women as possible, is tolerated and even encouraged.

We’ve already got enough people here claiming that “God is on their side” to emphasize whatever righteousness they believe their causes have. We don’t need a whole nation collectively declaring it.

What is it that Filipinos often like to say? That if you don’t get what you want, then God has better plans for you? I think, then, that we should stop worrying ourselves to death over what God’s plans are, and focus more on carving a path in life where we are in control.

Until then, we can only dream of the day where our sense of self-worth doesn’t require the validation from others that we indeed possess good qualities.

[Photo courtesy: The Punch]

9 Replies to “Habemus Papam, et non ex Philippines”

  1. Unfortunately, the Cardinals in the Vatican Conclave do not vote, like Filipinos do. They cannot be swayed by: false statistical surveys; idiotic accomplishments; song and dances; popularity; media endorsements and other kinds of deceptive tactics to hook voters.
    I have no criticism to Cardinal Tagle. He is a good Pastor. But, is too young and inexperienced for international and complicated job, like the Papacy. There are too many issues and scandals in the Catholic Church, awaiting the next Pope. I wish Pope Francis I, the luck and is praying for him…

  2. I’m beginning to notice all posts here are becoming negative. It’s not anymore ‘get real’ but thinking of each or any issue out there to write about and add something or how Filipinos might or might not react, say or not say — but all in a negative light.

    Just an observation. Don’t feel any objectivity anymore 🙁

  3. Good luck to the new POPE, may he live a long fruitful life and REIGN with dignity, justice and the ability to move the Catholic Church through the next 20-30 yrs., encouraging the faithful to keep that faith and live as Christ would have them live.
    It will not be easy, but hey, he is the POPE! He can do whatever he wants to do.

  4. Pinoy Pride for me is the belief that Filipinos are something special and they deserve special respect from the world. Exactly the thing that makes people stupid and foolish, Pinoy or not. You can never criticize or kill it enough.

  5. Cardinal Tagle is simply too young and too little known to his fellow Cardinals to have been a contender on his merits; however great those merits may be, he has not been a Cardinal for long enough for the other members of the College to have become aware of them.

    It follows that, had he been made Pope, it would have been purely as a “token Asian” – luckily the Catholic Church is not that stupid.

    Since he is only in his fifties, and in good health, he will probably have another chance.

  6. I never figured out why some people would promote a Filipino pope when most the time, he’ll be dealing with problems in Europe and Americas. Most of the time, he’ll be speaking Italian/Latin and people around him are Europeans. Sure, one can hope to have to happen but they also don’t realize how much practical to be a Pope wherein the working environment is hardly portrayed correctly in the media. The position is not a public office and majority of the people don’t even know what the pope’s duties are. I guess they just want something to pin on someone that they are familiar with. Election in the Catholic Church is not a popularity vote – it doesn’t work like electing public servants. Even God, I think, could spot the difference. After all, a pope is not just one for one race or nationality, its for a faithful that crosses borders, cultures and continents.

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