Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentine Jesuit of Italian bloodline, assumed the Papacy as Pope Francis on March 13, 2013 and it has never been the same for the Catholic faith as the refreshing messages on unity, humility and respect transcends religious boundaries. The large crowd which the Pope drew from predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka (nbcnews.com) is evidence of that. Hope is being weaved, for a world divided.
For many survivors of 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), especially for those who are still in tents and makeshift homes, Hope is, but a glimmer. The Pope disproves that, with his message of “Mercy and Compassion” to the only Catholic nation of Asia and and it was off to the Philippines, he went on
January 15, 2015.
The Filipino welcome of Pope Francis was electric, from the fiesta mood at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay to the Manila streets that was lined with throngs of the excited. That was – Day 1.
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Day 2 of the Papal agenda is packed and included in it, is the “Meeting of Families” at the Mall of Asia Arena. “According to Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the said event will convene families who are faced with the “three most difficult challenges” present in the contemporary Philippine society: poverty, migration, and disability (inquirer.net).”
Poverty, migration and a disability, that is beyond the physiological, are all rooted in the inability of the Philippines to address the widening gap of the rich and poor. The aperture is wide but many are too deluded to realize the irony that is in the Philippines, being home to 3 out of the 10 biggest shopping malls on earth catering to hyper-consumerism (huffingtonpost.com). Philippines has shoppers high rolling on sprees, apathetic to the many who have no access to basic needs. There are also shoppers who spend beyond their means yet endure back-breaking and/or underpaid labor, locally and abroad. Such is the deadly habit prevalent that have contributed to the growth of business empires and made those words: “Poverty, migration and disability”, hovering realities. Realities denied by the lip servicing “Proud to be Filipino”. Realities beyond the Papal event at the Mall of Asia Arena.
And with the chosen venue which is the Mall of Asia Arena, the world class events place of the SM empire, the Philippines is again in denial. While, it is possible that Metro Manila has none such venue of the same caliber to offer, it is notable that it is in SM malls, where 9 out their 10 employees endure the cycle of “endo” (short for end of contract) every six months since 2003 (bulatlat.com). That impeccable business move of adopting labor flexibilsation for undergraduates has been adapted by many businesses and made legal by the economy-centered Arroyo administration through contractualization.:
“DOLE Order No.18-02 declared the practice of contractualization as legal for as long as it does not fall within the category of “labor only contracting”,
which is measured by the amount of capital and control of the supposed employer. Contractualization means replacing regular workers with temporary workers
who receive lower wages with no or less benefits. These temporary workers are sometimes called contractuals, trainees, apprentices, helpers, casuals, piece
raters, agency-hired, project employees, etc. They do the work of regular workers for a specified and limited period of time, usually less then six months.
The work they do is “desirable and necessary” for the company’s survival, but they never become regular employees even if they get rehired repeatedly under
SM, as I was told by a credible source, has the lowest rate of contractual employees upon comparison to other mall operators in the Philippines. Still, the value of hard work and meritocracy should be given weight.
The only Catholic nation in Asia has become a nation of Contractuals, and for what purpose? To reduce the cost of the long-term benefits due of a regular employee, at the detriment of a population that is highly dependent on regular employment. The hardest hit of the demography are those who have anemic educational background, and such is common to the poor who cannot afford matriculation or send their families to the Ivy League schools. The poor who have been made ignorant by the dumbing entertainment and have been diminished as nothing but numbers for every political agenda.
And it’s business as usual in Fiesta Philippines while the Filipinos’ knack for spending is vultured upon by the enterprising, from the street vendors to the biggest of malls, as the name and face of Pope Francis is commodified in ballers, fans, shirts or whatever merchandise printable!
Such exemplary show of “Mercy and Compassion”, isn’t it? Pale in comparision to the likes of this fund raiser for a brain tumor operation (< please do click on the link to help)! Could it be that part of the sales proceeds of each merchandise will go to our still recovering calamity stricken kababayans? Sarcasm aside, opportunists have defied and insulted the message of Pope Francis during his ““Apostolic Exhortation” that laid out poverty and economic inequality as two of the main concerns of this Papacy. He used strong terms like “idolatry of money” … and speaks of unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny” while praying and pleading with lawmakers to work toward providing all people with “dignified work, education, and healthcare.”“. Pope Francis is a popular religious leader relevant to our times, but how many can see through the haze of all the commercial hype?
It’s feels like Christmas all over again!
Spirits are high and merchandise abound,
shoppers are again blind to the disposable workforce affected by the vicious cycle.
We have become a nation that has forgotten our humanity and what we choose to see is commodity.
Pope Francis has been big on his campaign for the poor and the suffering. Makes me wonder, how much of Pope Francis does one see in a Papal souvenir when it served to profit an opportunist instead of the oppressed?
While many hopes are hinged on the presence of the well-loved and respected Catholic leader, as he is seen as the much needed catalyst of change for a nation that seeks its salvation through political solutions, facts from the World Bank may also give the rude awakening that goes with spiritual healing:
“…the country’s Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, stands at 0.43…The World Bank said the Gini coefficient of inequality varies between 0, which
reflects complete equality and 1, which indicates complete inequality.The World Bank said the high economic growth that the Philippines posted was not able
to benefit the poor. Further, the World Bank said for over 20 years, efforts to reduce poverty in the Philippines have been slow. “With high inequality and a
lack of structural transformation, growth largely benefited the non-poor,” the World Bank said. (investphilippines.info)
The future we hate, is the present that the Philippines is in denial of.
Pope Francis calls on our poor little rich nation to live and breath MERCY and COMPASSION but some chose to commodify and capitalize on an event aimed to be spiritual.
The photo of this little old boy helping his father install one of the many #PapalVisitPH tarps is a strong testimony of how much of a steward our people has been clearly showing that the “Daang Matuwid” is not a mantra that shows us our center!
I quote the Pope’s words, as verses from Matthew 23 are cited, in the hope that our faith, regardless of religious affiliation, will may be seen beyond the fiestas celebrating saints, the numbers at every religious celebration and the #PopeFrancisPH-#PopeInPH-#PopeTYSM-#DearPope hashtags:
“…While everyone is a sinner,…The corrupt are focused on going through the motions, Pope Francis said; they are “men of good manners but bad habits. Jesus called them ‘whitewashed tombs'” that “appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.” Jesus called them hypocrites, because they turned away from “the salvation of the Lord’s love” and a theology built on faith in God for “a theology of obligation,” of minute laws and “must-dos. “By refusing God’s love, they refused “the freedom the Lord offers,” and instead followed “the logic of necessity where there is no room for the Lord” and where “they don’t understand mercy or pity. “That’s why the people loved Jesus so much, the pope said, because “they needed mercy and compassion and they went to ask for it from the Lord.” (Click to read the Full text)
Hope is being weaved, let us not be divided.
Mike is the author of “Minsan may Isang Puta”, an allegory which has been circulating since 2004 and with over 50,000 likes and shares in social media alone. It won a film grant in 2010 to be included in the multi-narrative Indie film “Ganap na Babae” (International title: Garden of Eve). The teaser, reviews and commentaries are here. The movie was honored as Cinemalaya 2010’s opening film and has won international and local recognition.
The royalties from the initial 150 copies of Mike’s first sole-authored book, The Dove Files, went to a Project Malasakit scholar who graduated Cum Laude in April 2013, the rest was also paid forward to baby Mark who underwent a liver transplant in March 2013.
Part of the royalties of the “Minsan may Isang Puta” book at Barnes and Noble Online goes to support the education of a young Yolanda survivor taking up B.S. Accounting at U.P. Tacloban.