Thursday, January 31, 2013


At this day and age, who would have thought that people could still be sentenced to jail by simply expressing their opinion about issues concerning society?

At a time when human rights are at the very core of our basic laws, a person such as Carlos Celdran was given a verdict of imprisonment after expressing his support for women’s reproductive health and opposition to the Catholic Church’s meddling in the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. Even if the said bill is now a law (thanks to Congress), ironically, the Church still managed to score a point with this latest conviction.

On September 30, 2010, Filipino tour guide, cultural activist, and performance artist Carlos Celdran staged a protest at the Manila Cathedral. Dressed as Crisostomo Ibarra, the lead character in Dr. Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere”, Celdran interrupted mass, raised a sign with the word “Damaso” (pertaining to a character in Rizal’s novel which symbolizes corrupt individuals in the Church), and shouted, “Stop getting involved in politics!” Celdran staged the protest in front of church-goers including Papal Nuncio Edward Adams, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.

The police apprehended Celdran on the spot and detained him. The rector of the Manila Cathedral, Monsignor Nestor Cerbo, filed charges against him for violation of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, which states:

“The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”

On January 28, 2013, the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 4 judge Juan Bermejo Jr. found Celdran guilty of violating Article 133 and was given an intermediate prison sentence of 2 months to a maximum of 1 year. Celdran, who was temporarily free due to bail, said he will appeal the sentence up to the Supreme Court. Netizens and ordinary citizens alike lamented their disgust and shock over the sentence, arguing that Celdran simply exercised his freedom of expression and that no one should be imprisoned for voicing out their opinion about a social issue. The hashtage #FreeCarlosCeldran is once again trending in Twitter and comments of support poured into Celdran’s official Facebook page.

Archaic, Punitive Law?
The lawyers of Carlos Celdran are arguing that their client was charged guilty under a law that is as old as the Spanish friars which Celdran saw in CBCP today—the Revised Penal Code. The 79-year old penal code, which is a revision of the original Spanish penal code, still contains archaic provisions that are no longer relevant and deemed inappropriate for punishing criminal liability at this day and age.

Nevertheless, there are still provisions in the law that enshrines the core of our constitution—human rights. This includes Article 133, the same article which Celdran was found guilty of.

Article 133 became part of the RPC with respect to the country’s Christian and Islamic roots but most importantly out of respect for religious freedom. It is anyone’s right to be associated in a religion of his/her own and exercise one’s religious beliefs. The article protects this right by preventing one religion from offending the feelings and beliefs of another religion, especially during the practice of such belief in one’s place of worship.

Article 133 is upheld even further by the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution, particularly Section 5, which states:

“No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed…”

The Most Unfortunate Place and Time
The 1987 Constitution enshrines not just freedom of religion but freedom of speech as well, as Section 4 of the Bill of Rights states:

“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

This very passage in our Constitution guarantees people like Carlos Celdran of the right to express their opinions no matter how these opinions go against the beliefs of any group whether political, racial, or religious in nature. Celdran’s protest in 2010 does not violate any laws if we are going to look at it from the ends—the expression of support for women’s reproductive rights and opposition to Church meddling in the passage of the RH Bill.

But the end does not justify the means.

It’s totally agreeable that back when the debate over the RH Bill is still hot, church leaders needed to be reminded of the limits of their influence. But the means through which Celdran gave his astounding reminder just defies the very core of our basic laws and makes him undeniably guilty of violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code.

There are two important phrases in this violation: “…acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful and “…in a place devoted to religious worship…”

By staging his protest during Holy Mass, Celdran placed himself in the most unfortunate time and place to express an unquestionable end. Whether it’s Holy Mass, Islamic sermons, or Buddhist prayers, it is offensive to intentionally interrupt one’s exercise of religious beliefs. We could argue that mass can sometimes be interrupted by cell phones unintentionally ringing or babies suddenly crying, but these are not willful acts of interruption, nor offensive in nature.

What made Celdran’s act even more offensive is his equation of Church leaders to corrupt Spanish friars while mass was going on by flashing the now iconic word. No matter how accurate this comparison is, you don’t offend the faithful inside their place of worship (and let us not begin questioning who we mean by “faithful” here, for Christ’s faithful followers are all sinners after all). If the word was posted outside of the cathedral, it could have been a different story for Celdran.

An Important Lesson
There are a lot to learn from this landmark case. One, you don’t step on one basic right in favor of another. If we can go around it to avoid conflict but still achieve the same ends, then let us do so. We are also made aware of the value of tolerance and how both Celdran and the Church should have exercised it: The former should have exerted due tolerance despite his flamboyant disapproval of the latter’s position; the latter should have exercised due tolerance by not going as much as filing a court case.

Most importantly, we are made aware of how our church leaders, who are preachers of forgiveness, should have been the first to exercise such virtue. It is understandable that the Church only wants to prevent future disrespectful acts from happening, hence, the filing of the case. But this is not Christ’s way; if it were Jesus who witnessed such act, He would admonish Celdran humanely and forgive Him for his trespasses. The church leaders who pursued this case are human after all—egotistic and filled with pride.

The only achievement of this verdict is the reiteration of respect and tolerance for religious beliefs. But by putting Celdran behind bars, this achievement will only defeat itself. Free Carlos Celdran! TSS
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”  
― C.S. Lewis

Sunday, January 27, 2013


SEXISM (noun) \ˈsek-ˌsi-zəm\
: Prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially, discrimination against women
: Behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex

Society these days would like us to believe that women are the only victims of sexism. True. It’s a men’s world out there, and the empowered women of our generation are ever more eager to turn this men’s world around. There is nothing wrong with women fighting sexism, asserting their rights, and creating their own place in society. But little does society know that men can be victims of sexism too; and that both men and women can be perpetrators of sexist acts against men.

What are the common sexist stereotypes against men?

Society expects men to be providers/breadwinners. I guess this stems from the perspective developed from the hunter-gathering stage of human evolution. Men are supposed to be hunters, out for the kill so at the end of the day they have a beast to lay down their woman’s feet to feed the family for the coming days. The same today—men work backbreaking hours so that at the end of fifteen days he has a fat pay check to surrender to his commander. Men are not supposed to be doing domestic jobs such as housekeeping and raising kids. If a man does not have a car, a bank account, or a house of his own, don’t bother finding love anytime soon.

Society expects men to be physically attractive. Media these days has everything to say about what men should look like. They should be tall, well built, clean, handsome—the works of being a real gentleman. If you have a big tummy, unibrows, oily face, crooked teeth, too much hair, short height, it’s going to be a challenge finding a nice and lovely lady to fall in love with. Nerds and geeks have no place in a real man’s world as media would like to show.

Society expects men to be strong and not emotional. "Boys don’t cry" is a line often mentioned in song. Men aren't expected to watch chick flicks, read romance literature, or even write one. Men aren't supposed to be experience emotions such as giddiness, sentimentality, or utter despair. When women leave us for another, we are expected not to wail and whine like babies looking for their mothers. Men can’t be loud, talkative, and opinionated as these are qualities often associated with women.

Society expects men to be decisive and firm. Men shouldn't have difficulty making up their minds about something, let alone change their minds from time to time. Hence the reason why society used to give typhoons in the Philippines lady names like “Rosing” or “Bising” because of the erroneous belief that only women are temperamental, moody, and can change their mind at the drop of a hat. In times of crisis, men are supposed to show composure, without a hint of confusion and fear.

Society portrays all men as cheats. Let's face it: there are more films where men are portrayed as cheats. As if some women aren't capable of infidelity whether physical or emotional. If a guy notices a beautiful woman other than his girlfriend, women are quick to judge that they are cheaters. But when a woman goes mushing for a handsome, macho man other than her boyfriend, there is neither stigma nor judgement involved. And when a woman is being flirted on by other men other than her boyfriend, her friends will even say to her, "Ang haba ng hair mo girl!" Imagine how this could be cruel and demeaning for the boyfriend. Our society hails cougars but disdains older men in a relationship with younger women as dirty old men (DOMs).

At some point, I have no problem with these expectations if there are no thick lines that say these are what men are supposed to be. I understand that men have to work because it’s a necessity to survival, that men have to be well groomed because for health and hygiene reasons, that men have to be decisive at some point in a crisis, that man have to be strong in order to protect his family, that men have to be physically fit and healthy in order to accomplish his responsibilities as a guy.

But everywhere we look, there are thick lines that box us men inside these expectations.

Say, a guy gets laid off his job. He has difficulty finding one because of tough economic times. He is dubbed a bum, a hobo, a tambay (in Filipino, short for standby). Even if he stays in the house and take responsibility for domestic stuff like cleaning and laundry, the stigma of not having a job will always be there. Many men have been left by their wives just because they don’t have a job or preferred to stay at home to be house husbands instead of blue or white collar men who earn a fat pay check enough to buy women their whims and caprices in life.

"From time to time, men have to be the gatherers
and women have to be the hunters."
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not condoning indolence and laziness on the part of men. I’m just saying we should look at men and women fairly. When women stay a home and become housewives, nothing bad is said of them—which is a totally different case for men. This should not be the case; society has to accept the reversal of evolutionary gender roles. From time to time, men have to be the gatherers and women have to be the hunters.

I am also not condoning emotional instability. All I am saying here is men should be allowed to show some vulnerability when they have to. Like in the example above, when a woman leaves a man, can’t we cry out loud in pain like normal human beings do? Can we not show our despair through tears and wails, and be a total wreck from time to time? Can't we be like Will Smith in "The Pursuit of Happyness" who despite his many pitfalls, wrong turns, and despair in life still managed to turn it all around?

Men who do not cry end up being mass murderers; Have you ever seen a woman in a shooting rampage? No. Because women let it out when they’re sad. They are allowed to show weakness, insecurity, and fear. But us men, we are expected to show strength even when deep inside we are frail and unstable. Just as women, our emotional needs need to be taken care of too.

But the worst of these thick lines is how society makes it a requirement for men to be physically attractive. I guess that’s the reason why we have a proliferation of beauty products for men and tremendously vain metrosexuals. In the eyes of traditional women, we should always be the dashing prince out to save them from being locked up in their tower. If you’re not packing abs or sporting some muscle, you don’t get the girl’s number, you don’t get steaming hot sex, and you don’t get true love.

What society does not understand is how this distorted view causes a lot of insecurity in men perceived as not physically attractive. Hence, in order to make the cut, some men become unnatural by trying to be who they’re not. These men aspire for greater height, desire longer penises, and pushing themselves beyond their limit at the gym.

True. Physicality has something to do with finding the right partners in life. That in the evolutionary perspective, big muscles for men and big boobs for women signifies the capacity to procreate good offspring. But this is the same reason why the Nazis cleansed Germany of men and women who are perceived to be of bad genes. But we are not Nazis looking for true love. Hence, we shouldn't label nerdy, geeky, unibrow sporting men as degenerates.

We should not define manliness in the context of physique, capability, or capacity; manliness flows from the mere humanity of a person—how at the beginning, he cries in the face of fear, but still faces it with all might, how he provides not just material but also non-material things, how despite his imperfect self—he still loves you with everything he has.

True. Man has to be able to provide for himself. It is an indicator of whether he can take care of someone else in his life. The same should be true for women. We are not entering a relationship because we want somebody to take care of us. If it is for this reason, then we should more probably enter a nursing home or hire a caregiver instead. Men and women enter in a relationship out of their mutual want to live a life of love and care for each other. If you cannot give it to yourself, then how else can you be expected to give it to another person? If you only expect to receive love and care and not reciprocate it, why call it a relationship in the first place?

This paradigm shift goes both ways; it applies to how society traditionally and evolutionarily sees both men and women. I’m calling on society to take off the glasses of physicality and materialism and see people in the context of love and humanity. TSS
People shouldn't try so hard to change people; rather, we must change the way we look at people. - Anonymous

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Photo from Wikimedia.
SPOILER ALERT! Do not read this review if you haven't seen the film.

A lengthy, complicated, heart-fiddling musicale of repentance, redemption, revenge, and romance, set against the backdrop of a post-French Revolution rebellion in the streets of Paris. This is my attempt at encapsulating the essence of Tom Hooper's "Les Miserables" which I saw yesterday.

I haven't cried this much for a film since Disney-Pixar's "Up" back in 2009 (and it was only during the first 8 minutes). From beginning to end, my eyes felt wet on the lids and I was gushing down streams at around the part leading to the June Rebellion. I don't know if it was the film and its effective storytelling, powerful acting, and dynamic cast that made me cry, or maybe I just found a lot of personal implications in it.

I can relate the most to Hugh Jackman's character, Jean Valjean, whose life of poverty, hardship, and constant runaway from the law is somehow reminiscent of our own puny lives. Everyday, we run the race of life alone, our existence shackled by empty stomachs and sins of the past. Valjean is one person who vowed not to be shackled by his circumstances in life. With his new-found strength in God and the compassion shown to him by people he met along the way, he put redemption in his hands and became a factory owner and mayor of a little French town.

His redemption became ever more complete when he decided to reveal his true identity, as the ex-convict who broke parole and assumed a different name, as well as during the time he saved Fantine (played by Anne Hathaway) from her own quagmire. Fueled by his promise to Fantine, his mission becomes even more meaningful as he searches for the latter's illegitimate daughter Cosette (played by Amanda Seyfried), and vows to raise her as his own daughter. He does this while evading the path of Javert (played by Russell Crowe), a French prison guard fixated on his moral and lawful duty of bringing the criminal Valjean to justice.

But in our own state of grace, we become selfish as well. Hence, Valjean tries his best to elude Javert who threatens to cut short his state of grace--his new found life with Cosette. This selfishness is also reflected in his reluctance for the blossoming romance between her daughter and Marius Pontmercy (played by Eddie Redmayne). All of us share Valjean's struggle between choosing humanity and self-preservation. In the end, he committed the primal example for all of us to follow: sacrifice our own pleasures out of love for our fellow human beings, which he does so by saving Marius from the barricades and setting the Javert free when he was captured and held hostage by the June rebels for spying among their ranks. At the end of life, when his happiness all seemed over, he asks God to take him away and he sees Fantine's spirit leading him to Parisian heaven together with the June rebels.

Photo from
The most captivating exercise of self-sacrifice, however, was that of Eponine (played by Samantha Barks), the urchin daughter of the Thenardiers who enslaved the young Cosette prior to her rescue by Valjean. Blindly in love with Marius, she does everything for him including locating the whereabouts of Cosette and Valjean, as well as preventing the Thenardiers from committing robbery at their home. Her biggest sacrifice though is when she disguised herself as a man, hoping to die with Marius at the barricades during the June rebellion. Her love, no matter how tinged with envy for Cosette, is pure and chaste, wishing only the survival of Marius, a love which she powerfully expressed in "On My Own" and on her dying breath at the barricades. Admittedly, these scenes are where I cried the most, finding parallels of my own blind faith in a romance that was long gone.

Russell Crowe surprised everyone with his ability to deliver lines in song for his role as Javert. Anchored on his moral and legal duty as an inspector, he vows to hunt down Valjean to the very end, only relenting when the latter shows him an act of compassion by sparing his life. With the loss of his "moral axis", the very compass that directed his life, he ultimately commits suicide at the end of the film. Anne Hathaway is just as superb, with her fitting portrayal of a mother-turned-prostitute who succumbs to consumption and longs for the company of her lost daughter at the very edge of her life. She has every right to diss Ricky Lo with such fantastic acting and grace.

The destitute lives of the plebeians of Paris during the June revolution are set into motion by a superb ensemble which includes Aaron Tveit, George Blagden, Killian Donnelly, and Fra Fee. Amidst the sentimentality of revolution, poverty, and romance, there are genuine moments of laughter through the antics of the swindling Thenardier couple played by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen (who I mistook for Javier Bardem). Every character, even the child actors who played Gavroche and the young Cosette, pulls the right strings and pushes the right buttons with their excellent delivery, resulting in complete awestruck and delight if not buckets of tears. The cast definitely deserves the title of Best Ensemble/Cast for a musical.

In the end, "Les Miserables" sets the bar higher for a musical film; a bar previously held by equally magnificent films such as "Phantom of the Opera" and "Mama Mia". If you are into films with a lot drama, meaning, and purpose, rolled into a musical wrap, this is a film worth watching. You will surely find parallels in every character and their miserable but redeemed lives. TSS

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Photo from SkyscraperCity

I'm walking fast through the traffic lights

busy streets and busy lives
and all we know, is touch and go

Touch and go. This could well be the theme for 2012. I've touched base with different faces and places in different lengths and circumstances. All of them changed my life in some grand or minute way. If I mattered to them is a whole different story, which doesn't matter anymore.

Because in the end, tears have been cried, hearts have been hurt, scars have dried and faded. Soon a fresh start, a clean slate is miraculously served in front of you and there’s no way you can refuse it. After all, nothing good ever escapes.

So here I am feasting on a heaping plate of changes, feeling full and happy with how I started the year. Despite the state of singularity I am in, I am in a state of grace with all the gifts God rained down even before the year began. This is what happens when you don’t bring an umbrella in the midst of an abundance of rain from the Divine.


As if I can’t get enough of blogging, I purchased a new leather-bound diary to jot down my most private of thoughts as well as my daily routines. When life seems like a crazy spiral, it pays to have routines.

After being diagnosed as hypertensive and having hypertrophy back in October, I decided to start jogging in the mornings at a nearby cemetery. On some days, I would walk the big dogs of my friend Jonathan Samar and jog around my former school, Woodridge College. We normally end the routine with stretching and crunches in the school gym. On Saturdays, Jonathan and I, together with other friends Nolette Garcia and Ernie Sumayod, would play badminton (and I’m getting good at it!).

Thanks to my good friend (and president/chairperson emeritus of my fans’ club) Bella Bardollas, I met a wonderful community of Catholic Christians who changed the way I looked at Catholicism. The Feast @ Bonifacio Global City, led by its builder Bro. George Gabriel, has worship services every Saturday from starting 4 p.m. at the Topshelf of Fully Booked in Bonifacio High Street.

Since I ain’t spending my money anymore on laptop bags that get thrown out of a moving vehicle or trips that don’t even get recalled or valued, I decided to make the most out of it. I adopted a new budget policy and devoted myself in itemizing and reducing my expenses. I also joined a “paluwagan” with my badminton friends, the proceeds of which I plan to save in a bank account. I am now thinking on investing the money I will save in property or stocks.

Hey, I’m single and ready to mingle. What better way to attract the next (and perhaps, last) great love of my life than by sporting some new, fashionable attire and hairstyle? And with some great advice from my lady friends at work, I got a lot of pointers in personality development that could perhaps reel in the type of lady I really want to be with at this stage (and coming stages) of my life.

All these are works in progress. Just as Maynilad caused a lot of painstakingly slow traffic for quite some time in the streets of Bacoor or Las Piñas City, the changes I am experiencing right now are an exercise in discipline, determination, endurance, and loyalty. I’m sure someone out there can’t wait for me to give up soon; but no: This is a state of grace. This is the worthwhile fight.

And so while I ain’t perfect, I’m in this fight with all I got. There’s no certainty even obscurity in it—just the invisible hand of change which we can look always look forward to with cautious optimism. As long I am in a state of grace, nourished by the constantly stocked warehouse of God, I live, I’ll grow, and I'll forever be grateful for each day of my life. TSS
"Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still." - Chinese proverb

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


It has been said many times before.

New Year. Clean slate. Time to do away with all the things we didn’t get quite right the previous year. But normally, we’d think of these things individually; never in the collective context. For a communal society, aren’t we supposed to consider what things we should do away or even try to learn as a people? After all, any modest, mature society should get past its own imperfections right?

This is the question which bothered me as the year comes to a close. And just like every other question I asked, I took the liberty of answering it on my own. What should we Filipinos change or learn as a society this coming 2013?

Photo from
Notice how our choice of viewing pleasure hasn’t changed a lot in the past decades? Our viewing choices are so polarized; the smaller percentage of our population composed of the middle class and the elite still prefer made in Hollywood films and TV programs. The the masses, still prefers the cliché, overly melodramatic soaps dominated by quintessential archetypes that pull just the right heartstrings.

Take the example of how the critically-acclaimed film “Thy Womb” from Cannes Film Festival-renowned director Brillante Mendoza, got virtually snubbed by moviegoers and theatres during the Metro Manila Film Festival. Even as the film boasts a star-studded cast, majority of Filipinos still went for films such as “Sisterakas” or “Si Agimat, Si Enteng, at Ako”, which featured highly popular gay comedy, if not the classic slapstick, family comedy. When are we going to realize that films are no longer just a form of escape from our problems, but rather, a search for meaning and purpose? While strides have been made to introduce new genres in entertainment such as when “Amaya” gave us a glimpse of pre-Hispanic Philippines, more has to be done to completely change the mindset of our society.

Every time some foreign show bad mouths the Philippines or Filipinos even though it was meant as a joke or wasn’t intended at all, we are quick to resort to anger; an anger aggravated by our crowd mentality. While we shouldn’t let racism get the better of us, let us pick our battles very well and think twice before judging if certain remarks against our people were made intentionally or in the context of humor, or even just lost in translation.

Photo from
This is a classic: we chose our leaders like we chose our soap operas. Some senator looked awesome in his new action flick—BOOM!—gets another term. Some mayor danced really well during last year’s religious feast—BOOM!—gets all out support from her posse despite a pending disqualification case. Some nice guy gave out packs of relief goods with his name and picture on it—BOOM!—gets elected as local solon. When are we going to look at platforms? When are we going to scrutinize how they plan to lead us? I know for some it’s just about being pragmatic, but in the long run it just won’t work especially if it’s the country’s future that is at stake.

Whether queuing to get an NBI clearance, crossing Commonwealth Avenue, or spending Christmas at Luneta Park, we Filipinos will always find a way to break even the simplest of laws such as jaywalking, littering, or smoking in public places. If we can get away with it, we would always go for thrill or convenience rather than safety and conformity. No wonder, we can’t do something about the traffic or garbage problem because we can’t get the grassroots level (Us!) to cooperate!

Photo from
We are known to be cheerful folks even during calamities or emergencies, but there are times that call for sheer propriety so as not to offend other people concerned. Take the case of the Manila Bus Hostage Crisis in 2010 wherein gleeful students went on a picture-taking spree of the bus as if it were a tourist attraction instead of a crime scene and a grim memorial of the crisis. Another good example is when TV host Willie Revillame hollered about how the nation’s mourning for late President Corazon Aquino is ruining the festive mood of his noontime show. Learning what actions warrant certain events require a great deal of sensitivity, which in turn entails a lot of observation and forethought.

Let us all include these pointers in our bucket lists this 2013. After all, if we start with ourselves, soon enough this will be a collective effort. Let’s do this, not to appease other races, but for our own; it is our attitude as a country that will determine our fate as a nation. TSS

“Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” ~ Vince Lombardi, American football coach

Something Extra: What 2012 Taught Me

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