POSTSCRIPT / May 21, 2006 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Pinoys carry the joy of their faith abroad

WAKE-UP CALL: The Da Vinci Code (book and movie) has disturbed the equanimity of the Catholic world. But that may be for the good since most of us complacent believers need to be shaken up now and then so we do not fall asleep during our watch.

One consolation is that the world does not revolve around Da Vinci, which is just a minor and passing irritation.

For Sunday reading, let us change the topic and share this letter written by Steve Ray, author of many best-selling books, among them Crossing The Tiber (his conversion story), Upon This Rock (on the papacy), and just recently John’s Gospel (a comprehensive bible study guide and commentary).

Ray’s short letter, reproduced below, is addressed to Filipino Catholics.

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JOY IN FAITH: “We stepped into the church and it was old and a bit dark. Mass had just begun and we sat toward the front. We didn’t know what to expect here in Istanbul, Turkey. I guess we expected it to be a somber Mass, but quiet and somber it was not — I thought I heard angels joyously singing behind me.

“The voices were rich, melodic and beautiful. What I discovered as I spun around to look did not surprise me, because I had seen and heard the same thing in other churches around the world.

“It was not a choir of angels with feathered wings and halos but a group of delightful Filipino Catholics with smiles of delight and joy on their faces as they worshiped God and sang His praises. I had seen this many times before in Rome, in Israel , in the United States and other countries.

“Filipinos have special traits and they are beautifully expressed as I gazed at the happy throng giving thanks to God. What are the special traits which characterize these happy people? I will share a few that I have noticed — personal observations — as I have traveled around the world, including visits to the Philippines.

“FIRST, there is a sense of community, of family. These Filipino Christians did not sit apart from each other in different aisles. They sat together, closely. They didn’t just sing quietly, mumbling, or simply mouthing the words. No, they raised their voices in harmony together as though they enjoyed the sense of unity and communion among them. They are family even if they are not related.

“SECOND, they have an inner peace and joy which is rare in the world today. When most of the world’s citizens are worried and fretful, I have found Filipinos to have joy and peace — a deep sense of God’s love that overshadows them. They have problems too, and many in the Philippines have less material goods than others in the world, yet there is still a sense of happy trust in God and love of neighbor.

“THIRD, there is a love for God and for his Son Jesus that is almost synonymous with the word Filipino. There is also something that Filipinos are famous for around the world — their love for the Blessed Mother. Among the many Filipinos I have met, the affectionate title for Mary I always hear from their lips is ‘Mama Mary.’ For these gentle folks, Mary is not just a theological idea, a historical person, or a statue in a church — Mary is the mother of their Lord and their mother as well, their ‘mama.’

“The Philippines is a Catholic nation — the only such nation in Asia — and this wonderful country exports missionaries around the world. They are not hired to be missionaries, not official workers of the church. No, they are workers and educators, doctors, nurses and housekeepers that go to other lands and travel to the far reaches of the earth, and everywhere they go they take the joyous gospel of Jesus with them.

“They make a somber Mass joyful when they burst into song. They convict the pagan of sin as they always keep the love of Jesus and the Eucharist central in their lives.

“My hope and prayer, while I am here in the Philippines sharing my conversion story from Baptist Protestant to Roman Catholic, is that the Filipino people will continue to keep these precious qualities. I pray that they will continue loving their families, loving the Catholic Church, reading the Bible, loving Jesus, His Mother and the Eucharist.

“As many other religions and sects try to persuade them to leave the Church, may God give them the wisdom to defend the Catholic faith. As the world tempts them to sin and seek only money and fame and power, may God grant them the serenity to always remember that obedience to Christ and love for God is far more important than all the riches the world can offer.

“May the wonderful Filipino people continue to be a light of the Gospel to the whole world!”

(POSTSCRIPT thanks reader Ma. Christina Ricohermoso of etelecare.com for sharing Ray’s letter with the rest of our readers.)

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ACCUSER & JUDGE: The whole mining industry is awaiting with bated breath what a bishop, an unabashed anti-mining advocate, has to say about the mining project of Lafayette Phils. Inc. in Rapu Rapu, Albay.

I am referring to Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, who is chairman of the presidential Rapu Rapu Fact-Finding Commission that was supposed to hand in its report to President Gloria Arroyo last Friday.

The bishop handpicked the members of his commission that has been branded as a “deadly combination” of the Left and the anti-mining lobby. Its composition has not sat well with the local governments of Albay and Sorsogon.

How much weight will the opinion of its bishop-chairman have? Internally, will it sway the members of his commission?

Will the chairman and the members be able to distinguish between their personal biases and public welfare? The group, we have to point out, is operating on public funds. It is not a private entity.

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GMA ON THE SPOT: The Lafayette issue is bigger than the Australia-listed company itself. It is also bigger than the man of the cloth sitting on top of the commission participating in a regulatory act of government.

What the commission says will have a profound effect on mining. And since mining, responsible mining that is, is the key to unlocking the mineral wealth of the countryside — estimated to be worth some $3 trillion — its report will impact on the lives of the rural poor.

Foreign investors are watching how the government, particularly the Executive Branch, will handle the Bastes commission’s report.

Many of them would like to know, for instance, if a company like Lafayette that has been penalized, fined, and shut down for two mine spills last October would be allowed to redeem itself after meeting all the conditions imposed and following the rules.

President Arroyo herself is on the spot. Just about everyone in the mining industry knows that Bastes got the mandate to look into the Lafayette issue on Jan. 30 as bishops broke bread with the Chief Executive in Malacanang at a time when she was politically at a low point.

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ANTI-MINING: The case will be also a make-or-break for the Left and anti-mining groups in terms of credibility.

If the Bastes report is perceived to be biased and unsubstantiated, the anti-mining group will lose what little public support it has. Having realized the value of responsible mining, many people are looking forward to seeing the mining industry come in a big way in rehabilitating the country.

One problem of Bastes is that he has come out as anti-mining. Some observers are disturbed that the bishop who heads the fact-finding commission has publicly expressed his biases against mining.

As he now sits in effect as accuser and judge of Lafayette, he may drag down the entire commission — not to mention the industry and even the Palace — if his biases get the better of him.

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ON RECORD: Bastes has said on video that mining should not be allowed in the country.

Before the commission was organized, the bishop also said when he went to Rapu Rapu: “You probably heard that the seas of Sorsogon are dead because of mining… the effects of Lafayette mining. Our fish are no longer edible….”

Lafayette, under its new management, said it has met all the conditions set by the government and needs to test them to make sure they work properly. It said it would only use water and no chemicals.

The commission balked, saying it would be like experimenting with people’s lives. Lafayette said the commission can attend and monitor the tests and bring its experts. Still no go.

By refusing the tests, the Bastes Commission looks like it had painted itself into a corner. Let us see what its report says.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 21, 2006)

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