For the Sake of Ten
by Wilfredo G. Villanueva
Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?” “If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”
Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?” He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”
Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?” He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?” He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”
Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” — Genesis 18:20-32
Without making judgments that the beloved country is the new Sodom, let me refresh our collective memory:
One, a good number of us are not above committing crime to solve crime, such as when we are starry-eyed by the prospect of a Rudy Duterte presidency a.k.a. A Swift Hand at the Trigger Without Due Process;
Two, some of us are not above disrespecting the dead to prove parentage of another popular presidential aspirant, a ghoulish behavior in any age, epoch, or period in history (except as part of science to detect crime—forensics);
Three, a good 30 per cent of our voting population is staunchly supporting a candidate who has serious plunder charges which he chooses to ignore and instead focuses on gaining an elective position to ostensibly absolve him of his alleged crimes;
Four, still a good number of us, young and old, will for some reason or the other allow the return of a dictatorship whose expulsion from the country was met with widespread awe and admiration around the world for the people power that made it possible;
Five, slander and intrigue is what we eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner in traditional and social media, never mind the compelling reason to stick to the truth or the consequence of telling a lie, just to advance political agenda or destroy reputations;
Six, the most heinous behavior of all: heretofore religious people with crucifixes on their chests and who declare faithful ardor morning, noon and night are not above supporting a person who has overwhelming evidence filed or imputed against him for major crime, just because he is a fraternity brother or a neighbor or someone from the same city, province or region—just because.
What happened to the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit—charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity—when the baddies come strutting into town with promises of political salvation?
Where is charity, kindness, generosity, modesty in the heart of a thief?
Where is patience, peace, self-control in the heart of someone who is apprehending officer, judge, and executioner in one?
Where is charity and kindness in the heart of someone who openly supports a self-confessed summary executioner, or an alleged thief of public funds with glaring evidence against him, or someone who twists notarized declarations to circumvent law?
Chaste but overlooks adulterous behavior? Generous but accepts theft? Faithful but can live with honest mistakes?
So now we turn to Abraham’s story. What if God is The Punisher? What if he has had enough? We fill our churches to spilling point on Sundays and holy days but can separate faith from behavior, belief from attitude, God from political choice as a matter of convenience and expediency.
The priest at Holy Mass has a favorite story about a woman so devout that she has a full panoply of devotions, has a copy of every Bible version, misalettes, novena prayers. One day the priest was walking past the woman’s store and overheard the following conversation:
Woman to household maid: O, Amalia, it’s six o’clock. Are you done with your duties?
Amalia: Yes, ma’am.
W: Have you mixed water with the cooking oil?
A: Yes, ma’am.
W: Have you poured sand into the sack of rice?
A: Yes, ma’am.
W: Have you poured water into the can of kerosene?
A: Yes, ma’am.
W: O, come now, it’s time to pray the Rosary.
How consummate artists we are, that we can juggle faith and sin in one continuous stream of thought and behavior, treating both as consequences of our deep faith in the Almighty, as if the ability to memorize prayers and follow Church rules and tradition exempts us from basic good manners and right conduct.
Allow me to take us on a tour of the Philippines and other places where there are Filipinos as Abraham might have taken a tour of Sodom to find ten good men and women. I have found my ten but I will mask their identities. These are actual people—they will know who they are:
His mother needed a kidney. He volunteered, and his mother lives. He has gained weight for some reason I do not know. He lives in the U.S.A. but he remains a Filipino, taking care of his family, showing his love for his wife and children in Facebook, giving his son a hoverboard for Christmas on a modest salary, a true family man. He calls my daughter his kinakapatid (godsister) because she is the goddaughter of his mother, even if we scarcely see each other since they migrated. He keeps his being Filipino close to his heart. He doesn’t have to live in the beloved country to prove his love for it because he carries it with him.
Susan and most of her siblings reside in California, but when their mother was stricken with Alzheimer’s, they concentrated on providing a good home for their mother to stay in in the Philippines to ride the disease to its conclusion, painful as it was. A brother chose to sacrifice his comfortable life in the States to be with their mother in the Philippines. Susan and her siblings regularly visited their mother when she was alive. And they do not only take care of their mother. Susan’s year-round activity with sisters close to her residence is to set a balikbayan box in their living room and through the days of the year fill it with goodies for siblings who have stayed behind in the mother country. They send several boxes by the time they are finished. She never sulks, forgetting her own pain as she addresses the needs of her loved ones. Susan is legally blind.
Jenny comes from a wealthy family. She married a man who was below her family’s socio-economic class for love, exchanging a comfortable life for the struggle of marriage. She witnessed the steady decline of her husband’s fortunes as their children grew up, sacrificing all they had in the altar of education. There was not a single word of regret or recrimination from her, no blame-throwing, no druthers, as she toiled in the family kitchen herself, stretching the family budget to address all essential bills and expenses. She quietly watches her children grow in their careers, never a nag, has no barkada (close friends), no vices, the quintessential wife and mother. She is the center of her family and her husband feels a lump in his throat when he watches her enjoy her motherhood to the fullest extent in spite of outrageous fortune.
Robert and most of the brothers and sisters reside abroad, for they are part of the force of so-called Overseas Filipino Workers or the modern-day heroes of the Philippines. Trumpets do not blare and cymbals do not clash when they appear on the scene to honor their parents, making them as comfortable as possible in their twilight years, but they might as well appear with chariots on fire because their parents look to them as heroes. Without Robert and his brothers, the parents are sure that their lifestyle will not be as cushy as it is now.
He wasn’t born and raised in these parts, but when he retired in the United States with substantial savings and started a family here, he is making sure that his daughter by his marriage with his Filipino wife is not only well-provided for but will inherit a good country by his blogging on Philippine affairs which has caught the attention of Filipino society here and abroad. He is not a Filipino by birth but he is as Filipino as calamay and kutsinta.
Girlie is not well. She has had a bout with cancer, and lately her blood pressure was like 100/60 and she had to be hospitalized. She is yellow army, writes with a passion, using Facebook, Twitter, blog sites to support the present dispensation and show her support for Roxas-Robredo. To people close to her in virtual community, she is like a hunter at day’s end, regaling everyone with her adventures in battling Marcos trolls, Duterte die-hards, Poe-nuts and such denizens in the Philippine political firmament. When you read her posts, you wouldn’t guess that she’s battling disease.
Aida is nearing retirement age. She is unmarried. All her life, she has supported her siblings, adopting one of her nephews, putting him in school until he finished with a college degree, and treats him like her own son. Recently, she renovated her modest one-floor bungalow in a southern city of Metro Manila so that her siblings and their families can have a comfortable stay when they come visiting. She took out a life-insurance policy for her nephew and her nephew’s family and her house will form part of his inheritance.
She has health issues, walks with a limp, monitors her heart, takes maintenance meds for several conditions including arthritis, hypertension and a heart condition. Everyday of her life, she and her sister check on their eighty-five year-old mother who has diverticulitis and fainting spells, finding a nursing home for her, stretching her budget to place her in a single room. She can be moody because she also takes care of her grandchildren, a nanny being a luxury in Canada where she, her sister and mother live, but she has never said an unkind word to her mother, keeping her physical and emotional pain to herself. She has lived in Canada for a long time but she hasn’t forgotten filial piety and acceptance of long-suffering.
Dr. David Chan
He’s a renowned pulmonologist. He doesn’t charge his friends and is sensitive to the financial limitations of indigent patients. He not only answers requests for medical prescription for common cold or cough by text, he also remembers to follow up. “How are you doing?” he texts, “I hope the meds are working. Text me if cough is not relieved.” When a daughter of one of his friends had a lump in the chest area, he referred his friend to a thoracic surgeon, followed up on developments. This, despite the long line in his clinics in three hospitals throughout the day. When the friend was alarmed because something was detected in the child’s chest x-ray a year after operation, he himself brought his friend and his friend’s child to the x-ray room, explained the condition to the family to everyone’s relief and satisfaction. He also dispenses Christian sayings, having memorized portions of the Bible.
Matthew and his family live in Australia. They have a house there and are quite comfortable, but every Christmas, they would visit their grandmother and grandfather in Nueva Ecija just to sit with their grandfather, their grandmother having passed away two years ago. They do not do anything spectacular, just being the way they were in their hometown before they moved abroad, as if saying that they haven’t changed and will always be there for their grandparents. He placed his grandmother’s and grandfather’s photo in his Facebook cover. Matthew will always be the Filipino apo, come what may, he will be an apo to his lola and lolo.
God will not sweep away the Philippines from the face of the earth because Filipinos anywhere they are will always be Filipinos. They carry their country with them. We are flawed in making political choices, but when it comes to loving parents and grandparents, loving friends, loving children, loving spouses, that’s our strength. That’s where the world finds us. That’s our address. May God bless the Filipino nation this new year in home country and adopted domiciles, for they are as simple as little children in the way they love. Our love not only defines us, it can actually save us and lead us to the country of our aspirations.
My challenge to you, dear reader is to find your own ten good men and women. Mask their identities as I did, but make them real persons. Write down their heroic deeds in the comments section of this article if you want. Tell them why they’re on your list. Make it a love fest. Let’s storm heaven with petition to spare the beloved country of natural or man-made calamities such as earthquakes, storms, volcanic eruptions, electoral results in May that could eschew economic and moral progress, for the sake of our own ten.