Merry Christmas! Putang Ina Mo!
Merry Christmas! Putang Ina Mo!
Anno Domini 2016
By Edgar Lores
At the end of the year of the Lord 2016, we find ourselves in a divided world.
This bifurcated world is reflected in the title. On one side, we have the old world of tradition, of civility and of — dare I say? — gentleness and kindness.
On the other side, we have the new world of change, of incivility and of — I dare say — brutality and insanity.
This month last year, we were munching popcorn with our favorite drink at hand. We were on the edge of our seats with excitement, entertained by the political comings and goings in the presidential campaign of Election 2016.
Do you remember how it was? Early in the month, Grace Poe was disqualified (DQ) by the Comelec. Miriam Santiago was topping university polls. And the Comelec had not made a decision on the substitution of one Rodrigo Duterte for another candidate.
In the non-political and not-so-political sphere, the Supreme Court had granted Gloria Arroyo, adorned with neck brace, a Christmas and New Year furlough; German Chancellor Angela Merkel was named Time’s Person of the Year; the “tanim-bala” racket was causing much anger and grief; and President Aquino suspended military operations against the NPA.
Oh, yes, and typhoon Nona was raining cats and dogs.
Toward the end of the month, Poe had lost the bid to reverse the DQ ruling and in desperation had turned to an exhumation process. Thirteen were killed in staged attacks by the BIFF to show they were still a force to reckon with, and 8 were killed in an Abu Sayyaf clash with the army.
In the whirl and glamor of showbiz society, Pia Wurtzbach won the Miss Universe title; and, at the other extreme in the underbelly of society, a manhunt operation was launched to find a Bilibid escapee.
And, oh, yes Kanlaon volcano spewed ashes, perhaps to show that she too was a force to reckon with.
It seems the themes that predominated in December 2015 were: political wranglings, judicial wranglings, insurgency/bandit/army wranglings, natural catastrophes, and beauty pageant wranglings.
Now, I ask, has anything changed?
Well, yes and no. In a way, things have changed to remain the same. No, sorry, that’s not right. Things have changed to become worse.
I have a dreadful sense of deja vu.
- The dark horse, Rodrigo Duterte, won by more than a pockmarked nose.
- The once moribund NPA is in peace talks with the government and has lately developed new muscle and acquired increasing relevance.
- Gloria Arroyo, bereft of the charmed neck brace, was released and is now engaged in power plays. She managed to have her grandson released from illegal drug charges.
- Grace Poe retained her Senate seat thanks to the Supreme Court.
- Miriam Santiago passed away.
- Donald Trump won the US presidency and was named Time’s Person of the Year.
- Ferdinand Marcos was sneakily reburied.
- The Abu Sayyaf remains resurgent after allegedly receiving massive ransom amounts.
- There is a new terror group, the Maute gang, which has connections with ISIS.
- Tropical depression Marce raised a yellow alert.
- Leni Robredo resigned from Cabinet after being treated uncivilly.
- And Bongbong Marcos continues seeking to replace her in nefarious ways.
What has been a radical change, unspeakably dark, and unspeakably vast, is that 6,000 lives have been snuffed out in the space of 6 months. And there is no end in sight.
I wonder how Filipino Christians feel when they sing “Silent Night.”
Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, All is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
When they come to the second line of the first verse, do they feel in their hearts that “all is calm and all is bright?”
And when they reach the third to the last line of the last verse, do they know the “dawn of redeeming grace” from Jesus, “Son of God, love’s pure light?”
I have often thought that good and evil are twin undercurrents of the River of Life, which finds its source in God. He allows us to teach ourselves with the lessons of love or of suffering.
Aeschylus, the Greek tragedian, wrote: “He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”
I am not sure Aeschylus is totally right. He is right in that suffering is often the price we pay for wisdom but I reject the notion we must continuously suffer to learn. We can learn through ratiocination and projection, through the proper assessment of past wrongs and sufferings.
What I know is that we are offered the choice between a redeeming grace and an awful grace.
In our ignorance, anger, and arrogance, many of us blindly choose the awful grace.
And rather than sacrificing for others as Jesus did, we readily sacrifice others for self.
I know that many possess Christ consciousness and would follow in His footsteps. You wish that this world were not so divided between love and hatred. And you mourn for the lost lives. For the lives still to be lost. For the holy infants. And you pray and hope for peace and goodwill toward all men. All men.
Perhaps to stop the descent into the abyss, to fully restore civility and tradition, to heal the division in our world and in our hearts, we should greet each other with the reverse formula:
Happy New Year! And a Merry Christmas!
But I am not superstitious, so the old formulation should work. Just lose the curse, okay? Profanity is blasphemy.
What is important, I think, is to be aware that when you offer the greeting “Merry Christmas,” you truly understand what Christ embodies. Do not simply honor Him with your lips. You must honor Him with your heart, thoughts, and actions.
If you don’t understand, just say, “Happy Holidays!”
And if you do understand, you become, you are, as Christ said “the light of the world.”