St. John the Baptist’s Day:  Is the Spirit of Celebrating Still Alive?

Happy St. John the Baptist’s Day!

Anybody got splashed with water yesterday while riding a public utility vehicle or even a private vehicle for that matter?

As every Catholic must know every 24th day of the month of June is the celebration of this feast.  It is not celebrated as a holiday if it falls on a working or regular school day, but what makes this day memorable is that there are still areas in various cities and municipalities, especially in the provinces, all over the world, that celebrates this day.

In the Philippines, we celebrate the Feast of St. John the Baptist by throwing water unto an unsuspecting passerby or unto vehicles plying the road, drenching as many people as they can with hopefully clean water out of the pumps or faucet, but in some cases water coming from foul-smelling canals or esteros.

In other countries, it is celebrated with customs varying from location to location. “Typical customs may include the gathering of the perennial herb St. John’s Wort for medicinal, religious, or spiritual use. The collection of flowers for floral wreaths is popular. The wreaths are dried and hung in the house all year until the next St. John’s Day.   Fires are still important to many commemorators, used to represent Christ’s one brilliant light. While communal bonfires were traditional, many resort to small fires in the home that burn past midnight” (http://aglobalworld.com/holidays-around-the-world/st-johns-day-world/).

St. John’s Day is one of the oldest religious festivals celebrated by Christians.  The day is also celebrated in many other countries as the midsummer festival.  Midsummer is the period centered on the summer solstice.  Summer solstice is the time when the day is longest in the northern hemisphere and shortest in the southern hemisphere.  Originally a pagan festival, celebrations for the midsummer festival date back to the pre-Christian era.

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Are We Really Free?

A happy Monday morning, everyone!

And to all my countrymen:  Happy 119th Philippine Independence Day!

My regular blog post should have been published yesterday but since today we will be celebrating the anniversary of Philippine Independence, I decided to postpone publishing and cover our own local celebration of the said event.

Before the program started, of course, people were still milling around in their gorgeous Filipiniana attires, the city officials and department heads of local offices posing for posterity while the various sectors in their uniforms waited for the program to start.

The program started at around 7:30 in the morning with the entrance of colors, which means the entrance of the Philippine flag and the banner of the city.  

This was followed by the offering of flower wreath at the center of the public plaza, in front of the flag pole, by the City Mayor, Vice Mayor together with the Filipino World War II Veteran President of the city.

The twelve Philippine revolutionary flags followed, escorted by the twelve Sanggunian Panlungsod Members, and paraded up the stage, their brilliant red color so vibrant to represent the bravery and boldness of the Filipino soldiers in their fight for freedom against the Spanish oppression of that time.

Wreaths, pots and bouquets of flowers were also offered under the monuments of the two Philippine heroes the city honors, Andres Bonifacio and Dr. Jose P. Rizal.

The city officials then marched up the city hall’s balcony to reenact the first-ever Independence Day Celebration held in Cawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898.

The program ended after a dance presentation by the city representatives to the Panaad Folk Dance competition and by a young maiden singing “Ako ay Filipino”.

Every year, every local government units, anywhere in the Philippines try to recreate the spirit of patriotism evoke by the first celebration of the Philippine Independence and try to enliven the occasion and impart the values of such event in the younger generations.

Yet, with or without the sad events still happening in Marawi, are we really free?

With all our talks about freedom, aren’t we still bounded by some ideas that limit us from experiencing it totally?  Or aren’t we limited by our inhibitions to embrace the changes that comes with the times?  Or aren’t we afraid to accept the consequences brought by grasping it with both hands for fighting for it might mean giving up our everything for it?

Fighting for our freedom does not always mean taking up arms and walking up and down the streets shouting for it.  

Our everyday thoughts and actions, our efforts and struggles, towards liberation from pangs of hunger and escape from the shackles of poverty, are also embodiments of our continuing fight for freedom.  

We might say we are already a Republic, a democratic country freed from dominion of other countries, but still, our existence is a continuous struggle not only from domination of powerful countries who continuously try to plunder our natural resources but also from the debilitating effects of corruption for the past several decades.

Freedom has its many faces.  And our struggle to keep it can also vary in many ways.

Even within our ownselves, an inner struggle continues.  We wish to fight our tendencies to bury ourselves underneath seemingly unimportant desires for lavish spendings and luxurious things but we often fail to discipline and curb them.


We wish to have more courage and determination to crawl out of our hand-to-mouth existence, but opportunities to do so is just so out of our reach that despite working eight hours a day, five days a week, earning supposedly thousands of pesos per month but what we bring home at the end of a pay day is barely enough to tide us over a few days.

We might always know deep in our hearts the value or importance of freedom but for us whose struggles towards liberty from poverty and harsh existence is ever-continuing, we might feel it or see a glimpse of it at times we receive our bonuses but we would always seem just dream of it and pray that manna will hopefully fall from heaven.

Is Martial Law the Answer?

“People sometimes make wrong decisions to do the right thing,” So Yool, Chief Kim Korean drama. 

With the recent terrorism attack in Marawi City, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law in Mindanao on May 24, 2017.

But, what is martial law?

Martial law is the imposition of direct military control of normally civilian functions of the government, especially in response to a temporary emergency such as invasion or a major disaster, or in occupied territory.  (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martial_law).

When the president declared martial law on Mindanao, the reactions of the people vary from sarcasm to approval, from apprehension to relief, from loud protestations to noncommittal shrugs, from indignation to trust.  (http://www.rappler.com/technology/social-media/170749-martial-law-mindanao-netizens-reactions)

Many were reminded of the sad and harsh events of the Martial Law declared by former President Ferdinand E. Marcos on September 21, 1972 by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1081.  Military rule reigned in Philippines then for more than eight years until it was officially ended on January 17, 1981 by virtue of Presidential Decree no 2045.  Marcos, however, reserved decree-making powers for himself. (http://www.gov.ph/featured/declaration-of-martial-law/).

I was born on May 1, 1974, when martial law was still fully imposed and practically lived my pre-school age in the duration of the entire martial law era.  Despite my young age then, I could not remember my mother and my great grandmother ever complaining there is any difficulty in buying basic necessities for us to live in comfort and peace.  Back then, we lived in Barangay Sum-ag, Bacolod City, a barangay where the Visayan Maritime Academy (now known as VMA Global College) was established, and my mom was looking after a boarding house catering for students studying at the said academy.

I did remember talks about curfew but I believed it just helped make my mother’s  life easier in managing several young lads in their teenage years with their raging hormones and penchant for adventure and fun.  They are not allowed to be out of the house after 10 o’clock in the evening and their fear of violating that law kept them in check.

Since, I was still young to remember that much, I asked my mother what was it like during the martial law era.  

She recalled that except for a problem with shortage of rice for a short time, life in the province went on as smoothly and as normally as it was before martial law was declared.  There were talks, she said, of some people who were imprisoned for talking against the government and there were talks of summary killings but none that she had witnessed or known personally.  It seemed to me that life in the province had gone on as much as it was before the declaration.  

News and confessions of life of brutality during martial law, seemed to had affected the people in Manila, where the center of government had always been, more than it affected the lives of the people in the provinces.

Once again, martial law is declared in the Philippines, but only in Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in Mindanao following clashes between government forces and a group inspired by the so-called Islamic State in Marawi City. (http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/30/1703141/live-updates-martial-law-mindanao)

There were many vehement complaints and loud disapproval of this action by the President.  The question is: If you were on the President’s shoes at that time, what would you have done in response to such events in Mindanao?

If we are among the residents of Marawi would we be relieved to know that our country represented by the President is doing its utmost best to preserve the lives of affected by making its military rule in the face of such blatant threat towards the government rule, or would we feel more threatened because of the power juggle and apparent war going on?  Despite the hardships and difficulties they must be facing now, wouldn’t the Marawi residents feel more assured of their safety knowing the government is showing its effort to control the situation and that the government is displaying so much more backbone and political will over their dire situation?

Yes, there is that worry that so much power can be alluring and addictive.  But, times now are different.  People are more aware of their right as a people.  We now have a stronger Constitution that protects us from tyrannical rule.  President Duterte himself is aware of that.

President Rodrigo Duterte claims he’ll be the first to call for an end to martial law once Mindanao is “stable.” (http://www.rappler.com/nation/171654-duterte-end-martial-law)

Then let me go back to my featured quote at the beginning of this post.

“People sometimes make wrong decisions to do the right thing,” So Yool, Chief Kim Korean drama. 

To some people the declaration of martial law might have been a wrong decision to make despite its intention to do the right thing, but, sometimes certain situation calls for drastic measures. 

Let us call them to task when the need for such measure has extended its purpose.  That’s the time then for us to make our moves. For now, let the government prove its worth and its supremacy over terrorism.

God Save the Philippines (Poetry)

When peace and lives of our brethren,
With war and unrest is threatened.

What can we ever do to help,

When they themselves can only yelp?

When the guns just kept on firing

Their limbs trembled while in hiding.

If only someone would save them

Before they expire with a scream.

Lord, why is this war happening?

Is the world near to its ending?

Are the people so full of sins?

But, God, please save the Philippines!