Friday, January 09, 2015

ethics #003

Earlier today, an estimated 5 million Filipinos flocked to Quiapo, Manila to join the largest procession in the Philippines to celebrate the 408th anniversary of the Black Nazarene. In the process of this “tradition,” a man died. Also, there was a lot of screaming, cursing, pushing, shoving, and trampling on fellow human beings to get to a cross. Nothing can be more ironic than this spectacle.

On this side it looked like a tradition that had overstayed its welcome. Believe it or not, some traditions better cease to exist than being practiced. In Indonesia, it is a tradition for a particular tribe’s women to cut a segment of their fingers when their relative dies. In the Faroe Islands, an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, it is a tradition to slaughter hundreds of whales that could make an entire sea dark with blood.

Traditions can be subjective, especially if it has faith in its core. With our very own procession, as we witness the death, the injuries, and the wanton hurling of trash in the streets rise in numbers through the years, wouldn’t these go against the values of what is holy and divine? What happened to purity, discipline, and cleanliness?

Faith is a sensitive matter and a very tricky one, too.

There’s a father who insists on his wife and kids to go to church, but once inside he wouldn’t last 30 minutes through the service and leave. There’s a woman who preaches the teachings of the bible but remains bigoted and disapproving of what she deems not normal. There’s also a gay man who is partnered yet secretly frequents the cruising spots in town, pays for “service” with strangers, and by Sunday he would kneel down and pray, feeling all the promiscuity washed away with just the sign of the cross, saying he simply embraces who he is and all acts done are part of the process of accepting his true sexuality.

These are not made up. I know these people personally. It seems that faith can be bent at will, a switch that can be turned off when wanted. And it looks like some has an ambiguous idea of it—or have no idea at all. Featured in the news earlier, droves of people are in the middle of the procession like they’re ready for a rave party, expecting some sort of revelry.

Multi-awarded writer Nicolas Pichay shared to me on Facebook: “Our family are devotees of the Poong Nazareno. When I was younger, the procession was never anarchic. It had an internal order that valued solemnity and sacrifice. It is sad that the participants have forgotten this through the years.”

Truly, the essence of the procession has been relegated to the sidelines in favor of loud festivity, meticulous ceremonies, and head counts of attending celebrities. I am no saint, I have my errors. More so, I believe in the power of one’s faith. But at the end of the day, one has to ask: Does it have to be that way?

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