Category: church

carlos is not charlie

in january 2013, the day after the metropolitan trial court pronounced carlos celdran guilty of offending religious feelings when he posed as rizal brandishing a damaso placard in the manila cathedral, i blogged, in fairness to carlos celdran, reacting to the phrase “there being no mitigating … circumstance.”

“Wherefore, premises considered, accused Carlos Celdran is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of Offending the Religious Feelings under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code and applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, there being no mitigating and aggravating circumstance, he is hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment of two months and 21 days as minimum to one year, one month and 11 days…”

i argued that there were mitigating circumstances back in those last days of september 2010 that drove celdran to take drastic action on the 30th.

two days before, september 28, the new prez spoke out unequivocally in favor of RH in a town hall meeting with expats in san francisco, earning the royal ire of the church. on the morning of september 30, newspapers and websites screamed the shocker that the CBCP was threatening the president with excommunication for being pro-choice and endorsing artificial contraceptives. that very afternoon celdran dramatized his outrage by staging his rizal-bearing-damaso-placard act in the manila cathedral.

the CBCP denied that excommunication threat the very next day but it’s not clear now whose mistake it was, the bishops’ or the reporters’, and the damage had been done.

mid-december that same year, 2010, to get in the mood i found myself doing the nine dawn masses of simbang gabi with katrina.  i hadn’t been to mass in ages except for the occasional wedding or wake, but suddenly i was curious to hear the christmas story again and how the church is telling it in this day and age.  only to be super scandalized and offended by a pre-mass anti-RH video and, after the gospel reading, a sermon partly dedicated to the evils of RH, even, equating RH with abortion, na contrary daw to isaiah the prophet’s admonition to “observe what is right, and do what is just.”  argh.  i remembered celdran and wished i had a placard screaming IT’S A LIE!  except i’m not one to make a scene, lol.

but carlos celdran is, one to make a scene, and, provoked, he did just that, but not at a mass — the day headlines screamed that bishops were threatening the president with excommuncation, it was a thursday, nothing going on in churches, except that ecumenical ek-ek at the manila cathedral, puwede na rin.

i get naman the view that celdran should not have disrupted whatever was going on (or not) in the confines of the church.  he could have pulled his stunt outside, like maybe at the doorstep, or the gates, staged there a monologue, an update on how the RH bill was faring in congress, or why not a dialogue with pro-RH fans and/or critics, even, an impersonation of, not rizal, but damaso, raised consciousness in the process.  media would surely have covered the show.

and i agree, that jail sentence is too much.  celdran was standing up and speaking out for 7 out of 10 filipinos long in favor of an RH law, butting heads with a most powerful and adamantly anti-RH church, and that was brave, and singular.

but please, let’s stop with the charlie hebdo referencing.  celdran being sentenced to some months in jail for offending religious feelings is not in a category with the charlie hebdo staff being killed, executed, for offensive caricatures of allah’s prophet. ibang sitwasyon at ibang level naman ‘yon.  si celdran nga ay matagal nang humingi ng paumanhin sa simbahan at malamang ay hindi na uulit, samantalang ang charlie hebdo ay tuloy-tuloy lang ang banat sa muslim fundamentalists.  to what end nga ba.

The Predictable Failure of HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention in the Philippines

By Godofredo U. Stuart, MD

In the late 80s, I became immersed in the HIV epidemic in the U.S. So little was known then, a time of ignorance and fear—when doctors were afraid to take on HIV patients, even afraid to breathe the same air, fearful of blood splashes and needle sticks. In this milieu of fear and ignorance, I joined a clinic in Baltimore, one dedicated to providing HIV/AIDS treatment to a patient population of mostly gay men and IV drug users, staffed by nurses and mostly gay and lesbian volunteers who provided unbelievably compassionate care.

It took a while to get over my fears—at first refusing to share in pastries and cakes brought in by patients, needlessly double-gloving on simple examinations, and suffering sleepless nights when a patient’s nail caused a superficial skin injury.

It was a time when science offered nothing but hope—a few years before the first antiretroviral (AZT) became available. Likewise, the clinic offered nothing but hope and the promises of research and development. What was dispensed in abundance was education—anal sex, rectal tears, oral sex, needle sharing, safe sex practices, condom use, vaginal gels and condoms, sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis and tuberculosis, and an attempt at a comprehensible 101 on CD4 counts and how it relates to prognosis. Instead of candy, there were jars and bowls of condoms strategically placed in the clinic, refilled often enough to know that patients were pocketing handfuls for future use.

All the while, the Catholic Church ranted and rage, charged homosexuality with the spreading of AIDS, banned safe sex education and condom use.

As the epidemic continued to unfold, I was reassured by the minuscule numbers of the HIV infected in the Philippines.

Two decades later, the Philippine numbers are reported to be rising at “fast and furious” rate, a more than 500% increase from 2008 to 2012, and a 79% increase in new reported cases from 2012. The UNICEF reports the Philippines to be one of only two countries in Asia, and one of seven globally, where new HIV cases have increased by over 25% from 2001 to 2009. An Inquirer headline blazons ONE FILIPINO GETS HIV VIRUS EVERY 1.5 HOURS. In January 2013, DOH reports a total of 358 new cases in January 2013. Of the 358 new cases, 318 were through sexual contact, 148 of which were homosexual contact, and 40 were through sharing contaminated needles. Since the DOH registry opened in 1984, it has reported 16,516 cases, 1507 of which have developed AIDS, with 887 deaths.

For a population of more than 90 million, the numbers are still low. However, without an effective program of education and prevention, the potential looms for an epidemic, especially among the key populations with specific risk behaviors: unprotected male-to-male sex, commercial sex and IV drug use. Although the continuing rise in numbers of HIV infection reflects on the failures of education and prevention campaign, it is education that will continue to be key.

Constrained by language, sex education is a frustating task. In the HIV and AIDS, the constraints and limitations are doubly daunting. How do you explain to those less proficient in English that “anal sex can cause rectal tears that could facilitate the entry of HIV virus from the semen into the bloodstream”? In the vernacular, it’s a caution that can be easily translated and communicated.

Some may find the the vernacular too “bastos” for HIV/AIDS education. But for many in the affected patient population, English as default language will be ineffective. Education should be in a language comprehensible to most Filipinos, unabashed and uncensored, that will effectively and efficiently disseminate the necessary information on prevention. A vernacular or Taglish option should be made available for information dissemination to provide the necessary understanding of the disease—how the virus affects the immune system, cells counts and its prognostic implications, risk behaviors, safe sex practices, HIV in pregnancy, and the preventive use of condoms.

In 2010, Pope Benedict issued a statement that ended the Catholic Church’s absolute ban on condom use—that using condoms to prevent HIV can be “a first step in a movement toward a different, a more humane sexuality.” Still, the Philippine Catholic Church continues to wage a crusade against condom use.

Science has stripped HIV/AIDS of myths and misinformation. There are more than 15,000 diagnosed and living with the virus. An estimate suggests only 20% of the risk populations have been tested. There are many more infected, untested and unaware, who will continue to infect others. Most will eventually get sick—or, although asymptomatic, their cells counts and immune system will continue to decline—and require treatment. Although treatment is available to prolong survival or turn its incurable and fatal nature into a seemingly chronic disease state, many will not be able to afford therapy and basic health care services. Many will be consigned to suffer in secrecy and isolation, and their deaths veiled with some other diagnosis.

The key is prevention and education. Alas, in this country that is 85% Catholic, the church stands as the formidable barrier to HIV/AIDS prevention and education. Separation of church and state is myth. It holds sway over policies, politics, and politicians. It stands immutable in its stance against sex education and condom use.

Therein lies the predictable failure of HIV/AIDS prevention in this country.


The context of condom use among young adults in the Philippines: Implications for HIV prevention
Sex Education: Comic Failure of Language

catholic churches crumbled

it’s a miserable time for the people of bohol and cebu.  apart from the shock and terror of tuesday’s 7.2 earthquake, lives have been lost, homes do not feel safe, life is disrupted.  worst of all, even their churches, sacred places of refuge and spiritual renewal, are either in ruins, or damaged and unsafe.  a dark time indeed.

in anc’s beyond politics, geologist dr. carlo arcilla tried to look at the bright side: this was stronger than the 7.0 earthquake that hit haiti in 2010, but the death and destruction numbers are much much much lower, which he partly attributed (if i heard him correctly) to the building code.

yes, let’s count our blessings, it could have been much worse.  like, if oct 15 had been a schoolday, the kids would have been in school; if it had been a sunday, the churches would have been packed.  thank allah for that muslim holy day.

but speaking of the building code, and barraged with tv images of collapsed facades and towers, fallen roofs and walls, of centuries-old churches that were centers of prayer and worship for a predominantly catholic population, i am aghast at how unsafe these structures were pala.  and i am scandalized to find that church authorities have done very little, if anything, to render them safe for the daily and weekly ritual gatherings of the faithful.  too expensive?  too inconvenient?  easier to trust in divine protection?

this gross sin of omission i lay squarely at the door of the catholic church.  read Catholic Church has billions invested in BPI, Philex, San Miguel.  the catholic church, which does not pay taxes, can well afford the expense of retrofitting, conserving, restoring, old churches without the help of government, and without burdening the faithful with impious requests to dig deeper into empty pockets for the salvation of their souls.

this is not just a matter of history or heritage, it’s also a matter of life and death.


Bohol’s old churches: Nat’l treasures in peril Sept 1998
Historic Landmarks Reduced to Rubble by The Philippines Quake
Destruction of heritage churches lamented

praying for a pro-RH, pro-divorce, pro-gaymarriage pope

but mercury is retrograde in pisces until the 16th, so if a pope gets elected by then, chances are the chosen one would be a conservative.  if some time after, when mercury is again moving forward in earnest, then there’s hope for a forward-looking one, hopefully like john paul the 1st, though god forbid that he meet the same end.  but if conservative, i am sincerely praying it won’t be our own cardinal tagle just because it would most likely mean a hundred steps backward for reproductive health hereabouts, and who knows what else.