Escaping the Shadow of the Burqa

Merry Christmas world!

It’s been ages since I had the liberty to write on this blog. The Christmas season finally found me both the freedom and time to gather my thoughts and get it on paper.

Speaking of freedom, I stumbled upon this thought provoking documentary about Afghanistan, post Taliban era which reminded me that there are still people who do not enjoy such a privilege even if it has already been given them.

For the longest time, it seems Afghanistan culture fed the belief that women need to be protected to such an extreme that they should not allow their faces to be seen by strangers. Such protectiveness would have been flattering, had it not it been complemented by the tradition of forcing women into marriage, forcing women to submit to the dictates of close minded husbands, and, in the worst case scenario, forcing a woman into a marriage to a man willing to pay the family to own his bride.

The burqa. The cage within a veil that has been the instrument to limit women’s freedom to see and be seen. It’s no longer required, but a lot of Afghan men apparently still strongly believe their wives and sisters should wear it. They invoke the Koran as the basis for their opinion, none having the specific knowledge as to which passage justifies such oppression.

And speaking of oppression, this documentary shows its not just the women who were oppressed. The men continue to be oppressed by a culture that has not adapted to the fall of the Taliban. It looks like the Afghan people in general make fun of men who can’t pressure their female relatives to hide their faces behind the burqa. Absurd? I think so too.

A long established culture and it’s consequences won’t change over night. I hope the Afghan women make the most of their new found freedom, and not allow themselves to be shoved back in to the shadows.


Constantine 2005: confront evil and find the road to heaven…seriously?!

John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) is plagued with the unwanted gift of being able to see what normal people cannot. Wanting so badly to escape such circumstances, he attempts to take his life, fails, then spends the rest of his days as an exorcist – to buy his way back to heaven.

This was a movie that compels it’s audience to confront the existence of evil in the world. Or, as that chilling line goes, you may not believe in the devil, but he believes in you.

From a religious standpoint, this once again drives home the significance of God’s presence in our daily lives. The devil is definitely around watching, waiting for a way in to your life…and the less faith we have in God, the easier it is for the devil to sneak his way in.

Another point this movie leaves us to ponder is that road that truly leads to heaven. Can anyone really ‘buy back’ their way to heaven? How do you ‘buy’ what we have all been taught we need to earn?

The most unbelievable message in this movie is that a soul that ends up in hell can be negotiated into heaven…just as John Constantine did with a suicide victim…and his act of selflessness prevented the devil from taking his soul thus securing his entry to heaven. Absolutely the most laughable happy ending I have ever seen.


Does the Law of Attraction really work?

More than a decade ago, this movie titled The Secret came out. One of the speakers there was Esther Hicks who has this other persona she introduced to the public as Abraham Hicks. The movie and the seminars where Abraham speaks through Esther have a central theme: the law of attraction.

The message of the law simply put is this: you get what you predominantly think about. Think thoughts that make you happy, you feel happy. Then your life draws more and more circumstances that make you happy. Then the law states that the opposite is also true: predominant thoughts of what does not make you happy brings you more of that too.

It sounded so simple the devil’s advocate in me just had to ask if it really works. Does focusing on the positive really work or is it just blind optimism that will disappoint naive believers in the end?

I tested it for the last few months and what I realized is this: the law of attraction is not a quick fix. You will be disappointed if you practice the law with the expectation that miracles will happen overnight.

Here’s another realization: years of negative thinking won’t change overnight. The essence of Abraham Hicks’ seminars is taking control of what you think and guiding it in the direction where you feel good. Admittedly, I struggled to grasp this one. It was so difficult to catch a negative thought when it arises that it was difficult to also stop it in its tracks – that’s how natural negative thinking had become. For some, it has become part of our system that you can’t distinguish a negative thought from any other thought.

So going back to the question: does the law of attraction really work? Well, I didn’t lose anything for focusing on the positive. I was in a better mood and I got along better with people.

…and is negative thinking really responsible for all the bad things that happen to people? One thing is for sure: it does nothing to improve situation.

In the end, we need to decide: would you rather think positive thoughts which may or may not improve your situation, or think negative thoughts which definitely will not help in any way? Yeah, tough call.


The truth behind Lights Out, the movie

Lights Out is a horror movie about a mental patient, Diana, who haunts the family of Sophie, another mental patient she befriended when they were in confinement. Diana had a rare skin disorder wherein her skin was oversensitive to light. She died when a doctor, in an attempt to cure her, performed an experiment and over exposed her to light.

Sophie, previously confined for depression, got out of the institution. But her depression recurs as Diana’s spirit continues to follow her and gets in the way of her getting any medication. As Sophie’s depression progresses, so does Diana’s presence in her life as her only ‘friend.’ Sophie is lured into surroundings of near total darkness – Diana’s refuge from even the slightest ray of light which can burn her skin.

Unfortunately, Diana is a friend who doesn’t want to share Sophie with anyone else – including her two former husbands who, Sophie was made to believe abandoned her and her children, but it turns out Diana killed.

Diana’s obsessive grip on Sophie goes too far when she goes after Sophie’s children, Rebecca and Martin. Rebecca, having grown into adulthood, moved out of the house where she grew up feeling Diana’s presence. Martin, her younger brother who still lives with his mother, experiences the same presence she did. Rebecca moves back in and, upon learning about Diana’s sensitivity to light, keeps the entire house lighted to keep Diana away. Diana, refusing to be kept away, sabotages the main power source in the basement. She succeeds in luring Rebecca and Martin to the basement, where they remained trapped until the police came to let them out.

In the end, Sophie came out of the dark holding a pistol to her head. Knowing that she was Diana’s only link to the human world, she shoots herself as the only way to stop Diana from killing her children.

This was an apparently fictional movie which has some touch of reality. Depression is definitely real, and it can create a feeling of such intense loneliness that a victim would rather create an imaginary friend than be alone. No matter how sick anyone is in the head, a mother will come to her senses when her children are under attack and need her protection – nothing fictional about that.



The Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando, FL frequently visited by the gay community, was subject to a bombing by a New york born radicalist named Omar Matteen. The attack has been branded as an act of terrorism, but the authorities are still unclear on why the attacker chose a gay nightclub in particular. Reports say the attack was motivated by revenge after a series of U.S. attacks on Afghanistan, the attackers supposed homeland. Absent evidence of ties to any terrorist group, the authorities stand by the assumption that the attackers radicalism is homegrown and ignited by extremist information and propaganda gracing the internet. Reports say the weapons used in the attack were all legally obtained and licensed. The incident brought to light the issues of gun control and possible LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual) discrimination.

More importantly, the incident brings to the forefront the divide between Democratic and Republican presidential aspirants the issue of unbridled migration and its connection to terrorism.

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump wants a ban on Muslim migration. He stands on the premise that Muslims hate everyone from Jews to Christians, and everyone else in between – an attitude that cannot survive an open and tolerant society.

U.S. President Barrack Obama, however, apparently disagrees with such a proposal since it will discriminate against Muslims who, though of a different faith, are still Americans. Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton prefers to articulate measures to combat terrorism and gun violence in American soil.

Donald Trump is coming from a point of generalization that all Muslims are incapable of tolerating anyone different from them. This is blatantly wrong since not all Muslims, just like not all human beings, are the same. A total ban on Muslim migration would be discriminatory because it will prejudice even those Muslims who have no connection to terrorism.

At the same time, prevention is better than cure, and no amount of policies to combat terrorism and illegal use of firearms will bring back the lives of people sacrificed each time the government fails in their drive to abort such acts at their conception.

Perhaps the best compromise is not a total ban on Muslim migration, but an increase in monitoring all migrants who arouse suspicion of terrorist tendencies, regardless of religion. It is not discrimination if all migrants in the same circumstances will be treated the same. It is not discrimination if there is a clear distinction that justifies a different treatment.

Not all Muslim migrants should be subject to the magnifying glass of the government – just those who appear suspicious of intending to disturb the peace and order of society.


The Spotlight on Catholic Hypocrisy

Spotlight is actually the title of a movie, in reference to a sub group within The Boston Globe which specialize in investigative journalism. One of the subjects brought under their scrutiny was the pedophile priest John Georghan. The investigation was triggered by an allegation that the Boston Archbishop Cardinal Law was aware of the priest’s abusive behavior but chose to do nothing – other than move the priest from one parish to another.

The investigation led to a discovery of more abusive priests (the movie and further research could not arrive at an exact figure, but it was along the lines of ninety to two hundred), and more evidence of the Boston Archbishop’s knowledge of the abuses. It also led to a discovery of lawsuits and secret settlements, and a court order to seal records as a means to prevent the priest’s personnel information from being made public.

After a year long investigation on abuses that spanned a decade, the Spotlight went public with their discoveries, with an invitation to victims to tell their stories. This opens the floodgates to a series of accounts from adults who were subjected to sexual abuse from priests during their childhood.

The intention of the film was to highlight the power of the press in bringing out in to the open what the powers that be would rather sweep under the rug. The film was graced with scenes of conflict between a press aimed at uncovering the truth by picking at issues that seem to be hiding behind a smoke screen, and the powers that are apparently reluctant to discuss such issues on the record.

Be that as it may, the incidental consequence of the movie cannot be ignored – it puts the hypocrisy plaguing the Catholic church under the spotlight. A religion whose leaders take a vow of celibacy, just to take the uncontrolled desires of the human flesh out on helpless children. A religion that prides itself in righteousness, is actually led by people who knowingly wrong their fellowmen. A religion that demands repentance of sins, but pretends no sins have been committed by their leaders.

Being raised in the Catholic faith and having gone to Catholic schools, I experienced first hand how their authorities brainwash children into submission by planting the belief that a priest *, being a man of God, can do no wrong. Therefore, if a priest commits a sexual act on a child too naive to object, it cannot possibly be wrong. Or, as one of the characters in the movie posed the question, who says no to God?

Hmmm….perhaps hypocrisy was an inaccurate description. Blasphemy is more like it.

* since I’ve made reference to personal experience, I’d like to add this side note as a deviation from the movie which vilified priests. Catholic nuns are no angels either. Their over the top self righteousness can be nauseating. Their imposition of corporal punishment can be inhuman. I got the impression they sincerely believed what they were doing was right as they saw themselves as a personification of God…yup, blasphemy at its worst.


Priest Delivers Sermon on Hoverboard

The season to be jolly continues…along with the local Catholic tradition of going to church in the wee hours of the morning for some days before Christmas.

A priest decided to innovate and ride a hoverboard as he sang his way in to the church to deliver his sermon. Unfortunately, his spirit of innovation was not so well received by the ever conservative Catholic community. Some authorities of the church took the opportunity to remind the public of the solemnity of the mass and that it is not a venue for jokes or humor.

Hmmm….I’ve attended a Catholic mass a few times and I don’t think this is the first time a priest deviated from the tradition of solemnity. Frankly, I think the best sermons are those delivered with humor and simplicity.

It goes without saying that the parables of the bible are difficult to grasp in the symbolic way it is presented. It is even more difficult to sit through an hour or so long sermon and remain awake, in the company of a priest who drones on and on about the word of God, unmindful of whether or not his audience is getting the message. People visit the house of God for one main purpose – to feed their souls. Although well intentioned, many end up dozing off because Gods’ messenger bored the life out of them.

I think we should admire priests (or anyone dedicating their time to public speaking) who are creative and considerate enough to acknowledge the limitations of the human attention span and modify their approach accordingly. After all, the main purpose of going to church would be defeated if the audience, though physically present, are mentally and spiritually a drift towards dreamland.

Merry Christmas everyone and hope your New Year will be a loud blast!



The Iglesia ni Cristo (hereinafter referred to as INC) have been using the Separation of Church and State doctrine to validate their protests over how the government is dealing with illegal detention charges against the INC administration.

The whole controversy stems from the illegal detention and death threat claims of 2 expelled ministers who were allegedly expelled for causing a rift within the strongly united church. Another expelled minister claims that the administration is known for abductions and detentions geared towards downplaying corruption charges against the INC chief auditor. Illegal detention and issuance of death threats, both falling within the realm of punishable crimes, has justified the intervention of the government to investigate further and bring the INC administration to justice should their accountability be established. Now enter the flock of obedient INC followers who have taken to the streets protesting the government’s intervention and clamoring for separation of church and state.

First off, what is the separation of church and state doctrine? It is the principle which prevents the government from meddling with the affairs of any religion. These affairs include beliefs and principles they require their followers to abide by, programs intended to further the teachings of their church, internal and administrative matters which the religious group has the autonomy to address. The doctrine was never intended to place any religion beyond the reach of the long arm of the law.

That being said, the INC contention is clearly misplaced because the government’s intervention is not on the affairs of their church but on the reported commission of a crime. The government intervened upon the behest of expelled ministers who sought the protection of the state under the belief that they cannot protect themselves. The obligation of the state to protect their citizens outweighs the INC demand to respect their independence.

On a similar note, a senator turned presidential wannabee joined the band wagon and defended the INC, saying the group is just fighting for religious freedom (smirk, laugh out loud, smirk….).

My humble understanding of religious freedom or freedom of religious worship is the non intervention of the government in individual decisions on what religion to follow. Again, this is a principle intended to prevent the government from advocating any religion, to avoid that consequence of downplaying other religions.

Exactly how this doctrine comes into play in the INC controversy is beyond my cerebral capacity to comprehend. Not only is the government not advocating any religion, it is also not stopping the INC from exercising theirs. The government (not to mention the public) has been more than tolerant when the INC took their protest to the busiest streets in Manila and clogged the traffic until the unholy hours of the morning.

While the INC followers blindly obeyed orders to position themselves on the streets and shout separation of church and state without an understanding of what the phrase even means, it is a wonder if they could at least hear everyone else clamoring for their right to move about freely and get home early – too bad, freedom from traffic and rants from ignorant people is not a constitutional right.



Jesus, I will follow you…yeah right! Its been a few weeks since I attended Sunday worship. Lo and behold, I was welcomed back by a faith-provoking sermon on people who have made a commitment to follow Jesus. Its funny how many people make this commitment without a genuine understanding of the sacrifice it entails and the price to pay.

The whole concept can be summed up in two words: total surrender. Surrender of everything we find security in. That should explain what makes it so difficult. Who in his rational mind would give up home, car and bank account that took years to build up? Total surrender is not limited to material manifestations. It also means not worrying another minute about keeping your job, not worrying another minute about your meeting with the big boss, your long overdue report, your relative who has gone astray, your business that’s on the brink of bankruptcy, your deteriorating health…and as the list goes on, it becomes more evident why its so difficult to just follow Jesus. People by nature fear the unknown, and nothing is more scary than not knowing what the future holds.

Admittedly, I haven’t reached that stage of total surrender since I made the commitment to do so five years ago. Circumstances in my life have to get downright unmanageable, I have to have absolutely no option left before I totally surrender. Ironically, its during those times of total surrender that my life becomes comparably easier than those times I could handle and chose to do so on my own. I have no explanation, other than we can only know the power that He holds when we truly see how deep our weakness goes (Steven Curtis Chapman, His Strength is Perfect).

Its time to stop pretending to be strong. Its time to forget what the future holds, and remember who holds the future.

Sex starts in the kitchen

Advanced Happy Valentines! No, this is not some kinky article about foreplay on top of the kitchen table as you and your flame sizzle your way to the bedroom. I just came back from Sunday worship and the pastor delivered this line which engraved itself into my memory.

Given the above premise, you can expect this to be a wholesome article about sex in the light of Christian values. Sex within marriage. Another line that I can’t seem to shake off is this: there are no illegitimate children, only irresponsible parents. Of course, excluded from this generalization are the children resulting from abuse.

The theme of this Sunday’s sermon was about making marriage work. It was about making your spouse your best friend through the mutual act of give and take. About mutual respect. There can be no love without respect, and there can be no meaningful sex without love.

Sex was God’s divine plan for Adam and Eve. It was intended to be beautiful and fulfilling in itself, without the commercialized glorification that Hollywood brought into the picture. But in order for sex to be within God’s divine plan, it is important to understand why God invented the act in the first place. Sex was invented for procreation when God told Adam and Eve to ‘go and multiply.’

However, God did not command Adam to grab Eve by the hair, throw her down and demand her to put out. God ordered Eve into submission, but never intended for Eve to submit against her will. Of course not…sex starts in the kitchen.

If a husband wants to score, he has to win his wife over by helping her out in the house, particularly in the kitchen where she does most of the work. A husband can’t expect his wife to have the energy for sex when she’s exhausted from doing all the work around the house. Husbands, help out with the housework, and you can be assured of your night in paradise. Gotcha?!