Iglesia ni Cristo

On Sunday morning, I was on Shaw at 8:30 looking for a place to have breakfast, surprised about the absence of traffic noise and not realizing that a rather sizeable crowd of Iglesia ni Cristo members was gathered in the intersection of EDSA and Shaw.

Some, those looking exhausted with bloodshot eyes, were holding their placards that obviously had only one provenance, mass produced for the occasion. Some of them looked as if they were attempting to keep sleep and fatigue at bay, trying their best not to look as if they’re uncertain about their decision to be there on EDSA. Some of those who have given up keeping the facade standing were sleeping on reflective mats sold to them by a few entrepreneurial members of the neutral public who had seized the moment to earn a little.

A man from Marinduque stood on stage and talked about how he abandoned his fear of public speaking and was with the Iglesia at this very critical moment in the history of the sect.

While walking in my slippers, torn shorts, and an old shirt, the thought of being caught in the maelstrom of history in this garb made me smile. It was a beautiful day; the sun was up, there’s a slight breeze, and the traffic of vehicles that normally gives EDSA its sinister character was absent. It was a nice feeling to be there if not for the giant amplifiers that blew everyone and everything that stood on the path of the sound waves emanating from it away.

A monstrous LED screen was showing the churches built by Iglesia all over the world, while a voice over in that super affected radio announcer pitch was explaining how architects have made sure that these structures are made to withstand any calamity – a super typhoon, a tsunami, even a massive earthquake.

At the back of the screen, placed in the concrete box islands that contain ornamental plants that are meant to make Shaw Boulevard less menacing were unopened boxes upon boxes of bottled water. A few meters away were portable toilets standing next to each other; a young-looking man was covering his nose with his shirt before entering one. The Iglesia was holding its ground and would not withdraw, it appeared.

Any well thinking individual, Iglesia members uncluding, I surmise, who have a little background on critical thinking will realize from the onset that the reason for the protest, framed within the premise of the call for separation of Church and State is but flawed.

The editorial of today’s Inquirer on the issue is written well, and calling the action of Iglesia ‘non-sense,’ is fearless. As the crowd of INC members dissipates today nothing is proved more than the waning relevance of the sect. That more than trying to throw a red herring from the real issue, it is their leaders’ attempt at testing how relevant Iglesia is still in a society moving toward modernity.

Political leaders genuflecting before that Disneyesque temple on Commonwealth months before elections will lose the respect of the rest of the population.

Leaders (Chiz Escudero [this guy is reeking with the stench of political opportunism], Marcos, Binay, and Poe) who support the brandishing of the laughable separation of church and state argument for fear of not getting Iglesia’s bloc vote come May 2016 elections do not deserve my vote (and I will file a leave from work for a day to do my voters’ registration just to make this point).

I found a tapsilogan near the corner of the street, had my fill, and went home, hearing on my way that same man telling his fellow believers that more Iglesia members were coming. Indeed all roads led to Manila yesterday for Iglesia ni Cristo believers. But what for and so what?


I am yet to figure out whether the word baroque which refers to “a period of artistic style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, architecture, literature, dance, and music” (from the ever reliable Wiki) is where the pejorative Filipino slang ‘barok’  came from.

Barok refers to the person, language, or way of doing that exhibits crassness, inappropriateness, lack of a sense of taste. In popular Filipino media, a stereotypical barok is a provincial lad arriving at the big city, unknowingly being taken advantage by a swindling Manileño whom he trusts his everything. The provinciano usually speaks with a heavy accent, which is usually Bisaya, dons a camisa chino and cotton pyjama ensemble, and carries a bayong.

It is hard to relate this barok from the baroque classical music that I listened to last night at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester. It was a concert by the Salisbury Singers entitled “Baroque Brilliance” that featured George Philipp Telemann’s and Johann Sebastian Bach’s music.

Not schooled in appreciating classical music, I only listen to what I think is worth listening; at its simplest, my taste in music is barok. I’d find myself switching from Wagner, to Eheads, to the Beatles, and the next minute to April Boy Regino. But if beauty transcends culture and a listener’s level of education, then something that is deemed beautiful is what it is no matter who is listening. And interestingly, despite the cold, and some glitches with my camera, I was able to enjoy the concert.

And felt last night’s music touching my soul, my spirit.

With all seriousness.

Visita iglesia

I asked a Mexican student here how the letter ‘s’ in words like ‘iglesia’ is enunciated. Is it like how my History teacher in college would as in /iglethia/ which I still find funny? Or the more phonetic /iglesya/? I breathed a sigh of relief when he said the latter. I could not bring myself to say /inthithuthion/ or /tholuthion/! But he warned me it’s Español de Mexico and not Español de España. This I shall not forget.

I will not be prejudiced against how the letter s is enunciated by the Spaniards. We all got options, and it’s all a matter of preference. I’m for the sibilant, or however you call it, /s/.

And so a couple of friends, B, and I went for a visita iglesia on Holy Thursday. It was my first. The idea is for one to visit as many Roman Catholic churches as he can and to pray the fourteen Stations of the Cross, ideally a station for each church. Doing so was a tall order so we settled only for eight churches. Still a feat considering the traffic, long ride, heat and humidity, and the crowd of Catholics who were to express their faith by doing their own visita iglesia. We went around Bulacan, a province north of Manila.

The altar of the Diocesan Shrine of Mary, Mother of Eucharist and Grace in Barangay San Vicente, Sta Maria, Bulacan. It has this other-worldly feel because the image of the Virgin is outside the church which can be seen from the inside through a clear glass panel.

Bas reliefs of angels found in a church museum beside the Diocesan Shrine of Mary, Mother of Eucharist and Grace. One would also find relics of saints and other icons in the museum, which despite the limited space was able to enthrall (this word sounds awkward here) me with the sculptures and paintings that were,  more than being religious, curious.

The belfry and facade of Inmaculada Concepcion parish church in Sta Maria, Bulacan. Outside, while waiting for the mass to finish, we ate fish balls and boiled corn. I may be mistaken, but one of our friends mentioned that beside it is a shrine for a saint whom people who are unable to walk pray. Those who were able to walk again offered their crutches to the saint.

Interior of Sta Rita de Cascia parish church in Guiguinto, Bulacan. This year’s Holy Thursday was unusually solemn because according to that same friend of ours in the previous years there were children hoisted a la Cirque du Soleil on the ceiling of the church portraying different scenes in the Christ’s Passion.

There was power black-out when we reached this church of Santissima Trinidad in Malolos, Bulacan. I found this the most modern-looking among the churches we visited. I failed to comprehend, however, the symbolism behind the glass stained eye-in-a-triangle (Eye of Providence) image.

Among the churches we visited, the Barasoain church or the parish of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is the most historic. It was found on the 10-peso note that is now out of circulation.

The cat was nowhere to be found.

The National Shrine of St. Anne found in Hagonoy, Bulacan. There’s a waterfall inside!

The Santa Isabel church in Malolos, Bulacan is nothing short of spectacular. But after having gone through six churches, it seemed quotidian although it truly was not. This was where I prayed the 9th Station, stuttering.

And finally, the Immaculate Conception (Major Seminary). Our last stop. The seminarians prepared well the three churches in the area for the visiting faithfuls — the paths were lighted, there were priests ready to hear confessions, and seminarians guided people around.

The exercise showed us one of the many things Filipinos would do to express their faith, the beauty of Philippine churches, patience, valuing the company of friends, and for me, the importance of taking part in this communal Catholic exercise once in a while.

I look forward to the next visita iglesia or iglesya (but definitely not /iglethia/).

On the changes happening

None of us, not even the most free-living of souls, would want to remain in this sorry state for good, would not want to be domesticated and be sort of pinned down to the ground. Novelty can be fatiguing at certain points. We all want to go back to a place where there is a sense of order in things, where we all feel secure and warm and feel and see the beauty behind waking up the following day and the days that follow in the same bed next to the same person.

I spent the entire morning today in front of the tube, aimlessly switching channels to recuperate from the onslaught of the previous week. I attempted to deaden my mind’s incessant worryings about the approaching week through the nefariously deadening programs on cable TV. I found the Chinese comedy shows hilariously incomprehensible, Arirang interestingly odd, the Indian soap operas alluringly ostentatious, and the American game and talk shows exasperatingly stupid.

At lunch time, instead of going to the nearest McDonald branch, I put on my aging trainers and pumped iron until around two. Feeling bored doing the routines I’ve been doing for the past two weeks, I ran back home to GA under the glaring 2pm sun.

I phoned him to check if he was already awake, but it turned out he’s still lingering in his bed recovering from last night’s outing with his friends. So I took a quick shower, went to his place, and forced him out of it. I accompanied him to the nearest supermarket to do the grocery, buy some Christmas decors, and back to his place to give his cupboards some semblance of order.

Then we heard mass.

These past months I came to realize that the entire process of domestication, the giving in to the quotidian, is not that bad after all. We all have to eventually succumb to the predictable and the known because only in this way can we give ourselves a break from the aches of the punishing what-will-bes.


My long absence from my blog allowed me time to reflect about the entire idea of cynicism, and why people in this part of the world are so adept at cloaking their mistrust of their fellows by feigning happiness and careless abandon. Now I have a clearer understanding why the guy seated next to me on a train straddles his backpack in front of him, choosing to look ridiculous than having his possession snatched from him by me or that guy with a suspect stare standing right in front of him, clutching the bacteria-strewn stainless bar.

My optimism about anything and everything that this city stands for has been totally demolished, confronting me with a cold reality of my insignificance and of everyone else’s who lives in this place. I want to spray sharp invectives at the first, second, third, and so on person I meet every time I leave my room darkened by the shadow of gloom of the building beside it.

It used to be easier to steer myself away from this cynicism before, but as I age, I found it more and more difficult to keep myself unconsumed by it, unscathed by it.

I’m back to writing now.

But I am not the same man.

Journey alone

I’ll turn my back on Manila this Thursday. I’ll  join Babe to Pampanga then we’ll part ways in San Fernando. I’ll be staying with my sister in Mabalacat until Friday then catch the first bus going to Baguio at Dau terminal in the morning. If my itinerary is followed to the minutest of details, I’ll reach Sagada by Saturday afternoon, that is, if I decide to stay a night in Baguio. This plan was finalized an hour ago. Other than basic facts such as what buses to take, where to take them, where to stay for the night, and where to get a clean meal (save delicious), I had to keep myself from reading descriptions of the trip and veered away from reading reviews of hotels and restaurants in the area. I want to reach Sagada with my sense of wonderment as whole as that of a five-year-old’s.

It’s a trip I have been dreaming about and finally embarking on alone. I am forgoing a Visayas trip with former college classmates at UP in favor of this sojourn. I’ve had too much of talks these past few months that I reached a point when I get nauseated whenever I hear any form of utterance. I do not want to spend this hard-to-come-by vacation in loquacity. I have deprived myself of this much needed introspection which can only be had by distancing myself a bit from all these things that caused me undue stress, and from my very self, including.

My backpack will contain only the most essential–a little cash, toiletries, clothing for two days, my laptop, a camera, and two paperbacks. Trips of spiritual nature, though I am far from being the spiritual sort, are best conducted in ascetic fashion and in solitude.

I tried my best not to sound like I romanticize solitude in writing this post as aside from the fact that I do not want to be called funny names such as troglodyte, recluse, solitary, anchorite, solitudinarian, or worse cave dweller and/or hermit, the whole concept is trite. I need somebody to survive. In retrospect, it was an illusion I cultivated during my teenage years: that I can be self-sufficient. A fallacious assumption. However, in spite of this realization I recently have, now that I am in my mid-20s, I still believe that I owe it to myself to seek quiet whenever chance lets me. And this is exactly what I am going to do in the next four days.

On the entire exercise of literary criticism

The character is enmeshed, to his consternation, in an almost inescapable trap he has unwittingly set himself in, a character caught in the architectonics of a metanarrative of dubious origin. In the middle of a cold, septic room, he beheld glimpses of seemingly unreal soirees of the supposed ambiguous but in fact meaningless discourses. Discourses that camouflage as a repetitious matrix of sensible ideas that crumble to dust upon closer scrutiny.