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Archive for February 2008

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Losing my religion

As I often tell others, the works of the late evangelical thinker Francis Schaeffer steered me towards an intense study of the intellectual integrity of biblical Christianity in my university years.There I was, struggling with the proposition that faith has become irrelevant, when a friend of mine mentioned Schaeffer to me. Reading his works and getting acquainted with the L’Abri community he had founded, I became convinced that evangelicalism still has something important to say to world. I have since transcended Schaeffer’s approach to philosophy but I owe him a great debt of gratitude for steering me to stay on course. Hence it would come as a surprise to me when I learned later that his beloved son Franky had converted to the Orthodox faith, decrying all that his father had stood for as a big fraud. Recently, Franky would publish his memoirs of his family’s life in L’Abri, aptly entitled ( or is it derisively entitled ?) Crazy for God. OS Guinness, who knew the Schaeffers well as a partner in the ministry (and would later on part ways with Francis over a disagreement on the issue of ministry direction) writes a well-considered review of Franky’s book, disputing the caricature the son had reduced the father into in the book. With many others, I hope Franky would write a riposte to the Guinness piece.


John Marks , a well-known media personality in the US, is another self-confessed former evangelical. He has written a book accounting for how he got saved and was lost again. Read here a thoughtful review of the book by an evangelical who stayed in the faith, as found in the pages of Books and Culture.

Written by Romel

February 27, 2008 at 12:02 am

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Out of Touch

Like the majority in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), our leaders in the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) have been out of touch with reality. The PCEC recently issued a statement on the ZTE-FG Broadband scandal, occasioned by Jun Lozada’s damning testimony linking the First Gentleman to the multi-million dollar scam. This is the PCEC’s statement:

The emotional testimony of Jun Lozada before the Senate has been the favorite topic in many discussions in all levels of our society. However one views his words and actions, his revelations on the ZTE and other projects deserve greater attention and further investigation.

We appreciate the Senate for starting this investigation and bringing this to the attention of the Filipino people. But before the whole issue is muddled up with too much politicking, let us get to the bottom of it, fast. Let the truth be known, let culpability be determined and punishment be meted to those who will be found guilty.

We call on the Senate, Congress, and the President to form an independent, non-partisan, credible body to investigate the case and look at any legislative and/or executive remedy to
hasten the filing, prosecution, and punishment of those who are guilty. Time is of the essence here. Our people have long been subjected to accusations and charges that are left hanging. The whole system of government—legislative, executive, and judicial—is being eroded.

We affirm the President’s legitimacy as our leader. We are asking those who are planning to replace her using extra constitutional means to be prudent. Our nation can no longer bear any political upheaval. Let’s just wait for the 2010 elections.

We call on all Filipinos who are called by God’s Name, whether in government or in private sector, to go on a more serious reflection and prayerful self examination… How come
that the figures and percentage on bribes are getting higher? How much is needed to satisfy “moderate greed”? Since when have we embraced “permissible zone” as part of our ethics? Why have we become so good at being so bad? Have we forgotten the reason for our disgrace?

Moreover, we call on God’s people to pray—to ask God to “bestow the blessings of Deuteronomy 28” upon our godly leaders and to “rain down the curses” upon our leaders who persist in violating His laws.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people”
(Proverbs 14:34).

We plead with you to listen to this warning: “… But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3). It is in turning away from sin and seeking God can we hope for healing for this beloved land.

PCEC Board of Directors

14 February 2008

For more information, please call
Bishop Efraim M. Tendero at tel. no.
913-1658; fax nos. 913-1655 to 57
(local 601); or email us at

(emphasis supplied)

The PCEC has been turning a blind eye to the truth that all this goes all the way back to the one who has been illegitimately occupying the Office of the President, to the one who cheated her way to office, to the one who herself, presided over the signing of the graft-ridden ZTE broadband contract in China. One only needs to go over the PCEC’s previous statements on the same, long-running problem named Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and see how blinded they have become to the truth. They just don’t get it. I therefore call on our PCEC leaders to repent from their obstinate refusal to see the truth for what it is. The Inquirer’s editorial on the failure of the CBCP to the same is apropos.

The Christian thing to do is to hold Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to account for her failure to abide by her oath of office and to ask her to resign.

Written by Romel

February 15, 2008 at 5:29 am

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with one comment

Sadness on Valentines’ Day

A poem by April Bernard (New York Review of Books, Nov. 2, 2006 issue)


I pine. There is an obstacle to our love.

Every time I hear the postman, I think: At last, the letter!
He has overcome the obstacle —

(It is a large obstacle, an actual alp, with a tree line
and sheer rock face streaked with snow even in July)

— for love of me! For three years, nine decades, and one century
or so, there has been no letter. I still wait for the letter.

But lately I wonder if my predicament is outside the human,
neither noble nor farcical; if my heart courts pain

because it aims for immortality, something grander
than I can imagine. Most of what I imagine,

what I want, is small: Hands with mine in the sink, washing dishes,
the smell of wool, feet tangling mine in bed. I know

the gods punish the proud, but I do not yet know
why they punish the humble. Although after all

it is not humble to ask, every minute or so, for happiness.


On the way to work this morning, the breaking news from friends: two people whom we knew held so much promise, perished in a car crash as they were driving to work. A bus lost its brakes and plowed into the path of other vehicles, and rammed into their car.

On Valentines Day, Pastor Kevin Alamag and his wife Belle left behind two little ones.

I remember Kuya Kevin and his improbable life story — a son of a desaparecido, he grew up and was educated in the Catholic convent in the days of revolutionary ferment in the mountains of Abra; At a young age, he joined the communist guerillas to fight the government. But he met a miracle in the battlefield: one of his commanders, who had become a Christian, shared to him the Good News of Jesus Christ. It would change his life forever

His journey from the mountain jungles of Abra to the fastness of Diliman is itself quite a story. After receiving a notice that he had been accepted into the state university, he hitched a ride on a logging truck, not quite knowing how to get to Quezon City. But get there he did, with only a few clothes and a few pesos to see him through. His first week at UP, he slept at the Sunken Garden, because he had no money to pay for a room in a student’s dormitory. A kindly dormitory manager at the now defunct Narra Residence Hall would eventually take pity on him, giving him a room and a job.

After earning a communications degree at UP, he worked as a writer/researcher for ABS-CBN, but soon, he found the pull of ministry irresistible. He went to seminary and it was there where he met Ate Belle.

I came to know Kuya Kevin when he became associate pastor at our small student-led church. I remember his first fumbling, if very bookish, sermon. And I remember how little by little he grew into a well-loved preacher. With a growing family (Ate Belle, after graduation, worked at seminary as registrar, until recently) he eventually moved to a big and a very challenging assignment, outside the familiar comforts of our denomination — to UP’s old Protestant church. An evangelical in a mainline church, Kuya Kevin’s mettle as a pastor was severely tested. But I can say he acquitted himself well there, with a preaching ministry that drew people to the church. He tried hard to bring the church back to its evangelical roots and I believe by the time he transferred to the Greenhills Christian Fellowship, he had made many in the congregation realize how far they’ve pulled themselves away from the vitality of faith, from that Old Time religion, as the hymn says.

Increase our faith, O Lord, in our moments of doubt. Be our comfort in our times of grief.

Written by Romel

February 14, 2008 at 3:42 am

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Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L’Engle was a self-confessed Christian who sought to infuse her work as a writer with what she believed to be true. In this she did not in any way sacrifice her gift of creativity (though she had her own share of controversies in the often-contentious world of Christian publishing). I write in the past tense because I just discovered, after reading a tribute from her long-time friend and collaborator, the Christian poet Luci Shaw, that L’Engle had passed away. Reading Shaw’s memories of L’Engle somehow reminded me of Dorothy Sayers, another Christian writer (and British dame) who also answered to the description Shaw has of her departed friend, compatriot and literary hero: “a powerful woman, large-hearted, fearless, quixotic, profoundly imaginative, unwilling to settle for mediocrity.”

Written by Romel

February 11, 2008 at 2:24 am

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The Comedy of Corruption

Filipinos are among the happiest people in the world. They know how to get a good laugh out of the worst situations. They simply grin and bear it. Just consider how they get back at corrupt public officials — through countless jokes passed around by SMS. The Erap jokes come to mind. But can they match the Italians in the game of making humor an effective anti-corruption measure?

In connection with the raging brouhaha over the “ZTE-FG” Broadband Scandal, methinks Filipinos can learn a thing or two from an Italian comedian — on how to take humor farther and use it to fight corruption, literally. Beppe Grillo is a national celebrity in his home country for doing just that, not only using political satire as a tool to shame corrupt public officials but also as a tool of some sort to prosecute them. New Yorker correspondent Tom Mueller writes how Grillo became a comedian of corruption, and how his brand of humor has led to the public undoing — and prosecution — of many a corrupt Italian politician and corporation. Click here . (Warning to the faint of heart : this excellent essay is punctuated by adult language).

Written by Romel

February 8, 2008 at 10:03 am

Posted in humor, Politics

with 2 comments

Remembered Random Thoughts on the Lion City

Singapore is a glorified Glorietta Mall, I say. My boss says it’s a huge UP Campus — with modern buildings and huge swaths of green to boot. Yet it’s hotter than Manila, being closer to the equator (which explains its many malls linked to one another by air-conditioned covered walks. Singapore’s taxis, though on the expensive side, are a joy to ride, because drivers don’t ask you to pay extra and won’t refuse passengers, the cars are mostly equipped with techno-gadgets that tell you up-to-date information on traffic, the weather, etc., and everything in the city’s only 30 minutes away. I remember reading somewhere that Singapore is so small sometimes its air force has to rent air space from the Philippines for defense training. (Oh, they do have what in Manila are called colorum taxis, as we found as soon as we stepped out of Changi international airport, perhaps one of the best air ports in the world). Yes, the food scene is something to crow about. Newton’s Park is where there’s so much of it.

It’s Supreme Court building is impressive, high technology contraptions and all, but justice and the rule of law is what government says they mean (more accurately, what Lee Kuan Yew says they mean). That is as far as politics is concerned. There is both no freedom of speech and no freedom to spit, which are relatively abundant in Manila. But Singapore can proudly point to a legal system that is business-friendly. That’s why it’s an international center for arbitration.

The National University of Singapore is on the list of top 20 universities in the world — even edging out the Australian National University, but I wonder if it has the academic freedom that UP has. Singapore should have plenty of bike lanes, like Amsterdam, because it has the latter’s infrastructure and financial capabilities, as well as iron-clad traffic discipline, to make it work. On second thought, who wants to bike in a hot and humid city?

It is a rich city alright, but in many ways it is also poor. For exciting art, for example, Singapore finds itself looking to its poorer neighbor, the Philippines. And what would life be for the rich Singaporeans without their Filipina maids? I hope we win our arbitration case against the snooty Spaniards. Our managing partner says that while cross-examining the Spaniards’ principal witness, he thought he was defending Jose Rizal. And so it becomes thus: the colony beats the colonizer at its own game. Sana nga!

But no doubt about it, our case’s sole arbitrator –a London-Paris trained Brit — is very impressive. Bless the Queen and the British Isles!

Written by Romel

February 7, 2008 at 3:06 am

Posted in law, travels

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