Category Archives: Politics and Opinions

The Millennial Legionary by LORNA CIFRA SHIMOJO

A faithful catholic will remember the year 2016 as the ‘Year of Mercy’ the “Extraordinary Jubilee” which was the third since the tradition began 700 years ago. Called for by the Argentine pontiff, Pope Francis, he spent the year with the downtrodden, holding special masses and passing one Friday every month with refugees, victims of sex trafficking and drug addiction, the sick, the elderly, and vulnerable children.

The watchword of mercy meant helping the unfortunate, welcoming sinners and outcasts back into the fold. The pope hoped that compassion and mercy would not only counter prejudice but also draw more people to the church.

In an article released by Inquirer.net, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo and members of some laity organizations are now in coordination and cooperation with representatives from different government agencies and are set to meet at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. The main agenda mainly focuses that parishes should and will help raise the money to support the community-based rehabilitation centers, in addition to the government budget that was allotted for the barangay anti-drug abuse councils. Parishes will provide personnel to run the center while the government will provide supplemental needs like skills training care of Tesda, classification of drug surrenderers by the DOH, after-care program from the DSWD whereas the DILG and local government units will provide additional support.

The Legion of Mary is not exempted from lending a helping hand to the many issues beleaguering the country at present. Let us first identify how busy a legionary is as far as being an active member is concerned. Taken from the Legion of Mary HB, the works are as follows:

1. Apostolate in the Parish
2. Visitation of the Homes of the People
3. Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the Homes
4. The Making of the Parish Census
5. Visitation of Hospitals, Including Pyschiatric Hospitals
6. Work for the Most Wretched and Dejected of the Population
7. Works for the Young
8.  The Book-Barrow
9.  Crowd Contact
10. Misson to the Catholic Domestic Worker
11. Work for the Armed Services Personnel and People on the Move
12. The Dissemination of Catholic Literature
13.  Promoting the Practice of Daily Mass and Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament
14.  The Recruiting and After-Care of Auxiliaries
15.  Work for the Missions
16.  Promoting Retreats
17.  Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart
18.  Other Duties Assigned by Pastor

In other words, the LOM has a humongous responsibility towards the Catholic Church, its members and fellow legionaries as well.
Demands for updates and radical changes for a new look in the Legion is called for by no other than ‘SANGGUNIANG LAYKO ng PILIPINAS’ or otherwise known as Council of the Laity of the Philippines. A big organization such as the Legion of Mary is expected to take an active role in current issues of this day and age such as (1) the move to help in drug rehabilitation, (2) to question extrajudicial killings, (3) to debate on death penalty, (4) to say no to abortion, (5) contribute to ecological issues like climate change and (6) to promote awareness of the lifestyle of this generation that is wholly and unbelievably dependent on social media.

Aside from the many works that were enumerated above, legionaries should also be more aware of what is troubling our nation in the present while continuously be interested in the convert apostolate. We should become more involved in the social apostolate and in the human rights of our fellowmen. As legionaries of Mary, we can provide mental, emotional, social and above all, spiritual nourishment to the lost souls who are merely victims of inevitable circumstances. Our opinion or judgement is not welcome but rather we must seek for strength and sustenance from the Holy Spirit through the Blessed Virgin Mary, to raise again and uplift the human dignity of these poor souls.

The Legion is criticized for being passive or rather quiet in relation to their works for the laity. The Handbook teaches the legionary to be simple and to practice humility in all his endeavors. Yet, the authority of the Church cries for assistance, let us be more privileged and humbled to give a helping hand on the Apostolate of the Laity specially with moral and spiritual concerns.

Pope Paul VI, in his letter to Frank Duff, singles out for special praise the Legion of Mary’s discipline and “unflinching loyalty to the Church.”

True Legionaries of Mary are engaged in a warfare for souls against Satan and sin, they wage that war in a peaceful way, they hate and fight sin, but love and care for the sinner. Walking an extra mile to contribute to the call of our bishop and not be antagonistic in its contact with lost souls is simply extra service to the Lord. Legionaries are taught to show in their apostolic work the patience, love and understanding of Our Lord and Our Lady,

Let us examine the Laity’s documents and let us see just what the Council Fathers have in mind when they tell us what the Lay Apostolate should be.
“The lay apostolate is a participation in the saivific mission of the Church itself. Through their baptism and confirmation all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself.” (IV, 33) In the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity the Council Fathers tell us that “the Christian vocation by its very nature is also avocation to the apostolate.” (I, 2)
The Legion Handbook (first drafted in the 1920’s) stresses the right and duty of every Catholic, by reason of his baptism and confirmation, to share in the Church’s mission of spreading the teachings and graces of Christ to every human being.

This extra works or walking an extra mile would mean progress in holiness which requires an exercise of the virtues of faith, hope, charity, patience and humility. The ultimate goal in this progress in holiness is a closer union with Christ. Through this union, which is nourished by a frequent reception of the sacraments, the Legionary will see Christ in every person and will thereby work for the good of that person specially the people who are affected with the issues we read day in and day out from the newspapers, mainstream and social media.

As millennial legionaries of Mary, let these issues be a part of our advocacy, to spread awareness of the current issues and to assist the church wholeheartedly in its evangelization and sanctification duties.

R.I.P. To 44 Fallen Commandos

  • image I wrote this blog on the 30th of January after the massacre of the 44 members of SAF that horribly took place in Mindanao. I did not post this because during those days, the issue was very controversial and my dad advised me to not meddle with my already troubled country. It would be like adding insult to injury. Now that Noynoy Aquino will soon be our ex president, I thought this is the right time to say my piece. This is how some political analysts would look at Pnoy (President Noynoy Aquino of the Philippines) as the Commander in Chief. While his right hand is busy with the finality of the Bansamoro Basic Law, to which the population of Maguindanao consists of mainly MILF members (who are allegedly the people behind the massacre), him trying to be the gentleman and the diplomat, rubbing elbows with the leader , which I find ‘incredibly ridiculous’, (knowing that these are the same people who were involved in the number of massacres that occurred several years back) fervently hoping that they will finally surrender their arms and embrace peace with the government, Pnoy’s left hand is persistently persuading the Senate to have this BBL implemented until at least before his term ends. So what happens now? Not everybody agrees with the BBL, trust is of the essence and as far as the MILF is concerned, my instinct tells me that they are not worthy of that. The BBL has a long way to go. It still needs a lot of reading,interpolations, discussions, amendments and a hundred percent consensus by the Senate and even more, a referendum for the entire nation. It can not just be implemented, not now or more so not ever. The MILF has been consistently defending themselves that they are  not the culprit of these tragic massacres but in reality, they seemingly are. If only we have an extraordinarily observant leader, with strong political will, conviction and discernment, he should be smart enough to be able to read between the lines. History shows that MILF do not follow the rules of ceasefire and the leaders should not be too assuming that after BBL, the whole country will at last live in peace and harmony. Harboring international terrorists is unforgivable and unacceptable. The person rooting for the BBL was the same person who gave the go signal to attack without vigorous planning. Pnoy wanted to take the credit and show the world that he has a legacy to leave before his term ends, but at the expense of SAF and innocent civilians and individuals? Unfortunately, the mission failed and the massacre goes on and on till the present. BBL will never be the solution or if at all there will be a solution. Long and tedious planning , then maybe, just maybe peace will be achieved only if people, Christians and Muslims alike will realize the meaning of human respect and compassion. I condemn this tragic event and I have no words to the wives , children and family of the SAF fallen commandos. War is stupid and the people perpetuating it is even more stupid. And I quote Miriam Santiago’s line, ‘Life is Hard but it’s Harder when you are stupid.’ Filipinos killing Filipinos. Is not that a humongous act of stupidity?

Passport and Family

It’s a beautiful Christmasy morning this 22nd of December 2014. For the first time in so many years, I won’t be home for Christmas because of so many things that transpired which I thought won’t allow me to book a flight before Christmas. My passport is expiring within 6 months and international aviation law says that a person whose passport is expiring in 6 months will not be allowed to travel. I was advised by Immigration to renew my passport as soon as I can. I wish it was that easy. I hold a Philippine passport even if I don’t basically live in my own country. I did not know that renewing means getting your new passport after 45 working days. I renewed it first week of October and considering the bureaucratic system and red tape in our government, 45 days is not a guarantee. That would mean I might not be home for Christmas if I don’t get my passport at least by first week of December. I was right. My passport arrived on the first week of December , the same week when my mother was rushed to the hospital due to pneumonia. She was critical. Since my passport was not on my hands yet, I had to make a decision to book my flight to Manila after Christmas just to be sure. As of this moment while I’m writing this, my mom is at the ICU and we are hoping that she recovers. The delay of the arrival of my passport is the biggest reason why I decided not to spend Christmas with my family. Plans have been made and much as I badly want to be home to see my mother, I won’t be able to.
I’m not blaming my country or anybody for my life’s turn out of events. I realize now that we can’t control things all the time. The world owns us. The entire universe owns us. We don’t even own our passports. I wish there were other ways to make life more manageable but then again, I guess it will always be a struggle. Even to renew your own passport..

Rappler’s article, Philippine President Aquino’s reality check

Becoming a President of a country that had nothing but a zero balance in its’ monetary reserves, a country ruled and governed by (if not all), a lot of corrupt and dishonest officials, bureaucracy, old school political traditions, a very ill-disciplined citizenry, a country where most of the people do nothing but whine, bicker and complain except do the moral thing, IS NOT a joke. I agree with the writer’s take that with a lot of struggle in the president’s leadership, the international community, world bank, foreign investors are indeed still attracted to the rebirth of our nation. Government transparency is the bottomline. It is too open that people who see any thoughts, ideas, opinions on social media minus the newspapers, television and radio, take those insights subjectively. Granting that Pinoy makes wrong choices in choosing his constituents, dumping officials that some people think are just being bullied by the president, I can still see that there is progress. I live abroad and I look at our country from the outside. I hear international news never been heard on Philippine television, read articles never been read by a regular pinoy, opinions uttered by my co-workers who are all foreigners saying only one thing; the value of the dollar against the peso is going down, the yen, and all other monetary units. This only explains that we have earned the trust of the international community, less intimidation to OFW, less racism, less stereotyping that our country is hopeless. I overhear foreigners speaking that the Philippines is a country to watch out for. Indeed, President Aquino’s worst enemy is time considering that his term is about to end in no less than 3 years. I will start to question when we elect our next president. Would he continue the legacy of progress or pull down our country back to the deep well? I always quote the late US President JFK, “Ask not what your country can do to you but ask what you can do to your country”. Much as President Aquino needs reality check, the citizens need it more. Let’s take a look at our reflections in the mirror one more time and do some reality check ourselves.

Racism in Jazz

Jazz trio and the writer.. In a jazz gig.
Jazz trio and the writer.. In a jazz gig.

Music is and always be my life. After finishing my Communication Arts degree in a prestigious university, I had my practicum or as others would say apprenticeship on television stations and radio stations doing jobs as director’s assistant or scriptwriter’s assistant, everybody’s assistant, doing voice over jobs, forever the assistant, forever the voice over and never the real deal. I could have been a director, a scriptwriter, a television or a radio announcer. I could have had a career in Journalism. Much as I love to sing, writing is also my passion. In other words, I have a degree in Communication Arts and I can’t use it. I guess I really never wanted to be behind the camera. I remember telling my mom after six months of training on television, and I quote myself “mom, I don’t think I want to be behind the camera forever, I want to be in front. During the training, I had an encounter with a very good singer who later became the Kim of the Musical Ms. Saigon , she was amazing but I thought to myself, I can do that too, and perhaps become even better. I was in a hurry to be in her position, in front of the camera. So there I go. After several day jobs, I got bored and impatient, I quit! There were a lot of auditions being held then as hotel vocalists, band vocalist or wedding singer. With a lot of practice and guts, I auditioned. The rest is history.
From my country, I went hopping from one country to another as a singer, armed with a degree in Communication Arts In English, a lot of piano and guitar lessons, vocal lessons, and jazz workshop sessions. To date, I still attend jazz cliniques much as I give my own jazz clinics too. But that’s already water under the bridge.
This is the first time that I am going to express myself in writing as far as being ‘Asian’ is concerned, specially in the world of jazz. I have long been wanted to be heard and after I read an article in Cosmopolitan magazine regarding Asians being stereotyped as the following : chinky eyes, almond shaped eyes, noodles, chopsticks, yellow or brown skin, straight black hair and most of all non English speakers, I said to myself, enough of those craps! I’ve had it and let it be known that some people are either uneducated or plainly idiots or racists. Why?
In my travels as a jazzer, being in the business for almost 2 decades, having recorded 5 CDs , having to perform in front of an audience almost everyday of my life, dealing with bosses from different parts of the globe, I can absolutely conclude that I am pretty much doing a good job if not great.
I am not writing this to bad-mouth people who do not have any knowledge in world history or world geography or human behavior. I’ve just had enough.
These are the phrases I would hear or expected to hear? And I quote ‘oh, you’re Asian, and you speak good English.’ Or as how the immigration officers of the US Consular Office interrogated me when I was applying for my 01 visa or legally defined as an alien of extraordinary ability, and I quote again, ‘what’s with the English?’ Either he wants to intimidate me or he’s being sarcastic because he’s a racist. I may sound too sensitive on this subject but no. I’ve just been trying so hard to bear these unbearable assumptions.
I remember my friend telling me, and he’s a very good speaker of English as well, somebody irrationally told him, ‘so you’re Filipino, why do you speak very good english?’ He wanted to give that guy a right hook as strong as Manny Pacquiao’s  to shut him up, I’m glad he didn’t. And yes, my friend is an American law-abiding citizen, with a decent job , pays taxes and has a car registration most Americans wouldn’t have.
This kind of story doesn’t happen only in the US. It happens everywhere, Japan for one. It’s a beautiful country with very polite citizenry and has a wide audience in jazz. Even a non English speaker country like Japan stereotypes other Asians as people who have a native tongue and that’s not english. To the japanese; americans, canadians, australians, and all the other countries colonized by the Queen , are the only ones acceptable to be a jazz vocalist. Why can’t people just accept that a talent is a talent regardless of race, beliefs and gender? Is it hard to appreciate real talent? Does one have to be white or black to be validated? Who are they to judge? I’m blessed to have intelligent and level- headed parents, who are tirelessly telling me that I shouldn’t let anybody bully me or deprive me of my freedom to showcase what I can do, and still maintain humility. I can only take so much. I have no excuse for being Asian, educated, talented, speaks 3 languages fluently including English for that matter. People can either accept it or not, it doesn’t matter anymore.
My advice to aspiring jazz vocalists, pursue your goal! Go for your dream. It doesn’t matter if you’re not black or white. What matters is that you can deliver and you deliver well! Sorry racists, it’s time for a shoutout!
I’m not sour-graping, i’m just saying. No more racism in jazz , after all, music is a universal language.