Community. A life lived together. On the street.

Life is certainly lived on the street here in Quezon City. I suppose it’s because the climate is so much more favourable to being outside. There isn’t as much variation as we experienced in Saskatchewan; every day starts at 25 and rises to at most 35. That means the occasional 21 degree mornings are surprisingly cold. In Saskatchewan we experienced a range of about 80 degrees over the nearly two years we lived there!

The small town of Herschel, Saskatchewan (yes the same Herschel immortalised by the backpack company) overcomes the weather when gathering by using a hockey rink. Monday evenings the buses don’t drop the kids at home. Instead everyone gathers at the rink, skates, talks, eats, and cooks. Sometimes a curling match breaks out. But nonetheless community happens. Inside.

Right now I am sitting at the carwash down the street from Emily’s new place and the videoke has just started up. For those unfamiliar, videoke is a singing system invented by a Filipino that features a TV showing various scenes accompanied by subtitle-like lyrics and thumping music. The quality of the voice isn’t as important as participating in community. But it sure is fun!

The carwash waiting area consists of three picnic tables places end to end. A variety of people are seated around these tables but their connection to the carwash has yet be determined. Neighbours? Friends? Passersby? At any rate, community is happening mist obviously through the friendly teasing of the carwash boy. Conversations in Tagalog about having to talk to me in English, which will give him a nosebleed because his brains will explode. Laughter later when they find out I understand them.

What is interesting is that there is never an option given of not speaking with me — because they want me to join them in their community making. Because in Filipino culture it’s not really us vs them but people who share community and identity together. The word here is kapwa and describes a complex relationship achieved after progressing from mere acquaintances to bosom buddies. Everything is about this shared identity: Classmates, barkada (originally those who travelled with you on the ship to prison but now simply meaning your closest friends), wearing a common t-shirt, dressing in the role you are currently in (road cyclists attire, school uniform, clothes for just popping out of the house, security guard uniform).

Everyone’s identity is shared with everyone else’s identity. Everyone knows where they fit.

Community. A life lived together. On the street.

What is your community like? Please comment below.

Remember sharing is what friends do.

Image is mine.

Some insights on why fake news and conspiracy theories are obvious to some but not to others.

Basahin sa wikang Tagalog.

I have been enjoying Alexandre Horowitz’ On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the art of Observation. It is an eye-opening (see what I did there?) book on how to better pay attention to our communities. One particular part caused me to reflect on the current debate about truth. What is true? What is false? What makes something or someone trustworthy? Why do some believe “conspiracy theories”? Why do others believe “science”?

Horowitz talks about grandmasters in chess and relates it to how we pay attention to something. Here is the quote:

“Grandmasters remember phenomenal amounts of chess. It is estimated that a typical chess master remembers on the order of 50,000 to 300,000 “chunks”—arrangements of five to seven pieces placed normally, not randomly, on a board. They might know, unconsciously, 100,000 opening moves. These memory stores allow them to recall the precise positions of a large number of pieces on a series of games in progress, having seen them once. Sometimes this ability even extends to random piece placements, since a randomly placed piece is surprising, and distinctive, to someone who can see the logic in the piece placement of a game underway. By contrast, when a novice chess player looks at a board, he sees a jumbled arrangement of black and white pieces. If he is attentive, he might later be able to remember a few squares of the board, or a handful of pieces neighboring one another. Nothing else. The difference is that the scene is meaningful to the chess master but not to the novice. To the expert, every piece relates to the others, and every arrangement of pieces on a board relates to previous boards the player has seen or made. They become as familiar as the faces of friends.”

Nahati sa dalawa: Isang master ng chess at isang baguhan. Magkaiba ang kanilang mga alam pagdating sa chess. When I posted the quote on Facebook, my friend Aaron, who also was provoked by the quote, responded.

“As I read this, I thought of a variety of things:

The earliest victims of fake news were Adam and Eve.

Where is the problem, with the “novices” or those who spread fake news and conspiracies? Is there anything we can do to combat this problem? Or it is just unavoidable because we each have our own “mastery” in life and associated with it that we will not be able to master all aspects of the world. For example, some people are good at technology, while others of us are good at history, politics or law. Those who are good at technology may not have “mastery” in politics or law, so they can also fall victim to fake news about it.

Scientists acknowledge that their “mastery” is to discover, improve our knowledge and find answers to questions such as where we came from. The church, on the other hand, also has “mastery” properties such as the strengthening of faith. But there are times when the teaching of the church does not match the teaching of science. Both have mastery, but there are differences. And if there are differences, who are we to believe? And if science has proofs of their findings and the church refuses to accept and continues to enjoy existing teachings that are contrary to the findings of science, who are we to believe? If science has proof but those in the church still believe differently, isn’t it like we are the ones spreading fake news to the members of our church?

These are just thoughts I just want to share. The curiosity of my mind is likely to attack again.”

Great, isn’t it? It caused me to start thinking again so here are my responses to him:

“Thanks for the reply. Your mind is really flowing. I think we will find the answer in the flow of the mind 😉 It is true that Adam and Eve must have been deceived-that is at least what the bible teaches about Eve. Adam knew very well what he was doing wrong.

When it comes to the idea of mastery, one part is experience. Chess masters will probably be good because they have a certain something. But they are also good because of the practice they do every day. I think, even though I know almost nothing about chess other than the basics of the pieces and layout, when I play every day, I will probably also have mastery somehow. Or if not mastery and at least I have an appreciation for the mastery of the master.

For us, it is important to give appreciation to people who are on the other perspective. Often, what we do is purely imaginary. We think that they are stupid. We think they don’t know. We think whatever. But how can we say that when we have no appreciation? There are reasons why those in favor of science are in favor of science. And those in favor of conspiracy theories etc. are in favor of that. We must first find out where they are. We will probably find the solution by talking.

This is the framework given to us by Ka Jose de Mesa when it comes to appreciation:

Attitude #1: Presume the cultural element or aspect under consideration to be positive (at least in intent) until proven otherwise.

Attitude #2: Be aware of your own cultural presuppositions and adopt the insider’s point of view.

Attitude #3: Go beyond the cultural stereotypes.

Attitude #4: Use the vernacular as a key to understanding the culture in its own terms.

Issues such as the conflict between science and faith are likely to be answered as well.

You? What do you think? Is this a solution to our problem of fake news? What would you add? Please use the comment box below. 

Remember sharing is what friends do.

Image by Rafael Rex Felisilda on Unsplash. 

Ang ilang mga insight kung bakit ang mga pekeng balita at mga teorya ng pagsasabwatan ay halata sa ilan ngunit hindi sa iba

Read in English.

Natutuwa ako sa aklat ni Alexandra Horowitz na On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the art of Observation. Ito ay isang pagbubukas ng mata (nakita mo na ba ang ginawa ko doon?) na libro kung paano mas bigyang pansin ang ating mga komunidad. Isang partikular na bahagi ang naging dahilan upang pagnilayan ko ang kasalukuyang debate tungkol sa katotohanan. Ano ang tunay? Ano ang huwad? Ano ang ginagawang mapagkakatiwalaan ang isang bagay o isang tao? Bakit may mga naniniwala sa mga “conspiracy theories”? Bakit ang iba ay naniniwala sa “agham”?

Pinag-uusapan ni Horowitz ang tungkol sa mga grandmaster sa chess at iniuugnay ito sa kung paano namin binibigyang pansin ang isang bagay. Narito ang quote:

“Natatandaan ng mga grandmaster ang napakalaking dami ng chess. Tinatantya na ang isang tipikal na master ng chess ay naaalala sa pagkakasunud-sunod ng 50,000 hanggang 300,000 “chunks”—mga pagsasaayos ng lima hanggang pitong piraso na inilagay nang normal, hindi random, sa isang board. Maaaring alam nila, nang hindi namamalayan, 100,000 pambungad na moves. Binibigyang-daan sila ng mga memory store na ito na maalala ang mga tumpak na posisyon ng malaking bilang ng mga piraso sa isang serye ng mga laro na isinasagawa, na nakita ang mga ito nang isang beses. Minsan ang kakayahang ito ay umaabot pa sa mga random na placement ng piraso, dahil nakakagulat ang isang random na inilagay na piraso , at katangi-tangi, sa isang taong nakakakita ng lohika sa paglalagay ng piraso ng isang laro na isinasagawa. Sa kabaligtaran, kapag ang isang baguhang manlalaro ng chess ay tumitingin sa isang board, nakikita niya ang isang pinagsama-samang pagkakaayos ng mga itim at puting piraso. Kung siya ay matulungin, siya baka mamaya maalala ang ilang mga parisukat ng pisara, o isang dakot na pirasong magkatabi. Wala nang iba. Ang kaibahan ay ang eksena ay makabuluhan sa master ng chess ngunit hindi sa baguhan. Sa eksperto, e ang mismong piraso ay nauugnay sa iba, at bawat pagsasaayos ng mga piraso sa isang board ay nauugnay sa mga nakaraang board na nakita o ginawa ng manlalaro. Nagiging pamilyar sila gaya ng mga mukha ng magkakaibigan.”

Nahati sa dalawa: Isang master ng chess at isang baguhan. Magkaiba ang kanilang mga alam pagdating sa chess. When I posted the quote on Facebook, my friend Aaron, who also was provoked by the quote, responded.

“Habang binabasa ko ito, naisip ko itong iba’t-ibang bagay:

Ang pinakaunang biktima ng fake news ay si Adam at Eve.

Nasaan nga ba ang problema, sa mga “novice” o sa mga nagpapakalat ng fake news at conspiracies? May magagawa ba tayo para malabanan ang problemang ito? O sadyang hindi ito maiiwasan dahil may kanya-kanya naman tayong “mastery” sa buhay at kaakibat nito na hindi natin magagawang maging master ng lahat ng aspeto sa mundo. Halimbawa, may mga taong magaling sa larangan ng teknolohiya, samantalang may iba sa atin ang magaling sa kasaysayan, pulitika o kaya batas. Ang magaling sa teknolohiya ay pwedeng walang “‘mastery” sa pulitika o batas, kaya sila ay maaaring maging biktima rin mga fake news na tungkol dito.

Ang mga scientists ay ina-acknowledge natin na ang “mastery” nila ay ang pagtuklas, pagsasabuti ng ating karunungan at paghahanap ng mga kasagutan sa mga katanungan tulad ng saan nga ba tayo nagmula. Ang simbahan naman ay may mga angking “mastery” din tulad ng pagpapatibay ng pananampalataya. Ngunit may mga pagkakataong hindi nagtutugma ang turo ng simbahan sa turo ng agham. Parehong may “mastery”, ngunit may mga pagkakaiba. At kung may mga pagkakaiba, sino nga ba ang paniniwalaan natin? At kung may mga proofs ang agham sa mga natuklasan nila at ayaw tanggapin ng simbahan at patuloy na tinatangkilik ang nakagisnang katuruan na salungat sa natuklasan ng agham, sino ba dapat nating paniwalaan? Kung may proof na ang agham pero iba pa rin ang paniniwala ng mga nasa simbahan, hindi ba parang tayo mismo ang nagpapakalat ng fake news sa mga myembro ng ating simbahan?

Galing, diba? Napaisip ulit tuloy ako kaya it ang mga tugong ko sa kanya:

Ito ay pawang mga thoughts lamang na gusto ko lang ibahagi. Umaatake na naman malamang ang pagiging curious ng aking isip.

“Salamat sa tugon. Maganda talaga ang agos ng isip mo. Sa palagay ko hahanapin natin ang sagot sa pag-agos ng isip 😉 Totoo naman ciguro na niloko sina Adan at si Eva — yun at least ang turo ng bibliya patungkol kay Eva. Alam na alam ni Adan kung anong ang kanyang pinapasukang mali.

“Pag dating ng ideya ng mastery, isang bahagi ay karanasan. Malamang magagagling ang mga chess masters dahil meron silang certain something. Pero magaling din sila dahil sa mga practice na ginawa nila araw araw. Sa palagay ko, kahit halos wala akong alam sa chess bukod sa mga basics ng mga pieces at layout, kapag araw-arawin ko ang paglaro, malamang magkakaroon din ako ng mastery kahit papaano. O kung hindi mastery at least meron akong appreciation sa mastery ng master.

“Para sa atin, mahalagang bigyang appreciation ang mga tao na nasa kabilang perspektibo. Kadalasan, puro akala pala ang ating ginagawa. Akala natin bobo. Akala natin hindi marunong. Akala natin kung anu-ano. Pero paano ba natin masabi yun kapag wala tayong appreciation? May mga dahilan kung bakit ang mga pabor sa agham ay may pabor sa agham. At ang mga may pabor sa conspiracy theories atbp ay may pabot diyan. Alamin muna dapat natin kung nasaan sila. Malamang matutuklasan natin and solusyon sa pamamagitan sa pakikipag-usap.

“Ito ang gabay na binigay sa atin ni Ka Jose de Mesa pagdating sa appreciation:

Saloobin #1: Ipagpalagay na ang elemento ng kultura o aspetong isinasaalang-alang ay positibo (kahit sa layunin) hanggang sa mapatunayang hindi.

Saloobin #2: Magkaroon ng kamalayan sa iyong sariling mga pagpapalagay sa kultura at tanggapin ang pananaw ng tagaloob.

Saloobin #3: Higit pa sa mga stereotype ng kultura.

Saloobin #4: Gamitin ang katutubong wika bilang susi sa pag-unawa sa kultura sa sarili nitong mga termino.

Malamang masasagot din ang mga isyu katulad ng paglalaban ng agham at pananampalataya.

Ikaw? Ano ba sa palagay mo? Solusyon ba kaya ito sa problema natin sa fake news? Ano ba’ng idagdag mo? Pakisulat sa mga comments sa ibaba.

Ang pagbabahagi ay ginagawa ng magkakaibigan

Larawan ni Rafael Rex Felisilda sa Unsplash.

Reflections on COVID-19, Jesus, and Sabado de Gloria (Holy/Black Saturday)

I read Matt Anslow’s take on Holy Saturday a couple of years ago and it got me thinking. I grew up in a context in Western Canada where we didn’t really pay attention to the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. My introduction to that day was the idea of Black Saturday that occurs in the Philippines where one popular belief is that we need to stay at home because God is dead that day and can’t help you. (This is related to the idea that if you get injured on Good Friday the wound will never heal). More recently I became aware of a new name for the day in the Philippines — Sabado de Gloria (Glorious Saturday), which has an altogether more positive take on the day. 

How does this relate to the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s related restrictions? One of the lessons of the pandemic is that leadership is sometimes practiced from afar, most recently through videoconferencing technology. But apart from recent events, there are many other examples of ministry from afar. The Bible itself reflects the reality that much of ministry is from afar because the entire scripture is in written form. We don’t have direct access to the Biblical writers other than through their writings. This means that it was intended to be read in a variety of locations and times and mostly without the presence of the human author.

Another example is that of Jesus in the Grave. His time in the grave was more complex perhaps that we might first think. I think that I have always thought that Jesus rested while he was there, waiting for the Father to raise him from the dead. And to a certain extent that is true — Jesus was isolated in the grave. However, as Anslow points out, Jesus also took the opportunity while in the abode of the dead to minister to the souls in hell. That’s why we have a Sabado de Gloria to celebrate Jesus’ ministry to those who had been condemned.

I suspect the idea of Jesus in hell somehow went against some kind of theological idea that in the end led to us ignoring or explaining away the parts of Scripture that speak of this. But in spite of the absence of this in my tradition, the Bible does talk about Jesus’ actions while in the grave. For example, 1 Peter 4:6 reads, “After all, the Good News was told to people like that, although they are now dead. It was told to them so that they could be judged like humans in their earthly lives and live like God in their spiritual lives.” Likewise, Ephesians 4:9 tells us “Now what does it mean that he went up except that he also had gone down to the lowest parts of the earth?” To whom did Jesus preach while he was down in the “lowest parts of the earth”? Those who are “now dead.”

Fortunately not all theological traditions have had issues connecting Jesus with hell. We see this concept developed in several of the creeds. The Apostle’s creed says “Jesus Christ … descended into hell, rose again from the dead on the third day.” The Athanasian Creed says, “Christ; Who … descended into hell.” Tied into this is the concept of the “Harrowing of Hell” where Jesus basically invades hell (ala “and the gates of hell shall not prevail”), bringing Good News to the souls trapped there.

I think that’s pretty cool. It means that the enemy has no hope of winning. And that is the kind of message we want to hear after the events of 2020, 2021, and 2022.

What are your thoughts on Sabado de Gloria? Was it a part of your tradition growing up? What theological issues do you have with the idea of Jesus descending to hell?

Remember, sharing is what friends do.

Image is by Fra Angelico – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain.

Denying the Metanarrative is a good thing, but the process of denial is a bit more complex than we sometimes think.

One of the tenets of postmodernism (if indeed it can be said to have tenets) is the denial of the metanarrative. A metanarrative is “an overarching account or interpretation of events and circumstances that provides a pattern or structure for people’s beliefs and gives meaning to their experiences.” For many, these metanarratives provide a framework for understanding the world. What’s sad is that sometimes these same metanarratives also provide a framework for oppression and hardship, if you happen to be on the wrong side of the narrative.

Postmodernism has it detractors, mostly people who adhere to a different philosophical system (cough ‘Modernism’ cough). One of their complaints is that denying a metanarrative is a metanarrative in and of itself. Apart from being a bit of a copout because it doesn’t seek understanding, this argument misses the point because it presumes that denial is single-stage process.

For example, in the 1970s, a number of Filipinos devoted their lives to overturning the metanarrative that basically denied their place in the world. Zeus Salazar started telling a new history with his Pantayang Pananaw. Virgilio Enriquez started telling a psychology story with his Sikolohiyang Pilipino. Pospero Covar started telling a new anthropology story with his Pilipinolohiya. Jose de Mesa started telling a new theology story with his work on contexualisation. These four men began telling stories that overturned the metanarrative that prioritised the West and saw places like the Philippines as “deviant.” In retelling the story with indigenous languages, using indigenous concepts, and respecting indigenous knowledge, they were able to open up a new chapter to a previously incomplete metanarrative. We have a lot to thank these pioneers for. And people are continuing the process today in ways that include anti-colonialism and post-structuralism.

But the process must necessarily continue past that point because, even though these guys fulfilled an essential service way back when, that service has now led to claims of essentialism among them. Essentialism meaning a specific definition of what ‘Filipino’ is. In their efforts to make the Filipino voice heard, they by necessity saw that voice as one voice. It was the Filipino voice.

What we realise today is that the Filipino voice is perhaps best characterised as “voices.” The Philippines is an archipelago of just over 7,400 islands of varying sizes, shapes, and populations. There are just over 180 languages in use on a daily basis. Filipinos are also present in all the countries of the world and live in both the most populated and least populated areas of the world. Filipinos are both fiercely nationalistic and regionally loyal. The family is the basic building block of society. All of this creates a rich diversity of identities. I like how Dr. Exiomo puts it: “Being can be expressed in many different ways.”

In other words, the metanarrative still needs to be denied because it doesn’t accurately tell everyone’s story in the proper way. It’s a continuous process of editing and revising that will ultimately lead to a fulfilled humanity.

Where do you fit into the metanarrative? Where does the metanarrative fail you? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!

Remember sharing is what friends do.

Image by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash.