Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's almost Christmas!

I hear Feliz Navidad everyday now. I love Christmas!

I can't wait for the start of simbang gabi, and I'm keeping an eye peeled for a nice little belen to put in my room. We have no Christmas tree in our home, because there isn't space for it, but there's a big one in our building's lobby, so maybe that should suffice. My dad scoffs at any attempt of mine to adorn the door with a wreath--and I'm hoping it's more because he's tired of the commercialism boon come Christmas time than anything else...

Well the real point of this post is an article I'd like to share written by Michelle Martin from Hamilton, Ontario. It's good to remember that Christmas is a time to relive that story in Bethlehem and the great love behind it--and though it comes only once a year, we're not only called to do a little something extra this time, but all year round. :-)


The spirit of Christmas present

Ebenezer Scrooge can teach us that our best behaviour isn't only for special occasions.

When I was a girl, we drove up north every summer to spend a long vacation on my grandparents' farm. It seemed to take forever to get there (it was really only a 4 hour trip) and I would pass the time by noting all the familiar sights along the way. The billboard for Santa's Village (where you could visit Santa all year round) was near the halfway mark of our journey, so I was always pleased to see it though it struck even my ten year-old self as a silly business idea. These days we've all seen the "Christmas in July" marketing concept used to promote everything from parties to clearance sales.

What crass commercialism! How terribly secular! Tsk tsk–they've entirely missed the reason for the season. And yet, even though we'd never be so naive as to think that a retail advertising campaign was launched for altruistic reasons, could we learn something from the phrase "Christmas in July?"

My second oldest daughter looooves Christmas so much that as soon as Halloween is finished she starts playing Christmas music, just as they do at the local mall. As she was updating her playlist the other day, I asked her why she loves the Christmas season so. She said it was because people were nicer at Christmas time, and you see things during the season that you don't see the rest of the year, like the young mom waiting at a bus stop last December who sang carols unselfconsciously to her baby. She went on: the food is good, people dress up, there's a lot of visiting and the house is cleaner than ever.

Though I was pleased to note that none of her reasons revolved around shopping, I must admit I felt a little sheepish hearing her list. As I looked at my untidy living room and faded jeans, thought of the unspectacular dinner planned for that evening and tried to recall the last time we had company I began to feel we could use a little Christmas in July– and November, and April...

As for the "everyone's nicer at Christmas" part, let's look to Ebenezer Scrooge to learn that our best behaviour isn't only for special occasions. It's evident that in learning how to keep Christmas properly, he also learned to keep the other 364 days of the year well. We know from Dickens' description of his most famous character's conversion that "He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world."

How do we bring that spirit of Christmas every day into our own homes? Of course it doesn't mean serving stuffed turkey and four different vegetables on a school night any more than Scrooge's change of heart meant that he sent the biggest turkey in the shop over to the Cratchit house daily (what an inconvenience that would pose for Mrs. Cratchit on a regular working day).But we can take a little extra care over the preparation of a weeknight meal, make sure everyone sticks to their manners, and invite someone to join us at table a little more often.

We can smile more, and sing to our little ones, even in public, even in February! We can phone and talk to family and friends, or send a handwritten note. We can make sure we don't forget about the local food bank outside of holidays. We can set time aside to pray with our children and talk to them about Jesus every day, even after the nativity set has been packed away again.

In short, we can live our day to day lives with the serenity of those who know why Christmas is important– that it celebrates the Incarnation of Our Lord, who won for us salvation. Then we will truly bring joy to the world– all year round.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Context, context

I've been pondering on a question a friend asked me (about sex education), so I asked around--asked officemates, friends, even people on a live TV talk show--to find the truth (and most of all, what is effective and helpful to society) regarding the matter. And so far, I've collected some good answers that I'd like to share here.

1. We do need sex education, but it should be in the proper context.
The term they use is "age appropriate," but is it, really? From Grade 5 to high school, the youth should be focusing on honing their talents, finding their path and what they want to do when they grow up. This alone keeps their hands full already.

Sex education that focuses on contraceptive use, no matter how many times you stress that it's age appropriate, is a step in the wrong direction. Because here is sex presented as mere recreation, to be enjoyed "responsibly" (huh?). Worse, it includes a bonus lesson on the contraceptive mentality.

Hence, the question is not about the sex education being age appropriate, but rather whether it integrates sexuality with the whole person. Consider dignity. Consider respect. Consider character. Consider love and true responsibility--which brings me to the next point:

2. Responsibility is not about popping pills.
It's easy to think that married couples are being responsible when they take pains to ensure they don't get pregnant because they're not ready to care for another child at the moment. But is it really being responsible? Why does responsibility entail having to put the woman's health at risk? Is the body made to be subject to the dictation of a contraceptive?

Real responsibility calls us to understand how our body works (the way Mother Nature has programmed it), and live with these natural laws and limitations. Thus it is not responsible to subject one's body to a funny drug just so sex can be done any time--as mentioned earlier, sex is not mere recreation.

3. There are things that parents alone could teach.
Parents and teachers must work hand in hand to raise useful citizens of the country. Take sex education in the context of a classroom. There's one teacher trying to get inside at least thirty active minds and hopefully instill in them proper values and attitudes. Do you think the teacher has time to teach "reproductive health" and be sure all the while that the students get the point?

Hence, sex education that should be placed in the hands of the teacher is not quite sex education, but character education. That is, teaching responsibility, prudence, respect for others, valuing good health, and putting energies into proper and useful outlets.

Parents, who know their children personally, and can figure out the best way of approaching the subject, can focus on a more family-centered take on the said topic. Now, it is a fact that not all parents take the trouble to talk about sex with their kids--it's not an easy topic to discuss after all. But teaching kids about sex is still a part of parenting--and this responsibility must not be taken away from the parents.

There are seminars being offered for parents on how to instill the proper notion of sexuality in their children, and parents can attend these if they feel they need a little help on the matter. But the best way to teach it is to live it--show the kids how mom and dad treat each other, respect each other. Very early in life, kids will see the difference between femininity and masculinity, and how these differences are nonetheless harmonious. They'll see the love between their parents, and from there how this love grows into family.

Sex education is not about contraceptives at all, if you think about it, so why keep pushing the matter as if our youth would be lost without contraceptive knowledge?

I don't see what's so dangerous about teaching the youth a more person-centered version of sex education. Contraceptives are not part of the natural scheme of things anyway, why promote them further by lauding their extraordinary use in classrooms? They already have enough marketing from the pharmaceutical companies. Let them pay for their own advertising; taxpayer's money should be put to better use.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Today is a mystery

"The secular man paradoxically kills the unborn and produces test tube babies. He seeks to lengthen the life expectancy but at the same time cuts short the life of the elderly. He cracks his head trying to find a cure for AIDS, but spreads it by doling out condoms. His right hand breaks the family by divorce, yet his left puts together same-sex couples. He cannot afford to have many kids but he lavishes money on pets and animal rights."
Henry Bocala
excerpt from his book, Arise and Walk

What happens now?

Everyone knows by now that the US already has a president-elect, and many are happy about it. I'm not a US citizen so I don't have a say on it.

However, I do admit I'm feeling a bit shifty about Obama's stand on life. Here's a news clipping from LifeSiteNews.


Obama to Enforce Taxpayer-Funded Embryo Research, Abortion Abroad by Executive Order

By Kathleen Gilbert
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 10, 2008 (LifeSiteNews. com) - Upon entry into the Oval Office in January, President-Elect Obama intends to sweep the new administration clean of President Bush's pro-life policies by executive order. The president-elect intends to reverse trademark Bush-era policies including the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell (ESC) research, and the ban on funding for overseas family-planning programs that offer or promote abortions.

John Podesta, Obama's administration chief, told the Associated Press that Obama will act quickly through executive order because he thinks Obama "feels like he has a real mandate for change. We need to get off the course that the Bush administration has set."

A top transition official told the Washington Post that Obama and his team are consulting with liberal advocacy groups, Capitol Hill staffers and potential agency chiefs to prioritize the revamping of presidential policy that "they regard as the most onerous or ideologically offensive."

Out of a list of about 200 Bush administration policies under scrutiny, the ban on federal funding for ESC research was the first policy mentioned in the Post article.

In August 2001, Bush restricted government funding to research using already existing embryonic stem cell lines and prohibited any funding for the development of new embryonic stem cell lines, which would require the destruction of more living human embryos. President Bush had expressed his absolute refusal to consider expanding research to new lines of embryos and risk "crossing a fundamental moral line by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos."

President-Elect Obama has steadily held the line in favor of embryo research as part of his radically anti-life agenda.

In Catholic Online opinion column, Deacon Keith Fournier lamented that "with the stroke of a pen human embryos would become property, capable of being 'manufactured' like a commodity, and available to be used as spare parts in experimentation which has produced no discernible scientific results."

The Obama administration also plans to dispense with a ban on taxpayer funding for overseas aid promoting or offering abortion, known as the Mexico City Policy. President Reagan instituted the policy in 1984, which was repealed by President Clinton in 1993 before being reinstituted in 2001 by President Bush.

Also, under President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), health workers are trained to emphasize abstinence and marital fidelity as the most effective ways to combat the spread of AIDS - another policy the Obama administration is likely to dispense with.

Regarding such policies, Susan F. Wood, co-chairman of Obama's advisory committee for women's health, said, "We have been going in the wrong direction and we need to turn it around and be promoting prevention and family-planning services,'' according to

Bloomberg reports that, while supporters of Obama's policies call such training "naive and dangerous," the executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association in Washington, Valerie Huber, says that considering the "demonstrable success" of abstinence training in Africa, "it would be more than unfortunate if that policy was changed."

"I don't think many dreamed that this 'change' would mean taking taxpayer dollars to fund abortion around the world," said Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition.

Mahoney called the projected policy overhaul "tragic, a betrayal of social justice and human rights."

"Pro-life and faith groups warned that if Sen. Obama were elected president, he would be the most radical pro-abortion president in American history," he continued.

"And now we are less than one week away from the elections, and he is already proposing to take taxpayer dollars - our money - to use it to promote abortions around the world."

"This exhibit, this extreme desire to see abortion proliferated and increased around the globe - we are going to do everything in our power to stop this from happening," said Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, who warned that "this is just the first step" in Obama's radical policies against life.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Baby in November!

Our November issue is out! On the cover is pretty Gavin Megan N. Dimaano, captured by Oly Ruiz of Metrophotography.

Since our theme this month is Babies with Special Needs, the issue is loaded with helpful pointers on getting early intervention and inspiring features on families with children who have special needs. Get to know Yvette Tomacruz, Lilibeth Tan, and Jop Hernandez, three moms who have learned that their capacity to love and their reserves of strength are bottomless when it comes to family!

There are also very helpful articles on what to do when one is confined in bed because of pregnancy, how hubby can help in the first 3 months of their baby's arrival, early intervention for babies with Down syndrome, and, because it's almost Christmas, there are some mall-safety tips and a Christmas gift guide for families!

Baby magazine is published by Marathon Publishing Co. and is sold at all SM Department stores (baby section), National Bookstores, Babyland (Robinsons Galleria, Shaw Blvd. near Cherry Foodarama, Virra Mall, Baby & Co. (The Podium and Power Plant Mall), Bufini, Procreation Shangri-la mall, Big & Small Co. Shangri-la Mall.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

C'mon, think!

As the online debates about the RH bill (HB 5043) mushroom all over, I notice that people look at the anti-RH side as a mob of lemmings who merely blindly follow what Church leaders are saying. But truth is, all of the people against RH whom I know are actually those who are reading between the lines of what this bill is about. The Church has her reasons for opposing the bill, but if you think outside the box--try not to consider the Church stance--you'll see there's much about the bill that isn't quite right.

I blame the "lemming" idea partly on the media because it's so easy to take a bishop's stance and paint a clown face on it that we forget ordinary people can sincerely feel the same way about this issue.

The disadvantages of contraceptives aside, the biggest problem with the bill is its goal of "controlling population" when overpopulation is not even a real issue. Here's a snippet of an article by Emmanuel Amador from the publication Love Life ["Does Population Growth really exacerbate poverty?" Vol. 1 No.1] that might help one understand why population control is not the way to go:

Although it is true that, in general, a bigger population can consume more resources than a smaller one, people do more than merely consume. They also produce, just as manufacturing does.

In addition, high population density allows for mass markets, greater interaction, more efficient distribution of services, and economies of scale. Growing populations can also mean growing markets and increased innovation. It's no wonder that persons are generally acknowledged as a nation's most valuable resource.

If population density and population growth contribute to productivity in such important ways, why then should these be singled out as something to be minimized while other productive "contributing factors" [to poverty] aren't?

More importantly, why should the government spend millions on trying to minimize a productive "contributing factor" when there are other greater contributing factors that are not productive at all? Numerous surveys, for example, have shown that the economic situation in the Philippines (and in many other countries) is adversely affected by massive government graft and corruption, draining anywhere from 30% to 70% of tax revenues and government funds, depending on which survey you look at. Shouldn't efforts be focused on eliminating this proven "contributing factor" instead?

Population control is a poor solution to the problem of poverty simply because by cutting down on people we're crippling industry and economics--after all our best resource is people. If you limit the births now, in 50 years our population will be "top heavy" or aging. There will be more old people to support through pensions than there are people to work and pay the taxes that answer for these pensions.