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Thirsting for truth
February 28th, 2008 posted by Ramon Millonte under Alumni Stories, Opinion

By Fr. Daniel Franklin Pilario, C.M.

(Fr. Daniel Franklin Pilario,C.M. , Dean of Adamson University’s St. Vincent School of Theology, delivered this homily on February 24, 2008, at the St. Vincent de Paul’s Parish in San Marcelino, Manila. The University’s community—from students, staffs, faculty members, and administrators— took part and became one on this occasion. Also present to give their support are former president Cory Aquino, Noynoy Aquino, Mayor Fred Lim, and Jun Lozada.)

Of Water, Mountains, and Husbands

When I was asked to deliver this homily, I immediately read the Gospel for today. I was a bit frustrated. The reading was not only long, it also appeared irrelevant. I asked myself how a seemingly harmless story of Jesus and a woman talking about water, mountains, and husbands can be relevant to the current wave of disgust, anger, and frustration growing among our people. I read it a second time and saw how it painfully strikes at the heart of the events that are happening in our midst. The story of the woman of Samaria is the story of us all—the story of Jun Lozada; the story of the woman in Malacañang; also my story and yours.

Probinsyanong Intsik and the Samaritan Woman

Simulan natin kay Jun Lozada. Jun, nais ko sanang magpaalam kung maari ko pang dagdagan ang mga pangalang ibinigay na nila sa ‘yo. Hindi ka lang ‘probinsiyanong Intsik’ o katulad ng ‘crying lady’. Sa umagang ito ikaw ay magiging isang ‘Samaritan woman’. Forgive my cross-gender and cross-cultural references. Pero parang magkatapat na rin ang pakahulugan ng babaeng taga-Samaria at probinsiyanong Intsik. For the self-righteous Jews of Jesus’ time, Samaritans were mere ‘provincials’ . Jerusalem was the center. Samaria was marginally far-off. But it was not only the geographical location. Samaritans also belonged to a disgusting breed that a good Jew needed to avoid. Kung buhay na si Apostol noon, matagal na silang na-deport!

But how did Jun become the Samaritan woman? Let me cite in three ways.

First, the Samaritan woman was no saint. May tinatago siya sa kanyang buhay. Kung baga, ayaw niya ring mag-testify. Kung kaya tanghali siyang pumunta sa balon dahil wala pang mga tao doon. Wala pa doon ang mga tsismosa. Dahil sino ba sa atin ang nais na maging pulutan ng iba ang ating sariling buhay? Ganoon din si Jun. Kaya nga dumating siya sa oras na dapat wala ang media. Salamat na rin sa advice ni Atienza – dahil tulad ni Jun, may tinatago din siguro siya kahit sinasabi niyang tumutulong lang naman siya, tumutulong magtago.

Isa sa mga sinasabi ngayon ay ganito: “Bakit ba kayo naniniwala kay Lozada? Kasabwat din naman yan, a?” Jun, para sa akin, mas mabuti na lang kasabwat ka, dahil kung hindi ay sasabihin na naman nila, “wala namang alam yan, e. Dahil hindi naman namin ‘yan kasama.” And that is the storyline they are pursuing in the Ombudsman hearing: that you have left early on in the negotiation. That is why you do not know how it reached $329M. But above all, I thank God that you are not a ‘saint’ – that you had wallowed with them in the dark. It was the experience of that darkness that disposed you for the light. It must be really cold in Hong Kong that you began to long for warmth. It must have been so lonely that you longed for home. It must have been so arid that you started to ask for water. Then, unexpectedly, you were led to the well. There, a man was waiting. Hindi po ‘yon si General Atutubo! This brings me to my second point.

The Samaritan woman was thirsty, but she did not really expect to see a man by the well. She was quite suspicious of Jews, much more of men. Her experience with the men in her life wasn’t good at all. Yet unlike other men, Jesus was so respectful of her. So, she had no choice but to listen. Without her knowing it, she began to pour out her emotions, lay open her whole life and her thirst.

Jun, you very well know at what point during these recent weeks you met that man at the well; the God who was so gentle with you that you had no choice but to open up and tell the truth. Since you acknowledged your thirst, God was able to pour the living water. Thank God you accepted your weakness; he was able to heal. Woe to those who pretend to be strong! (they call it ’strong Republic’, ’strong economic growth’); for them, no healing can happen. That well-staged ‘unity walk’ which was supposed to project a ’strong cabinet’ was more a sign of a sad and threatened existence. For behind the smiles and seemingly confident strides of a blazing red outfit flanked by men in black was actually deep fear and panic.

Third, after that refreshing encounter by the well, the woman from Samaria was so fired up that she went out to tell others. That was not easy. People would now know the truth of her life: that she had five husbands, and that the one she was living with at the moment was not one of them. The people would doubt her credibility. The enemies of Jesus could threaten her life. She would put to risk the safety and honor of her family. But she could not be stopped. What began as water in the well had turned to consuming fire. Jun, more than all of us here, you deeply know what this means.

Samaritan Woman and Woman at the Palace

I think the woman in Malacañang also came to the well. She was also confronted by Jesus. She was also told to go back and bring her husband along. For Jesus has even more questions for him. I can only imagine what she answered. Perhaps: “Nasa Hong Kong pa po, nagpapa-accupunctur e.” No one can really tell how she responded to the Lord’s questions for her in the depths of her conscience. That is between her and the Lord. We respect that.

But God’s voice can also be heard through the events of our nation’s life under her rule. Since the Garci controversy, we have already asked so many questions. If we believe that God speaks through his people, then GMA has not answered God yet. Unlike Jun or the Samaritan woman, the President walked away from the well. She refused to be accountable.

When the Garci tapes came out, she confessed on nationwide television, “I am sorry.” We thought it was truth coming out. But no; it was a carefully staged act. Because days after, she also said, “I did not do anything wrong.” We were asking then: so what was she sorry for? Soon, she unleashed all legal, administrative, and military arsenal at her disposal – the no-permit-no- rally policy, calibrated pre-emptive response and EO 464 – all in a week’s time.

The clamor for truth and accountability in the impeachment process was drowned by promises of pork barrel disbursements and cash gifts. Garci could not be found, only to surface later as an ‘honorable’ candidate in the subsequent election. Only in the Philippines! The generals implicated in the tape were promoted; one even became the Chief of Staff. While those who wanted to tell the opposite side of the story like Gudani and Balutan, Lim, and Querubin were either sacked or jailed. Gloria turned away from the man by the well.

Another chance came with the exposé of the fertilizer scam. Again, she let the opportunity pass her by. Sayang. Knowing that we have a government system that can trace the whereabouts and track the conversations of people it considers its enemies, we are expected to believe that Bolante could not be found? This government does not only steal from us; it grossly insults our intelligence as well!

Then God spoke to her again when the whole world was so concerned with the extrajudicial killings. But just the same, Gloria turned a deaf ear. Whatever happened to the findings of the Melo Commission? Did anyone of you know? How in the world can the President praise in front of the whole nation (in an official act like the State of the Nation address) the man directly implicated as responsible for these killings by the Commission she herself has created?

Then came a louder call from God: the ZTE Broadband deal. Now, she has really grown numb and callous. Everything has been done to drown God’s voice: from fake London seminars to a joy ride to Calamba and Dasmariñas; from forced affidavits to a 500,000-peso loan with neither collaterals nor signatures. The President has once more turned away from the man at the well.

I don’t know if Malacañang is listening to us today. I guess they are since cameras and sensors are all over Metro Manila. While others may cry foul at state surveillance, today I won’t really mind if they monitor us. Much better so that I can say what is in my heart directly to the heart of the palace.

Madame President, I know that your heart still has a small space for an unsolicited advice. Let me say this: God’s voice could not be drowned forever. We cannot just walk out on him every time he talks to us at our own wells. If you always turn a deaf ear, his messages might soon be seen as writings on the Malacañang walls. By then, I am afraid it might be too late for you.

Our people thirst for truth. They want you to be accountable and take responsibility. When I say ‘our people’, I do not mean the politicians – both from the opposition and the administration – nor the thoughtless and rapacious oligarchs who have made a mess of this country. I think the Lord does not so much listen to politicians. I am not even sure if He listens to bishops and priests. But He will always hear the cry of the poor. I mean the really poor who have nothing to eat tonight. This is what he promised, our responsorial psalm says.

So, Madame President, the more you exchange cash in paper bags in order to prop up your regime, the hungrier the poor become. In my ministry as a priest, I could no longer count how many times have I been called to bless beautiful children and infants in their improvised coffins, some even made of cardboard. If you ask why they died, their parents have a single refrain: “we have no money for the hospital”. Mrs. President, the more billions you and your men get from commissions, the more cardboard coffins we will see.

Can your conscience tolerate this?

Let us no longer use their hunger and poverty to evade political accountability as you and your advisers have been doing. Huwag na po natin gamitin ang mga mahihirap. That you are concerned with putting food at the poor’s tables; that is why you have no time to waste on political noise. This is not political noise; this is about political accountability. For as our bishops already said: ‘Those who govern have the obligation to answer to the governed.’ Leaders who can’t be accountable should go. I repeat: they should go! For they are not worth the name.

Samaritan Woman in US

In the end, we know that there is also a Samaritan in all of us. The man named Jesus also appears at our own wells at some crossroads of our lives. And he also challenges us—as he did the Samaritan woman, Jun Lozada or the President—to stand up for truth, to speak for it whenever and wherever we are. A friend, who is a young mother, told me yesterday that while she was reading the newspaper and watching her 5-month old child sleep, she said to herself, “I should come out and do something. Anything-except be quiet and indifferent. For, in the future, I would like my child to know that I stood up for her today.”

I hope to see her in this church this morning.

Maybe this is the same reason why you are here today.

God bless us all. God bless our country!

Last 20 posts by Ramon Millonte

Tags: Adamson Chronicle, Adamsonian, Adamson University

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