Saturday, February 28, 2009

Understanding our plight, deepening our faith

USC College of Law AVR (New Building, Pelaez St.), University of San Carlos Main Campus February 27, 2009, 9:30am – 11:30am

Understanding our plight, deepening our faith (Welcome Address and Rationale)

Good morning!

We gathered today to listen, discuss and share our understanding and misconception regarding religion and sexuality.

As we gathered today, we also would like to take this opportunity to extend our sincere thanks to Prof. Jose Eleazar Bersales, Prof. Judy Elmira Aguilar of Sociology-Anthropology department, Mr. Gerry Caral and Ms. Jiah Sayson, chairpersons of Psychology and Political Science departments, respectively and to their students for accommodating us.

When I attended the week-long training workshop on Defending Our Faith: Religion, Gender and Sexuality, an excellent project of Health Action Information Network (HAIN) and supported by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation in Bohol almost two years ago, I realized the importance played by the Holy Book in transforming my faith and my relationship with family and society..

Prior to that, Prof. Jennings graced our simple gathering in Minglanilla, Cebu and discussed matters related to faith and hate. It was a perfect gathering between an honest theologian and deeply rooted queers.

It was on that gathering also that we realized deeply the importance of religion to counter the attack of the so-called moralist against the LGBTQ (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Queer) communities. The attack is not just historical and class hatred and bias but more on the theological and moral aspect that goes along with it.

On the other hand, understanding queer theology is beyond queer and theology. We should also dig deeper into the economic, social and political aspect of the LGBTQ communities. Otherwise, the queer that we know is incomplete and the theology that we appreciate and adhere is non-existent.

Doing so, the epochal struggle to free our minds from class, institutional and historical biases can be freed freely. And the misconceptions and hatred will be uprooted in good faith.


Our gathering today is not just timely and relevant but also of great historical importance. We gathered here at the University of San Carlos, Asia’s oldest Catholic school founded right in the heart where Magellan planted the first Roman Catholic cross in Asia.

We also take pride for sponsoring this ground breaking activity, in collaboration with the queer center of Chicago Theological Seminary with the hope of lighting a spark that will shed light on issues related to our existence and relationship with each other.

The lecture/forum this morning is a product of our continuing commitment to understand and appreciate, internalize and debate religion and sexuality in the context of love – the kind of love Jesus taught us.

Our activity today is also part of the international workshop against homophobia. Homophobia is a societal problem. As long as we live in a society drowned with such fear and hate, we will also drown ourselves into the pit of uncertain faith -- one thing that Jesus doesn’t want to happen.


Understanding Queer Theology, is understanding ourselves, our family and society for hate not only destroys reason and human relations but also our eternal relationship with the Divine Providence. Doing so, we are destroying the barrier between hate and religion and nearing ourselves to God – like what He always wanted.

We hope that your presence will strengthen our collective expression to combat homophobia as well as deepen our faith and commitment to transform the word of God into our daily expression of genuine faith and true love, and discover the Oneness of God in each of us.

Serve God and People. Thank you so much!

Firm but vulnerable

I will be celebrating my 30th birthday feverish, alone. Call me deviant, but I am not used to celebrating birthdays, anniversaries or whatever with “significance”. It will just be another birthday, though a historic one. In these times of global recession and mass lay-offs, war and famine, beyond imagination tragedies and calamities, and state fascism, terrorism and poverty, not many will reach the age of 30.

While each is unique, my three decades of existence, perhaps, eludes the rest because I am its sole star.


Almost half of it, I became politicized and deeply proud. My exposure to intellectual discourse and how to actualize it is beyond compare. I was 16 when I first read the Philippine Society and Revolution by Amado Guerrero and 23 when I spent several months in the Philippine countryside, particularly in the beautiful and enigmatic Eastern Visayas region. Most of my college friends are living a luxurious life then, as in now. They are traversing the world and conversing with one’s psyche.

There I found out what living is all about. What it is like to be human and be treated differently. What it is like to work with life and limb only to be hungry again. Such experience touched my heart and contributed with deep significance as to where I am going and what to do with the roads I passed-by.

To reach my destination, I travelled almost barefoot for four days and slept for only few hours. I climbed the steepest hill and cliffs, crossed the dangerous rivers and streams, and ate newly sprouted coconut palms just so I can still walk an extra mile while the heavy rain is poking at me and the swollen rivers and muddy mountainside provided a 50-50 chance to survive. Not to mention the paper tigers who wish to destroy the scientific souls marching at the beat of the whirlwind.

But that was seven long years ago.

And then not all in the mountains and hills are century’s old trees, lengthy and wild rivers and streams, endemic and endangered animals, and paper tigers but also people, real people. That makes the trip truly heartwarming and breathtaking. You see, it is not just the natural landscape that provides life it is the living itself you met as you walk along.

When you look at the people “disregarded by time” you will realize how important time is.

The wrinkles in their faces, the tired voice and their eagerness to listen to a good-news-bearing visitor provide hope. I am no idealist, but when you look and talk to them, you will feel how important life is. Their day-to-day struggle to survive provides a protracted hope that someday they will be taken seriously by society and they will take society seriously.

Living with them is heartening. Learning from them is truly inspiring.

Indeed, I learned to value every minute detail of their history and struggle to survive. I internalized their hopes, dreams and aspirations as mine. I also learned to appreciate nature more as something that cannot just provide shelter for me but can heal my sickness. No aspirin and alaxan in the countryside, only alugbati and wild weeds.

I became scientific in the process and this is the greatest lesson I learned from them not found in the engineering laboratory during my college years.


Being scientific is not always political but also physical. When one is disturbed emotionally and physically, one tends to take refuge in whatever left in his own morass. Take it from me, I dig my own soul. I realized that my body is my temple whom shall I fear.

I also began to internalize how important my temple is in the realization of my and other people’s dreams, hopes, and aspirations. I begun to value every breath that I take, every movements of my lips and the gawp of my enigmatic eyes should speak of and for other people.

A sickly body can’t think clearly. However applicable your thoughts are, it will remain insignificant.

For the past four years, I end up with several physical regimens to compensate and balance my body and mind. In a week, I end up swimming a minimum of 1500 meters. I walk at least three kilometers daily and weightlifting guarantees a twice weekly schedule for three hours. Vegetarian diet is also in the menu but not as often as I can. Two-thousand ml of water provides a steady stream in my body and yellow fruits keeps me look fit and young. Smoking is strictly prohibited and drinking wine occasionally is a must.

But whose lung can escape the pollutions in our midst? Whose body can’t be penetrated by toxic in the air?

Primarily, it is only in the countryside, and not somewhere else, that I appreciate the value of nature in my advocacies and commitment. It is not just what I read that brought me to realize and appreciate all these. It is what I see, my actual involvement and my daily linkages with ordinary people that brought me to realize the importance of my body, which undoubtedly keeps me young in spirit.

The endless walking of the mind and body cannot be compensated by countless books and information materials available in the cities. I am surrounded with much greater and vast materials waiting to be unearthed and documented in the vast countryside where poetry and song, war and peace takes time to unite.

Firm but vulnerable

“What can I tell you of my past, gentleman (he is saying) I was born in a land where the idea of freedom, the notion of right, the habit of human kindness were things coldly despised and brutally outlawed. Now and then, in the course of history, a hypocrite government would paint the walls of the nation’s prison a comelier shade of yellow and loudly proclaim the granting of rights familiar with happier states; but either these rights were solely enjoyed by the jailers or else they contained some secret flaw which made them even more bitter than the decrees of frank tyranny…Every man in the land was a slave, if he was not a bully; since the soul and everything pertaining to it were denied to man, the infliction of physical pain came to be considered as sufficient to govern and guide human nature…From time to time a thing called revolution would occur…”

I could have dreamed of writing it, but I can’t, Vladimir Nabokov did in his book, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight.

And then there is almost a decade old threat from paper-tigers. That makes my three decades of living and being truly wonderful and remarkable, politically, spiritually and physically. That makes my 30 years of living faithfully firm and my being exceptionally vulnerable.


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