Saturday, February 23, 2013

Malady Soup, Part 3

You'll know you've hit middle age when the medical maladies just keep coming. My latest bout, so soon after presbyopia and the signs of alopecia, is cervical spondylosis with radiculopathy. Now that's a mouthful, isn't it?

Cervical spondylosis, despite its ominous name, isn't as life threatening as it sounds, but when it strikes it's rather painful, and sometimes cripplingly so. My particular flavor manifests itself as tingling sensation down my right arm, followed by what feels like needles stabbing down to the bone.

The source of the pain is a pinched nerve. As the doctor tells it, my neck verterbrae have suffered some compression, squeezing the gel-like discs between them. The discs, like balloons, bulge out, in turn impinging on the nerves leading down to my arm. And so while there's nothing really wrong with my bones, muscles, or skin, I'm getting all sorts of sensations in that region.

So now I can't hold a computer mouse in my right hand anymore. After a few minutes, the tingling begins, followed by the stabbing. Then it's like my hand has been electrocuted, and I have to let my arm drop to get some relief.

Work has become difficult. Until this ailment struck, the mouse has become an extension of my hand -- I use the mouse to program, to design, to read, and yes, also to play. All of a sudden, I'm forced to cut down on all of that.

I've tried to shift the mouse to my left hand, but it seems that the right senses the betrayal and starts radiating pains anyway. Really, the only way to relieve the pain is to stop and take breaks frequently.

Fortunately, some spondylosis is manageable through physical therapy. Three times a week, I have to go to a clinic where a therapist takes me through some exercises and puts me on a traction.

Ah, traction! What fun! The therapist loops a strap down my chin and for fifteen minutes, a machine pulls my head up. At the very least, I hope I'll be taller for this experience.

Still, I shouldn't be complaining much. I can imagine several dozen ways that this could all be worse, and I'm happy that it isn't. Spondylosis can also be fun -- if I turn my neck so many degrees, the tingling starts; and if I turne it the other way by so many degrees, the tingling goes away. It's like having a push button for sensation.

And besides, it's Lent. Having a malady like this gives me something more to offer by way of sacrifice.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Upon this Rock

Along with I suppose everyone else I reacted to the announcement with shock. It was a little past seven of Monday evening, I was alone in the dining table, when the local news program broke the story.

"What? What? No!" I cried out several times. Enough to alarm my wife who rushed in.

"What happened? Why were you shouting?" she asked.

Me: "Pope Benedict just resigned?"

My wife: "What? What? No!"

Certainly no one saw this coming. Because our past experience tells us that popes do not resign, that it's a position of responsibility that they hold to the day God calls them from this earth. Because B16 (as he's known on Twitter), although showing signs of age, still looks to be in good health.

But apparently a pope can resign, that there is precedent for the act, but this is only the sixth time in history that it's happened. The news sent us all scurrying to Wikipedia to find out that the last papal resignation happened over 600 years ago.

After the shock came sadness, at least that's how I felt. There's so much apathy and even enmity for the Catholic Church now that I'm not sure what other reactions followed from the initial incredulity. For me: sadness because...just because. Perhaps I had come to appreciate the weariness that I could, in hindsight, see in B16's eyes.

But that sadness soon gave way to acceptance and even hope. Again, I don't know why. Perhaps because as a believer, I feel the essence of the Catholic Church remains unchanged, that Pope Benedict XVI in his term has stayed the course true. Certainly because even now, I believe this falls within the movement and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Pope Benedict XVI wasn't the rock star that his predecessor Blessed John Paul II was. What he lacked in charisma he made up for in intellect and in an intense focus on the person of Jesus Christ and on the relevance of Jesus' message in the modern world. Pope Benedict was calm, measured, and thoughtful. Long after he passes, his legacy will be his theology of Jesus Christ.

In the aftermath of his announcement, the secular press has, of course, taken to an analysis of the papacy under Benedict XVI. Some have called it a failure, in large part because the Pope failed to resolve the sex scandals in the Church that have only come to light.

There is rot in the Church and it does need to be addressed, and I think it's in recognition of this that Pope Benedict is giving way. The challenges for the papacy are daunting and will require a younger and more energetic Pope.

Pope Benedict has already paved the way for this movement. In his term, he's appointed 67 cardinals, 22 of them within the past year alone, and six of them from developing countries, including our own Cardinal Tagle. The rest, of course, will be up to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

In the meantime, nothing more to say except: "Grazie, Papa."

Saturday, February 09, 2013

What Taboan Means

This week, a host of writers from all over the country congregated in Dumaguete. Not an unusual occurence given the literary heritage of the city, but off-season considering that it's only February and not summer when such gatherings do take place.

This is Taboan, the Philippine literary festival. First held in 2009 in Manila, the festival brings the spotlight to writing from the regions. Owing to its concept, Taboan is supposed to do the rounds of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao every three years. Thus, the Taboan 2010 was held in Cebu; Taboan 2011 in Davao; Taboan 2012 in Pampanga; and now Taboan 2013 in Dumaguete.

Taboan holds a dear place in my heart. I was a delegate in the first two festivals, and an organizer of the third held in Davao. I skipped Pampanga, but when Taboan comes to Dumaguete, I'd be remiss if I didn't find an excuse not to come home.

This time around, I'm not an official delegate so in effect I'm travelling on my dime (my wife and I, actually.) But that's all fine: the first two times I already got free travel, board, and lodging. Nevertheless, I got roped into the panel tribute to the Tiempos. A chance to honor my literary mentors? Gladly! A thousand times so!

Taboan to me has become a reunion of sorts. Over the course of these five years, I've made friends with writers, performers, and teachers from Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Tacloban, Bacolod, Samar, Legaspi, Pampanga, and many other places. It's always a pleasure to trade notes and experiences, and really just to catch up on a personal level.

The geographic spread and diversity is what really differentiates Taboan from other literary gatherings. Taboan, I think, has its roots in the discourse between the center (Metro Manila) and (or perhaps more accurately, versus) the regions; between what the intellectual mainstream says is so, and what the rest of the country might say is otherwise.

The points of contention are varied: language, themes, mythologies, history, criticism, culture, heritage.... The grand, glorious, cacophonous mess of Philippine literature and what we think it should be.

And this is the year that I think that we've started to move away from the specter of the center vs. regions debate. It's not any specific thing that I can point out to, but a sense of the general mood.

From the delegates there's much more confidence, owing in part to experience and to comfort in each others' presence. And the delegates are noticeably younger, too; and with that youth comes excitement and possibility, infectious and invigorating to jaded veterans.

This is Taboan: a bazaar of ideas -- to trade in, to exchange, to bargain, and to barter. You take away as much as you give. But at the end of the day, it's more about the experience than the gain that you end up the richer.

A final word: kudos to the working committee led by Dr. Christine Godinez-Ortega. Each Taboan has its own unique flavor, and this one carried that distinctly warm Negrense hospitality. A real pleasure, too, to see the different Dumaguete universities contributing and hosting various events.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Send Carlos Celdran to Jail...

...or not?

Myself, I'm of two minds. On the one hand, I think he's an annoying pest who could use some downtime in the caboose; and on the other, Christian charity forbids me from wishing ill on another person. Personally, I have no stake in the matter.

But like it or not, Celdran did break the law. Broke into a church, held up a sign, and shouted. During an ecumenical service. Apparently, there is a law against that; who knew?

Celdran and his friends are treating this as a matter of free speech. I don't think so.  The suddenly famous Art. 133 of the Revised Penal Code is clear enough:

The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.

Celdran broke the law, not because he exercised his right to free speech, but because of the manner, time, and place that he chose to exercise it.

Celdran and his friends view Art. 133 as if it stands by itself, zeroing in on "religious feelings" as an archaic construction. But Art. 133 is a part of a larger whole. its position in the Revised Penal Code places it among other provisions dealing with violation of dwelling (trespass), interruption of peaceful meetings, and crimes against religious worship.

Are these provisions odious? Perhaps we should repeal them? But these laws aren't specific to the Catholic Church. If you remove them, you also remove the protection afforded to other religions. What's to prevent disruption of, say, Friday prayers in a mosque, or a Thursday service of the Iglesia ni Cristo? Or does that fall under "free speech?"

Or should the Catholic Church now intervene in the case, ask the judge to reverse the decision? But...but...what happened to the inviolable spearation of Church and State?

Or should we make yet an exception for Celdran because, after all, so many others go scot free? Tu quoque much?

But I say put Carlos Celdran in jail, if only for two months. Not to punish him, but because I think some good will come of it. Celdran is a clown, but he is not without his audience -- perhaps this will put the spotlight on the miserable conditions of Philippine jails and lead to reforms. Who knows? Perhaps Celdran will gain a new and worthwhile advocacy.