February 14, 2010
Every Valentine’s day, I receive emails and text messages about romance and love. My favorite has always been the quote of Pedro Arrupe, SJ: Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything. (We now know that this is the quote of Fr. Joseph P. Whelan, SJ)
We are told to fall in love. And we all do. We fall in love – and as he says – it influences everything that we do. And because it’s such a wonderful, beautiful thing – we celebrate it on the 14th of February. The love he speaks of though need not be romantic – in fact, Fr. Arrupe / Fr. Whelan was probably alluding to our love for the truth, for what is right, and perhaps given that he was a Catholic priest – for God.
I clearly remember a Valentine’s Day several years ago, a group of students, alumni and faculty gathered in front of Katipunan to listen to updates on the latest happenings in our government on the Jun Lozada case. This was a gathering of people who wanted to learn more about the situation, and find out what they can do to find the truth, to work for accountability and reform for a country that they loved.
So that year, Valentine’s day was spent with my friend Donna, and our date place was gate 2.5 of the Ateneo de Manila University. Students shouting. Banners flying. People standing on the U-turn slot blocks. Traffic slowing, cars honking and drivers and passengers participating in this democratic exercise. Exciting? Very. The people’s intensity during this event and all the events that followed was contagious. But we were in a safe place, near the gates of our university. And one wonders, how far would we go to be heard? How far would we go to work for change in our beloved country?
A few years passed and one wonders again: was it enough to honk, to yell, to light a candle? Was that enough to show the world how much I loved the Philippines? These little bursts of mass action in Makati or Mendiola are like romantic bouts with our country. The height of kilig. The allure of danger. The passion of our anger and frustration. We take to the streets – but then what? The flirtation with the rebels with a cause start to fade, and a year later the problems continue to exist.
It is one thing to mobilize people to go to the streets and rally – and it’s another thing to mobilize people every week to rally the communities and work. It is just as important – if not more important – to find the root of the problem and not just attack the problem, and move from there. What has to be done to address the problem of poverty? Lack of integrity? Lack of transparency? The spark was felt during the rally, but was this call for change merely an infatuation?
This is not to discount the importance nor the influence of the peaceful street protests that have taken place, and that continue to take place. Since they are important why should they be reserved for the scandals and scams? Why make a stand only when the whistle-blowers come out and the media goes nuts? Making a stand should be something we are always doing. Commitment is always working towards a better government, a better community, a more peaceful and prosperous country. Our passion for work toward a better country should always be burning, that even when the issues du jour dies down, we must not forget nor become complacent or callous.
The rally-goers love the Philippines. It takes brave hearts like them to come out and make a stand. But in our love for our people we can not afford to just be brave but we must be loyal as well.
Loyalty is not for puppy love; it’s a mature commitment, a choice. And there are those who have fallen head over heels in love with the country and continue to love her through thick and thin. In sickness and in health. We see this through the sacrifice of many – through the blood, sweat and tears of our living heroes.
I have had the honor to meet many of these men and women – individuals from different sectors of society – tirelessly working with or without the world’s attention. There are hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who show their love for our country in the quiet fervor of their everyday choices – the Pathways volunteer that patiently helps the scholars with their homework, the Youth TRIP kids that tour public school students giving them chance to see our country through a different lens, the Raya school teachers that instill the sense of pride and Filipino identity into the hearts of their little preschoolers, and the citizen who decides not to pay his way out of a traffic violation or through the bureaucracy.
It is the ordinary Filipino that inspires me. In fact, it is the ordinary Filipino that has taught me how to love. I have learned to grow in faith and love for my God and my country through the fine example of the Gawad Kalinga care-taker teams that walk hand-in-hand with the rising poor through thick and thin.
These community builders have sacrificed time and resources, building trust and sharing hope, building homes and sharing their own dreams with people who were not family to them. They dared to love those who were difficult to love. And that in itself entails much courage and faith – but staying with them, even after the novelty and feel-good feeling has run-out demands faithfulness. The care-takers choose to spend their time with their new families. They choose to trust the poor, to respect them, to love them.
During the month of February, the whole world celebrates the day of love. In the Philippines, we celebrate not just any love, but our love for the Philippines, for democracy and for the truth. 24 years ago, the Filipino was able to show the world how much he loved his country and EDSA was the hottest date place in town. The passion was high, the feelings intense, and I would like to believe that the love was true. I would also like to believe that it wasn’t a one shot deal.
According to Arrupe, we should fall in love, but more importantly stay in love.
Fighting for the truth, for social justice, for love shouldn’t be a fling. Love for our country and for the Filipino should be a commitment.
//Inspired by last weeks meeting with the Love Forum organizers. <3