By Fidel V. Ramos
Former Philippine President
As of this writing on 14 February, it is Valentine’s Day (of love) and, coincidentally, Ash Wednesday (of contrition) among Christians. This day also marks the global sports competition named “2018 Winter Olympics” in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, in which Democratic South Korea, and Communist North have temporarily united in ice hockey versus other national teams for the sake of people’s sportsmanship, harmony, peace, and development.
Fortuitously, Korean War descendant Rina Jimenez David opined in “Teen Widows And The War On Drugs”: “What an irony that Valentine’s Day coincides with the Catholic feast of Ash Wednesday, which ushers in the Lenten season. Commentators also make much of the irony that 16 February (Friday) is also, in the Catholic calendar, a ‘meatless’ day, or day of abstinence. How could lovers celebrate these days ‘meaningfully,’ they ask, if they aren’t allowed the pleasures of the flesh?
“Sex and romance are often taken together, one following the other, as in that old (and outmoded?) song about ‘love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.’ But for too many lovers, the romance and sex come at a heavy price, including violence, betrayal, disease, and unplanned pregnancy – the derailing of a life…..” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 February)
THESE TWO DAYS PLUS CHINESE NEW YEAR (16 FEBRUARY) ARE, INDEED, LUCKY NUMBERS AND AUGUR WELL FOR FUTURE PEACE NEGOTIATIONS.
ASH WEDNESDAY AND VALENTINE’S DAY DILEMMA
RE THE CONTRADICTION IN OUR VALENTINE’S DAY BEHAVIOUR AND ASH WEDNESDAY RITUALS, SHARON OTTERMAN’S ARTICLE TITLED “EAT, PRAY, LOVE: AN ASH WEDNESDAY AND VALENTINE’S DAY DILEMMA,” TRIES TO PUT THINGS IN PROPER CONTEXT (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 FEBRUARY 2018), THUS:
“The confluence of these two events – occurring for the first time since 1945 – has created a dilemma for Roman Catholics and followers of other Christian denominations. How can one simultaneously mark a solemn day when foreheads are marked with a symbol of mortality as a call to humility and repentance, while celebrating the other one that glorifies the kisses of romantic love?
“Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, New York Archbishop, took a somber approach, despite his reputation as perhaps the most jovial of American bishops. ‘Ash Wednesday has precedence, and the coincidence of St. Valentine’s Day would not lift for us the duty of fasting and self-denial,’ he wrote in a blog. ‘St. Valentine willingly bows to this Sacred Heart, for which even he lovingly gave his life 18 centuries ago,’ Cardinal Dolan added, referring to the martyrdom of St. Valentine in the third century. He called for celebrations in line with the day’s spirit. ‘Why don’t we do an act of charity for somebody else? Why don’t we do an act of penance for one another as a sign of our love?’ he told reporters…..”
Last year, when St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Lenten Friday, when Catholics are asked to abstain from eating meat, Cardinal Dolan was a voice of leniency. Like 80 other bishops around the US, he issued a dispensation to permit New York Catholics to eat corned beef and cabbage, the traditional Irish dish.
BUT THERE IS A WAY TO USE SPIRITUAL LOVE TO DEEPEN THE LOVE BETWEEN COUPLES. BEFORE HEADING OFF TO GET THOSE VEGETARIAN TAPAS, “GO TO CHURCH FIRST, AND GET SOME ASHES, ESPECIALLY IF THE TWO OF YOU ARE ON THE SAME SPIRITUAL WAVELENGTH,” NEWARK ARCHBISHOP JOSEPH TOBIN SUGGESTED.
WITH REGARD TO THE SECOND BUT MOST WELCOME DEVELOPMENT TOWARDS WORLD PEACE, IT SEEMS “KIMCHI DIPLOMACY” HAS FIRMLY TAKEN ROOT. “THE KITCHEN SISTERS” – DAVIA NELSON AND NIKKI SILVA – PRODUCERS OF THE DUPONT-COLUMBIA AWARD-WINNING “HIDDEN KITCHENS” EXPLAINED IN THEIR ARTICLE, “HOW SOUTH KOREA USES KIMCHI TO CONNECT TO THE WORLD – AND BEYOND,” THUS:
“Everybody eats, which is what makes food a perfect choice to resolve conflicts and foster connections among nations. The concept is called ‘gastrodiplomacy,’ and South Korea is one of the world’s best at branding itself through food, using its cuisine as ‘soft power’ to help spread South Korea’s influence. And even the government pays special attention to promoting around the world that most ubiquitous of Korean foods: kimchi….”
‘It is like air in Korea. Kimchi always has to be in the refrigerator in every house…..’ says Hyunjoo Albrecht, San Francisco-based chef who grew up near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the strip of land that serves as the border between North and South Korea.
“Kimchi is not just cabbage salad – it is essential to the culture of the country. There are hundreds of different varieties of kimchi in Korea, and about 1.5 million tons of it are consumed each year. Even the Korean stock market reflects this obsession: The ‘Kimchi Index’ tracks when Napa cabbage and the 12 other ingredients – chili, carrots, radishes and anchovies among them – are at their best prices…..”
KIMJANG, THE TRADITION OF MAKING KIMCHI, IS MUCH LIKE THE FILIPINO “BAYANIHAN” CONCEPT BECAUSE IT BRINGS TOGETHER ENTIRE KOREAN VILLAGES AND NEIGHBORHOODS (AND, HOPEFULLY, THE WHOLE OF NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA) TO TURN MILLIONS OF CABBAGE HEADS INTO FOOD AND NUTRITION FOR THE PEOPLE.
UNITY STARTING WITH HOCKEY
SUCH GRAND HOPE FOR UNITY AMONG KOREANS FROM BOTH DEMOCRATIC AND COMMUNIST REPUBLICS PLUS OTHER PEOPLES OF THE WORLD IS BEING OBSERVED IN THIS YEAR’S WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES IN PYEONGCHANG. THE ARTICLE “HOCKEY HARMONY” (BBC, 10 FEBRUARY 2018), REPORTS:
“The unified team was formed after the two Koreas reached a deal to compete under the same Korean flag at the Games, and at opening ceremony last 09 February, athletes from both nations marched together into the arena.
“The team was watched by dignitaries including International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“The build-up to the Games was less than smooth – their only practice match resulted in a 3-1 defeat by Sweden and the language barrier also required coach Sarah Murray to have her commands translated from English into Korean so all players could understand…..
“Although they received a rapturous welcome at the Kwandong Hockey Centre, including from the North Korean cheerleaders, the combined team – who are the eighth seeds in the competition – found it tough on the ice rink…..”
THERE WAS A CARNIVAL ATMOSPHERE AS THE NEAR-CAPACITY CROWD CHEERED FOR THE HOME TEAM FROM THE MOMENT THE PUCK DROPPED, ROARED EACH TIME A KOREAN PLAYER HELD POSSESSION WITH MANY WAVING UNIFICATION FLAGS. SOME 100 NORTH KOREAN CHEERLEADERS WERE ON HAND, DECKED OUT IN RED TRACK SUITS, LEADING CHANTS FOR THE SPECTATORS AND SINGING NORTH KOREAN POP SONGS.
WARM SUMMIT AFTER THE WINTER OLYMPICS?
IT WAS ALSO REPORTED THAT SEOUL SEEKS TO FURTHER EASE TENSIONS FOR A POSSIBLE SUMMIT IN PYONGYANG BETWEEN NORTH KOREAN LEADER KIM JONG UN AND SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT MOON JAE-IN(REUTERS, 13 FEBRUARY 2018), TO WIT:
“SOUTH KOREA SAID IT WILL TRY TO ARRANGE MORE REUNIONS FOR FAMILIES DIVIDED BY THE KOREAN WAR AND SEEK TO LOWER MILITARY TENSIONS WITH NORTH KOREA AS THE FIRST STEPS TOWARDS ESTABLISHING GROUNDS FOR A RARE SUMMIT BETWEEN THE TWO KOREAS.
“THE STATEMENT FROM THE MINISTRY OF UNIFICATION CAME AFTER A HIGH-LEVEL NORTH KOREAN DELEGATION CONCLUDED A THREE-DAY VISIT, INCLUDING AN INVITATION FOR SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT MOON JAE-IN TO TRAVEL TO PYONGYANG FOR TALKS.
“THE VISIT OF THE DELEGATION, WHICH INCLUDED NORTH KOREAN LEADER KIM JONG UN’S YOUNGER SISTER KIM YO JONG, INTRIGUED MANY IN SOUTH KOREA, BUT ALSO MET SKEPTICISM ABOUT THE NORTH’S SINCERITY AND WILLINGNESS TO GIVE UP ITS PURSUIT OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS. ‘ALTHOUGH MANY KOREANS WELCOME NORTH KOREA’S PARTICIPATION IN THE PYEONGCHANG WINTER OLYMPICS, THERE ARE ALSO SIGNIFICANT CRITICISMS AND CONCERNS BOTH DOMESTICALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY,’ THE STATEMENT SAID.
“DURING THE VISIT, KIM YO JONG DELIVERED A LETTER FROM HER BROTHER ASKING SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT MOON JAE-IN TO VISIT PYONGYANG AT HIS EARLIEST CONVENIENCE. PRESIDENT MOON HAD REPLIED, ‘LET’S CREATE THE ENVIRONMENT FOR THAT TO BE ABLE TO HAPPEN,’ ACCORDING TO THE PRESIDENTIAL BLUE HOUSE IN SEOUL…..”
SUCH A MEETING, IF IT COMES ABOUT, WOULD MARK THE FIRST INTER-KOREA SUMMIT SINCE 2007. THE TWO KOREAS ARE STILL TECHNICALLY AT WAR AFTER THE 1950-53 CONFLICT ON THE KOREAN PENINSULA ENDED IN A CEASEFIRE AND NOT A TRUCE. THE ROK UNIFICATION MINISTRY SAID STEPS REGARDING THE IMPROVEMENT OF TIES WOULD BE TAKEN BY THE TWO KOREAS, BUT IN COOPERATION WITH RELATED COUNTRIES AND THE SUPPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY.
ALREADY, BOTH DEMOCRATIC AND COMMUNIST CONTINGENTS HAVE WIDENED THEIR CHARM/PEACE OFFENSIVES BY:
(1) DESIGNATION OF U.S. VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE AS SENIOR OBSERVER TO THE 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS AND NOKOR LEADER, KIM JONG UN’S YOUNGER SISTER AS HEADS OF THEIR RESPECTIVE DELEGATIONS… OBVIOUSLY, TO WIDEN THE OPPORTUNITY FOR CONTINUED DIPLOMATIC TALKS BETWEEN THE PROTAGONISTS; AND,
(2) SOOTHING WORDS OF ACCOMMODATION BY MILITARY COMMANDERS ON BOTH SIDES…. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16 February 2018)
FROM THE FILIPINO KOREAN WAR VETERANS, WE SAY LET’S GO FOR THE GOLD!!! GO, GO, GO!!! WAR IS NOT AN OPTION!!!
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