Faith leaders and social poets

Published September 11, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid


Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid

When COVID-19 suddenly descended upon us, and the world turned upside down, some who are able to afford the costs involved turned to mental health specialists. But many did turn to religion. It is said that from 84 percent of the global population who declared adherence to a religious faith, this suddenly surged to 86 percent when masses and services started to be held online. In fact, there has been an increase in the number of spiritual activities held online. As well as initiatives in introducing new formats in religious observances. Too, theologians from the Christian faith, Catholic, Protestant, Christian evangelicals, and perhaps the other religions too – Islam, Jewish, etc., are re-examining how to become more relevant in the days of the pandemic and beyond by exploring innovative approaches – indigenization and relating faith to the cultural context.

Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ. of the Loyola School of Theology, utilizes poetry, video and multi-media in crafting and delivering messages on good governance, anti-corruption, peace and culture, and a variety of related development topics. Fr. Alejo who holds a Ph.D., in Social Anthropology from the University of London, uses Filipino language in intellectual discourse. One of his more popular works is “Tao Po! Tuloy!” which explores the concept of the “loob” (inner self) and “kapwa” (fellow human being). He notes: “When a loved one is killed or hurt, we feel the hurt. When faced with difficulties, we say that our family had given us strength. In such situations, the entities related to us are ‘kadugtong ng bituka,’ a connected extension of ourselves.”

This connection extends to governance. Governance leadership cannot exist in insolation from the country’s culture. Governance can be enriched by cultural values.

Dr. Melanio La Guardia Aoanan, an ordained minister of the United Church of the Philippines and former President of Southern Christian College of the Philippines, obtained his doctorate from the Loyola School of Theology, in his latest publication, “Bituka Theology,” he notes that an important task is to articulate theology in the Filipino language, giving importance to our historical experience, and giving emphasis to the emerging Filipino consciousness.

Why bituka? Because a most central and vital part of the body it is concerned with the intestines, not the heart. Thus, when one is worried, we would say, “Huwag kang mag-alaala. Malayo yan sa bituka” (Don’t worry, It is far from the intestine).

Food is the most concrete definition of what or who the Filipino is. It is only through food that the Filipino expresses his deepest feelings. Eating together or table fellowship is an indicator of an intimate and close relationship.

This and six other essays on the tasks of transformation of persons and institutions of the Church, the Church’s engagement with the Moro and the Lumad, and relevant contemporary issues including building on scholarly research and utilizing insights of artists, are examined in the essays.

A commentary by a priest and sometime poet, notes Pope Francis who commented on how the pandemic had given rise to the emergence of the “social poets,” (nurses, doctors, care workers, delivery drivers, refuse collectors, shelf stackers, checkout assistants, etc.) who have always been there, but often unacknowledged. They include all those who seek to overcome all forms of exclusion. Today, these so-called “social poets are creating admirable solutions to our most pressing problems. Their concerns focus on the 3 T’s –“trabajo” (work), “techo” (housing) and “tierra” (land and food).

We, locked down for over 18 months and our lives suddenly transformed by COVID-19, feel that we need more than vaccination and economic development. Thus, the central role of these “social poets” who help ensure that we are able to satisfy some basic needs. And faith leaders who are trying to help us discover spiritually meaningful lives.

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