SWS: 96 percent Filipinos enter New Year with hope

>> Monday, January 8, 2024


Instead of fear, around 96 percent of adult Filipinos are entering the New Year with hope, the highest recorded since the pre-pandemic in 2019, according to a survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) released on Thursday.
    Results of the Dec. 8-11 survey found that hope for the coming new year is one point higher than the 95 percent recorded in 2022 and the highest since the pre-pandemic 96 percent in 2019.
    Meanwhile, 3 percent answered they are entering 2024 with fear, down by 2 points from 5 percent in 2022.
    Entering the New Year with hope was the highest among respondents in Metro Manila and Balance Luzon at 97 percent, followed by Mindanao at 96 percent, and Visayas at 93 percent.
    The pollster said New Year hope at the end of 2023 rose slightly across educational levels compared to the end of 2022: from 92 percent to 93 percent among non-elementary graduates, from 95 percent to 97 percent among elementary graduates, from 95 percent to 96 percent among junior high school graduates, and from 96 percent to 98 percent among college graduates.
    The survey was conducted using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults aged 18 years old and above nationwide: 300 each in Metro Manila, Balance Luzon (or Luzon outside Metro Manila), the Visayas, and Mindanao.
    The sampling error margins are ±2.8 percent for national percentages, and ±5.7 percent each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.


Transport crisis looming with PUV modernization 

More than 100 Sangguniang Kabataan officials have signed a unity statement opposing the government’s franchise consolidation plan for public utility vehicles (PUV), warning that the franchise consolidation requirement would lead to a mass transport crisis among millions of commuters.
    According to a statement shared by the Kabataan Partylist, the SK officials said they oppose the franchise consolidation deadline set on Dec. 31 as it threatens to strip off the livelihood and income of more than 60,0000 jeepney operators by forcing them to submit to the management of transport cooperatives or corporations.
    Kabataan Partylist told reporters in a message on Sunday that 111 officials have signed the statement. 
    “The repercussions of drastically reducing the number of PUVs in January 2024 extend beyond economic implications. Aside from creating dents in commuter’s budgets, especially those working or studying, it threatens to plunge millions of Filipino commuters into a dire transport crisis, profoundly impacting crucial sectors of our economy,” the statement read.
    The youth leaders also urged Marcos to review the PUV modernization program and “either set aside or completely revoke” the deadline for franchise consolidation to "avert an impending transport crisis."
    “Though government information insists on progress in terms of franchise consolidation, ground reports paint a different picture — one that ensures that existing policies will neglect the conditions of the transport industry,” the statement added.
    The SK officials also hit the government’s franchise consolidation requirement, saying that this essentially violates the rights of jeepney drivers and operators to form their own associations by “compelling them to dissolve their existing associations to comply or risk losing their means of livelihood.”
    A memorandum circular issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board last Dec. 22 allows jeepney drivers and operators who have not yet consolidated to still ply the roads after the Dec. 31 deadline. However, they will no longer be allowed to join cooperatives or corporations. 


Time to rethink New Year’s resolutions


Alfred P. Dizon

Here’s some pieces of advice about New Year’s resolutions. But how much of it actually works? Is it even a good idea to set resolutions at the beginning of the year?
    In an article, three Ascend editors, Kelsey Alpaio, Christine Liu, and Elainy Mata, break down five tactics — backed by research — for making New Year’s resolutions work for you: Do resolutions right. Create “fresh starts.” Reframe to make it fun. Break goals into micro habits. Evaluate your resolutions. Consider the negative risks.
Tip 1: Create “fresh starts”
ALPAIO: This is actually something I tried in both 2019 and 2020. These are the journals I used to keep track of it, actual journals that I used to do this with. So instead of setting a goal for the whole year, I set monthly resolutions for myself. Here’s why this works. When we typically set resolutions at the beginning of the year, there’s really no end in sight.
    When you set monthly goals instead, you’re creating these sort of fresh start moments for yourself at the beginning of every month, instead of just the beginning of the year. And that keeps you motivated for a longer period of time.
Tip 2: Reframe to make it fun!
LIU: If you just want to, like, adopt better habits or make a change, whatever, there’s one thing that you can do to substantially increase the chance of it sticking. You actually want to have fun. So that means you actually enjoy the thing in the moment, not just waiting for that magical day months later that you’re going to be like, oh yeah, I feel better about myself.
    Let’s say I want to resolve to eat more vegetables. The worst thing I could do is be like, “I’m going to eat more vegetables because of health benefits.” Because, you know, that’s pretty boring, and I’m not going to, like, choke down this salad just because I know it’s good for me. I mean, most salads out there are boring.
    Instead of boring salads, I’ll be like, oh, I really love the act of researching what ingredients are in season. Even if something is important or meaningful, I want this goal to be fun.
Tip 3: Break goals into micro habits
ALPAIO: As somebody who’s set some pretty lofty goals for themselves over the years, I absolutely love this tip. Basically, it’s all about taking those big, intimidating, lofty goals and slashing them into micro habits.
    When a resolution is too big or too vague, it makes it easier for you to make up excuses why you’re not going to do it. For example, say your resolution is to read more. That’s a very scary, intimidating, and vague goal. To break it down into a micro habit, maybe you would say, OK, I’ll read for 45 minutes a day. That’s still too big. All right, I’ll read a chapter every night. That’s still too big.
Your goal should be something like, I’m going to read a paragraph before bed every single night. Now, that is a micro habit. I know that sounds really small, but it’s called a micro habit for a reason. It’s supposed to be something that’s so small that it almost feels ridiculous to do. But that’s the point. It’s supposed to feel achievable. It’s supposed to feel like something that you aren’t intimidated to do on a daily basis.
Tip 4: Evaluate your resolutions
MATA: I actually don’t like New Year’s resolutions because I feel like they add more pressure to my already pressure-filled life. But I thought about it, and I realized that the reason why I don’t like New Year’s resolutions is because I do too many of them at the same time.
    Evaluate your goal list. Ask yourself a few questions. Does this goal align with my values? Should I put this goal off for another time, or should I just get rid of it all together? If you’re in your office or a group of friends and you’re hearing all of them talk about their New Year’s resolutions, don’t panic. You don’t have to have a New Year’s resolution. It’s actually OK.
Tip 5: Consider the negative risks
LIU: No one really talks about maybe the risks or the side effects of having goals. Harvard Business School published this research paper that has the title — I’m dying here — it’s called “Goals Gone Wild.” What’s really interesting here is that setting goals, especially around work, can wreak havoc if not applied appropriately. So unreasonable goals, or ones that are too narrow or too ambitious can cause damage. There are psychological costs. You get into tunnel vision. And in the effort to hit those “capital G” goals, a lot of things may cost you in the long run.
    ALPAIO: These are the tactics that we found useful. We hope that you found them useful, as well. Let us know how you feel about New Year’s resolutions, how you feel about this advice, and any resolutions that you have in the works. Happy new year!


Alfred Dizon 

OPAPRU: 2023 peace process with armed groups ‘fulfilling’

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. described 2023, a “banner year for comprehensive Philippine process,” amid the         Marcos administration’s commitment to realizing its peace agenda for the nation.
    In a statement e-mailed to the Northern Philippine Times, Galvez said a “significant peace milestone” was achieved by the Philippine government and Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP).
    He said the series of back-channeling and exploratory talks between the government and the NDFP resulted in the signing of the Oslo Joint Communique last Nov. 23 in Oslo, Norway.
    “The intention of the parties is very clear. This is to end the armed conflict, to end armed struggle, and transformation of the CPP-NPA-NDFP,” Galvez said, who announced the peace breakthrough in Malaca├▒ang on Nov. 28.
    “We want to resolve all the socioeconomic drivers of conflict, and at the same time, end armed struggle through peaceful resolution of conflict. We’ve been divided as a people by this conflict for more than 50 years,” he added.
    Galvez said the government is making headway with the Localized Peace Engagement (LPE) initiative. The LPE cluster of the National Task Force to Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which is co-chaired by OPAPRU and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, continues to roll out the Transformation Program for former rebels, their families and communities.
    “We have been conducting Transformation Program workshops together with provincial local government units and partner agencies nationwide to help former rebels fully reintegrate into mainstream society and rebuild their lives,” Galvez said.
    Meanwhile, Galvez said the government’s peace processes with the Cordillera Bodong Administration-Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CBA-CPLA) and Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas-Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB), now called KAPATIRAN, are moving forward as well.
    “The government continues to implement a Normalization Program for both groups that enable its members and their families to improve their socioeconomic well-being,” he said, adding he “is confident they will serve as examples for others to give up armed struggle and embrace a peaceful and productive life.”
    “Once people start enjoying the dividends of peace and their lives start to improve, there is no longer reason for them to engage in armed struggle. They themselves will volunteer to become instruments of peace and development as what our CBA-CPLA and KAPATIRAN have shown," he noted.
    He cited "major milestones" in the government's peace efforts with various groups, including the Bangsamoro, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front, National Democratic Front, and those in the Cordilleras.
    “Major milestones have been achieved in the comprehensive Philippine peace process under the Marcos administration’s Five-Point Peace, Reconciliation and Unity agenda,” Galvez said in a statement Thursday.
    “We would like to assure you that the Marcos administration is determined to push forward, build upon and sustain the gains of the comprehensive peace process,” he added.
    Galvez said amid two major wars in different parts of the world, the Philippines is looked upon by the international community as a beacon of hope and inspiration for its successful peacebuilding efforts. “Our country has shown that good things come to those who choose and walk the path of peace. Let us continue doing so and become a beacon of hope, mutual understanding and solidarity.”
    Galvez cited significant progress under the Bangsamoro peace process, as the Bangsamoro Parliament has passed five of its seven priority codes, which aims to improve the socioeconomic conditions of its people and boost the region’s economy. These codes include the Administrative Code, Civil Service Code, Electoral Code, Local Government Code, and Education Code.
    “The crafting of these codes is an indication that the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) has really gotten stronger, especially in terms of passing key legislation that will unlock the full economic potential of the region and bring economic progress to the people,” Galvez said.
    All seven mechanisms of the National Government – Bangsamoro Government Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB) have been established and are now functioning, he added.
    These IGRB mechanisms include the Philippine Congress-Bangsamoro Parliament Forum (PCBPF); Intergovernmental Fiscal Policy Board (IFPB); Joint Body for the Zones of Joint Cooperation (JBZJC); Intergovernmental Infrastructure Development Board (IFPB); Intergovernmental Energy Board (IEB); and Bangsamoro Sustainable Development Board (BSDB); and the Council of Leaders.
    “With the accomplishments of the IGRB this year, we have no doubt that the body will be able to sustain its momentum in 2024, as it effectively addresses pressing issues brought to its attention, and help uplift the lives of the Bangsamoro people,” he said.
    “The BARMM is a very good example that once you create a peaceful and secure environment for the people, economic development will follow as trading, investments, and tourism will thrive,” he said.
    In 2023, Galvez said 26,145 former MILF combatants have also been decommissioned and “are now living as peaceful and productive civilians in their communities.”
    A key component of the Normalization Program under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), decommissioning is the process wherein the former combatants lay down their arms and return to mainstream society.
    “These former MILF combatants are now fighting a different battle and that is, a battle to improve their socioeconomic well-being and create a better future for themselves and their families,” Galvez said.
    He added that the Transformation Program for MNLF combatants, which was launched in October this year, is expected to uplift the lives of the group’s members and empower them as agents of peace and development.
    “Our MNLF brothers and sisters are demonstrating their determination to help move forward the national government’s peace agenda and walk the path of peace,” Galvez said.
    “More importantly, the national government is showing the MNLF that it is focused, more than ever, to fulfill all the commitments it had made under the 1996 Final Peace Agreement,” he added.
    The OPAPRU's Social Healing and Peacebuilding Program (SHAPE) is also helping to mend the torn social fabric of society caused by armed conflict through peace conversations and other peacebuilding initiatives.
    “We are committed to conduct trauma healing sessions for the victims especially in light of the recent bomb attack in Marawi City. Through this intervention, we hope to help the victims recover emotionally from the harrowing incident and move forward,” Galvez said.
    He said they continue to work closely with international and local partners, to directly address the roots of violence that is used by terrorists and extremists to bring in recruits into their fold.
    “We believe that the best way to effectively and permanently address the threat of violent extremism is to involve everyone in the healing and peacebuilding process, especially the most vulnerable sectors of society,” Galvez said.
    The OPAPRU together with the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), as well as civil society organizations and the international development community, launched the fourth generation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAPWPS) 2023-2033 in early December.
    The NAPWPS is the Philippine government’s commitment to the United Nations Security Country Resolution (UNSCR) No. 1325, which calls for women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution, peace negotiations, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response, and post-conflict reconstruction.
    Meanwhile, the OPAPRU's Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan or PAMANA Program is also building much-needed infrastructure projects that are helping to bring social cohesion and create more livelihood opportunities for residents in focus areas nationwide.
    “The bulk of OPAPRU’s nearly P7 billion budget for 2024 will be used to fund the PAMANA Program, which seeks to bring essential government services closer to the people, especially in remote, undeveloped communities in focus areas,” Galvez said.
    He said he is optimistic that with the upcoming roll-out of the national government’s amnesty program for former rebels, “more will be encouraged to turn away from armed struggle, lay down their arms, and return to the fold of the law.”
    He said the granting of amnesty is an integral part of the comprehensive peace process that will foster genuine healing, reconciliation and deepen the trust and confidence in the government which is needed for the economy to grow while building on the gains of peace.
    “It is a path towards normalization that would allow former rebels not only to fully reintegrate themselves into mainstream society as peaceful, productive and law-abiding citizens, but more importantly, enable them to rebuild their lives and ensure a better future for themselves and their families,” Galvez said. 


The university and cultural pride


Richard Kinnud

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- For a paper towards brand management of a state university, an item I asked from student-respondents of Benguet State University, the setting of the study, was their level of expectations and experiences about the university taking the lead in offering subjects or courses that promote culture and national pride. The result on this particular item is noteworthy as it shows students having a “very high” expectation on that aspect.
    The study’s objective did not include exploring the reason for such level of expectation but I suppose it must be coming from some degree of awareness that the university to certain extent is a haven and promoter of culture.  This awareness can be from information that has been transmitted from the several generations that trod the university since its beginnings more than hundred years ago.  Or from research works published on the matter especially that there are those freely available online.
    A study of Dr. Stanley F. Anongos, for instance, on accommodation of indigenous dances in Northern Luzon had it government higher education institution in the Cordillera, which includes Benguet State University, had it that these schools are “sanctuaries for Cordillera cultural dances.” 
    The paper cites that as early as the 1920s, students from Trinidad Agricultural School, the institution that has soon became Benguet State University, were active in highland dance performances either to entertain tourists and guests or as contestants in “Igorot tribal dance” competitions.
    With the school established primarily for the natives near its location, and as a regional institution to serve the peoples of the so-called old Mountain Province which has now become essentially the Cordillera Region with the addition only of one adjacent province, the cultural inclination is of the Cordilleran, a term that is sometimes if not often used interchangeably with the appellation Igorot or highlander. 
    It is written in official accounts that Benguet State University is promoting cultural development.  One of the markers at the BSU Centennial Park (where students, those from surrounding communities, and guests flock at Christmas time for the lights) had these texts: “The school had been a venue for cultural development awakening ethnic consciousness and allowing the growth of cultural dance troupes. 
    This was institutionalized by the creation of Special Cultural Office in 1986 that grew into the present Center for Culture and the Arts formally established in 2009.” 
    Of course as the university grows and manifests itself to a wider limelight, students, employees and other stakeholders come in from different cultural affiliation and thus creating diversity.  The better-known cultural groups under this Center for Culture and the Arts umbrella are the Sinagtala, Rondalla, and Kontad where only the latter is for highland cultural performances. 
    But it remained that the population of the school, students especially, are coming from the Cordillera region and it follows that the place’s ethos is prominent during cultural performances.
    Going to the experience part of the study first mentioned, the result also showed that students highly regard that the university is taking the lead in offering subjects/courses that promote culture and national pride. 
    Again, the study’s general objective was not able to cover the why but it can be assumed that they must have experienced something inside their classrooms or from their professors as basis for the responses.
    Just very recently, professors from the university have joined forces with professors from other universities and colleges in the region together with other higher education stakeholders to push for what is called Cordillera Heritage 101, a general subject intended to be taken by undergraduate students of whatever course in universities in the region. The focus is on history and heritage of the Cordillerans. 
    Benguet State University is among the current implementers.
    Of course, even before this, many of the faculty, particularly in the education, social sciences, languages, and the art and humanities fields had integrated indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) in their subject areas.
    Aside from these developments in the instruction milieu, cultural promotion is active in other areas.  As mentioned, cultural groups continue to exist.  In the research departments, researchers from the university are into culture-related researches.
    Also very recently, the university hymn which had been traditionally in English is now sung in the Kankanaey, one of the major languages in the locality.  The current president, Dr. Felipe Salaing Comila is credited for this.   An Ibaloi version is now also being refined.
    At the university library, there is what is called a CARiana section which is devoted for books and materials about the Cordilleras and also by Cordillerans.  Lately, they have introduced book holders that are essentially Cordilleran images.
    These actions are certainly to the cause of promoting culture.  When we say culture here, it would not just be the material things or the performances that we behold.  It includes the morals, ideals, and philosophies that they embody, encourage and employ.  The question is where should these all lead?
    For Dr. Anongos, the dean of the university’s College of Social Sciences, culture can be what would make unique the university’s graduate.  To paraphrase him, every school may produce the skilled, competent, highly knowledgeable, excellent graduate but the socio-cultural orientation will surely make a difference.
    On January 12, the university will be celebrating its 38th Charter Anniversary.  From Mountain State Agricultural College, it has become Benguet State University on January 12, 1986.  This year’s theme is “BSU Addressing the Educational and Entrepreneurial Needs of the Communities.”
    It is very apt as one of the news lately was the signing into law of a measure that allows the university to open a College of Medicine.  The management is now keen on opening it up on the first semester of the next school year.  When it finally opens and produces the doctors, it can address community needs.
    On the other hand, one may argue that other universities too are addressing such educational and entrepreneurial clamor in communities.  This thus boil down to the issue earlier raised on what makes the graduate different. This corner iterates it could be the cultural esteem.
    Happy Charter Anniversary to all i-BSU to include the students, alumni, faculty, staff, workers, benefactors, the community around it, and all the other stakeholders.


Richard Kinnud

Beyond celebrating a birthday

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- I was late going home one night because of a Christmas program I went to attend in one unit of my workplace.  The following day, I was late again for the same reason, a Christmas program in another unit of my workplace.
    My seven-year-old son sat on my lap and said, “I have a question for you daddy.”
    “What’s it?”
    “Is a man born only once?”
    I was somehow perplexed by the query as I do not know where he is coming from and so I have to clarify, "Why do you ask?"
    He answered back, "Because last week we had our Christmas program.  They said we were celebrating the birthday of Jesus. So the birthday is already finished.  But you came home two times from Christmas program. So Jesus have three birthdays!"
    I almost chuckled at his reasoning of multiple birthdays then posed to him, "Isn't it that a birthday can be celebrated many times?"  I continued to tell him that Christmas is more than just celebrating a birthday.
    So what else then is Christmas, he asked.  He was distracted by other things to listen to me and got down from my lap, but his questioning put me into the mode of reflecting.
    That moment brought me back to a recent Christmas convocation at my workplace.  The presiding reverend started his prayer with the reading of the popular Bible verse John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave us his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life."  He would further say that the point here is how exactly do we people respond to that love.
In the run-up to Christmas, there is this so-called Simbang Gabi or Aguinaldo Masses that is practiced in some Christian denominations.  Those who were attending must have noticed that the Gospel Readings are stories related to birth of Christ that illustrated how certain characters responded.  One is the introduction of a forerunner of of Jesus Christ which is John the Baptist.  People of those times responded with acceptance.  Another is the story of the conception of John the Baptist. 
    Elizabeth and Zechariah, John's parents, at first responded with doubt as for them they were too old to bear a child.  But the angel assured them that there is nothing impossible to God.  Also, there is the story about Joseph, the one who was to become the earthly father to Jesus, when informed by the angel of his role responded with the plan to discretely quit his relationship with Mary who has begotten Jesus in her womb. 
    The angel though told him not to be afraid and then he replied with obedience.  There was also the story of the announcement by an angel to Mary that she is to become the mother of Jesus.  Mary responded at first with skepticism, but later with obedience and giving of oneself.  These are all illustrations on how one may respond to that love.
    My seven-year-old who noticed that I was saying something went to me again and said, "What did you say, daddy?"
    I told him that Christmas is reminding us that Jesus is also being born in our hearts and also that we are waiting for his second coming.
    My wife nudged me, "How would a child understand that?"
    "Born in our hearts! Then he will come again?"  my son repeated some of what I said, sign that his mother was correct that he did not pick up what I was saying, then went on again to play.
    It dawned to me that even to my mind, it is often hard to grasp what Christmas really is all about.  It would be noted that as a religious season, Christmas, which officially starts on the eve of December 25, is filled with feasts and solemnities.
    To the church, feasts and solemnities highlights "important mysteries of our faith". It is thus a call not just for celebration but also to more special reflection on how are we in our journey to "salvation".
    The feasts and solemnities of the season can make us reflect on our own families, on our own version of "Let it be done to me according to your word" as said by Mother Mary when an angel told her that she will become the mother of Jesus, on the epiphany or manifestation of the Lord in our own life, on our own baptism, and on how is the child and Child in us.
    On the other hand, our reflection can go wild and declare that the story of Christmas is not really inspiring. How can we for example accept poverty just like how Jesus was born in an animal's abode. Isn't it that comfort is what our God should will for us?
    We had accepted the faith and hence God has manifested to us but how can we gift back "gold" "myrrh" and "incense" if God himself does not grant that we have them? We may even question our own baptism as simply a human activity.
    Or to stay as a humble "child" is not really a good thing for in today's time, we have to prove our knowhow, skills, capabilities and productiveness. Indeed, it becomes tempting to simply treat Christmas as a mere birthday celebration to enjoy with food and dancing, or a holiday that makes way for an enjoyable vacation before we go back to our routine in the succeeding year.
    A popular song says, "May the Spirit of Christmas, be always in our heart." The song is implying a Christmas without beginning and without an end. Christmas is a way of living which means that if the virtues and values in the Christmas stories written in the Bible, they can be our response or they show us how to deal with things that come out life.
    From the Cultural Notes corner, I greet readers of the Northern Philippine Times a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!



Wishful New Year


March Fianza

The first month of the year was named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings or in other words, the god of openings, by Julius Caesar (July 100 BC - March 15, 44 BC). Janus was also called the god of doors and gates.
    Julius Caesar, the emperor of Rome declared January 1st a national holiday in honor of Janus, the god with two faces, one looking forward and one looking back. Medieval Christians then attempted to replace January 1 with more religiously significant dates but Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 revised a calendar that officially established January 1 as New Year's Day.
    Early medieval Christian thinkers were really thinking. To have a continuous celebration of the season, they conveniently placed New Year’s Day a week after Christmas Day and a week into the first month comes the Three Kings bearing gifts for the King of Kings.
    If not for the official declaration of January 1 as New Year’s Day a week after Christmas Day by Pope Gregory XIII, the world today could awkwardly be celebrating Christmas Day and New Year’s Day in two separate seasons.     
    Life truly is full of conflicts. Whatever, we all wish for the best every time the New Year comes, and may those wishes come true. Once I was told that to attain a good percentage of that, the best move is to choose the opposite in order to come up with a positive result.
    Quite similar to the Law of Interaction which says “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” You have a list of wishes but it is not easy to choose the best. Sometimes, there are wishes that need opposite actions that need to be done.
    I do wish that the act of forgiving someone comes easy even to one who does not deserve to be forgiven. I wish people have enough patience when things seem to be unreachable, and for people to be calm in times of anguish.
    When one wants to shout at the top of his voice, I wish that he chooses the opposite and be quiet instead. I wish that people learn to love those who hate them, to include the excluded, to forgive without apology, and to be strong to accept mistakes.
    I wish that we get disappointed too in order to realize the importance of doing favors for others, never to refuse their simple requests in order to remember the little kindness that we received in the past.
    I do wish that our failures make us realize humility. I wish that our losses make us value the little that we have left, and may our spirits be broken so that God may save our souls. I do wish that when one feels he needs to be comforted, he comforts someone instead; to suffer the pain of a broken heart in order to make others happy, and smile when he feels like crying.
    I wish that we all be part of other peoples’ lives even while we do not know where to fit. I do hope that pieces of us fill the empty spaces in other people’s lives who will feel that they may never be complete without others.
May you be blessed with the best in 2024 and may your wishes all come true! 


Street gangs banned in Baguio/ Satellite business processing/ Peaceful holidays


Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY -- Residents were reminded on the existence of an ordinance prohibiting the establishment and operation of street gangs and recruitment of minors to instigate violence and community disorder in the city.
    Adapted in December 2021, Ordinance No. 99 series of 2021 prohibits the following: creation and operation of street gang that vehemently disregards the safety and well-being of an individual; recruitment of persons including minors to participate in street gang violence; instigation on the conduct of gang graffiti; and other activities that disturb public order and threatens public safety and convenience.
    The ordinance was adapted to address activities of street gangs and similar groups taking advantage of misguided minors, children at risk and children in conflict with the law and use and expose them to violence and illegal activities that turn them into juvenile delinquents, unruly citizens and future burdens of society.
    Penalties for adult violators of the measure are a fine of P5,000 or imprisonment of 1 to 30 days or both.
Minor offenders are subject to intervention mechanisms put in place under the Comprehensive Local Juvenile Intervention Program formulated by the
    The Local Council for the Protection of Children which is taking the lead in the implementation of the provisions of the ordinance.
    Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the city needs to sustain the intensive implementation of the ordinance to stop violent incidents especially those involving minors.
The city government through the City Treasury Office and the Business Permit and Licensing Office set up a satellite Business One-Stop Shop (BOSS) at City Hall at a mall here to provide an alternative venue for businessmen to process their business licenses.
    Located between Cinemas 3 and 4, the offsite BOSS at the mall is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Mondays to Fridays from January to March.
    While SM opens at 10 a.m., an arrangement was made for business permit applicants to be allowed entry at 8 a.m.
    "Applicants may just tell the guards at the entrance fronting the grocery area that they will process their permit at the BOSS and they will be accommodated," Permits and Licensing Officer Allan Abayao advised.
    Abayao said the offsite processing scheme was implemented to decongest the BOSS at City Hall and avoid overcrowding and long queues.
    The main BOSS is located at the City Treasury Office One-Stop Shop.
    As of Jan. 4, 2024, the city has processed a total of 607 permit renewal, 13 new business applications, one new business line, one new management, one retirement of business line and 19 full retirement of business.
    Abayao reminded that business permit application is available online via the eBPLS Portal at ebpls.baguio.gov.ph .
Mayor Magalong said the city's yuletide celebration turned out to be peaceful and orderly thanks to the efforts of law enforcers and the community.
    "Overall, we had a great holiday season in our city with the different colorful and joyful activities that were staged and the various attractions that were offered for enjoyment of all," the mayor said.
    He commended the Baguio City Police Office for the success of its anti-criminality efforts and the community for its cooperation during the entire Christmas season.
    He said the city's crime volume for the entire duration decreased by as much as 56 percent when compared to last year owing to the BCPO's aggressive crime prevention campaign.
    He said the traffic problems encountered were also minimal after adjustments and measures were adopted learning from the bad experience the city had on the first weekend of the month.
    BCPO Director Col. Francisco Bulwayan Jr. affirmed that the city's total crime volume during the Christmas rush from Dec. 21-31 significantly dropped by 56.47 percent or 48 cases from the figure for the same period last year.
    He cited data from the Crime Information Reporting and Analysis System (CIRAS) showing a 33.3 percent decrease in focus crimes, including serious offenses like murder, robbery and rape.
    "This positive trend reflects the city's successful efforts in curbing major criminal activities," he said.
    He said non-index crimes including various illegal acts also decreased by 14.29 percent while special law violations dropped by 72.73 percent.
    "The detailed breakdown emphasizes the city's success in addressing both major and minor offenses showcasing a huge improvement in public safety compared with the same period last year," Bulwayan said.
    Bulwayan said that traffic incidents also decreased by 59.38 percent.
    "Based on the experience of traffic gridlock we had at the start of the month, we made adjustments and adopted strategies to avoid a repeat of the problem and we find these strategies very effective. There were traffic jams that happened but these did not last and were resolved in a short time," he said.


‘Complete blood count’


Victor Dumaguing

In most laboratory requests, it is written as CBC, which a lot of patients, even professionals-except perhaps those in health sciences, take the letter “c” to mean “complete; thus patients who gave 5ml of their blood-venous- go home thinking that the results would include their blood levels of sugar, cholesterol, uric acid, BUN, creatinine etc and be disappointed of the “incomplete results.”
    Most doctors or their medical secretaries write the words, “cbc differential” if they want to know the immune capabilities of the patient in terms of his/her white blood cells-soldiers of the body- with the word “differential” meaning how much each of the different leukocytes are there per 100 white blood cells counted.
    An adult human has 5000 ml of blood within his/her circulatory system, some amounts of the 5 liters are extracted depending on the clinical needs of the patient. For patients in serious conditions in which there is a big concern about the relationship off oxygen and carbon dioxide affecting the ph of the blood, the doctor would request ABG-arterial blood gases; the sample is carefully extracted from arteries- radial in the wrist, femoral in the groin and at times, carotid in the neck.
    In medical missions sponsored by civic organizations with the participation of generous pharmaceutical companies, the so-called screening laboratory tests-usually for blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, uric acid etc, blood samples are for the most part done thru aseptic, sterile finger pricking –capillary blood- by the doctor or medical technologists or a trained health professional, with the results available after a few minutes, with the appropriate prescription made immediately.
    For CBC differential, venous blood is extracted from the vein in the ante-cubital area, or the area opposite the elbow. Normal WBC is 5000-10,000 cu mm, neutrophils 60-65, lymphocytes 25-30, monocytes 0-2, basophils 0-1, eosinophils 2-5 with slight variations but the total should always be 100 white blood cells counted. 
    At this juncture, it must be emphasized that different laboratories have normal values depending on their unit measurements; example, some use the mo don’t be surprised if the normal WBC count is from 4.0-11.0 in your result, the good thing about laboratory results now include the “normal ranges” of results whether white blood cells sugar, cholesterol and other clinical parameters.
    An elevated or high WBC count means “infection”; so the “differential would provide useful information. A High WBC, and neutrophils-also called PMN for polymorphonuclears- indicate an “acute” infection- infection which has a sudden onset, meaning earlier the patient is well, the all of a sudden, he/she is not well, example is a pupil caught in the rain going home and after a few hours, complains of sore throat, difficulty of swallowing and starts running a fever. A doctor consult yields big tonsils, with a diagnosis of “acute tonsillitis. Our professor in microbiology had emphasized that the level of WBC is a reflection of the virulence or pathogenicity of the microbe, while the level of neutrophils indicates the ability of immune system of the patient to cope up with the infection, thus the presence of young neutrophils in the blood- stabs and bands- means the body is trying its best to mount a defensive response.
    Lymphocytosis or elevated levels of lymphocytes-smallest white blood cells- means that the patient is suffering from chronic- long standing lingering illness- an example is tuberculosis, leprosy or in certain cases, viral infections.
Monocytes-the biggest WBC- with is unique horse-shoe or kidney-shaped form- is within normal levels in most microbial infections, except in certain rare forms of leukemia.
    Basophils too should normally 0-2 in most CBC differential; with the added fact that, aside from mast cells, basophils could also be a source of histamine.
    Eosinophils deserve some focus because an elevated level should make the doctor ask questions as to whether the person has some allergies to food/meds, asthma, allergic rhinitis, eczema/atopic dermatitis and with a lot of tact and diplomacy, request for a stool exam because the patient might be having helminthiasis, that’s parasitism in simple terms, yes, worms.
    By the way, the complete blood count differential request, does NOT include anemia concerns-red blood cell, hemoglobin hematocrit- and for those worried about dengue, chikungunya- NOT platelet count.
    Dear readers, this article is for general information only and does not claim to be the standard by which your lab results should be evaluated for or against. In clinical practice, there are myriad variations and combinations in the ratio of different white blood cells or leukocytes depending on the peculiar health status of the patient. Thus, an open, honest candid communication between you and your family physician is of paramount importance.


Small biz owners see better year with gov’t training


Liza Agoot

BAGUIO CITY – Small businesses that opened right before the Covid-19 pandemic have high hopes of better opportunities, especially with the capacity building training from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
    Guil Ocampo, a young entrepreneur in his mid-30s who is operating a coffee shop along Session Road here, is hopeful of good prospects for another year after seeing good signs in recent months and after undergoing management and financial preparation training from DTI’s “Kapatid Mentor Me” (KMM) program.
    He said the KMM training “was a big change in the set-up (of my business)” since it allowed him “how to view the daily sales for a long-term situation.”
    “Knowing how to make the financial report and interpret it, and how to properly run the business without encountering problems with government regulatory offices are also important factors. More importantly, having the confidence that I know what I am doing in managing the business is a big boost,” he said in Filipino.
    Ocampo joined the KMM program in 2022, when he nearly lost everything and realized the need to be equipped with additional knowledge.
    “I was unemployed after resigning from work to start a business and my life's savings were drained from opening the cafe and moving to another location along Session Road," he shared.
    Ocampo and his friends opened their business in Feb. 2020 in a hotel near Wright Park after seeing the potential of a coffee-related business while doing documentaries as a government media practitioner.
    Around a month later, a nationwide lockdown was declared due to the pandemic, prompting the immediate closure of the establishment.
    Ocampo tried to continue operating by adopting a delivery service as there were no dine-in clients.
    He said the pandemic taught him a lesson - - to cooperate and collaborate with other businesses.
    The current location of his coffee shop was used as a drop-off area for cosplay items.
    To date, the venue houses not just a coffee shop that allows its customers to play board games but also a place where cosplayers can display and sell their costumes and other items.
    Similarly, Florence Aquino, 45, and her sister opened a mini grocery in 2021 on the ground floor of their family residence in Irisan.
    Like Ocampo, she and her sister first opened a small milk tea and fruit shop at the university belt in January 2020, but which also became a casualty of the pandemic.
    Aquino was forced to attend the KMM training in 2022 since her sister cannot attend because she was working as a nurse at the local health office.
    "The mentoring program of your specific venture was very helpful. It will allow you to take a glimpse at the future while standing in the present," she said in Ilocano.
    Samuel Gallardo, assistant director of DTI-Cordillera in an earlier interview, said the KMM program is a regular activity of the agency that is being implemented with the help of stakeholders from the private sector who serve as mentors.
    "This is a good opportunity to be trained as an entrepreneur since this allow the business to flourish. Everything that will make a person well-rounded in knowing how to start, run the business and improve it are provided free to trainees, " he said. -- PNA


Dealing with artificial intelligence (AI)


Ike Seneres

Many people are now scared that the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) could directly affect them because they could lose their jobs.
    That is actually more than just a possibility now, because it is already happening. There is no way that we could go around AI, because the only way to deal with it is to go heads on with it.
    Right now, I could say that no one really knows what form or shape AI is going to take. I could only say that whatever happens next, we should control AI as a technology, instead of being controlled by it.
    The fear of many people is that the emergence of AI could lead to a battle between mankind and machines. That could happen if we do not control the technology. Perhaps one way to deal with AI is to learn our lessons from how we dealt with nuclear technology.
    Generally speaking, technology is neutral, that means that it could be used for either good or bad, depending on who is controlling it.
    However, the fact that it could be used for bad is no reason to stop it and discard it as it is emerging. When it comes to the management of technology, I propose that the government should separate the developmental functions from the regulatory functions, because there is an inherent conflict of interest between the two.
    One should check each other, to keep a balance that is generally good for the whole society.
(Author Ramon Ike V. Seneres resumes his column in the Northern Philippine Times this week. Seneres was former director of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), Philippine Information and Communications Technology Organization (PICTO) and Alliance of Civil Society Institutions, Organizations and Networks (ACSION).
    He was also former Press Attach├ę, Philippine Embassy to Washington DC and Fellow of University of Life (UL).
Seneres was also former Group Product Manager, Bliss Marketing Corporation (BMC); Brand Coordinator, San Miguel Corporation (SMC); Career Diplomat, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Director General of National Computer Center (NCC).
    He was also Executive Director of National Crime Information System (NCIS), National Computer Institute (NCI), UNDP Transfer of Knowledge Thru Expatriate Nationals (TOKTEN) and Science and Technology Advisory Council (STAC) 
    The author was also former Delegate of Science and Technology Advisory Council (STCC)
 and National Information Technology Council (NITC).
    He was also former Chairman of COMELEC Modernization Committee and Commissioner of Philippine Y2K Commission.
Seneres was also former CIO at APEC, PCSO, DFA and NCC. – ed)


The Yin and Yang of education:Understanding the concept


Erwin Rimban

Education plays a crucial role in shaping individuals, societies, and civilizations. It is the foundational factor in determining the success or failure of a person and the overall progress of a nation. While education is often seen as a positive force, it is important to recognize that it embodies the concept of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang are opposing energies that exist in nature and are deeply intertwined.
    These opposing energies are characterized by light and shade, motion and rest, firmness and softness. In the context of education, Yin represents the more feminine and receptive aspects, including creativity, intuition, and holistic thinking. Yang, on the other hand, represents the more masculine and active aspects of education, such as logical reasoning, analysis, and structured learning.
    The balance and interplay between Yin and Yang in education are vital for holistic development and meaningful learning experiences. Education that solely focuses on Yang aspects, emphasizing rote memorization, standardized testing, and rigid curriculum, may lead to a lack of creativity, critical thinking, and overall holistic development. On the other hand, an education system that solely emphasizes Yin aspects, without providing a strong foundation of knowledge and skills, may result in a lack of academic rigor and practical application.
    Yang and yin. Male and female. Light and dark. Heaven and earth. These archetypal energy patterns are fundamental in Chinese philosophy and they have captured the attention of the world ever since these concepts were made accessible to the western mind. This archetypal energy pair has many applications. If a system of thought has a concept of polarity, then Yin and Yang can be inserted into the picture. In the context of education, the concept of Yin and Yang provides a framework for understanding the complementary and contradictory dynamics that exist within the field.
The role of Yin and Yang in education
The Yin-Yang principle in education encompasses the idea that both Yin and Yang aspects should coexist and be in balance to achieve optimal educational outcomes. This principle recognizes that education should cater to the diverse needs, strengths, and learning styles of individuals. It acknowledges that different subjects and disciplines require varying degrees of Yin and Yang energies. For example, subjects like art and literature may require more Yin energy to foster creativity and self-expression, while subjects like mathematics and science may require more Yang energy for logical reasoning and problem-solving.
    The left brain is the part of the human anatomy that deals with logical-mathematical reasoning. Thus, the disciplines which feature logic and computation in their processes, like physics, mathematics, accounting, engineering, and chemistry are governed by left brain processes. When a child is excelling at these disciplines he is said to be proficient in logical-mathematical thought and thus is using his left brain very strongly. Outstanding examples of this kind of thinking are scientists like Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr. Even chess players like Bobby Fischer, Gary Kasparov, Jose Raul Capablanca and Magnus Carlsen would demonstrate exceptional left brain processing.
    On the other hand, the intuitive-aesthetic realms of the human personality have their roots in right brain thinking. The right brain governs such activities as art, music, dance, mysticism and intuition. A child manifesting right brain functions is very creative, innovative, intuitive and perceptive. But, at the same time, he is more sensitive and sometimes, even more introverted than his fellows. Outstanding examples of this kind of thinking are Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and Picasso. 
    The way our educational system is organized causes these knowledge systems to be compartmentalized. Left brain processes are thought separately from right brain processes. Subjects are lumped into their respective arenas. Ever heard of the artists-scientists?
    These are extraordinary people who have managed to transcend traditional schools and taught themselves to understand how the right brain can be made to connect with the left brain to achieve what is termed as synergistic thought. Truly remarkable, these people have accessed parts of the human mind that were traditionally taught to be beyond the capacities of ordinary men.
    The result is exceptional literary, scientific, artistic, mathematical and mystical accomplishments. The most outstanding example of an artist-scientist is the phenomenal Leonardo da Vinci, the greatest genius in the history of the world, the pride of humanity. 
Incorporating Yin and Yang principles in classroom settings
Incorporating Yin and Yang principles in classroom settings can lead to a more holistic and balanced approach to education. By recognizing and valuing both left brain and right brain thinking, educators can create an environment that fosters creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence. This can be achieved by incorporating different teaching methods and activities that cater to both analytical and imaginative modes of thinking. For example, incorporating analytical tasks such as problem-solving exercises and logical reasoning into the curriculum can engage the left brain and promote critical thinking skills. On the other hand, incorporating artistic activities such as music, art, and storytelling can engage the right brain and foster creativity and emotional expression. Furthermore, incorporating collaborative projects and group discussions can encourage students to work together and learn from one another, integrating both yin and yang elements of social interaction.
     This approach can also be applied to the assessment process, where a balance between objective and subjective evaluation methods can be implemented. For instance, using traditional exams and quizzes to assess analytical skills and knowledge acquisition can be complemented by projects, presentations, and portfolios to assess creativity and depth of understanding. Overall, incorporating Yin and Yang principles in education can create a more holistic and balanced learning environment that nurtures the development of both left brain and right brain thinking abilities, allowing students to reach their full potential.
    So, what is the point of all these? It is the fact that ordinary men and women can learn how to synergize their cognitive capacities in order to dully maximize the functions of their left and right brains. And these techniques have been around for generations. In the future, I will tryto expand on these and reveal some techniques for those interested on expanding their cognitive frameworks. Meanwhile, parents must make an effort to recognize the predominant cognitive processing employed by their kids. If you observe that your child employs left brain processing more than the other then encourage him to explore right brain processing and vice versa. The goal is always a harmony of two spheres. To conclude, let us refresh ourselves with the immortal words of the Swedish film director, Ingmar Bergman:
    “I make all my decisions on intuition. I throw a spear into the darkness. That is intuition. Then I must send an army into the darkness to find the spear. That is intellect.”
    For comments and reactions, you may send an email to: elrimban@alum.up.edu.ph

Erwin Rimban

Geopolitical Chess: The art and challenges of deterrence strategies

In the high-stakes arena of global affairs, where nations jostle for influence and strategic advantage, the concept of deterrence emerges as a crucial player in the grand chessboard of geopolitics. This week, let's delve into the art of deterrence, exploring its nuances, historical applications, and the contemporary challenges it presents in shaping geopolitical strategy.
Defining Deterrence in Geopolitics:
Deterrence, in the realm of geopolitics, is the strategic use of military, economic, and diplomatic tools to dissuade adversaries from taking certain actions. It's the implicit threat that the costs of unwanted actions will far outweigh any potential gains, thus steering behavior toward more desirable outcomes.
Historical Perspectives: The Cold War and Beyond:
The Cold War stands as a quintessential chapter in the history of deterrence, where nuclear arsenals and the doctrine of mutually assured destruction shaped the geopolitical landscape. Examining historical instances of successful and unsuccessful deterrence strategies provides valuable insights into the complexities of international relations.
Nuclear Deterrence: Balancing Power and Peril:
The possession of nuclear weapons introduces an unparalleled layer to the deterrence calculus. While nuclear arsenals can deter large-scale conflicts, the delicate balance between showcasing strength and avoiding catastrophic consequences poses a constant challenge in geopolitical strategy.
Regional Dynamics: Tailoring Deterrence to Unique Challenges:
Geopolitical landscapes vary widely, and effective deterrence strategies must be tailored to the specific challenges of each region. From the Korean Peninsula to the South China Sea, understanding regional dynamics and crafting nuanced deterrence approaches become imperative in maintaining stability and preventing conflict escalation.
Economic Leverage and Soft Power:
    Beyond military might, economic leverage and soft power play pivotal roles in contemporary deterrence. Sanctions, trade agreements, and cultural influence become tools to shape the behavior of nations, demonstrating that the strategic game extends beyond military posturing.
Challenges in the Modern Era: Cyber Warfare and Asymmetrical Threats:
In the digital age, deterrence faces new frontiers with the rise of cyber warfare and asymmetrical threats. The challenge lies not only in deterring traditional military actions but also in safeguarding against covert cyberattacks and unconventional tactics, requiring a reevaluation of traditional deterrence doctrines.
Multilateral Approaches and Alliances:
Coordinated deterrence efforts often involve alliances and multilateral agreements. Understanding the dynamics of these partnerships, the reliability of allies, and the potential for collective responses adds another layer of complexity to the geopolitics of deterrence.
    As we unravel the intricacies of deterrence in the realm of geopolitical strategy, it becomes evident that the chessboard of global affairs is ever-evolving. Navigating this landscape requires not only a deep understanding of historical precedents but also an adaptability to the unique challenges posed by the modern era. Effective deterrence strategies, balancing power, diplomacy, and innovation, stand as critical instruments in shaping the course of nations on the world stage.
    For comments and reactions, you may send an email to: elrimban@alum.up.edu.ph


New Year through Mary


Fr. Roy Cimagala

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone! Once again, we begin a new year and let’s hope that as another year starts, we can truly say that we are getting stronger in our resolve to pursue the real purpose of our life here on earth.
    Liturgically, January 1 celebrates the divine motherhood of Mary which tells us a lot of amazing things. From the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians, for example, we are told this wonderful, if incredible, truth about ourselves, about who we really are:
     “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law: that he might redeem them who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying: Abba, Father. So, you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God.” (4,4-7)
    We need to process these words slowly so they may sink into our very consciousness and start to live them out. Hopefully, we can little by little overcome whatever disbelief and awkwardness we can feel about this truth about ourselves.
    Of great help to us in this regard is to have a deepening devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus and our mother. If we try our best to imitate her faith in God, we too, despite all the difficulties and effort involved, can somehow also incarnate Jesus in our own lives. We are actually meant for that, since we are patterned after him and he is also the savior of our humanity that has been wounded by our sins.
    With Mary always in our mind and heart, we would always be led to Christ. She would teach us how to find Christ in everything that we do, no matter how mundane things are. Even the little ordinary things we deal with everyday can be an occasion to have an encounter with Christ as well as a chance to be like Christ as we should. As one saint had put it, Mary is the shortest, surest and safest way to Jesus.
    If we truly have Mary in our mind and heart, then we can learn how to always ponder the truths of our faith and to act on them. (cfr. Lk 2,19) Yes, we can develop a contemplative life even right in the hustle and bustle of our earthly affairs. Yes, we are all meant to be contemplatives because we need to be aware that we are meant to live our life with God and with everybody else.
    We are never alone. Feeling alone is an anomaly in our life. As persons, endowed with intelligence and will, we are meant to be always in relation with God and with everybody else. This potential of ours should be actualized. We need to find ways of how to actualize such potential.
    We need to see to it that we should always feel the urge to pray, to engage with God, to be with him. If we do not feel that urge yet, let’s convince ourselves that we have something most important to work on. Thus, like the disciples of Christ, impressed by how Christ was to them, we should beg him to teach us how to pray. (cfr. Lk 11,1-4)
Again, Happy New Year, everyone! And good luck! -- Email: roycimagala@gmail.com

By Fr. Roy Cimagala
Never feeling entitled

THE gospel reading of the Mass on December 29, the 5th day of the Christmas Octave, brings to our consideration the example of Mary and Joseph who complied with the legal custom at that time of presenting the Child Jesus in the temple. (cfr. Lk 2,22-35)
    Given who the child was and who they were, they should have known that they were completely exempted from complying with such law. But they did go just to the same, never feeling entitled because of the highest privilege and honor they enjoyed as being chosen as the parents of the very Son of God. What an example they give us!
    In the process, that gesture of theirs also played out a providential event because a man, Simeon by name, who was promised not to see his death until he could meet the promised Redeemer, had that promise fulfilled.
    In that momentous meeting, Simeon pronounced a prophecy about the child and Mary—that the child would be a sign of contradiction, and that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart so that the thoughts of many would be revealed.
    All these should make us realize that we too, if we are to be consistent in our Christian life, should expect to be some sign of contradiction also, and that some sword would also pierce our own heart.
    We should not be afraid to encounter these scenarios in our life, and should just be prepared. In fact, we should expect these things to happen in our life, what with all the differences and conflicts we are already having these days, not only in matters of opinion, but also in matters of belief and morals.
    But we really have no reason to fear nor to worry. If our faith is strong, deep and abiding, we know that God is always around. How many times did Christ tell his apostles not to be afraid! We should therefore always assume the attitude of confidence that everything would just work out for the good. (cfr. Rom 8,28) Even our limitations, mistakes, sins, as long as referred to Christ, would somehow work out for the good!
    While it’s true that in this life, we have to contend with all kinds of challenges, trials, difficulties and all other possible negative things, we can always count on the help of the Divine who will never abandon us.
    Yes, we have our own share of weaknesses, and we are always hounded by temptations coming from the world around and especially from evil spirits who are more powerful than us (cfr. Eph 6,12), but let’s also remember that we can count on the powerful help of angels and saints.
    Our Christian faith tells us that no matter how powerful the evil spirits are, the good ones will always prevail. It would really just depend on us as to whom we choose to side.
    But again, we cannot deny that in this life, we cannot help but share with Christ in being a sign of contradiction, and with Mary in that a sword should pierce our heart also. We should learn how to suffer with Christ, with Mary and all the angels and saints. It would be suffering that would be meaningful to us, one that would do us a lot of good.
    That is why we should just imitate Mary and Joseph in complying with the indications given to us by the Church, without feeling entitled. -- Email: roycimagala@gmail.com


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