Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A True Year-ender

I got this from Doctor Paul, arguably pound for pound the most talented doctor of good times.

The four Goldberg brothers, Lowell, Norman, Hiram, and Maxwell, invented and developed the first automobile air-conditioner. On July 17, 1946, the temperature in Detroit was 97 degrees.

The four brothers walked into old man Henry Ford's office and sweet-talked his secretary into telling him that four gentlemen were there with the most exciting innovation in the auto industry since the electric starter. Henry was curious and invited them into his office. They refused and instead asked that he come out to the parking lot to their car.

They persuaded him to get into the car, which was about 130 degrees, turned on the air conditioner, and cooled the car off immediately.

The old man got very excited and invited them back to the office, where he offered them $3 million for the patent. The brothers refused, saying they would settle for $2 million, but they wanted the recognition by having a label, 'The Goldberg Air-Conditioner,' on the dashboard of each car in which it was installed.

Now old man Ford was more than just a little anti-Semitic, and there was no way he was going to put the Goldberg's name on two million Fords. They haggled back and forth for about two hours, and finally agreed on $4 million and that just their first names would be shown.

And so to this day, all Ford air conditioners show Lo, Norm, Hi, and Max on the controls.

So, now you know...

May we all have a healthy and safe 2009!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Good Round Spoiled

Hope everyone had a Blessed Christmas. I haven’t gotten around to writing an entry lately because the extended holidays have cast a spell on many golfers out here. It’s as if every golfer in the Philippines wants to make-up for all the lost time spent at work and play as much golf in a period of 9 days, a true novena. My wife and I have played 7 rounds of golf in 8 days in 6 different courses.

In a city with 12 million people crammed in 240 square miles, every golf course is an oasis. Here, there are rules and everyone is expected to adhere to a universal code of conduct. I was deeply disturbed by this news item from the Inquirer concerning an incident that occurred the day after Christmas.

MANILA, Philippines—The son of Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and several persons beat up a 14-year-old boy and his father at a golf course in Antipolo on Friday, the victims complained Saturday.

The alleged attackers were identified as Nasser Pangandaman Jr., mayor of Masiu, Lanao del Sur, and his golfing companions and armed bodyguards. The victims, Delfin de la Paz and his family, said the Agrarian Reform secretary witnessed the incident at the Valley Golf Club but did not stop his son and their bodyguards from attacking the victims.

De la Paz filed the complaint immediately after the incident on Friday with the Antipolo police, who said the charges, including child abuse, would be filed on Monday.

Breach of etiquette
De la Paz said the incident started when the Pangandamans broke golf etiquette by playing out of turn and over-taking the De la Paz family at the South Course of the Valley Golf and Country Club.

In an interview, De la Paz, 56, said he and his two children—daughter Bambee, 18, and son Bino, 14—were playing golf and were on Hole No. 3 when two golf carts bearing the Pangandamans and their friends overtook them.

Aside from the Pangandamans, the group also included Paysal Abdulaa, Mohammed Hussein, Abdan Pacasuna, Rene Maglaque and Arnel Astacio.

Dela Paz said he complained to the marshal and when the two groups caught up with each other at the tee house on hole No. 5, an altercation ensued.

De la Paz said that at the height of the altercation, Nasser Jr. suddenly attacked him and his son, punching and kicking them and shouting: “Hindi mo ba ako nakikilala? (Don’t you know me?)”

Bambee de la Paz, who witnessed everything, said the younger Pangandaman continued to attack even when his brother was already on his knees pleading for him to stop.

Bambee, in an e-mail to friends, said they decided to stop playing and retreated to the clubhouse to seek medical attention, but their attackers followed them there. This time joined by their bodyguards, the Pangandaman group again attacked father and son. Bambee said two of the mayor’s bodyguards even pulled out their guns.

She said that while Secretary Pangandaman did not participate in the attacks, he did not lift a finger to stop his son and his companions from beating the victims. None of the golf club’s security guards and managers tried to stop the beating.

‘Golfers are decent’
Dela Paz’s 14 year-old boy suffered various facial, head and back injuries due to the blows he received.

“This is a golf course. I have been a golfer all my life and I have never seen anything like this,” Bambee said. “And I though golfers were decent people. You would think politicians were decent people. I guess not.”

Bambee and Bino de la Paz are both outstanding junior golfers. Bambee is on vacation from the University of Cincinnati where she is a golf scholar. Bino is one of the top golfers in his age group.

Efforts to reach Secretary Pangandaman for comment yesterday proved fruitless. His cell phone was off. The public information officer of the Department of Agrarian Reform promised to call the Inquirer as soon as he got in touch with the secretary but he had not done so at press time Saturday.

Bambee De La Paz gave her own account of the horrific tale that validates the general impression of power-drunk politicians accustomed to having their way around other citizens. This episode proves the primitive conditions that continue to prevail in the Philippines. This simply does not take place in civilized societies. Even Tony Soprano would have shown more finesse.

I certainly hope that justice will prevail and the guilty will be punished. Look how many years in prison OJ Simpson will have to spend because members of his group brandished weapons.

If an investigation establishes that the cabinet secretary was indeed present while battery and assault were being committed, then Gloria Arroyo must fire this person immediately and swift justice meted out to the guilty individuals involved.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Magnificat

The historical Mary, to many remains a meek, uneducated teenager who was found to be with child. She is rarely quoted for theological insight and reformers have persistently downgraded her critical role in Christianity. The entry today is a direct quote attributed to Mary from the gospel of Saint Luke (1, 46-56) while she visited her cousin Elizabeth who at an advanced age was also carrying a child.

And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever." Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

The Magnificat is a sublime proclamation of humility and submission to those who believe in the existence of God. The eight sentences affirm the greatness of God with an abundance of mercy and blessings to those who acknowledge his infinite power. Within the brief paragraph is the basis for the concept of a preferential option for the poor and the powerless; finally, it is a ringing announcement that there is hope for all.

Mary withdraws to the background during the ministry of her son, making a cameo here and there, searching for her missing child, requesting her son to perform a miracle at a wedding feast but her final appearance in the Acts of the Apostles is revealing: when the apprehensive disciples are huddled around her as they await the arrival of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Avery Robert Dulles, SJ 1918-2008

Avery Robert Dulles was a full fledged member of the WASP Establishment. Three family members served as Secretary of State (father John Foster, grand uncle and great grandfather), his uncle Allen, guided European espionage during World War II and later became CIA Director during the beginning of the Cold War. His grandfather Allen Macy Dulles, was a renowned Presbyterian theologian, co-founder of the American Theological Society.

His unlikely conversion to Catholicism detailed in his book “A Testimonial to Grace” mirrored that of Thomas Merton‘s “The Seven Storey Mountain“. He was an agnostic when he entered Harvard in 1936 and immersing himself in the study of philosophy and art failed to dispel his doubts about God until one winter morning in 1939 when he saw a tree in bud: “The thought came to me suddenly, with all the strength and novelty of a revelation, that these little buds in their innocence and meekness followed a rule, a law of which I as yet knew nothing.” He concluded memorably: “That night, for the first time in years, I prayed.”

He became a Catholic in 1940, referring to this event as the best and most important decision of his life. After the war he entered the Society of Jesus and was ordained a priest in 1956. Dulles wrote 27 books and 800 articles, mostly theological works that defended the Catholic Church’s positions on the limits of secularization, papal infallibility, artificial birth control, abortion, women priests, religious celibacy, scientific advances and a host of other issues. Dulles often said that his duty was to honor diversity and dissent but ultimately to articulate the traditions of the church and to preserve Catholic unity. He wrote against excessive secularism and modernization and maintained that the changes brought by the Second Vatican Council should not be misconstrued as a “license” to engage in populist philosophies. “Christianity would dissolve itself if it allowed its revealed content, handed down in tradition, to be replaced by contemporary theories.”

His persistent conservatism, couched always in lucid and reflective prose made him a favorite theologian of Pope John Paul II. In 2001, he was made a Cardinal, even if at age 82 he could no longer participate in the selection of the next Pope. What made the designation largely unprecedented however was at the time of his appointment, he was not even a Bishop.

I greatly respect and admire the life and works of Cardinal Dulles; it is amazing to read his essays that freely reference scholarly thinking ranging from St. Paul to Plato, St. Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pascal, the Cappadocian Fathers, Kierkegaard, Locke, Leibniz, Malebranche, Martin Buber, Fernand Van Steenberghen, Dostoevsky, Maurice Blondel, Max Scheller, Rahner, Henri de Lubac, Jacques Maritain in a single lecture. But with all the erudition and brilliance, one cannot help but ponder if Cardinal Dulles ever truly understood the plight of millions of Catholics in South America, Asia and Africa. Was this the reason why in “The Reshaping of Catholicism” he acknowledged the possibility that the church could fall into serious error and might require reform, that the laity had a right to an active role and that the church needed to respect regional and local differences?

And while he wrote that “a measure of conservatism is inseparable from authentic Christianity”, was the careful choice of the quantifying noun “measure” meant to encourage serious and faithful Catholics to seek other solutions when the existing order was clearly failing to promote justice and uphold human dignity?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What The?

The global economy is undergoing an unprecedented reconfiguration; extensive solar and wind power grids are being constructed; automobiles that do not depend on oil are being designed; democracy is being exported, using force if necessary; there is nonstop development of models to contain terrorism; dams, highways, nuclear reactors and massive bridges are being built; there is a relentless search for a cure for cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s; the world is a beehive of activity.

What’s going on in the Philippines? What are the burning issues of our time? In a nation desperate for heroes, Manny Pacquiao ensured the permanent retirement of De La Hoya; our local media abuzz with speculation regarding charter change (amending the constitution); we see our lawmakers hopelessly outclassed by a wily and evasive character who spent 2 years in detention in the US perfecting the art of deception; there is an internecine battle to pass a “reproductive health bill”. Side by side the great strides being accomplished everywhere else, so long as we remain distracted, we are happy to sit around and watch the world leave us behind.

When times are hard, the tough start working harder. They consume less and they produce more. There is a major increase in the acquisition of critical skills. The existing infrastructure is upgraded and over-all efficiency is enhanced.

Will amending the constitution at this time raise productivity? Or is this another ploy to perpetuate the tenure of our overstaying politicians? Is the indecent haste directly productive to the pecuniary profit some shameless traditional politicians stand to gain? Changing the Constitution now is the last thing we need.

Why go after a bit player (a former official from the Agriculture Department)
in an irredeemably corrupt order with strenuous, over-the-top histrionics when the big fish are never punished anyway? Unless all these exertions are exclusively meant to serve notice to a preoccupied public regarding the looming elections in 2010.

There has been too much talk about reproductive health. The bill proposed may be riddled with defects but we clearly need legislation to allow our people to make informed and enlightened choices. A fully formed conscience requires substantial investments in education. It is grossly insufficient to criticize and dismiss the bill without offering an alternative solution to a major problem.

There will be a flurry of political activity in 2009 that will reach a crescendo on May 2010. We need to move away from wrangling over small matters, get rid of our mendicant mentality and collectively aspire to make our country into the glorious country that our children deserve.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Immaculate Mother

Catholics observe today the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. I had always been under the impression that this Holy Day of Obligation marked what the angel had told Mary, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Lk 1: 35

The Immaculate Conception refers to one of the four Marian Dogmas: Mary was conceived without original sin. She didn’t have to do anything heroic, saintly, extraordinary. She was completely undeserving of the honor bestowed upon her by a God who has a master plan of salvation. “In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory.” Eph 1: 12

The four Marian declarations of doctrine include Mary, Mother of God (431 AD); Mary, Ever Virgin (649 AD); Immaculate Conception of Mary (1854); Assumption of Mary (1950).

After the Reformation, there was severe criticism leveled at the Church for promoting the purported worship of Mary. Until today, many protestants continue to hold onto this misconception. Catholics are taught to honor Mary because of the exceptional grace endowed to her by God, as earlier stated not because of anything she did but because she was God’s choice.

My grandfather Jose S Bautista (1894-1996) was a lifelong devotee of Mary. His mother died when he was 2 years old, photography was not yet available then so he never even had an idea of his mother’s likeness. He longed all his life for just a fleeting vision of his mother. Growing up an orphan, he understood his life could have taken many wrong turns but he always turned to Mary for guidance. He was a prosperous landowner, a respected Judge and he made it known that he attributed his blessings to the intercession of his mother Mary.

Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue
(Mary Dixon Thayer)

Lovely Lady dressed in blue -------
Teach me how to pray!
God was just your little boy,
Tell me what to say!

Did you lift Him up, sometimes, Gently on your knee?
Did you sing to Him the way Mother does to me?
Did you hold His hand at night?
Did you ever try
Telling stories of the world?
O! And did He cry?

Do you really think He cares
If I tell Him things -------Little things that happen? And
Do the Angels' wings
Make a noise?
And can He hear
Me if I speak low?
Does He understand me now?
Tell me -------for you know.

Lovely Lady dressed in blue -------
Teach me how to pray!
God was just your little boy,
And you know the way.