Archive for the ‘religious’ Category


A Reformed Islam?

December 29, 2007

In my wanderings of the blogsphere I came across a blog that criticized the Toronto Star, the most read newspaper in Canada, for downplaying the role of Islam in the ritual murder of Aqsa Parvez, a Muslim girl killed by her father for dishonoring their family. A link in the site led me to Muslims Against Sharia, a site that promoted the formation of a Reformed Islam.
Before I came to the site, I didn’t know that brave moderate Muslims existed! I had thought they were too afraid of their Fundamentalist brethren to even contemplate speaking against terrorism and fanaticism. I believed that should they say one word against the jihad movement, then the terrorists would blast them to what they’d believe would be a 72-virginless eternity.
Although I do not believe the site portrays the the majority-held belief of Moderate Islam, I must admit that I was surprised to see that it existed. It seemed too radical, even more radical than Radical Islam.
The actions of Islamic radicalism is not surprising. In fact, it shouldn’t even be called Radical Islam at all. Anyone who follows the Koran to the letter sets as his goal to convert the world to Islam be it through violence or other means of coercion. Someone who has at least listened to a fraction of high school history lessons knows that Islam was not spread by wandering prophets who preached about peaceful living through the denial of self. It was spread through conquest, subjugation, and forced conversions.
Moderate Islam, or at least the branch of Moderate Islam preached in the link should be labeled Radical Islam. It preaches peace, love, and light; terms that are preached in Islam but is not reflected in the actions of Islamic fundamentalists. It also portrays the Crusades, religious wars mostly forgotten by Christians but still fresh in Muslim memory, in a neutral light; saying that the Christians were merely trying to reconquer formerly Christian lands then controlled by Muslims.
But perhaps the most radical of its claims is that the Koran used today has been corrupted by Muslims through the centuries as evidenced by these violent verses. As a solution to this, they propose to excise these verses from the Koran thereby forming a Reformed Koran and eventually a Reformed Islam.
I do not know how exactly Islamic Fundamentalists would take that news, but I’m thinking that a parallel act done on the Bible would be considered by devout adherents as blasphemy! Strong curses and prohibitions are spelled out in the Bible prohibiting such an act*. Furthermore, changing the text of scripture of any religion would also change how such a religion is practiced. Moderate Muslims of that persuasion may claim they’re only restoring True Islam. They may even become model citizens because of their belief in Reformed Islam, and I know I’d become good friends them.
Yet what if their basic premise is wrong? What if the words of the Koran had not been corrupted after all? Something which may not sound good, or politically correct in our times, may not necessarily be corrupted through time.

* Deut. 4:2, Rev. 22:18, 19


Viva Iligan Part 2

September 29, 2007

Today is officially my city’s fiesta. There’d be dancing and ceremonies down town, but as mentioned earlier I’m staying home. Protestants vary in opinions. Some genuinely find the rituals nothing short of offensive whilst some offer pretended or genuine disinterest.
Being curious and somewhat taken aback by the fact that I, a true born Iliganon, know nothing about Iliganon culture, I decided to do a little research on what happens come fiesta time. Please note that I wouldn’t even dare think of jostling with the masses under the noonday sun. Thus there would be no firsthand report here. Everything I report here is hearsay except for radio broadcasts.
Fiesta season starts on what the locals call as “Pagnaog ni San Miguel“, translated as the Descent of San Miguel. People here say, “Munaog na si San Miguel.” San Miguel will descend. So I thought that this was merely spiritual in nature. San Miguel would descend on the city and bestow his blessings upon it. I could never have been more wrong.
What people refer to as his descent is actually a very physical event. On non-fiesta days, his statue is kept above the altar in Saint Michael’s Cathedral beyond the reach of his devotees. On fiesta days, however, his statue is brought down on the altar. Masses would gather at this date and celebrate. Someone would lead the saying of the Vivas, and the people would answer alike.

Leader: Viva Señor! Hail Lord!
People: Viva! Hail!
Leader: Viva Señor! Hail Lord!
People: Viva! Hail!
Leader: Viva Señor San Miguel! Hail Lord San Miguel!

This would be the time that San Miguel would be closest to his people. They could now touch him, kiss him, and wipe their handkerchiefs on him so that his blessings could be spread to whatever these hankies touch. Last year was particularly violent for him. He lost an eye to the ministrations of his devotees.
Now I haven’t seen a Catholic-Protestant debate resulting from this practice, but I’ve heard that it could lead to pretty large volumes, textwise and soundwise. Take for example the case of one Protestant minded teacher. She kept repeating “God is a Jealous God” in relation to the devotion to San Miguel. She also lambasted why the Descent of San Miguel was declared a holiday. Even though I agree with her views, except for the holiday part, her approach was far from ideal. It offended both Catholics and Protestants in her class. They were grumbling about her for hours afterwards.
Then there was this other conversation from a Protestant minded neighbor. “Munaog na si San Miguel karon,” said his coworker. San Miguel is descending today.
Munaog or Ipanaog,” was the neighbor’s reply. Will he descend,or will someone bring him down?
“Cge,” said another guy, “Muuna sa ko.” I’ll be going ahead, guys. Apparently, he knew what was coming next.
Fortunately, the devotee couldn’t get it. He asked, “Unsay kalahian ana?What’s the difference?
To a Protestant it could only mean that San Miguel has to have people bring him down. He doesn’t even have the power to come down himself, how much more could he help those who pray to him. Anyway, it was one debate narrowly averted.
Whether he’s powerful or powerless, suffice it to say the people are genuine in his “veneration” or “idolatry”, depending on your perspective. There was this devotee who said:

Nagapasalamat ko ug dako kay Sr. San Miguel
kay gihatag niya ang tanan sa amoa.
Gikan pa mi sa Ditucalan.
Nangnaog gyud mi para sa iyaa.
Nagapasalamat giyod ko kay San Miguel.

I am greatly thankful to Señor San Miguel
for giving everything to us.
We came all the way from Ditucalan*

We came here just for him.
I am greatly thankful to San Miguel.

So if you’re interested in the sights of Iligan in fiesta. Visit us next year. Enjoy the parades and the dances. Enjoy whatever it is my city celebrates this time. One thing I’m mostly sure of, I won’t be there with you. I’ll be at home savoring the holiday season.

*Ironically, this is near Muslim majority land.


Viva Iligan Part 1

September 28, 2007

It’s fiesta time in the city but we Protestants wouldn’t have anything to do with it, that is except for binging food* prepared by Catholic hands and enjoying the carnival.
I may sound like I go pamista during the season, but I do not. My first and last eating of fiesta food was way back in time. I don’t even know if I had started school at that time. A neighbor invited our parents, but they instead sent us there. To this day, I don’t know whether they were invited or not. Suffice it to say, we went to our neighbor’s house and ate the food. No prayer to God or whatever saint was offered. We just and chatted and ate. It was ironic to not that all the guests were all Protestant.
Growing up Protestant shielded me from the events of fiesta time. Studying in Manila did not good for any cultural observation. People there don’t seem to be interested in fiestas. I only knew that fiesta time equals holiday season, and so instead of going to school we stayed home. Sometimes, we go to the carnival, but we haven’t been there recently. I don’t even have plans going there. It seems to have lost its thrill. The religious aspect of the fiesta was none of my concern until now.
The patron saint of our city is San Miguel. Catholics add Sr. before the San in formal conversation. He is the Archangel Michael, protector the people of Israel. The reason why he became a saint is beyond me. The reason why he became a patron saint in my city is clouded in legend.
One legend states that the Spanish priests** couldn’t decide what saint to dedicate my city*** to. So they sent for saint statues to be presented before them. One of them got a blindfold and declared that the patron saint of the city would be the statue that he’d first touch. So the priest grappled for a while until he touched one of the statues. He got so excited he kissed the statue and exclaimed, “This would be our saint. This is our saint.”**** He only realized that he was kissing the devil at San Miguel’s feet after he removed the blindfold. Then by literal extension, we got San Miguel as patron saint.
Real Saint
Having been elevated as patron saint, the people started to pray to him. They asked***** him to bring them food, harvest, rain, mercy, and above all protection. My city is situated a few miles away from the Maranao capital of Marawi. Marawi was a stronghold of Islamic presence that the Spanish never seemed to be able to subdue permanently. San Miguel seemed to have answered their prayers. While the Maranao raided and kidnapped people from as far away as Manila, my city stood firm against them in its entire history.
Another miracle attributed to San Miguel is the protection of my city from the Japanese during World War 2. The story goes that the Japanese bomber planes could not bomb my city because the ground apparently disappeared before them. All they could see was water, water everywhere. To which a Protestant minded neighbor replied, “Why would the Japanese bomb this city? They have their airstrip here. Who would want to bomb their own airstrip?”
So at best, a Protestant response to San Miguel is disbelief at one end and indifference at the other end. Of course, what goes between mainly, the usual Catholic-Protestant debates still hold. But it’s for another post. And since I cannot in good conscience declare a Viva****** to San Miguel this season, I would instead say Viva Iligan!

*Some won’t even dare eat such “food offered to idols”. My opinon? See 1 Cor. 1:1-8, but it’s still a conscience thing.
** Filipinos were not yet allowed in the priesthood at that time.
*** Actually, it was still a tiny fort/town at that time
**** Get a Spanish dictionary. I don’t know Spanish.
***** Catholic theology would say that it would be more appropriate to say that San Miguel interceded for God. Yet the testimonies of San Miguel’s devotees sound like San Miguel himself answers prayers.
****** Loosely translated “Long Live” as analogous to “Long live the King”, but since San Miguel is immortal it would be more appropriately translated as “Hail”.