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During this Holy Week like others in the past, for as long as this author can remember, a small minority of Filipinos have been whipping themselves raw or nailing themselves to crosses in a supposed show of atonement and piety. This odd spectacle now draws worldwide interest with curious tourists flying in from all over to witness firsthand flagellants who whip themselves to down to raw flesh or penitents who are nailed to wooden crosses on Good Friday.
And while these individuals may have the purest of intentions, their bizarre acts have been turned into a carnival act that actually cheapens and disrespects the actual suffering and death of Jesus Christ. The fact that these penitents can go through a “staged” crucifixion on a yearly basis gives some the sense crucifixion was not all that hard after all. The thin and sterilized stainless steel nails these misguided penitents use keep hand wounds small and prevent infections. They also stand on a pedestal and are harnessed to prevent them from ever hanging from the actual nails and getting seriously hurt.
At the end of the day, it is a circus act—a crude and distasteful circus act most civilized cultures are repulsed by. The day we Filipinos develop an ounce of common sense, we too will likely put a swift end to this sheer and utter nonsense.
It is important to note at this point that the country’s credit rating was recently raised to BB+ or investment grade by Fitch Ratings. This is the first time the country has held such a rating. And if we Filipinos are to maintain or even raise that rating, we have to start acting the part. Continuing many of these strange and peculiar practices will certainly not endear us to foreign investors looking for a serious place to park their money. The country will instead be seen as that strange place with a backward people who engage in bizarre and distasteful practices.
The Catholic Church has for the most part simply stood on the sidelines mumbling under their breath that such practices are not church sanctioned. But they make it a point not to object too loudly least they incur the wrath of the multitudes that weekly fill their collection plates.
With the Church unwilling or unable to stamp-out these practices, our present good economic fortune as well as our investment-grade rating may be nothing but a flash in the pan. In the end, the weird and wacky things some of us do will eventually drag the entire country back down to a third-world curiosity where strange things take place. At that point we’ll be more likely to find ourselves on the cover of tabloids like the Daily Enquirer than the pages of the Wall Street Journal or Fortune Magazine. Published 3/30/2013