Simbang Gabi starts – a unique liturgical celebration
THE SOUTHERN BEAT  - Rolly Espina () - December 18, 2007 - 12:00am

Last Sunday, local Catholics trooped to churches for the Simbang Gabi. But it was Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra who pointed out that it is a liturgical celebration that is unique to the Philippines.

The Dec. 16 to 24 dawn Mass is “a unique celebration to the Philippines.” Bishop Navarra said, “It is a privilege requested by the bishops of the Philippines from the Pope, which is renewed every 50 years.”

Well, that was a good lesson on Church and local history that has long been overlooked.

But amid the spirit of jubilation and gaiety that marked the rush to the Christmas (Nativity) celebration, there was also the message from Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo that “Jesus seems no longer a part of our Christmas parties during the Advent and the Christmas season.”

Lagdameo pointed out that “Jesus seems no longer a part of the festivities,” pointing out that “Jesus is the center of the celebration.” “Without Jesus, all our festivities, gift-giving, decorations, Christmas carols are without meaning,” the prelate said.

Jesus, he added, “lived among us, laughed and cried like us, showing how it is to be truly human yet totally attuned to God.”

Lagdameo is the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

That call was also echoed by Negros Occidental Gov. Joseph Marañon who said, “Let us put Christ at the center of Christmas and practice his teachings to ensure peace and progress.”

Marañon also called on both the military and the insurgents to enable everyone to celebrate the birth of Christ in an atmosphere of peace.

It may all sound a bit messianic, but that is the only meaningful way to celebrate Christmas, which actually is a commemoration of the Birth of the Messiah.

His message was simple – God loves us despite all our sins and extends to us His peace.

Hope for illegal settlers

Illegal settlers in Purok Riverside in Banago, Bacolod City hope that they will soon have permanent homes on a property donated to the city government by Sta. Clara Subdivision.

This was after the International Care Ministries, headed by its board of advisers’ representative Malcom Wood, and Gawad Kalinga provincial head Bob Magalona broke ground for the GK project in Barangay Banago that will start early next year.

About 100 residents of Purok Riverside will benefit from the project, Magalona said.

Work on the 1.1-hectare area will start early next year. But Magalona also said they plan to expand until they can reach all the 500 families in the Banago area, the main culprit in the flooding of Bata, Mandalagan, Villa Valderrama, Sta. Clara, and Capitolville.

Just for the record, Capitolville residents, according to Edgar Abada, have taken the initiative to rent their own backhoe to declog a nearby creek, which overflows every time it rains heavily.

“We did not wait anymore for city authorities to bring in their digging equipment. We simply decided to do things our own way,” was how Abada explained the Capitolville residents’ action.

Actually, the Bacolod Anti-Baha Coalition, which is made up of professionals and upper-class members of the Bacolod society, claimed to have gained membership among the lower and middle-income Bacolod folk whose areas are normally inundated during heavy rains.

And they have started a well-studied and well-documented monitoring of how the city government is complying with its commitment, with a timeline drawn up by the city officials themselves. This is considered an unprecedented and well-studied counterfoil to bureaucratic delays.

Meanwhile, a member of the Philippine Ophthalmological Society came up yesterday with a document entitled “An Unusual Viewpoint on PhilHealth and Cataract Surgery.”

Well, it was clearly an attempt to wipe out suspicions against some of the four Bacolod ophthalmologists involved in the so-called PhilHealth scam. But it is worth studying.

First, it upheld the “humanitarian” purpose of the ophthalmologist who pays for the PhilHealth premium of patients who otherwise would have been deprived of free medical care.

Citing the case of Mang Berto, it pointed out that he could never have enjoyed the return of his vision had the “recruiter” and the physician not picked up the tab for the premium payments. In short, just a question that deserves to be answered – does a blind indigent patient have to stay blind until he dies because the PHIC has stopped payment covering all claims for cataract operations?

It was a voluminous answer to issues covered by the PHIC “scam.” Later, I will write more about it in fairness to the valid issues raised by the doctor or ophthalmologist who authored the paper.

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