A transcending Pope/ Susan will not budge/ Pacquiao unraveled

HERE'S THE SCORE - Teodoro C. Benigno -
All the great men of our epoch have come and gone with the exception of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Mahatma Gandhi, Mao Zedong, David Ben Gurion, Deng Xiaoping. They were all visionaries, perched atop a jutting mountain crag, at times floating as it were the better to study the virtues and foibles of mankind, and seek out a better future in the pandemonium of time.

We are all lucky to have survived in an age to witness the passage of Pope John Paul II into this towering receptacle of our own Invalides. Indeed he deserved entry. He was a pope yes, a great pope. But more than that, Poland’s Carol Wojtyla was a man permanently hobbled by a heavy cross in his later years and he bore this cross with a smile and glad tidings when he should have keeled over with excruciating pain.

He relished this pain, the pontiff did.

For through it and with it, he breathed the gospel that rooted Christianity was, love for one’s fellowman, a great respect for his dignity and honor. This was what distinguished Pope John Paul II from the vast herd of humanity, whose leaders spent their time pumping the teats of the Golden Calf when they should have helped the poor with their riches. And stanched their fever with cold towels.

It is uncanny. He who cared least for himself developed against his will or was bestowed upon a "cult of the personality" that made John Paul II in media a man among men, a saint among saints, a warrior among warriors, an unprecedented hero of his times.

The world today has a tremor that is hard, perhaps impossible to find in all of history.

You see it in the tens of thousands teeming all over St. Peter’s square, praying, weeping, silently breathing their breasts in sorrow. You see it in Rome where a million, two million are expected from all over the world to pay their last respects and attend his funeral. You see it in the most unexpected of places, Moscow and Beijing, where Christianity was once the dirtiest of words, and the Pope a religious lecher violating their sovereignty.

It will take a long time before the hubbub dies. This pope clutches at you the way no previous pope did, or world statesman for that matter. Even as he lies in state at St. Peter’s Basilica, the winds come and go, faring forth as great monsoon winds fare forth, to carry the tidings of a pope fallen, but not silenced, breathing the gospel in death even better than he did in life.

What is also uncanny is that the Church of St. Peter, no longer the most numerous Church in the world today, retains the magic of sweeping the globe. It lures non-Catholic billions in all continents to gaze fixedly at the Vatican and Rome, where the remains of the pope lie at rest, recumbent yes, quiet yes, still yes, but holding mankind either by its heart or its lungs or its throat.

What does all this mean for the future of the world?

We don’t know. The challenges ahead are vastly different from challenges past. The Christian faith has virtually ebbed from Europe where many churches are empty. It remains strong in the United States, stronger in South and Latin America. As the New York Times emphasized, the Christian gospel will have to dig deeper roots in countries and continents where poverty abounds like Africa, and parts of Asia.

Again, an Islam more militant than ever is abroad in the universe, and terrorists stalk the land, sea and sky. The Church will have to steadfastly dialogue with Muslims and deemphasize the need for mending relations with Jews and Orthodox Christianity which took Pope John Paul II a lot of time.

Even more challenging in the long run perhaps is China whose Confucian culture flourished and weakened, flourished and weakened, then flourished again with scant help from Christianity. With one-fourth of the world’s population, with a dynamism different from that of the West, China bids fair to spread its shadow over much of the world. That would be a problem for the Vatican.

And Hindu India? Also with its human multitudes, its Vedic rituals, its fixation on a many-splendored reincarnation which has drawn many believers from the West, its myriad churches and temples, cants and canticles, holy men and sacred rivers, India poses another problem particularly when it becomes a major economic power late in the 21st century. India’s culture rivals that of any other.

And science? And technology?

Their march cannot be stopped. As they spiral into discoveries still unknown, they could run smack into long accepted truth and revealed gospel, particularly Vatican gospel that would stick to life at any cost because only God created life and nobody else could take it away.

That is what happened when Terri Schiavo recently died after all legal courts of the land ruled that she had a "right to die" and the artificial food tube sustaining her life could not be restored. America remains convulsed in debate on this matter.

These are just a few of the challenges ahead. And the next pope, whoever he might be, will need both Solomonic wisdom and spiritual wisdom to hurdle a future that even now howls with the frightening intensity of a million wolves.
* * *
It is now final. Susan Roces refuses to be drawn into the woof and warp of politics. Just several days ago, despite the joint and persistent clamor of her followers, she said with finality she would not join in any manner, shape or form the planned street demonstrations of Fernando Poe Jr.’s political party to protest the Supreme Court’s rather brashly-worded decision.

The Supreme Court had just ruled the electoral protest of her husband lodged with the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) had become null and void with his death. There was no political party to replace him, this would have been illegal. Susan, who embraced FPJ’s protest after his death, could not stand for FPJ since she was not a presidential candidate. And even if the protest won, Susan herself had no official personality and therefore – to use a Tagalog expression – was out of the presidential kulambo.

Susan Roces could not be swayed.

This was consistent with the Susan we knew and interviewed. She hated the guts of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but would not collide with her in a street protest. With a sneer that did nothing to alter her facial beauty, she simply damned GMA’s "illegality, her illegitimacy."

Susan Roces simply does not want to rough it up, barge into politics with four-letter words and a lead pipe, scream her lungs out at the sordidness of it all. She will remain in her own world, correct, appropriate, dignified, composed, speaking only when she feels like, and at that speaking with stunning elegance.
* * *
Well, it was as we suspected. From Hermie Rivera, we learn that Manny Pacquiao did not appear for a scheduled appointment with this columnist Saturday morning because he gambled the night away last Friday at a Parañaque cockpit. This is an unforgivable double-cross on the part of a Filipino fistic celebrity, a supposed world champion at that, who should have at the very least palabra de honor when dealing with media.

The man has not even called, sought to make up, or apologize. This is crass vulgarity and I say this with emphasis because Manny Pacquiao has to be exposed for the dastard that he is. We have heard a lot about him, but never said a word, that he was an incorrigible wencher, and gambler and carouser, a roustabout with the parlor habits of a stray baboon.

We have admired the man too much, adored him too much, elevated him to a pedestal too much.

Manny Pacquiao has to be stopped before he starts behaving like Mike Tyson, a mad and wild warrior who beat off the ear of Evander Holyfield, and raped almost all the women in his life because, as he explained, he just loved to hear them shriek with pain. When Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach is not around, so we are informed, he takes to the bottle and smokes like a chimney and nobody, but nobody, can stop him.

This is the reason Manny Pacquiao has to go abroad sooner than scheduled for his fights because invariably he meanders the streets of General Santos like a hobo in his cups. Freddie Roach straightens him out physically but reportedly cannot go very far because the Filipino pugilist fights more like a robot than a "thinking fighter" who plots his moves in the ring in advance.

Hell, I hate to write this way about Manny Pacquiao about whom in the past, I have written prodigally in praise and admiration. But he brought this on himself, that’s for sure.

And it’s time we see him as he is. Magpakalalaki ka, Manny.










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