In awe of Whom Francis signifies

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Forgetfully leaving her cell phone in the taxi ride home to Pasig City last week, Erwina thought she had lost it forever. But one Albert Julaton, who took the same cab later, found and gave it back.

Albert had sat on the unit and at once knew someone was missing it. Doubting the cabbie to return it, he thought of dropping by Ramon Tulfo’s DWIZ radio show also in Pasig. Then Erwina called, and they set to meet the next morning at a nearby mall.

Erwina went twice but didn’t see any Albert. Her subsequent phone calls were unanswered. Yet she felt from the voice that she was dealing with a good man, so she assured herself that the phone battery might have gone dead. A friend, then Erwina’s daughter tried calling the next day. To both, Albert answered in Tagalog, “Sorry po, Ma’am, I am still raising the transport fare to get there.” He was to come from Sta. Cruz, which they thought to be the district in Manila easily reached by cheap jitney, so the fare was no big deal to reimburse. Albert’s Sta. Cruz turned out to be the capital of Laguna — 92 km or an hour-and-a-half, P220 bus ride away.

Three days later Erwina finally got her phone back, and with it her faith in the goodness of the common man. Albert was most apologetic for the delay. “Peksman po,” he swore, crossing his heart, “I never thought of keeping it.” A tricycle driver, he had run errands that needed a taxi shuttle to the bus station. Getting home that night, his pre-teen son asked him about the phone, and he narrated having found it lying around. (A flood two years ago had busted a personal cell phone that he shared with the boy.) “Return it,” the son smiled. Albert worked overtime for two nights to raise the P440 round-trip fare and a day’s earning to be lost in traveling back to Pasig. He wouldn’t accept any reimbursement or reward for his good deed.

Albert knows the virtue of honesty, and the value of teaching it to his son. Such spirit will live forever, Erwina shares on Facebook on the eve of Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines.

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Not only honest common believers uncontrollably shed tears in the presence of the Pope. When John Paul II’s Pope-mobile passed by during his 1995 visit to Manila, tough broadcasters abruptly stopped reporting live, dropped to their knees, and sobbed. Soldiers guarding the route stood at attention, but with tears rolling down their cheek. There were no major crimes during JP-II’s five-day stay.

The phenomenon is not from charisma alone. And it can only be two-way. As with Francis today, John Paul exuded “interiority.” Benedict XVI explains it from Augustinian theology as the seeming ability to gaze into a person’s soul. There’s also the front-left part of the brain that scientists recently confirmed to be the repository of belief and hope in God. Could it be that, upon the healing preacher’s touch on the forehead, those being re-baptized in the Holy Spirit are “slain,” that is, fall like a log or cry for long minutes in extreme joy and peace?

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Makes one wonder if the high officials who will meet Pope Francis this morning in Malacañang would feel guilt.

We refer not to all but the few whose greed has belittled charity. They are those who have stolen multibillion-pesos in pork barrel, or took hundred million kickbacks from state contracts. Also, those who worsened hunger by letting prices of rice, garlic, onions, pork, and vegetables surge, as they overpriced food imports. And those who abetted continuing law breaking by heinous crime convicts; or imperiled passengers’ lives and limbs in contracting shoddy but influential train maintenance partners; or let dirty bribing miners destroy public health and environment.

They may not fear the law of man. But do they defy the judgment of God?

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Public Works Sec. Rogelio Singson sent a rejoinder to last Wednesday’s item on the P3.74-billion asphalt overlaying of EDSA:

“We wish to correct insinuations of irregularity in the EDSA rehab. The project design was finalized after the DPWH and consultant Design Science Inc. did a comprehensive engineering study:

“1. Since existing EDSA facilities and traffic condition are much complicated, its rehab requires not only asphalt overlay. The P3.74 billion is not solely for asphalt but includes paving fabric to prevent cracking of asphalt pavement, re-blocking of damaged concrete pavement, and improvement of drainage and sidewalks.

“2. The cost of asphalt overlay including paving fabric at every joint of the concrete pavement is P2.334 billion. Overlay thickness varies from 100 to 200 millimeters to correct the inadequate cross-slope to efficiently drain surface water runoff. The overlay costs P20.3 million per kilometer with two-lanes, not P162 million per kilometer. The DPWH budget of P10 million per kilometer of two-lane carriageway is only for a uniform thickness of 100 millimeters asphalt overlay.

“3. The rehab addresses the effects of slow moving and frequently stopping vehicles, which subject the pavement to high stresses. This traffic condition is very different in NLEX and SLEX where the use of local asphalt is sufficient. The DPWH study shows that the use of high-grade asphalt (same as polymer modified bitumen used in Singapore) will prevent cracking and rutting on asphalt overlay, and decrease the loading and thermal stresses, hence, extend its life.

“4. Due to durability of this type of asphalt, commencement of routine maintenance is between five to ten years of service life, unlike that of regular asphalt that needs preventive maintenance on the second year. Considering EDSA traffic condition, frequent maintenance work, with closure of traffic every now and then, will be avoided.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

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