The fisherman speaks
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - June 3, 2020 - 12:00am

Once we emerge from this pandemic, we will not be able to keep doing what we were doing, and as we were doing it. No, everything will be different. From the great trials of humanity – among them this pandemic – one emerges better or worse. You don’t emerge the same.

“I ask this of you: how do you want to come out of it? Better or worse? People need to open their minds and hearts to learn the central lesson from this crisis: We are one humanity. We know it, we knew it, but this pandemic that we are living through has made us experience it in a much more dramatic way.

“Now there is a duty to build a new reality particularly for the poorest, who had been discarded. All suffering will be of no use if we do not build together a more just, more equitable, more Christian society, not in name but in reality. End the Pandemic of poverty in the world” – Pope Francis.

By today’s standards, this message that Pope Francis gave on the Day of Pentecost, is old. Not just in terms of days but as well as in its aspiration and inspiration. So many great men and women have spoken much the same thing, but sadly there is more anger in the world particularly in the United States, where the pain they can relate to is the pain that comes from racism and not poverty. Here in the Philippines, what grips and angers many people is the uncertainty of things and the inability of government to provide credible and reliable answers. It is not what they do or don’t do, it is what they say but don’t accomplish that destabilizes our individual reality. As we carry on under survival mode, we also ask the questions that Pope Francis has posed in his message.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic and the worldwide forms of quarantine affected us? I think it would be safe to say that many of us in our 50s and 60s will surely become hoarders in various forms and levels just like our parents who survived WW2 and Martial Law. Next would be the group that will be living out their bucket lists and giving themselves permission to finally or simply do, buy, see all the things they never got to before COVID-19. Some people simply figured out that life is too short to keep money in the bank, so enjoy it.

On the other hand, I am confident that many people will come out of this pandemic hell bent on creating their own disaster funds, saving money like never before, and becoming more conservative in terms of plowing back earnings into the business in pursuit of expansionist greed and egos. One thing that the pandemic and the quarantine measures stripped naked were the dressed up finances and facades of many corporations, sectors and industries that are now screaming for help from government to save them from drowning in debts, losses and obligations.  It is both ironic and disturbing to discover that airline companies, hotels, hospitals quickly sent out their respective SOS within a month after quarantine, considering they were the sectors that were high profile, high cash flow and high expansion.

As a reaction to all that, chances are many survivors from the pandemic will now realize that “savings” is the wiser path than borrowing. Before the pandemic, some of my friends were preaching to me how wise they were to use credit lines, car financing because the money was there for the taking and since the economy was in great shape and the banks were competing to give out loans and credit, it was the wise move. Not anymore. During my reflections, one proverb that resonated to me was Proverbs 15:16  “better a little with the fear of the Lord than great turmoil” another version goes: “Better a dry morsel in quietness than a house full of feasting with strife.”

We often associate strife with fights. But strife also refers to struggles and worries. Looking back to the days of Martial Law when my parents were flat broke, no cash, slowly selling “furniture” and belongings, piece by piece, I realized why I did not care much for things as my father often complained. When you are 16 years old and you see the dream cars being taken by buyers, furniture being carted away by strangers, and you sit on top of a fence watching everything you’ve built being torn down by the new owners of the property, it gives you perspective and lasting ability to be indifferent. At 16, I saw my father arrested by the Metrocom, at 16 I had major spinal surgery that was primitive by today’s standards, at 16 I spent 3 months bed-ridden and was forced to drop out of school. I was forced to grow up as life robbed me of childhood joy and innocence.

Pope Francis was correct: “One emerges better or worse. You don’t emerge the same.” This will be my second pandemic. I begin to emerge recognizing how shallow my knowledge is of my faith, its doctrines and its heroes. I emerge recognizing the cavernous gap between my Christian walk and my Christian works and how far my wallet is from my heart. I emerge relearning my mission is to be a voice for those without a voice and in the words of Ravi Zacharias: “To work for those who cannot repay me.” I emerge knowing I cannot achieve anything further unless I walk in the example of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, led by the Holy Spirit and in complete obedience to GOD Almighty. “But by the grace of God go I.”

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