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Strengthening our faith

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - February 21, 2021 - 12:00am

To Christians all over the world, Ash Wednesday ushers in the Season of Lent, with the Holy Week observed to remember the death and resurrection of Christ. It is also a time of reflection and reexamination of one’s faith especially with last year’s events that put the lives of people almost at a standstill because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A number of friends said the pandemic made them turn to their faith, seeking God’s grace for solace and comfort in the midst of distress and anxiety. Some admitted that the thought of dying due to COVID-19 compelled them to “revisit” how their lives have been – and realized that there is more to life than money, fame or power. “When that reality hits, we turn to our faith and seek the peace only God can give,” one of them told me.

This reminds me of two people I personally knew who had fame, wealth, power and prominence. Yet when they realized that their time on earth was soon coming to a close, so to speak, they said – in not so many words – “I’m ready, I have made my peace with God.”

Senator Ninoy Aquino was an influential and powerful senator whom I first met when I was a Channel 9 news reporter, interviewing him on various occasions. Several months before his return to Manila on Aug. 21, 1983, I met him at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. He invited me to his suite, and with him were the late vice president Doy Laurel and the late senators Ernie Maceda and Lorenzo Tañada Sr.

We had coffee, and I took that opportunity to interview Ninoy. To my surprise, he said: “You kept me company for seven years and seven months.” I asked what he meant by that, and he explained that he used to watch me every night from his cell while I reported the news.

I asked why he still wanted to go back to Manila knowing he would be arrested. Ninoy – usually articulate – gave a simple but firm statement: “I am going home, I have already made my peace with God.” He narrated that while in jail, he read the Bible every night, renewing his faith in God.

Enrique Zobel, whom we fondly called EZ, was an extremely wealthy man who had almost everything in life – wealth, power and influence, properties, flying around in his private jet and helicopter. In the end, he admitted all that meant nothing after falling from his horse in Sotogrande, Spain after a game of polo, and he became a quadriplegic.

For 13 years, EZ was in a wheelchair. In one of my visits (which turned out to be the last) to his hacienda in Calatagan, Batangas – he said he would gladly give up everything to walk again. He built a church in Calatagan, and I knew then that Enrique Zobel’s faith has sustained and prepared him for that moment when he would face his creator.

Having gone to two Catholic schools – Ateneo and La Salle – faith has always been the center of my life, especially since my mother was a devout Catholic. Like all sons and daughters, we always look to our mothers as saints and our guiding light. But more than anything, it is our mother’s guiding light that provides tranquility and peace whenever we face uncertainty in our lives.

Like many Filipinos, Americans, too, are reexamining their faith and finding renewed spirituality amid the pandemic.

The other day while taking my daily walk, I ran into our neighbor in the Kalorama district in Washington, Archbishop Christophe Pierre (the Papal Nuncio here in DC). Archbishop Pierre and I had planned on having dinner before the pandemic but had to obviously postpone. Remarkably, he told me in Spanish: “Keep the faith.”

Archbishop Pierre is said to be a close personal friend of Pope Francis. He is happy – as is the Holy Father – that the US has a Catholic president for the second time.

President Joe Biden is known to be a man of faith. He occasionally hears mass at the Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown, the same church that John F. Kennedy attended. Close associates of President Biden say his Catholic faith will help shape the way he will lead America. President Biden had said that the principles ingrained in him through his faith will serve as his “anchor.”

COVID-19 has definitely opened our eyes and strengthened our faith. More importantly, it has taught many of us to practice our faith by “sharing with those who have less in life” in the face of suffering caused by the pandemic.

Note on the vaccines

As Sec. Charlie Galvez said, there has been a slight delay in vaccine rollouts due to indemnification agreements that are urgently needed to pave the way for pharmaceutical companies and the COVAX facility to deliver the vaccines. All countries have been required to provide indemnification agreements as a precautionary measure since the vaccines are on “emergency use authorization.”

The delay is causing anxiety among our people, with many friends calling us directly. I told Secretary Galvez that I was prepared to sign these indemnification agreements “para matapos na,” knowing fully well the urgency of the matter, but we obviously need government authorization because of our strict procurement laws.

I’m glad our legislators are fast-tracking the indemnity fund bill and allowing LGUs to procure vaccines directly from pharma companies with the President certifying  them as urgent. Patience is a virtue – just a little more stretching of our patience. I have no doubt our faith will pull us through all these challenges.

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Email: babeseyeview@gmail.com

ASH WEDNESDAY COVID-19
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