500 years

VERBAL VARIETY - Annie Fe Perez (The Freeman) - March 16, 2021 - 12:00am

How long do you plan to stay faithful to a person? To a God, to a higher being? Well, the Philippines is on its 500th year of Christianity. That's five centuries since the first ship arrived in the country bringing with them images and the faith that changed our religious landscape. Since then, we have been tagged as the cradle of Christianity and the only Christian nation in Southeast Asia.

Both statements appear to be true. However, studies have shown that prior to their arrival we already had a religious system in place. We had mythology that was very intricate, similar to that of Greek and Norse mythology. Our ancestors named deities, gods, and goddesses in connection with the bounty they received from nature. They believed that there is a specific higher being for everything they received and I think that was just beautiful.

The life we have now is also beautiful. Some of my students said that the oppression we received during colonization period made us into the people we are today, so they are thankful for the past however harsh it was. But there are times when I wish that all the teachings and doctrines by the church would just sink in to every one of us.

In his homily yesterday to commemorate the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines, Pope Francis talked about God's love through the Gospel. He mentioned that we are not to live in a "glum, sorrowful and self-absorbed religiosity" but instead look at the brighter side of God's love as he does not condemn. We can't even define the state of our lives right now with all that is going on in our personal lives and the country as well. The problem of poverty does not seem to end and the cycle of unemployment gives birth to other societal problems. Add that to the fact that we are still locked in a pandemic where movement is limited.

While celebrating 500 years is a feat and a time to be festive, we can take a step back and reflect: How helpful has this faith been to us and to society? There are a lot of stories of manifesting the miracles of God and other saints. These are feel-good tales that make our faith stronger, but on the other side there are also those who are just using the church to their advantage. There are those who use the name of the church to ask for money, to molest, and whatnot. It's hard to pinpoint a specific event, but we all know that this is happening, even across the globe.

Despite the pandemic, Cebu's attention will turn to the quincentennial celebration in a few weeks. We will be reliving the past and celebrating five centuries of Christianity. My only hope is that before we get festive, we remember our history well. Was the colonization coupled with Christianity worth it? Would it have changed the way things are today? A great point of reflection.

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