(To read the original open letter, click here.)
To the editors of the Philippine Daily Inquirer –
I didn’t think I would be sending a letter again to you so soon, but I’m afraid your response to my previous one left me—and likely a lot of your other readers—a bit cold, and with quite a lot more to ask. To recap, your response was a single line that read:
“We suggest that De Leon read the editorial more closely for its main message.”
Now, I will pretend that this response is not the wholly unsatisfactory—and, dare I say, smugly self-satisfied—response that I think it is, and actually take your suggestion seriously. So now, I have just re-read the editorial again as closely as I could, and I’m sorry to say that I still don’t understand why this issue and how it was discussed became a worthy main editorial.
Allow me to comment on your piece in detail:
Paragraph one introduces Calungsod and his impending canonization, describing the supposed “miracle” he was responsible for.
Now, I would like to think that seasoned journalists such as yourself would have developed a very keen sense of what is factual and backed up by evidence, and what is not. I would like to think that people in your line of work are able to take things such as miracles with a grain of salt. However, your editorial started off describing the miracle with a straight face, so to speak, and that is quite troubling for me. What other evidence-less things do you not only take for granted, but are more than willing to broadcast to the public as the “truth?”
Paragraph two is considerably more perturbing, as it discusses martyrdom, beatification, and canonization with a seriousness usually reserved for reports on financial crises or war.
This stuff is straight out of Catholic theology class. The thing is, how is that relevant to anyone? You took up so much space describing quite specific rules from a specific branch of Christianity, and for what purpose? For your non-Catholic readers, and much less for your non-Christian or non-religious ones, how can that information enrich their lives or, at the very least, help them to understand why Calungsod matters, considering that they don’t even believe in this stuff in the first place?
As I’ve mentioned in my first letter, not all Filipinos believe in Catholicism, or believe in any religion, period. Your making mention of these Catholic rules really strikes me as biased, or ignorant of the reality. I hate to say it, but it makes me wonder if the Inquirer aims to further Catholic propaganda. (Is it Catholic Mass Media Awards season already?)
Permit me to quote from another of your main editorials (“Art as Terrorism,” on the Poleteismo brouhaha):
“Predictably enough, Cruz also misrepresents Catholic iconography in order to suit his self-serving and ultimately erroneous thesis. Whatever the excesses of Filipino folk religiosity, it must be said Catholics do not worship images; they venerate them as sensual channels to the divine. Catholics worship God; they accord the Blessed Trinity “latria,” Greek for adoration. They don’t worship the Blessed Mother and the saints. To the latter, they accord “dulia,” Greek for veneration; to the former they accord “hyperdulia,” a higher form of veneration. Therefore, Catholics don’t practice polytheism. Cruz not only misrepresents Catholics’ monotheistic practice; he insults it by using Catholic iconography to poke fun at it.”
Defensive, much? This paragraph is unabashedly Catholic-centric, and in the most by-the-book sense. (And seriously, do most Catholics even know about these “dulias” and “latrias?”)
Now, going back to the Calungsod piece, I believe that the next few paragraphs contain the point that you’re claiming to make. You mention that the Visayans claim Calungsod, who was martyred in Guam, as their own. You mention that the Visayas could very well be considered the birthplace of folk Catholicism in the world. You mention how Catholicism’s feasts and rituals helped build our nation by highlighting communities’ milestones and ultimately fostering a sense of wholeness and legitimacy, and how this parallels how Europe became Europe through a certain annual pilgrimage. You mention how Calungsod and Lorenzo Ruiz—both martyred abroad—are therefore like the first Filipino OFWs, spreading Catholicism (a.k.a. “Filipino-ness,” apparently) across the globe.
From what I gather, then, your point is more or less: “We should celebrate the impending canonization of Calungsod because it helps Filipinos become more significant in the global realm. Through him, we Filipinos can be proud to be Pinoy. Through him, we learn that Filipinos can indeed be influential, most especially due to our Catholic-ness.” And while this may seem like a point solid enough to buttress your paper’s main editorial, it really isn’t. It’s hackneyed, it’s old hat, it’s impotent. This point is nothing we haven’t heard before, and considering the way things are right now, it isn’t as compelling as it used to be.
This never-ending quest of Filipinos to matter, to be admired by, or to just be plain recognized by other countries has not only become cloying, it has evolved into a glaring sign of our insecurity as a people. I don’t find Pinoy pride worthy of being a topic anymore, much less one for a main editorial.
And the thing is, I honestly don’t think that this point is why you wrote the piece anyway. As I’ve already mentioned, I think your piece is just poorly-guised Catholic propaganda, period.
So there, dear editors. I did what you told me to. I read your editorial more closely, and this is what I got from it.
The least you could do, then, is to just come out and clarify whether you are practicing outright agenda-setting or not. Will the Inquirer’s stance always favor the side of the Catolico cerrados? Is your paper’s motto really “Balanced News, Fearless Views,” or “What the Pope Says, Goes?”
I hope, dear editors, that your next response will be more substantial this time around.
Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon