To Pope Francis: Speak truth to power
Your Holiness, you will arrive on Thursday, January 15, and many of us are aware that you detest pageantry. But that is perhaps the inevitable curse of visiting a country whose hospitality has made many foreigners – from colonizers to pedophiles – fall for its people.
You will be receiving the warmest exaltation that seems more appropriately given to the One of whom you are believed to be the Vicar. In a society oblivious to the modern distinction between politics, religion, and showbiz, you are all three combined.
Welcome to the Philippines, where it's more fun to be Pope. A Pope jeepney has been made especially for you. And have you seen that colorful painting? That's for you, too.
Here's my greatest worry. All the fanfare and manufactured celebration will conceal the main reason you are here. Maybe to you it's clear but whether it is to many of us here, I am not quite sure.
If no one has told you yet – and I bet no one will – that star-studded painting captures quite well much of the social fabric in this country: the elite representing everyone else in happy modes of existence and fantasy. In other words, my fear is that you won't see much of the reality of suffering in this society.
Everything, including your trip to Leyte, will be heartwarming spectacle.
Many Filipinos are good at the production of hyperreal spectacle. Just watch our local TV shows. Whether it's Eat Bulaga or It's Showtime does not really matter. The important thing is that we make you smile. After all, we are the happiest people on Earth.
You give us mercy and compassion, we give you adobo, halo-halo, and a touching rendition of Jamie Rivera's song. By the way, I wish I could sing Jamie's song for you but I don't know any line. A child of the 90s, I find blissful nostalgia in "Tell the World of His Love."
Speak truth to power
You will arrive to much fanfare and I hope you can sneak out, if not in person, at least in spirit to witness conditions that would embarrass our hospitality. Oh, how different it would be if you came on one of those delayed flights as an ordinary passenger!
After all, you have been rumored to roam the streets of Rome to meet the poor at night. I wish you could do the same to many Filipinos who are left behind in broad daylight.
Your Holiness, the institution you lead needs alot of fixing, I know, and many of its problems will go on long after you are gone. And yet for some reason, you come across as one who brings inspiration and renewal.
But I find inspiration too soft. Revolutions do not thrive on inspiration.
Here's my humble and honest appeal. When you witness the brokenness of this country, be brave enough to speak truth to power. Let not Filipino hospitality disarm and distract you from your greater purpose. While you are here for such endearing virtues as mercy and compassion, I do know too that quite a few times did Christ not restrain his indignation against evil hypocrites, malevolent accusers, and those who turned God's house of prayer into a den of thieves.
Den of thieves
The Philippines has become a den of thieves, Your Holiness. The wealth of the powerful has come at the expense of many, many suffering families.
This is why many are forced like vagabonds to leave the country. You must have met many Filipinos in Italy. Many of them are migrant workers who could be fathers and mothers of the youth you are to meet very soon.
So here's the sad part about your visit. You will arrive in a country that is mistakenly and regrettably called the only Christian nation in Asia. (People don't realize that we are not an extension of the Vatican.) If a nation is judged by the welfare of its people, we have failed miserably.
But the reality of suffering won't trend on Twitter this weekend. Instead, I am bracing for a barrage of selfies and status updates as evidence that your Catholic faithful have encountered you. When that happens, the long preparation to simulate heaven on earth will have paid off.
And the cry of the weak will be misread as tears of joy.
Your Holiness, do not be misled. Welcome to the Philippines. – Rappler.com
Dr Jayeel Serrano Cornelio is a sociologist of religion and the director of the Development Studies Program at the Ateneo de Manila University. Twitter account: @jayeel_cornelio.