Mommy Talks

A conversation about the Bible and Filipino culture

Alex doesn’t have classes on Fridays. Although the agreement is that Speedy will pick her and Sam up on Fridays (save on fuel, right?), since this is just the first week of classes, we humored her and Speedy picked her up yesterday afternoon. I cooked her favorite for dinner, sinigang na baboy, we watched The Phantom of the Opera and Evita, one after the other, and it was well after midnight when we finished with the movies. Combine the late night with the fact that Alex is still unable to sleep soundly in the condo and the result is that I had to wake her up at lunch time.

It was a long lunch that we had as she chatted about school, classmates and teachers. She goes to a Catholic school now, Bible Study is required, and she’s not very hot about that. If you’re new here, we’re agnostics (if you’re commenting, I don’t question your religious views so don’t question ours), so you get the picture. I told her she’d have to pass it anyway because it’s a requirement. What isn’t required is that she believe anything or everything that the Bible says.

Besides, I told her, how can she say she doesn’t believe in the Bible if she doesn’t know enough about it to disbelieve? I mean, anyone who says something is a fallacy but does not know the substance of the alleged fallacy is taking a stupid position. You have to know what you’re objecting to before you can make a valid objection. Plus, I told her, there are pretty interesting stories in the Bible especially in the Old Testament. It’s just the New Testament that’s so darn boring and dogmatic but even that has a saving grace — the Book of Revelations and all the controversies that go with it.

But, she said, it’s the manner of teaching that’s so infuriating. Well, I can imagine. A devout Catholic teaching a subject about the Bible will tend to have a one-sided approach. So I told Alex that there’s no reason why she can’t ask questions or make comments, or even engage the teacher in a debate, if she feels she has a relevant point to make. She doesn’t have to seethe in silence. And, from a more Machiavellian perspective, it’s one way to get noticed and get good grades (honestly, a student doesn’t have to say Amen to the teacher all the time). It’s also a good way to become famous (or infamous) and be remembered. And I told her about something that happened to me back in college.

I had a classmate in the College of Law, Ferdie (he died several years ago), who was also a classmate in ONE Political Science subject (or it could have been a History class) about three years earlier when we were undergrads. We were just acquaintances, the “hi, hello” kind, and after that semester ended, if we did bump into each other again, none of us noticed. You get the picture.

In that Political Science (or History) class, I delivered a report about Filipino culture. In the Q&A that followed, the issue of our “bastardized” culture came up and there was the question as to what can be done to help re-establish our cultural identity. A purification of sorts. My answer was to isolate the country. No import, no export, no travel, no foreign movies books or TV shows. Just for a couple of decades so that everyone can have a chance to find his roots and allow a more genuine Filipino culture to grow and thrive.

Of course, it was a very hardline stand. I was, like, seventeen years old, for goodness’ sakes. Back then when I came up with that theory, my classmates were in an uproar and it didn’t really matter whether my idea was correct or not — the important thing was that it had everyone talking and it turned out that there were a lot of other ideas out there. I got a flat 1.0 for my final grade — in U.P., you can’t get a grade higher than that.

Years later, in the College of Law, someone introduced Ferdie and I, I obviously didn’t remember him, but he blurted out, “Oh, I know you! You’re that girl with the radical theory about isolating the Philippines.”

My point in telling Alex about that incident is that there are times when one idea can spark a great and animated discussion. But someone has to have enough guts to start it. Alex pointed out that it was impracticable given the archipelagic layout of the Philippines with all those islands and internal waters. How many shorelines can be patrolled to contain the country and maintain the isolation, right? And I agreed that she was right.

Then, she looked at me unflinchingly and said, “And even if it could be done, you’ll have to be taken out of the country.”

I said, “Because…”

She said, “Because everyone will want to kill you for coming up with that idea.”

Oh, right, that never crossed my mind. On hindsight, it was a bad theory.

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