Philippine bishops and their Dan Quayle moment



Philippine bishops were recently caught having their “Dan Quayle” moment. Quayle was the Indiana senator and US vice president who got a royal pique at Candice Bergen’s character, a single mom raising a child, in the TV series “Murphy Brown” eons ago. Quayle was also the vice president who showed to the world that not all vice presidents of the developed world, one educated at a great university system at that, can make it to Round 1 of Spelling Bee.

Quayle’s misplaced rage at a single mother raising a child without the fictional SOB that impregnated her further endeared him to American conservatives that bannered “family values.” But it also dramatized how oblivious some leaders were to the changing social realities—and cultural shifts—then taking place in their own country. My God, that was a vice president, the number two most powerful man of the most powerful country in the world. His was a country that was supposed to elect to office the leaders that knew about the sweeping changes and the epic movements in their society.

Enough of Dan Quayle and back to the Philippine bishops.

Some bishops were reported to have expressed alarm over a gay-themed TV series, not as well-written as “Murphy Brown,” but still a graphic depiction of an accepted reality in Philippine life: gay men, one of them married, having a relationship. Philippine gays are out in the open and the country is no worse for it. The expression of alarm is, definitely, out of sync with the sentiment and mood of the rest of the country.

We no longer blame gays and relationship between gay men as the inducer of floods and pestilence, dengue and our general misfortune. We occasionally hope that they moderate their gayness and outlandish attires on TV, a medium that has given a platform and forum to gays, but that is all there is to it.

We have even moderated the previous conventional wisdom that it is gays that were behind the AIDS/ HIV spread.

The acceptance and tolerance has been so fully complete that when a petite singer proclaimed to the world that she was a lesbian, nobody but her parents minded. That is her predisposition and make up and orientation, fine, and we moved on from there.

Gayness is a fact of life and we don’t even bother to inquire on whether the reason is genetics or association with gays. Life is too short to be bothered by gay people and what is their business is their business.

Except, of course, some of the bishops, who recently panicked over the gay-themed TV series.

There is no real-world, experience –based reason for getting upset over the topic and depictions of a TV series, whether you are a simple farmer like myself, or a powerful politician or a prince of the church. From Stonewall in 1969, to Charice Pempengco’s coming out, every year marked a progress on the gay recognition/acceptance front. The yearly progress may be small and incremental but it was enough to chip away at the old prejudices.

And gays are all over the place: the perches of political power, the perches of corporate power, ordinary households and even in the bishoprics and the seminaries. They are, definitely , the ascendant power in entertainment.

Were we to get rid of the gays from the entertainment press today, very few would do the coverage tomorrow.

How can the bishops ignore the epochal shifts that had transpired from Stonewall to Charice?

Priests and bishops, for all their verbal commitment to the enhancement of human life and humanity, have been the main objectors to things that would enhance progress and human life. This is in full display in a remote, underdeveloped slice of the Eastern Seaboard , Casiguran town in Aurora province, where an economic zone is being built by the government.

The main issue raised is land grabbing. Supposedly more than a thousand hectares of land had been land grabbed from farmers to build the economic zone and benefit the Angara political family. Wrong.

The economic zone is a government entity, like all economic zones, and what is there is owned by the government. No private individual can own a small slice of the zone, or just part of the perimeter fence, because everything there is state property.

That the economic zone being built would lead to the general dislocation of the farmers and indigenous people is the greatest lie ever told. The Zone is designed to be a life-changer and this one-time, big-time investment from government would only open up once in a lifetime. The general underdevelopment of the Eastern Seaboard is the lack of government investment. For over a century, nothing has been invested in Casiguran and the like and it is only now, after a 100 years, that government funds are being moved in such towns.

Now comes a major geopolitical consideration – the troubled West Philippine Sea dictates is in contrast to the calm and stability of the areas off the Pacific, the Eastern Seaboard areas.

In a world unencumbered by mind-sets that would perfectly thrive during the Inquisition, the construction of the Zone would be welcomed with open arms. For one, it would lift Casiguran out of poverty and underdevelopment. It would become part of a thriving economic mainstream.

But to many priests, Casiguran should stay where it is: backward and remote and poor.


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