Yesterday was declared a national holiday by the government for reasons that remain unclear.
Fans of the De La Salle University Green Archers can, with good humor, say that it was in celebration of the team’s improbable annexing of the UAAP men’s basketball title over the weekend.
Fans of the University of Sto. Tomas Growling Tigers, on the other hand, can say that it gave them time to grieve over a championship that should have been theirs, had the fates been kinder. And had their usually reliable veterans converted the endgame shots that they never had a problem hitting before.
(Incidentally, for fans of the other collegiate league —the NCAA—the holiday only resulted in the cancellation of the games scheduled for yesterday.)
The one clear thing was that the holiday was completely unnecessary. No Filipino’s singular act of heroism was recalled, no one’s martyrdom remembered.
The holiday was declared apparently to appease the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), that homespun Christian sect which is politically powerful because it votes as a bloc. Because the INC leadership wanted to conduct some medical missions, and donate rice to poor Filipinos, the national leadership acquiesced to their wish to make October 14 a holiday.
What’s wrong with this picture? In a word, plenty.
Begin with the absolute numbers. As a religion, the INC does not represent the majority of the Filipino people. The Roman Catholic Church does. By most estimates, there are some 90 million Filipinos, and anywhere from 80 percent to 85 percent declare themselves Catholic.
The remainder are split between the followers of Islam, the INC, the Aglipayan Church, the various Protestant denominations, non-denominational Born Again Christians, and the local tribes who do not belong to any religion.
But because the INC and only the INC votes as a bloc, they have a disproportionate amount of influence over local and national politicians. That clout was clearly used to declare yesterday a holiday.
Isn’t it bad enough that whenever any of the living or deceased INC leaders with the surname Manalo celebrate a birthday, it becomes a de facto holiday? Even Catholic politicians shamelessly pay homage to the celebrant by heading for the sect’s headquarters in Quezon City. The only thing they do not do is to kneel before pictures of past or present INC heads.
Do not get us wrong. We have nothing but the highest respect for the INC. This is a religion that is known for its conservative values and strict adherence to the most admirable of traits such as honesty and hard work. Also, this is a religion that frowns on gambling, drinking, and womanizing.
What’s not to like about the INC?
If they wish to extend a helping hand to Filipinos in need, we say let them do so. But there should be no need to declare a national holiday, causing banks to stay closed and students to stay at home, or worse, waste their time and money malling or playing online games.
The traffic situation was also worsened by the odd holiday, by the way.
The next time the INC wants to help Filipinos who have less in life, may we humbly suggest that they pay more attention to disaster areas or depressed communities in the provinces? Instead of showing their generosity to Metro Manilans, for example, the INC could have conducted a medical, feeding and housing mission in Zamboanga City.
Amen, brothers and sisters?