Sunday, September 30, 2012

LifestyleBohol * World Meatless Lunch is Tomorrow

This article is exactly as you will see it on the September 30th, 2012 issue of LifestyleBohol.  I'm posting this here as a public service effort to reach out to those who aren't subscribed to the Bohol Chronicle.

meatless monday
webpage heading of

Granting that you’re reading this on the very last day of September 2012, tomorrow would be Monday, October 1st.  To majority of Bol-anons, it is the beginning of the Month of the Holy Rosary.  To the more socially aware lot, it marks the first of 31 days of wearing pink ribbons, clothing, and accessories to point to the fact that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Yes, you read it right.  A whole month dedicated to the color pink.  Soothing, isn’t it?

Every shade of pink will be proudly displayed throughout October by Bohol’s hippies and social advocates in an effort to promote awareness on research endeavors and developments on the very long still-under-construction road to curing breast cancer.  More than that, it’s also a symbolic extension of hands to those presently living with the disease.  I’m urging everyone reading this article to join the movement.  You can wear a pink ribbon on your chest, a pink baller band, a pink sticker on your I.D. card, or maybe a couple of pink stripes on your lanyard made using a marker.  Anything, really.  You can get creative with pink.  A simple positive gesture makes a huge difference.

Anyway, let’s move on to my primary reason for writing this entry.  Another thing happening tomorrow is something called the World Meatless Lunch.  It’s an awareness initiative created by Filipino environmentalists headed by Dr. Custer C. Deocaris, a molecular biologist who cares deeply for the planet.  This idea was inspired by Meatless Monday, an international campaign run by the Bloomberg Public Health School of Johns Hopkins University, one of the most prominent and advanced medical research institutions in the world, promoting a vegetarian diet every Monday for the improvement of personal health and the health of the planet.  The latter has a Filipino version called Luntiang Lunes, for which a bill to proliferate the campaign and institutionalize the concept in schools is already in its early development stage.  It will mark every single Monday as a day to rejoice for veggie lovers and a day to dread for professed carnivores.

Tomorrow’s event, the World Meatless Lunch, however, isn’t quite Meatless Monday yet.  It’s simply a call for everyone to forego meat for just one meal—lunch.  It encourages solidarity where, at lunch hour, we imagine ourselves on one enormous dining table munching on vegetables and fruits with the rest of the world.

Some of you may be wondering how this meat “mayhem” relates to the environment since this is, as I said, a movement initiated by environmentalists.  No worries, I’m getting there.  Most of you have probably heard secular vegetarians and vegans cite health as a reason.  On the other hand, those whose basis for their special diet is religion or spiritual study would tell you that compassion and kindness to all sentient beings is their primary motivation.  However, an inexplicably large beneficiary of a vegetarian diet is our very own Planet Earth.  Why, you ask?  I’ll give you a number of reasons.

FACT:  45% of the Earth’s habitable land area has been cleared for raising livestock and growing crops to feed them.  To cite a rather extreme example, 70% of the Amazon forest’s original tree-rich terrain has been flattened for this purpose.  Several wildlife species endemic to it are at risk of extinction because of our perceived need to produce so much meat.

ANOTHER FACT:  In November 2006, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), for which Filipino artist Lea Salonga has been recently selected as a Goodwill Ambassador, released an official report as a result of several scientific studies stating that conventional livestock farms produce more greenhouse gas emissions than all the world’s conceived forms of transportation combined.

Read the above statements over and over again until they manage to get drilled in your head.  Industrial meat production is the #1 culprit of climate change.  That means if the beef steak on your plate was produced inorganically, whoever owns the farm that grew it should, in part, be blamed for the unusually frequent flooding or excruciatingly long drought periods.  Don’t blame legislative propositions!  You should even point a finger or two at yourself for not being conscious about whether or not the production method for your meat was humane.

It’s not that I’m waging a war against meat consumption altogether; I’m merely giving you a few very good reasons to lessen your hunger for flesh.  If you care enough to translate thoughts into actions, you can start by joining the rest of the nation’s caring citizens in turning tomorrow’s World Meatless Lunch into an impactful statement both to others and to yourself.  Make it a test run to see if you can manage a meal without flesh obtained by killing a previously living, breathing creature.  That means you should have lunch with no pork, no beef, no chevon (kanding), no chicken, no fish, no shrimps, not even bivalve shells—just dairy, eggs, and vegetables.  You will find it very light on your tummy afterwards.  You might even decide to forego meat for the rest of the day.

My hand, as a vegetarian, is permanently glued to the cause of compassion, health, and environmental healing through meatless meals for the rest of my life.  It’s a conscious choice I’ve made which I happen to be very, very happy about.  I know this is extremely difficult for most people but I’m glad to say there is a growing number of vegetarians in Bohol.  We are not aiming to proselytize the rest of the province into taking the same path.  We are merely appealing to your good nature to count yourselves in along with the thousands of people observing World Meatless Lunch tomorrow.  Come hand-in-hand with us even if it’s just for one meal.  Surely, you could bear it.  Command yourself to muster the willpower.  If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for our Mother, the Earth.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Why Vegetarian?

Broccoli - My Favourite Vegetable

I don't have anything against people who eat meat.  I'm perfectly fine around meat eaters as long as they don't coerce me into consuming animal flesh or relentlessly question my food choices.  In such a scenario, I'd usually end up saying "because I've realised I actually don't like dead animals anywhere near my mouth—let alone in my body."  That's the raw truth and I try my best to avoid saying it around meat eaters.  However, I might be forced to say it if I exhaust my bank of euphemisms.

I don't want to have to kill sentient beings to live because, as far as I'm concerned, I can maintain a perfectly healthy existence without relying on the death of living, breathing beings.  Animals can have a fruitful existence and serve an ecological purpose for the Earth without me killing and eating them.

Some people argue that animals exist primarily as food for us humans.  Nothing could be more human-centric than that.  With that kind of premise, it also means that if we allow animals to thrive freely and live fully, their lives would be useless.  I can't accept such a statement.  I don't think animals' lives would go to waste if we don't kill them.  If a mother sow could speak, she wouldn't agree with you if you tell her that her piglets' lives would be wasted if we don't kill them just so we could serve lechon de leche for Christmas dinner.

While I don't deny that humans are omnivorous by nature, choosing to live a path free from animal flesh doesn't make my existence any less fulfilled than that of people who eat meat.  Additionally, it has been proven time and again that we don't need meat to survive unless we live on ice.  It's not like we have to forage for vegetables and fruits like our early ancestors did.  We have, as intelligent species, mastered the science of crop agriculture.

There are certain living circumstances where I recognise vegetarianism to be impractical for humans.  Alaska, the Arctic Region and the places close to the Himalayas are perfect examples.  They need meat to fuel the generation of heat in their bodies because they live in such cold, cold places.  In addition, the crops that grow in those areas (if any) would hardly suffice for their nutritional needs.  I wouldn't condone going to those parts of the world and speaking about the benefits of vegetarianism.  They are meat eaters and hunters out of necessity and I bear complete consideration for their choices of food and even give thumbs up if their livestock is self-raised.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is primarily to point out publicly that I have reasons for being a vegetarian beyond the boxed perception of so-called healthy eating.  It's more ethical and environmental than it is for health.  I'm a vegetarian because I know I will live a healthy and fruitful life without having to put myself at the end of a chain of animal murder.  I live in a part of the world where meat eating is not a physical necessity.  Therefore, I will not eat meat.  Moreover, I don't want to take part in wrecking the environment with large-scale industrial meat production.  It's very disheartening to think that climate change is worsening everyday and conventional livestock farming is one of its primary contributors.  If you don't bear the same principle, that's entirely up to you.

I must also point out that the cruelty and dire conditions that animals are forced to experience in large conventional farms is unfathomable.  In large poultries, chickens' beaks are cut off and some of them are unable to heal properly so they end up bleeding to death.  In cattle farms, cows and bulls are painfully de-horned as calves and beaten senselessly if their behaviours prove frustrating to the workers.  In hog farms, mother sows are put in very tight cages and cannot even turn around or stand up.  They are raised for food but they aren't given respect in the process.  If you're going to raise an animal so you could eat it, you should at least respect it and let it live properly.  At least most indigenous tribal communities, despite being meat eaters, recognise such a need.

If you're a meat eater, you don't have to justify your diet of choice to me or anyone else.  I'm not imposing vegetarianism on anyone reading this, I'm simply presenting my reasons in the process of making a not-so-subliminal suggestion.  I'm advocating it because, to me, it's an ethical way of living.  It's a choice I've made in order to adhere to my principle of compassion for all sentient beings no matter what phylum they belong to and as long as they don't threaten my life.

Vegetarianism is my way of expressing respect and love for the Earth and all her children.  What's yours?


O, hidden life, vibrant in every atom.
O, hidden light, shining in every creature.
O, hidden love, embracing all in oneness.

May all who feel themselves as one with thee,
Know that they are therefore one with every other.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

LifestyleBohol * Many Are Called, Few Are Chosen

Ang Tawag:
A Drama Collage on the Soul Journey of Seminarians in their Calling for Priesthood
- A Theatrical Review -

Over a week ago, on the 22nd of August, I had the pleasure of being invited to the celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary’s 62nd foundation day.  Fr. Ramon Oncog, the school’s rector, belongs to my circle of grown-up friends called the Albasiyan Family that has a culture of having each other over during our lives’ significant days.  In his words we were there just as they, “priests, would be at yours and your children’s birthday parties.”  He loves the school very much and considers it to be his own child.  We, of course, came over very gladly to show our support.

The highlight of the evening was a theatrical presentation called Ang Tawag, which translates to English as “The Call.”  Upon reading the title on the program flyer, I was immediately reminded of a song of the same title performed by the Irish singing group, Celtic Woman, written by composer David Downes.  I can’t help but notice the parallels of the song to the calling being referred to when a man decides to tell himself, “I am becoming a priest.”

Directed by renowned Boholano director and composer, Maestro Lutgardo L. Labad, Ang Tawag was neither a straight play nor a musical, as I was initially inclined to think.  It was a devised theatre collage which explored the hardships and joys of aspiring priests from the time the calling is received to the structured and isolated life lived within the walls of the seminary.  Its aim, as I interpreted it, was to convey to the public a message that would tear down collective misconceptions about seminarians and men’s individual journeys towards priesthood.

I have a number of personal friends who get emotional when relating stories of how their fathers left them in the seminary right when they entered adolescence.  Ang Tawag tells us that such things don’t happen anymore and the decision to choose a priestly vocation is now always based on a Divine call received inwardly rather than an imposition by other people.

The collage was not your typical theatrical show where a third party writer would lend his material to a production company and actors would interpret it with as much artistic juice as they can muster.  It was different because the stories came from the seminarians themselves.  They were real experiences recounted by the school’s third year Humanities class as short scenes depicting family life, friendship, community spirit, difficulty, and the immense challenge of self-restraint as the young men train themselves to dedicate their entire existence to serving the Divine Purpose the Roman Catholic way.

In a conversation with three of the boys, Daryl, Lopfer, and Colin, I was told that there was very little difficulty in achieving the production because they did not need to pretend to function in unfamiliar situations as an actor would in a normal play.  Daryl, one of four writers who came up with poems and sonnets featured in the collage, said that all they had to do was channel their consciousness as though they were dealing with their family, peers, or classmates in a normal scenario and not much acting would be required except for those who were assigned to take on female roles.  It was basically 29 seminarians telling people, “this is our life,” as Lopfer put it.  Maestro Labad’s role in it was primarily to train them to drop their inhibitions and allow themselves to be as sharing and open as possible—to remove any propensity to hold back when relating their lives to other people.  When that happened, all there was to do was piece the jigsaw pieces together to form a beautiful picture.

Maestro Gardy, as we fondly call him, was not alone in making it all happen.  He sought the help of Bohol’s trusty local theatre group, Teatro Bol-anon, where the expert production staff was handpicked from.  Assisting Gardy in directing was Mr. Tertuliano Camacho, Jr.  Mr. Jay Banquil handled Choreography; Ms. Evelyn C. Silva managed the sound; Ms. Charo Mae Apipe for lights; Mr. Jerameel Decasa was technical director; and Mr. Rodolfo Cuhit was their acting coach.  It was a blessing for the boys to have had the opportunity to work with such talented people and, likewise, for the staff for the joy of getting to know the inside tales first hand.

I also had the privilege of speaking with Fr.Val Pinlac, the academic dean and vice rector of the seminary, who, along with Fr. Oncog, was co-producer and co-initiator of the endeavor.  He expressed how happy he was of the turnout and audience response.  “It would have been harder for the boys because they had very little time to work on it,” he said.  “But they did it!”

Ang Tawag was awesome as far as I’m concerned.  It began with the smooth sound of a choir and transitioned from chorale singing to individual scenes through a series of sonnets.  The first part portrayed the young men’s different social backgrounds and scenes depicting the elements that led them to answer to the call.  It mostly showcased the heavily Catholic setting of typical Boholano families known for producing a huge number of the nation’s priests.  I paused for a moment and told myself, “that looks like a scene pulled right out of my grandparents’ living room in Dimiao.”  The familiarity of it made me chuckle.

The second part showed specific challenges encountered within the seminary.  Like I said earlier, I saw a whole lot of self-restraint and head pounding for the boys.  From the dilemma of whether or not to have girlfriends, to issues on taking the vocation seriously, to the subject of vices like drinking and smoking, most of the bases were covered, leading to a conclusive dance drama which occurred to Maestro Gardy to include.  The boys sang and did an interpretative dance to Basil Valdez’s Lead Me Lord.  “Napaiyak ako sa sarili ko,” the Maestro said when he related how the lightbulb moment came to him while listening to the song.  It was a deeply moving scene that rendered the audience speechless.  I was left in awe and I could hardly move my hands to clap.

However, it was not just pure melodrama as one would expect from a life lived away from family while trying to build a strong bond with a new family and deepening relationships with God.  There was a lot of humor in it, too.  Most of the seminarians were naturally comical in the way they portrayed their lives, which goes to show how happy they were to begin with.  Other than that, because there were no women in the seminary, it was also a laugh gag to see the young men portray their mothers and grandmothers.  With heads draped in colorful veils, they tried to act as campily as they could without breaking into laughter themselves.  They were very effective and I believe that owes itself to the fact that they bear great respect for the women in their lives and they keep them constantly in their hearts.

I now urge the key people in the seminary to restage the production for a wider audience to experience the same joy my friends and I had.  It is important that people get to know the things seminarians go through in their journey—not just when they emerge as priests.  Like the boys themselves said, “Mga tao ra usab kami.”  (We’re only just people.)  It is important that the lay community is given the opportunity to know them that way.

Bishop Leonardo Medroso and Gov. Edgar M. Chatto stood up at the end of it with praises calling the performance a “very rare and moving” one where the young men took their own lives as substance for a drama.  It’s about time others are given the chance to say the same.

The author of this review is not himself Roman Catholic though most of his family is.
He greatly respects all faith traditions and religions.


Seen on Print:

Blue Moon