(Homily delivered during the opening of Baragatan Festival, June 16, 2017)
Mayad na timprano canindong tanan! My favorite contemporary philosopher is Max Scheler. I use him a lot in my classes especially in Philosophy of Values, Ethics and Morals. According to him, the most fundamental act of the human person is to love. Not to know. Neither to will. In other words, one might be very busy but if there is no love, one had not accomplish anything yet. One can always go overtime in the office, but when there is no love, one is actually just wasting time. You only start to do something when you begin to put on love in what you do. Scheler says that all of man’s knowledge, willing and doing are based and must be based on the primordial act of loving. Love takes primacy over anything else. How does Max Scheler define love? Love for him is participation. In many ways, love is also Baragatan. We are here to participate. We converge. We gather together. Aga tirimes times kita. Mag baragat bagat kita. Participation for Scheler means the act of taking part first before having your part. Without taking part man cannot get his part. Unfortunately, our tendency is the contrary. We want first to get our part before we actually take part. We participate indeed, but we impose conditions.
Love if it is to be genuine love must first give before it could take something. Halimbawa, kapag nagpapameeting ang agad na reaction ay – “Ano ba ang mapapala ko dyan?” “Magkano ang mukukuha ko dyan?” “Meron ba ako dyan?” … This is not love. This is not baragatan. Indeed, let us strive that Baragatan would be the culture and core value to every Palaweno. Baragatan must be spirit that you and I must aspire. The accolades, The Best Island in the World and The Friendliest Island in the World, would be nothing if we could not do genuine Baragatan. What are we capable of doing if we have love? The readings today are providential to our reflection on love as participation and Baragatan.
Love makes us strong (First Reading). Loves enables us to sacrifice (Gospel Reading). St. Paul in his Second Letter to the Christians says: We are afflicted but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” It is true that we are known now as the Best Island and the Friendliest, but we also have to be realistic that Palawan too are encountering problems. We are also facing challenges. But this should not to deter us to strive even better. We are greater and stronger than any obstacle there is. Recently, we landed several times on the front page – travel advisory, mercury poison in Sta. Lourdes, Japanese murders in Calamian, the “rape and murder” of 7,000 trees in Brooke’s Point, the “eternal” brown out, to name some challenges that we had been facing as one community. The power crisis is a case in point on how to weather a crisis. It is unfortunate that we Palawenos, through social media, had pictured our province as the “Brown out Capital”.
I cry foul on this. Why would we label our Palawan as such? It is as if painting our own family and declaring it to the whole world that we are dysfunctional. I am sure that this tag does not help at all. I think that every city that is developing would naturally face such crisis. But no city would portray herself in a negative way. Why not do a Baragatan? Instead of a smear, just take part. We don’t add insult to injury. We do our part. Let us give our part first. We will not be in despair. We will not be abandoned. Let us not be destroyed. We will stay strong. Now that we desire to remain strong, the other point of love as baragatan is to be willing to sacrifice. Love, anyway, is sacrifice. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out… if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off….” We have to sacrifice for the sake of the greater good. We need to give up selfishness for the sake of Palawan’s future. We need to forgo petty bickering for the sake of our children’s welfare. Whatever causes you to sin, stop it! Whatever brings you sleepless nights because you are guilt-stricken, finish it! Whatever makes your world smaller because you are not at peace with one person or two, forget about it now! Be reconciled instead…. Tear it out! Cut it off! It is better that we are united. It is best that we develop together. This is the essence of Baragatan. The culture of Palawan.
Our kababayans in Brgy. Bagong Sikat (Liberty) has yet to recover from the tragedy that razed their homes and belongings. But two victims had just given me a lesson or two on the real meaning of love and baragatan. I have a friend there whose house was totally destroyed by fire. I was so anxious about how will I console him. I was worried how to reassure him. When I went to Liberty, to my surprise, he was the one who approached me instead and quickly told me, “Father, back to zero kami uli.”… “Babangon po kami uli.”… Kaya to, Father.” I was stunned then and there. Sya na tong nasunugan pero parang sya pa tong nagpapalakas ng loob sa akin. Saan sya humuhugot ng ganitong tibay ng loob? I think this is the real Baragatan. Hindi sumusuko. Malakas. At another time again, while giving relief goods. I handed a bag to a little boy. But he exclaimed, “Okay na po ako, Father. Nabigyan nyo na po ako kanina. Sa iba naman po.” Again, I was stunned. I could not utter a word. While the usual tendency was to receive and get more, this boy was willing to sacrifice and to share. If this is not love I do not what is. This must be the real meaning of participation. This must be baragatan. Mabuhay ang Palawan! Mabuhay ang baragatan!