Something to Ponder. . .

This New Year 2015

The theft occurred in June 2010, and everybody knows that it is not so good there in Region 8. With the Pope’s visit in January 2015, won’t the Catholic Church spearhead the image’s recovery?


The 111-year old San Pascual Baylon Han Guinarona image, missing since June 2010.



Rated 8 is The New Year


The year 2015 is an 8 Year, namely 2+0+1+5 = 8. The number eight is the infinity symbol.

Number 8 resonates with the influences and vibrations of authority and personal power, self-confidence, executive ability, confidence, inner-strength, professionalism and the professional, management, material freedom, success, good judgement, money, finances, riches, manifesting wealth, abundance and prosperity, provision, investments, discrimination and discernment, giving and receiving, thoroughness, dependability, self-reliance, repose, practicality, consideration, inner-wisdom, self-sufficiency, social status, pragmatism, the ego, aggregation, compassion, dictatorship, executive, delegation, reality, truth and integrity, compassion, dictatorship, multiples, employment, stability, appearance, customs, skills and talents, exchanges, truth, good judgement and problem-solving, organisation and organizing, achieving and achievements, decisiveness, control, constant, ambition, the authoritarian, challenge, efficiency, trustworthiness, insight, planning and the planner, sociability, works independently, learning through experience, true justice, retreat, patience, caution, self-discipline, free-will, insight, spiritual consciousness, expansion, dissolution, dimension of the timeless, good and bad, right and wrong, day and night, ability to see and relate to eternal dimensions, balance between forces, connects spirit and matter, developing confidence to follow a vision, breaks down barriers to transformation, reality, courage, a desire for peace and a love of humanity and world transformation.

New Year Greetings. from Benito Maray on Vimeo.

Accordingly, you get what you want in an 8 Year.

Here’s wishing you all a Happy New 8 Year.



A close-up of the Guinarona SanPascual Baylon body relic.

As you know, Guinarona has had the San Pascual Baylon body relic since May 15, 2013 when it was installed.  Because Spain’s Basilica San Pascual Baylon appreciated Guinarona’s loss of the original San Pascual image in June 2010, which has not been recovered to-date, the nuns of the Basilica graciously sent in the body relic of San Pascual encased in silver and glass.

Some force was goading us to take close-ups of the relic, and we noticed some images that characterize it. Are these images apparitions?   Do they have messages to convey to the world?

Here is the video:

You be the judge.

Of Typhoons and Leaders: A Repost

By Kit Belmonte



A wise man told me that Filipinos gravitate towards three kinds of leaders – the populist man of the people, the vigilante hero, and the problem solver. Of the three, he says, it is the populist who gets the most support. In the minds of the people, he embodies their needs and wants. And regardless of his failings, his every move captures their imagination and he can do little wrong. Thus, most politicians strive to be known as populists, regardless of their actual ability to deliver on the promises they make.

For six hectic days I got to watch up close how DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and his team worked. And there is one thing I am sure of: for someone of his political experience and perceived intentions, Mar Roxas isn’t playing the traditional political game.

As a member of the Congressional Oversight Committee that monitors the implementation of Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (PDRRM) Act of 2010, I had the privilege of joining, as a somewhat skeptical observer, our National Government Frontline Team to Eastern Samar. The Team was at the site of the expected landfall to: (1) ensure that disaster preparations are in place, (2) monitor the situation, and (3) direct post-disaster operations.


All of the frontliners were mostly veterans of the Zamboanga siege, the Bohol earthquake, or the Super Typhoon Yolanda. It was a very tight-knit group, and they were basically replicating what they had already done before. The main difference, they told me, was that this time, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin stayed behind to coordinate all efforts from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Headquarters, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman was prepositioned in Cebu to manage the follow-on relief and rehabilitation operations, and Secretary Edwin Lacierda was included in the team to handle communications – changes that reflected important lessons they learned from previous crises.

I have many stories to tell from that experience with Secretary Mar and his team, but one incident really struck me as indicative of his character.

Soon after the storm struck, we passed by the Borongan public market, and found it ankle deep in mud and garbage from the nearby river. Of course, there were more urgent tasks to accomplish that day, such as securing the NFA warehouse for the food supply, clearing the airport, and opening the road to Dolores, but Sec. Mar made sure to ask the fire department and city market master to clear the market as soon as possible. His reasoning was simple and logical: the unsanitary conditions, if allowed to remain by the time the market opened, would have led to the outbreak of disease and cause even more problems.

There were lots of other things to do in the succeeding days. But on Day 6, after everything was basically stabilized, and we were finally ready to pack up and leave, Sec. Mar found time to check on the market clean-up operations. To say that he was frustrated is an understatement. The firemen had merely hosed down the mud, spreading it around even further. And because the available pay loader had suffered a flat tire the previous day, the garbage and debris remained uncollected. One could see the worms crawling in the mud amidst the squalor.

The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) General and his men were reprimanded, the market master was dispatched to buy shovels, and every one – including his entourage and escorts – were made to buckle down and start clearing the mud and garbage.

Mind you, these were the same men who followed him into the eye of the storm not so many days ago. These were the same men who helped clear the road to Dolores. And these were the same men who made the dangerous boat rides to relieve the isolated offshore islands. The firemen, in particular, spent the night of the storm evacuating people who waited till the 11th hour, and there is no accounting of the number of people they had rescued. In my eyes, they are heroes – every one of them. And I am sure that they were all pissed at Sec. Mar for the censure they received and the manual labor he made them do! No matter how exhausted everyone was, no matter what these men had accomplished before, in Sec. Mar’s eyes, the work was not yet done, and no one had the right to slack off. He led them himself in that clean up operation!

After seeing how news of his motorcycle slide was taken out of context by people who were not there, I think it is a good thing that there was no media in the market that day. If there was, I am pretty sure that all that drive and determination, all that attention to detail and leadership by example would have been reduced to a seemingly epal photograph of a perceived contender for the highest office in the land, shoveling mud and picking up trash in the market to curry popular favor. No, for us who were there that day, Mar Roxas was not popular. BUT HE GOT THE JOB DONE!

And speaking of that motorcycle ride, there were two cabinet secretaries, two congressmen, and two generals making those last twenty hectic kilometers from the stalled convoy to Dolores in the tail of the storm, and approaching twilight in borrowed motorbikes. Among ourselves, we had several combat veterans, several experienced motorcycle riders, and a couple of iron man finishers. And let me tell you that most of us would have quit to wait for the rest of the convoy if not for Sec. Mar leading the way. There was a whole off-road stretch of at least fifty meters of mud capped by an eerie cemetery that made everyone’s knees tremble (from fatigue or fear, I don’t know). Of course, we all fell, slipped, and slid in the sometimes knee-deep mud and fallen trees. But it was only Sec. Mar’s picture that was published, out of context, by someone who waited for him from the relative safety of the road.

But it was all worth it when we saw the gratitude and relief in the eyes of the people of Dolores when we finally broke through. They were no longer isolated, they had not been left alone, and their national government was with them. Together, they were going to get through this crisis and rebuild.

The wise man says that the problem solver is always the least appreciated, his successes unacknowledged, his every shortcoming magnified. Fixated on our image of the populist politician, we mistakenly think of his direct and no-nonsense approach as being high-handed and elitist. In attempting to fit him into the mold of traditional politics, we dismiss his willingness to get down and dirty to handle the brass tacks of the job as simply desperate, epal attempts to garner media mileage and gain public sympathy. Always skeptical, we attribute other motives to the problem solver for simply trying to do his job. But in the end, the wise man says, it is not the populist nor the vigilante, but the problem solver who truly serves the people.

My past experiences have often made me a skeptic. But one thing is clear in my mind: for those six days in Eastern Samar, many people were simply trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities: the mayor who left her hospital bed in Manila to be with her people; the planning officer, in over his head when he was made DRRM officer; the governor who deferred his chemo treatments to stay in the command center; the local and international NGOs and relief volunteers who rushed to help without hesitation; the media men and women who were on the ground reporting responsibly from the start; and many others who did their share.

Like them, Mar Roxas was merely doing his job. He was serving the people.

The Filipino at His Worst


Bayanihan in action, Guinarona circa 1963. Photo by Fred Marinello

“Ridicule is a common feature of the Filipino character. It is an element of “amoral interdependence”, or the crablike way Filipinos deride others to raise themselves up. It starts in elementary school, which you can witness when you see kids laughing at their schoolmates who hurt themselves or otherwise mess up. It is devoid of compassion.”  — Joe America

The above quote is from Joe America, an American transplant in the Philippines, who loves the Philippines more than any Filipino.

His observations are important, and they are as truthful as can be. Pray tell, how did it come about that the best President the Philippines ever had, is being derided by some Filipinos as “Abnoy”, among many other pejoratives?

Joe America further observes:

“This use of ridicule is widespread these days, not just in the Philippines, but in social media everywhere. It is not healthy. It is a disease. It is the opposite of compassion, a worthy human character trait. You don’t find much compassion in a hyena, either, I suppose. Or a crocodile.

“Along with a well-developed penchant for ridicule, poor discernment is another weak character trait among way too many Filipinos. That’s why we have boxers and thieves as legislators. It’s why Senator Santiago runs high in the ratings for presidential candidates AMONG THE WELL EDUCATED. Because emotional stability, physical health, and managerial skill have no bearing on job qualifications even among supposedly enlightened Filipino voters. Rather, they like the “style”, the quip, the joke, the overblown sense of rectitude arising every time Senator Santiago takes a cut at someone else.”

Aargh! Poor discernment. The truth hurts, doesn’t it?

Utter tribalism is what ails the Filipino. And I thought we have graduated from that, being that we are now in the 21st Century.

The Filipino performs well in the micro level, as well as when he works abroad. But in the Philippine macrocosm, you can see and sense discordant voices such as pulling down President Noynoy Aquino, the best Philippine President ever, with basura epithets.

When we were kids, we admired our elders with their bayanihan and pintaksi mindsets. No sooner had a family proclaimed their desire to transfer their abode than the whole community mingled and helped out by carrying the house on their shoulders, literally! And this is without any compensation or reward. They did it with their deep sense of community. Also, when an area in the barrio needed clearing, everybody pitched in for the pintakasi. No putting down anybody, ever.

Would that in the Age of the Internet, every Filipino shines with cooperation, egalitarianism and love of country.

Or is it too much to ask?



Death at Christmas: A Guinarona Story


Their last picture together: Mr. and Mrs. Eleuterio Maray, Sr.

It’s now 44 years since Papa died on December 24, 1970 at 1 p.m. to be exact. And it was a traumatic and horrible Christmas for us.

Guinarona then had just become a newly minted parish, and we organized a youth choir to assist in the series of dawn masses, culminating in the Midnight Christmas Mass of December 24. Which I was just imagining about because I was ensconced at Mama Petra’s, grieving and fidgeting about in her hut with three lamparas. For obvious reasons, I could not tarry by myself at our huge house near the Guinarona river. I was by myself, the rest of the family was in Tacloban City as we had a house there–my siblings and I were students there.

Although it was overcast that December day, I was drying palay in several bariw reed mats for milling and eventual transport to Tacloban. Our youngest, Eleuterio Junior, it was, who frantically broke the news: that Papa had just died while in coma at the Bethany Hospital. I became frantic too, bordering on floating and being in hysterics. Posthaste I carried myself to Tacloban on a Seven Brothers bus, and when I reached our house in the interior of Burgos Street, our neighbor Mana Lita was very solicitous and commiserating, saying that Papa’s body was now in the morgue at Funeraria Gomez, and that my mother wanted me to go back straightaway to clean our Guinarona house for Papa’s “coming home.” I could not see Papa’s body and just waited it out in Guinarona. When I was through scrubbing the floors and cleaning house in general, I spent the night–which was an eternity–at Mama Petra’s and uncle Dado’s, along Aragon Street.

The whole night I was staring at the light of the lamparas, thinking about Papa, about my rebellious transgressions, about how absurd and grotesque the Christmas I was having. And how was the Guinarona Parish Choir’s Misa de Aguinaldo without my butt? Papa made his presence felt by the wafts of his Molint smell. I think that was his way of saying goodbye to me.

Papa was not perfect. He could be as mean as having to deal you his dreaded lamba or leather belt. Fondly I remember him bringing me, a four year-old cherub, to the school grounds to watch how the Cabarlisa Ambulant Cinema put up their thing. And I don’t remember him ever flogging me, which he did to the rest of my siblings.

Papa was active in local politics. He was a first councilor of Dagami and was an acting mayor one time. Even then, as today’s politicians, Papa and his ilk were not beyond blandishments. They would woo voters with cash, rice, sardines, clothing and carabao meat.

The wake for Papa was a bit rambunctious. There was Licerio Martinada leading the parlor games. The ever faithful Jovito Almerino. Papa’s cousin, Paciano Remalante. Papa’s friends in politics. Ditto his compadres and comadres, all of whom are now gone as well.

Indeed, death is just a transfer to another room, another dimension. Everybody is going for that transfer and will meet again his ancestors, his friends.

A death at Christmas is no exception. Like my Papa’s.

Of Great Typhoons

Typhoons are beings of the air element; they are so much alive just like you and me. They too are composed of  molecules and atoms.  But they are bigger than life, and they have god-like powers.  Man is always at their mercy and never conversely.

There is a theory nowadays that super typhoons are creations of the superpowers through their Tesla technology.  In that case, they have this genie in the bottle ready to be unleashed just for the heck of it.

We don’t support or subscribe to that theory because in Leyte, Philippines, we have had big and lesser typhoons since we were kids. It is just how the cookie crumbles:  For as long as we have air, we will have typhoons.  In Leyte, the measure of a typhoon’s strength is when it is able to topple, nay blow away a half coconut that lies face down on the ground.  Hence the super typhoon of 1930:


Half coconuts. A super typhoon is when it can blow away a half coconut lying face down on the ground.


Aftermath of a 1963 typhoon in Guinarona, Philippines. Photo credit: Fred Marinello

On April 30, 1930, a big typhoon hit Leyte, totally destroying the (Guinarona) church and the convent. It was so strong that the entire church was blown to a distance of about six meters from the original site. The altar was also destroyed, but the image of SAN PASCUAL BAYLON was well intact as though nailed to the floor.  After the disaster, the Parish Priest of Dagami, Fr. Pedro Aruta, enjoined the people of Guinarona to build a temporary chapel for SAN PASCUAL BAYLON’s image.

For two years in a row now, we we have had super typhoons, Category 5 in 2013, and Category 3 as of this writing (December 6, 2014). Since typhoons are living entities, why are they so choosy about Leyte? Have the gods sent them as retribution?

Retribution for the the loss of the century old Guinarona San Pascual Baylon icon?