Saturday, November 14, 2015


KEEPING appearances is as challenging as guessing at appearances.

After a spate of spoiled checks issued to misspelled or misnamed recipients, the accounting office issued a policy that those responsible would be fined P50 for the slip.

The risk of paying for a mistake was more effective than any reprimand. Our office requested two journalists/academics we were tapping as resource persons to email their scanned identification cards.

Revelation. Known by their nicknames, both journalists emailed IDs that showed “Maria” is the first of their baptized names.

Yet, the realization that long-time colleagues are “Maria Lourdes” and “Maria Diosa” on paper was not half as bizarre as the guessing game our family played whenever we met for novena prayers at a chapel in the city.

On the right side of the altar is a man carrying a wooden box of implements. While waiting, relations would whisper, “Who is that saint?”

St. Peter was a popular wild guess until an altar boy made the correction: St. Joseph the Worker.

Years of participating in and covering Labor Day marches left me with the irreverent impression that St. Joseph is the Catholic Church’s unofficial union-buster.

In 1955, Pope Pius XII declared May 1 as the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. The papal move was intended to counter the Marxists’ Labor Day celebration.

Last Thursday, in his homily, Fr. Ramon Echica praised St. Joseph as the patron of a good death. Although scripture does not mention his death, the traditional belief is that he died before Jesus began his ministry.

Fr. Echica said that from this belief stems the assumption that Joseph spent his last days in the company of Mary and Jesus, teaching the latter carpentry.

The image of life easing into the next phase comforts.

Yet the diversity, not to mention contradictions, of narratives niggles: which version is true? The parents who name an infant after the mother of Christ to invoke Her blessings or the renaming by the daughter who grows up to reject all except the material and verifiable as superstition?

Discourse is the way we organize information and represent the world to fit our views. For the French postmodernist Michel Foucault, all discourse, specially language, reveals the “regimes of truth” or the power governing human relations.

“Susmaryosep” was not only invoked when we had to redo a pile of papers required to issue checks to the two Marias.

For weeks, we have been on tenterhooks, monitoring if one of the Marias, who is traveling from Manila, would have her flight cancelled in the ongoing preparations for the Asia-Pacific Economic (Apec) summit.

A total of 1,125 domestic and 239 international flights were cancelled to give way before and after the APEC meetings. Two lanes of Edsa, connecting Shaw Boulevard and a megamall, one of the thorniest stretches, are “dedicated” to Apec vehicles.

Work and school will be suspended in the capital. Even its street dwellers will be sent off on government-sponsored vacations.

All these to ensure the heads of Apec member-economies are spared the harsh realities of the Third World. To ensure the messengers get the message right, 4,000 foreign and local journalists covering Apec await “free-flowing coffee, buffet meals and even free massage”.

Foucauldian discourse has a fancy name for “Apec security” and “Filipino hospitality”. Mine is “Susmaryosep”.

( 09173226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s November 15, 2015 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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