Friday, September 25, 2009

The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein


Monday, September 14, 2009

499th Post

picture picture! haha

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chicken Adobo, Humba, and Homemade Love

While I was heedlessly living the "bachelor's life" in the big city, my meals more or less consisted of takeouts, canned goods and noodles, or leftover bread with instant coffee. I've never learned to cook, and was even lazier with the dishes. Besides, food wasn't that much of a big deal to me- except when I go home to the province. Being in Tacloban after months of living on overly-processed food proved to be extra special occasions when I get to eat real food which didn't come from a foil pack (or something I ate right out of a can).

My late mother loved to bake, but my favorite food was chicken, which she prepared in almost every imaginable way: fried, grilled, curried, and of course adobo. I do not think great chefs would find anything spectacular about that dish, I mean she had no secret ingredient or elixir to make it extra savory, but as the vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic cooked the chicken to perfection- there was a certain magic and fragrance. Maybe I'm biased, because even if my mom just prepared instant pancit canton I'd say it was the best I ever tasted.

My grandmother whom we all call Nanay was Mama's mentor when it came to cooking. Her specialty was the Visayan dish Humba (Braised Pork Belly with Sugar and Peanuts). She prepared it meticulously, with the accuracy of a chemist, and at the same time the versatility of an artist. She can make it sweeter or a little tangy. She can serve it in large chunks or smaller, softer pieces. The dish came out always, with no exception, just right. And seeing her brows knit in concentration as she mixes the ingredients, or having that smug smile as she receives praises for her dish must have been the special ingredient that made it better than what a chef in an expensive restaurant can cook.

Nanay is now in her eighties, and after my mom's passing, the responsibility for her care has recently been claimed by her children. While Mama was still with us Nanay had also lived with us since we were kids. Now I stay in our ancestral home, but without Nanay's presence it seems empty. I have begun eating in fast food joints again. I've stocked up on canned goods. Making this adjustment is more than just my palate missing her cooking- my heart is missing my mother's love.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lessons from an Invisible Burden: Homosexuality, Morality, Love, and Gay Marriage


It is hard for me to be completely detached and impassive when discussing issues such as homosexuality, as a large part of who I am sprung from the constant struggles of being gay in conservative, largely Catholic society.

The first question that begs an explanation is: how does one become homosexual? Are people born gay, or is it something chosen at some point in a person’s life? Many conservative Christians consider homosexuality itself as a lifestyle, something that is freely chosen. Religious liberals however believe that sexual orientation is not a choice and is unchangeable. Thus, “lifestyle” will not be used to refer to a person’s homosexual orientation, but rather what choices gays and lesbians make- for example the terms of relationships they seek (www.religioustolerance.org).

The American Psychological Association defines sexual orientation as, “an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction to another person. It is easily distinguished from other components of sexuality including biological sex, gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female) and the social gender role (adherence to cultural norms for feminine and masculine behavior)… There are numerous theories about the origins of a person's sexual orientation; most scientists today agree that sexual orientation is most likely the result of a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors… human beings can not choose to be either gay or straight. Sexual orientation emerges for most people in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. Although we can choose whether to act on our feelings, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.”

From my own standpoint, for as far back as I can remember during my preschool days, I knew I was different from other boys in the class. I was very well behaved and soft-spoken, was never into rough games, and preferred the companionship of female classmates playing Chinese garter and jackstone instead of being athletic and competitive like the rest of my male contemporaries. Whether it was nature or nurture that lead me to be the way I am, all I know is that I never asked to be different. In fact, growing up, I hated myself sometimes when I cried so easily or curse myself when I got ridiculed by my homophobic uncle with my slightly effeminate movements or maybe taunted by complete strangers on the street just because I walked a certain way. Frankly, after twenty six years of wondering, of asking myself, asking God, I decided it was high time that I accepted myself for who I am, even just for the sake of my own sanity and peace of mind. And even then, self acceptance is but the first step- wondering if my parents will still love me or my friends still want to be with me if I come out and tell them of my sexual orientation- that was another hurdle I needed to overcome.

Being Catholic makes it very hard to reconcile my faith and sexual orientation. It is clearly stated in Leviticus 20:13, "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” According also to the book Bible Positions on Political Issues by John Hagee, he states that "God forbids homosexuality in order to protect humanity from sickness, disease, and a life of torment that leads to premature death…sexually transmitted diseases, most of which are virtually non-existent in the heterosexual population, are reaching epidemic proportions in some regions.”

I will not argue with what is written in the Sacred Scriptures (which is why, again being Catholic and gay is a paradox), but I would like to excoriate Hagee’s statement “STDs are virtually non-existent in the heterosexual population” as the recent rates of HIV show 1.3 million people in the United States and Canada were infected, and transmission through heterosexual intercourse is increasing. What I am getting at is that whether a person is homosexual or heterosexual, the risk for getting sexually transmitted diseases boils down to individual conduct. It doesn’t mean that when a person is gay that he/ she is automatically promiscuous and that when one is heterosexual automatically pure and chaste. Heterosexual single men and women can commit immoral acts when they have sex outside marriage since all those unmarried in the Catholic faith are called to celibacy, and those married are to stay faithful and monogamous otherwise they are adulterous. These very people who pass judgement on gays may very well be doing immoral acts themselves but society downplays that fact.

Maybe no one will ever be able to give a straight answer to questions about homosexuality, or perhaps maybe at this point people are too limited to understand the meaning of being Catholic and gay, but as far as I am concerned it is ultimately my Maker who will judge me. I do not think He is short sighted to overlook other aspects of myself and send me straight to hell just because I’m gay. He knows everything- my struggles, my hopes, my efforts to do good. At the end of the day, the important thing is that I have made peace with myself over this.

On the matter of gay marriage, it is another hotly-debated issue especially in progressive countries where legalization is on the process. Conservative Christians maintain that marriage is reserved for the begetting and raising of children. To allow homosexuals to marry would devalue the sanctity of marriage and the stabilizing force that should come with it (Hagee, 2004). Moreover, same sex unions would lead to greater approval of unconventional forms of cohabitation. An example is set in the Netherlands where a decline in the number of marriages- from 95,000 in 1990 to 82,000 in 2003. The same period experienced an alarming rise in illegitimate births- from one in ten children to one in three (van Mourik, 2004).

From the Liberal thinker’s point of view, marriage is a “contractual agreement between two individuals for the sake of mutual advantage and the generation and rearing of children to the point where they can be self-reliant (in Locke’s thinking) and capable of experiencing their individual rights in a responsible civic manner (Kant). They view traditional rules as “intrinsically oppressive”. Protestants think in the same lines, adding that “marriage is less about generation than about companionship”- this explains why some married heterosexual couples decide to have sex while staying childless.

I’d like to believe romantic love is something I am entitled to as much as the next heterosexual person- and I want to say my vows to the one I love, in front of the people I care about. Maybe the word “marriage” is something too big to ask, which is why I prefer to use the term “civil union”. A civil union entitles two consenting adults to have the same rights as a married heterosexual couple like acquiring the citizenship of one’s partner, conjugal property, adoption rights, among others. Ultimately, governments and courts decide on whether this will push through on a specific county. As far as the Catholic faith is concerned however, God recognizes only marriage between man and woman.

There are so many truths that are known to God alone, and cannot be resolved by men. Insofar as I have the strength to fight for what I believe in, and intelligence to discern right from wrong, I will continue to hold on to my values and principles to guide me through living the tumultuous life of a Catholic gay man. Through it all, I want to stay true to myself, I cannot think of anything more oppressive than living a life prescribed by somebody else who think he/she knows me better than I know myself.

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