Friday, January 2, 2015



Dean Louie,Dr. Villegas, Beloved Faculty, Students, friends, ladies and gentlemen:

The topic I was tasked to talk about is something I would admit is threatening if not scary – in the sense that I hardly delved on this topic in my day to day programs nor in my columns.  Nonetheless, I would venture to do so in the hope that I would be able to share my little knowledge about the subject.  

Methinks, that the students of Letran have high intellect that can cope up with this kind of subject that even masters degree students are sometimes finding it hard to comprehend.

First, let me begin my premise by stating that: Man is both matter and spirit. And second:  The primary or basic law of the universe is HARMONY, BALANCE and UNITY.

Since man is matter and spirit, he endeavors to satisfy his material needs, yet, and unfortunately, less effort is invested in the spiritual dimension except through religiosity.  But spirituality and religiosity are not the same; although, religion is a vehicle by which man can evolve spiritually.  Before I proceed any further, allow me to trace the etymology of the word “religion”. The word religion comes from the two Latin words “rele” and “garre”. Rele means back, and garre means combine, therefore, religion is a PROCESS of combining back, of joining back or uniting back.  The question is: With what, or with whom?  In our Christian Faith, we are taught that our ultimate goal in life is to return to God, to re-unite with our creator.  But that can only be possible if one can follow and live the tenets given to us by the Messiah, the Teacher, our Lord Jesus Christ. But how many of us can follow him or even imitate the virtuous and teachings of the Messiah, of the Great Teacher.

This is not only true among Christians, men of other religions also fall short of the teachings of their religion for the simple reason that we build walls around us, we encircled our religion and those outside of the circle are not part of us; not realizing that all men are brothers irrespective of faith or religion they profess. This non-acceptance of the universal brotherhood of men led to the disintegration of humanity, to chaos, to strife and even wars.  It has been said that when man organized religion, sooner or later, they will fight and defend not the teachings of their religion but the organization.  Suffice it to say that the essence of all religion is the same.  They may differ in ways and practices in manifesting their devotion, but essentially, they invoke the same God in whatever name they may call Thee.

In the Philippines which was tagged as the only Christian country in the Far East, there are more than 2,000 religious organizations registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  Yet, despite the number, many Filipinos live a wayward life.   Many are thieves, murderers, infidels, adulterers, racketeers, estafadores, drug addicts, etc.  These ignominies cannot otherwise be characterized as religious.  The only conclusion could be that the Church, the School, or even the family is a failure in instilling morality among our people.  This becomes so because we do not practice our religion properly, because we remain ignorant of our religion, because we interpret religious teachings literally instead of symbolically or mystically. Religion cannot be understood through literal interpretation not even through intellectualization.  If the search of truth is the goal of a religious man, he cannot find it by intellection; for truth is beyond the faculties of man.  The Bible, no less, mentioned that “Be still and know that I am God”; further, he said: “Know ye not that you are the temple of God and the Holy Spirit dwells in you”, or “The Kingdom of God is within you, seek it and all these things shall be added unto you”.

I hate to say this, but it is a reality that religious leaders and not religion are the greatest divisive factor amongst men.  And that divisiveness is brought about by diversity of belief—and belief is of the mind.  I remember the statement of one holy man, he said: The mind is the great slayer of the real, let the disciple slay the slayer; if I may add:  It takes a mind to know, but it takes a heart to understand.

Another factor that contributes to diversification of religion and parochialism is the lack of knowledge of history. To know the nature of a tree, we have to study not only the branch or the twigs; we must study the entire tree, to examine the entire structure from the leaves to the roots. To limit our sight to just one or some parts of the tree is tantamount to seeing the trees but not the forest.  As Christians, Roman Catholic or whatever, we have to study the historicity of religions of the World, from the Ancient times to the present, because then and only then that we could grasp the meaning and content of all religions. Through this effort, you would realize the relevance of language development as an indispensable tool in any field of study—including religion.  This variety of languages and interpretations gave rise to understanding as well as misunderstanding. Language and symbols more often than not resulted to division/separation or integration.

In the case of the Philippines, contemporary Filipinos continue to believe what a well known author would say:  “The hand of God upon this nation was such, and the spiritual hunger of the Filipinos so great, that Catholicism, the first sect of Christianity brought to these islands in the 16th century, triumphed easily.  It is one of history’s incredible facts that the overall conquest of the Philippines was achieved more by the Cross than by the Sword, and the conversion of the Filipinos to Catholicism proceeded at a quicker pace than in the other European colonies”  Such statement arise from missing and essential piece in the puzzle.  The Christianization of the Filipinos by the colonizing Spaniards was not at all that “incredible” if we take into account that the Ancient Filipinos (Maharlikans as they were called during the Srivijaya and Majaphahit Empires) were already Christianized before 1521.

It should be no wonder then that when the Spanish conquistadors arrived and immediately evangelized the islands, the Filipinos readily “embraced” Christianity.  When they saw the Cross carried by the Spaniards, they warmly welcomed them and the Christianity they brought along.  The natives must have thought that this was the very same Christianity brought to them EARLIER  by the Catholic merchants and missionaries from Mesopotamia.

The 377 years of colonial rule of Spain in the Philippines produced in us a cultural mentality that gives credit to Spain for our advancement and devotion to Rome for the upliftment of the spirit.  At that time, to be a Filipino was to be a subject of Spain as well as subject of Rome.  A good Filipino meant a devout Roman Catholic loyal to the pope and the king of Spain.

Books in history and literature covering the Hispanic period taught that Christianity and literacy were brought to us by the Spanish Roman Catholic Friars.  Those books claimed that the religion the Spaniards brought to the Philippines was the same one Christ founded in Jerusalem and spread to Greece and finally to Rome. From Rome, the Church spread to the whole of Europe and, during the time of the conquistadors, to the Americas and the Far East.  This conjecture perpetuated to this day that it was the Spaniards who introduced the Catholic Church to the Philippines in 1521.

Many of you will be amazed to know that prior to colonization, our forefathers had already heard and lived the gospel of Christ brought to our shores by the missionaries of the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”, the Christians of Mesopotamia.  Had not the colonizers destroyed and decimated whatever proof of civilization they come across, it would have been easy for us to accept this fact.  What they did ushered us to darkness and obscured our ancient and pre-Hispanic history and the true heritage of the Filipino people.Because our ancient language were neither Latin nor Spanish and our alphabets were not Roman, we were perceived to be uncivilized and animistic pagans – a grave error proven by Anthropology. Our pre-Hispanic culture passed the 11 basic criteria of civilization.At the time of the conquest in 1569, the natives can read and write than among the common people of Europe.  The native e language was TAGAL, one of the most highly developed Malayo-Polynesian forms of speech and alphabetic writing system. During the early part of colonization, the people of Luzon made translations of every kind of literature from the Spanish to TAGAL.   This ability can be attributed to the Missionary Teachers of the Church of the East.  This Church of the East is the Catholic Church in Mesopotamia (Persia and Parthia) founded by the Five (5) Apostles.  This is the Church of the Lost Tribes of the House of Israel.  During a Babylonian festivities in Iraq, I was amazed to know that there were a lot of Catholic churches in Iraq. I was told by an old Catholic priest that Filipinos came from the roots of Benjamin and Manila was formerly Marinullah, the center of commerce during that time.

The set of ancient letters that originated from Mesopotamia is called ALEBATA.  The first two letters of the Aramaic language(the language of Lord Jesus) used by Mesopotamians and surrounding countries are ALAP (ALEPH in Hebrew) and BETH from which the Filipinos name their letters ALEBATA.   The first Greek letter is ALPHA and the second letter is BETA.  Hence, the word ALPHA-BET.  Like the Aramaic letters, the Filipinos’ ALEBATA has no letters C, F, J, and X.

So, the Philippines was already Christianized long before it was discovered by Magellan and consequently colonized by Spain in 1569.  However, it was not easy to establish how extensive the evangelization of the natives by the Catholic Church of the East due to scant remains of what were destroyed by the over-zealous and rampaging colonizers.

According to Pigafetta’s record, the first Filipino kingdom they encountered in Butuan, Norther Mindanao, wore ornaments gilded with gold and able to entertain with Chinese porcelains.  The Filipino king worshiped spiritually and raised their clasped hands and their faces to the sky; and . . .  called their god “Abba”.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians (4:6-7) says:  “As proof that you are children, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’  So you are no longer a slave but a child . . .”.  Today, in the Philippines, the Catholic Church of the East celebrates the ancient Mass and uses the prayers composed by the Apostle, St. Jude Thaddeus, in which we address God the Father; “ABBA, YAOHU”

ABBA is an Aramaic word that means ‘father or daddy’ as used by children at home.  The common word for God in Aramaic is Alaha.  The ancient Tagalog word for God is Bathala.  The different Visayan dialects have the same word for heaven: HIMAYA and kahimayaan (heavenly).  In the Aramaic language, heaven is SHMAYA.

Spain was under the Moors (Moslems) for eight centuries and Pigaffeta, a Spaniard who was familiar with the way the Moslems pray-- has this to say:  “The manner of worship of the Butuan king was definitely not Mohammedan”.  What he observed was the manner of prayer that was taught to them by the missionaries of the Catholic Church of the East.

Pigaffeta wrote that the Filipinos “worshiped spiritually”.  In the sense that they raise their clasped hands and their faces to the sky, could possibly a conclusion that they did not use idols and statues which was, and still is, a characteristic of pagan worship.

The Catholic Church of the East never uses statues because it worships God “in spirit and truth”.  A fourth century priest of the Catholic Church of the East wrote:  “The foundation of our faith is YAOHUSHA, the rock upon which the whole is built.  A man first believes, then loves, then hopes, then is justified and perfected and becomes a TEMPLE for the MESSIAH TO DWELL IN.   The man who has faith will study to make himself worthy of being a DWELLING  PLACE for the SPIRIT OF THE MESSIAH . . .   Christianity is the revelation of a DIVINE SPIRIT DWELLING IN MAN and fighting against moral evil. . . “

The Jesuits of 1640  and the Augustinians of 1702 described the religious beliefs of the native Filipinos.  They said that the Filipinos believed in a creator God who lived in the Sky. He created the first man.  When man multiplied, along with his sins, God punished them with flood.  They offered sacrifices to this one God, and recognized no other.  They believed in the immortality of the soul.  After death, the good are rewarded in paradise and the bad punished.  In marriage, they are monogamous and they don’t practice concubinage.

I may sound deviating from my topic but I opted to give you a glimpse of the past that we may understand the present, having been aware that most of us have been exposed to history books that were written from the vantage point of those who colonized us.  Besides, many of you are only familiar to a history that started in 1521.           

It may therefore be inferred that the spiritual consciousness of our forebears, the preceding generations before us was molded by the teachings and gospel of the Catholic Church of the East that was buried deep by the onslaught of history of persecution and inquisition during the pre-colonial time; and was resurrected by a similar, though I hope some of you will not be offended, an adulterated western Catholicism introduced to us in the 16th century.       

Based on the foregoing, we cannot deny the connection of religious teachings to spirituality as I mentioned earlier. Nonetheless, I would repeat that religiosity does not connote spirituality. Religiosity is an outward manifestation of beliefs, rituals and practices which are dogmas of the Church; while spirituality is a manifestation of inner qualities and behavior towards the outside world. Spirituality recognizes the wholeness and unity of all creation. Spirituality does not trample on the beliefs, rituals, doctrine and practices of others, instead, they are accepted and respected as another path of enlightenment for others. Tolerance of othet belief, faith or religion is an act of spirituality. Our Creator did not make us uniform in size, color, beauty, form, gender and even habitat. Our Lord God deemed it good to have an array of genre, species and all other things we perceive. While these creations are varied and numberless, they all exist in harmony, in oneness and equality. It is man's ignorance and greediness that create disharmony, disunity and inequality.

We have to be wary of the so called globalists paradigm shift using religious to handle the sensitivity of others especially now that 'workforce' is changing. According to Angelo John Lewis and Dr. Zachary Green of Diversity and Spirituality Network, Population demographics dictate that everyone should learn to work together in-spite of their differences and degree of tolerance. Through this principle, the people of the world can be united despite their differences in religious practice, a source of centuries of conflict. There's a need for common ground to beliefs. The new shared reality through spirituality and diversity.                 

This is the reason why I always adhere to the principle of-"Just do good, be good and feel good." Let's co-exist. Love your God. Forget about those sweet talking religious leaders/ dealers who create animosity among other churches. It divide all of us.           

Love God, but which God? We Catholics learned that God said that, "If you're not with Me, you're against Me."- Translation- If you don't believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is God, who are you with? This is the divide between our Christ and the Anti-Christ.                   

May the Lord God through the Holy Spirit give us the strength and intelligence to know what is the difference between good or bad, right or wrong and fight truth decay!

Dr. Erick San Juan, DLitt.lectured at the college week of the Colegio de San Juan de Letran College of Liberal Arts and Sciences recently.

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