Before anything else, I am writing all thoughts below coming from a very personal point of view, so please respect my opinions. I am not disrespecting other beliefs or practices. I'm just simply explaining and sharing my own. Thank you.
A few days ago, Manila Bulletin asked, "What do you sacrifice during Holy Week?" It was an honor to be included in the roster of personalities (such as James Younghusband and Tintin Bersola-Babao to name a few) who were asked the same question. It was easy to answer with a habit or some type of food to avoid, but more than just giving an answer I wanted to expound on the subject matter even just for a little bit. So when Manila Bulletin asked me, here's my response.
Holy Week isn't holy.
As my social media feed gets flooded with booze shots and vacation selfies, it's obvious that Holy Week isn't really holy to most of us, and by holy I mean paying respect or devotion to God. It has been reduced to a 5-day weekend, the much anticipated breather--especially to those who work daily from 9 to 5. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I'm not saying it's a good thing either. I'm just saying it's no longer really about reflecting or doing a heart-check to most of us, based on observation.
Traditions, traditions, traditions.
Just yesterday, as we drove around the city, processions started to take place everywhere. People lining up behind huge statues with lit candles in their hands, some were reading from a booklet, others taking selfies, others smoking cigarettes, others just looked plain clueless, as if their parents dragged them to attend, leaving them with no choice. Being very cultural with our Christianity, I see a lot of Filipinos mindlessly take part in such traditional activities especially during this Lenten season, without really knowing what's going on. It saddens me that we have become a society that just accepts what is and has been and neglects asking why and what's the point... Which takes me to my next thought.
Imagine a Justin Bieber fan (I'm onto something here, please bear with me) doing a hunger strike until authorities release him from jail (let's just say he's still imprisoned). She is strong-willed and determined with this commitment, and she doesn't give in to her senses. Her body is tested, she's getting weak, but she does not give in to temptation until JB is freed. Now, do I discount her sacrifice? NO. OF COURSE NOT. But does it do her any good? Does it make her "relationship" with Justin Bieber grow deeper? Does it actually contribute to the fastening of his freedom? This may be a poor analogy but sometimes, I think this is what most people go through when they do empty sacrifices during this week. Now I'm sure God sees their hearts and the very reason why they do these, but sometimes I can't help but wonder if they really do understand the very essence of Christianity. Which is...
I've never been a fan of religion. I've tried a number--from Taoism to Catholicism and other Hindu practices in between--I've practiced it and gave it a shot. Not to mean any disrespect to the said religions, but it all boiled down to what I can do and how I should act. It felt like some kind of moral strength that puffed the ego; the more I did, the better I was. The less I did, the more of a failure I felt I was. It was about what I can do. And honestly, I wondered if it was all about will power and reinforced kindness and good behavior. It wasn't until I heard of the beauty of the Gospel from a college camp my friend invited me to. Having been afloat in my spirituality, I was afraid that I will be entering my first cult, surrounded by freaks who liked saying "praise Jesus". Fast forward to a few years later and I'm exactly one of those "Jesus freaks". The difference with religion and Jesus is...