Holy Week 2

One week after the fact is a good time to write my impressions down. One of the true tests of Easter, I suggest, is what happens when the party starts winding down—even if in theory, the party goes on until Pentecost.

I am listening to John Rutter’s Gloria, the first edition (he released a new version recently, featuring the sound-alike Ps. 150 he did for the Royal Jubilee), and it is a good CD to accompany these reflections.

*****

Good Friday is one time in the year where the sound of music is subdued. It is also one year, where in recent Catholic practice, churches make an extra effort to have their readers get together and read the Passion according to John with enough passion to make people cry about the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. No different, I suggest, from what the pilgrim nun Egeria says they were doing at Jerusalem many centuries before.

Yet before the age of dramatic readings, the Passion account was chanted. The chant is one of the most haunting—sung largely in sharps and flats, it was done by three deacons doing three parts: Chronista, Christus, and everyone else (I forgot the technical term). Each part is sung to a different pitch.

It is in the Episcopal Church, here in Manila, where the tradition is continued. On Good Friday, I went to St. Andrew’s, where the Good Friday liturgy was being celebrated for the first time in years. For this purpose, the Chronista part, which is the narrator’s role, was sung by one person, as was the Christus, but the third part was split among many people, with a crowd literally singing all the crowd roles (I joined in too).

The singing, as was the rest of the service, was good. The only problem was that in some cases, some of the cantors did not enunciate the words properly thus keeping me unable from understanding what they said. I also did not appreciate the fact that they used a setting that did not allow the Chronista to truly be one, because one distinguishing mark of the Passion chant is that, after the death of Christ is announced (and everyone kneels), the Chronista’s part involves multiple levels of melisma. Which was absent from the setting they used.

So once again, Holy Trinity still tops the list of best places to hear the Passion Gospel being chanted, for the Chronista pulls out all the stops, and does it very well.

What made me happy, though, was that Fr. Joseph Frary did something remarkable. He read an anonymous patristic sermon concerning the descent into hell. It was a commentary on the Eastern Resurrection icon I have in my room: Christ calling Adam and Eve forth from the netherworld, trampling down the doors of death. Even if it was a day too early (Galley’s Prayer Book Office and the Roman Office of Readings recommends it for Holy Saturday), it was a good idea to remind us that overcoming evil was not a matter of taking punishment but liberating all of us from death!

*****

This year, our new parish clergy wanted to make the Easter Vigil different. When I arrived, they were giving out little flaglets for people to wave during the Gloria in excelsis. I actually asked whether they brought out those party poppers that spray confetti, and one of the priests told me that he saw people bringing in six of them.

I really liked the vigil for a number of reasons. First of all, they used the Filipino setting, for which the Service of the Light was written in the pabasa meter and could have been sung that way. It was a refreshing change, I might add. Secondly, Fr. Jun de Peralta (take note, Leo, a Josefino) made sure to follow the pattern of reading, psalm, silent prayer, and collect very well. The silent prayer part is part of the classic vigil, and often gets left out. Finally, there really was a celebratory mood once the Gloria was sung. And the baptism, while somewhat awkwardly done, was done in the simplest way possible, leaving out the litany of the saints.

(This year, considering the attention given to the Liturgy of the Word and the lengthier than usual Service of Light, adding the Litany would have made the service too long for some. Not for me. It would have worked if there was a procession from the chancel to the rear, where a “baptismal pool” would have been laid out for the occasion.)

But I was really hoping we could have more enthusiastic ways of expressing Easter joy. So next year, I suggested bringing handbells and yes, party horns. I had this idea, that whenever the priest shouted “Christ is risen!” we would all make happy noises, with clapping, cheers, bells, horns. Maybe this could be done after the dismissal. Or during the Salubong or encuentro.

What I wish they could have done was to sing, for the first time, the Regina Coeli after communion. David E. Ford’s By Flowing Waters recommends that this song be sung after communion, along with other Marian “antiphons” or anthems on occasion. I learned this practice from the Jesuits, who did this at one of their Easter Vigil liturgies in 2005, and this is the practice at San Jose as well.

I was happy about this Easter. I know now, though, that as a clergyman mentioned this morning, the challenge is to bring to the world a new way of seeing—one which tore down walls of hatred and fear, and one which loved and shared more and more.

That is, to have the vision of being kind and generous.

*****

Speaking of generous, I will reflect upon why a generous orthodoxy is what St. Andrew’s needs, as this batch graduates. This is of course Brian MacLaren’s answer to the unfortunate tendencies of American evangelicalism, tendencies that have infected one controversial figure in the local Episcopal Church.

Before we go back to Holy Week…

…I have this particular bit of news to share. This was taken from an egroup to which I subscribe, and this was addressed mainly to philosophers. I have altered some of the information for clarity’s sake.

I found this very disturbing news.

dear fellow philosophy professors,

As you prepare for the annual Philosophical
Association of the Philippines (PAP)conference, allow
me to report to you about a “management decision” in
San Beda College-Mendiola that severely undermines our
common advocacy for the value and indispensability of
philosophy in Philippine higher education.

Dr. Rainier Ibana of AdeMU gave the most fitting
description of the situation: “Philosophy crucified.”

cadz malbarosa
—————————————————

Last week all tenured faculty of the philosophy
department of San Beda College-Mendiola received their
termination letter.

I was the last one to receive mine last Sunday via
LBC, while enjoying lunch with my family.

Dr. Demeterio (former PAP director)was handed his
termination letter at the post-graduation rites CAS
faculty dinner last Friday, 14 March.

Dr. Felicilda (current PAP director) and our Chair,
Raffy Dolor received theirs at home via LBC the next
day.

The reason stated for our termination is the CLOSURE
of our department, which is a result of “streamlining
of course offerings” for “national development. “

The real reason, however, is rooted in the years of
struggle we in the department have put up for the sake
of a particular idea of modern and competitive
education that has the humanities and the liberal arts
as important components.

Since 1993 (the beginning of my 5-year chairship of
the department)we have embarked on the progressive and
systematic development of a program that approximated
the Frankfurt School. We wanted San Beda College’s
Philosophy program to be known as country’s center for
critical theory. the late Ray Briones’ (former PAP
director)visionary leadership and commitment to a
competitive philosophy program made possible the
fusion of philosophy (as core competence) and human
resource development (as functional specialization).
the program experienced a surge in enrolment. At one
time it peaked up to 3 sections of really good
students.

The school year that just ended was particularly
acrimonious, conflict-ridden, and marked by
administrative arrogance, deception, and betrayal. the
first salvo was fired when, without consulting its
dean, dr felicilda, the incoming rector-president
closed down the graduate school of philosophy
(specializations: governance and cultural studies)

the governance track was the fruit of my years of
research in good governance and anti-corruption
advocacy. I thank our chair, raffy dolor, and former
rector fr anscar chupungco for making it happen. I
thank dr felicilda for shepherding it until its abrupt
closure. the ultimate goal was to put up a center for
good governance in san beda college-mendiola. fr
anscar was intent on pursuing this one in san beda
college-alabang until he too was relieved by the
abbot, tarciso ma. narciso, on the first day of the
benedictine monks’ annual holy week retreat.

so, SY 2007-2008 started off ominously. There was no
more room for doubt about this when the new CAS dean
and new rector-president implemented the uniform
policy on the freshies. Let us put aside the common
observation that the uniform reminds us of rural-based
millenarian cults. The real issue is that the policy
is paradigmatic of medieval authoritarianism. it was
imposed without any consultation whatsoever with the
Student Council. The student manual and the student
Magna Carta are clear about the need to consult the SC
on major policies. In reaction to student protests,
the rector and the dean and their admin lackeys made
attempts to invalidate the magna carta. They too
blamed the former rector-president anscar chupungco
for the passage of the magna carta under his term.

“There is no such thing as student stakeholdership.”

this infamous statement of an administrator
encapsulates what could be the real attitude of the
owners and some administrators of san beda
college-mendiola.

The administration later resorted to other repressive
measures such as ceasing to collect for the student
publication. That is just okay (as HEIs are not
obliged to collect for their student publication) but
the malice is obvious. Why stop collecting for The
Bedan after decades of collecting for it? Worse still,
they made it difficult for the editors to collect the
publication fund themselves.

I will no longer go into the details of how the
monk-dominated ExeCom almost made me forgo my research
grant for archival work in madrid, barcelona and
seville and the invitation to be guest scholar at the
graduate school of history of the universitat pompeu
fabra in barcelona.

That ends my 17 years of teaching and doing philosophy
in a school i considered my mission assignment. I am
proud of my students and of our program. it has
produced citizens whose contributions to “national
development” cannot be questioned.

last March 19, the philosophy majors started receiving
notice of the closure of the philosophy department
with the advice that they either shift course or
transfer school. Parents started getting organized
immediately after the Holy Week.

Yesterday (wednesday, 26 March)the rector-president
communicated through the CAS dean that he was allowing
the incoming juniors and seniors to graduate. it
appears that the incoming sophomores will have to
shift course or transfer school. We welcome this as a
positive development for the welfare of the students.
There were text messages, however, circulated by the
students themselves that social science professors
will handle the major courses. Let us not mind for now
the legitimate issue of the profile of SocSci
department faculty. Here’s my initial reaction to
that: Only trained and experience philosophy
professors should handle OUR major courses. I
sincerely hope this is not true.

One may attempt to explain or at least make sense of
what is happening in San Beda using, say, the most
appropriate cultural theory of institutions. So, it
can be said at least that the benedictine monks are
having problems learning (learning being central to
any study of institution) the modern rules, attitude,
and values of democracy.

If this is true, they really must have serious
learning problems. they had been struggling with it,
nay, resisting it, even before i joined san beda
college in 1991.

i am truly worried about the rise of the
anti-intellectuals in a higher education institution.

we ought to be.

YOU ought to be if there are clear signs of
intolerance and dogmatism in your own institution.
————————————-
As i further reflect on the incident, it becomes clear
to me that the flimsy and farcical attempt to cloak
our our termination with legality only heightens the
violation of decency, of kabutihan and kagandahang
loob. this hurts truly because it pierces in a cruel
way the heart of pakikipagkapwa.

————————————-
I thank my mentors (ab, ma and Ph.d) for inculcating
in me the love for philosophy, scholarship with
integrity, scholarly perseverance, research with grand
purpose….

I thank my SVD formators for instilling in me a deep
sense of mission and purpose in life, to fight for
justice and to search for the truth.

I thank my fellow social democrats for sharing with me
the principles and values i actively promote
and for nurturing my convictions about individual
rights and liberties.

I thank my jesuit professors at the universidad
pontificia comillas in madrid for showing me that the
price of advocating pluralism is tolerance and that
dialogue is an act of hope for humanity and trust in
kapwa-tao.

I thank my friends for being there, even if they don’t
agree with the way i say things, what i actually say,
what i do, and the way i think.

regards and cheers.

Jose Ma. Arcadio C. Malbarosa
Associate Professor
Philosophy Department
San Beda College
Mendiola St., San Miguel
Manila

Between the signposts

In doing what I am about to do, I recall an old friend from university debate who once began his speech saying, “I intend to talk about A, B, and C.” Then, he said, “I will then talk about C before B as I normally do.”

So I will not write about Holy Week now and will then do my academic year wrap-up first.

It was a good (academic) year.

I got to know a group of students for a year, the future of their churches, and I learned as much from them as I hope they learned from me.

I remember the time I took some of them to Brent as I began taking a huge interest in Taize chant. And I am grateful for meeting one of the Taize community in the process.

I was able to read, mark, and learn not only from philosophers and theologians, but also from educators, and from many other people whose names I could not remember. But I do remember a group of farmers in particular who taught me about the power of persistence.

I met a lot of people this year, but I am particularly grateful for meeting my colleagues in the office where I am working.

And I remain grateful to my colleagues in Ateneo and St. Andrew’s. A special mention must be given to the younger generation of Atenean philosophy students and others who will be graduating this weekend; I met a good number of them during my first year as a graduate student, I met one of them during a typhoon relief effort, and I met a number of them through the debate circuit. Wherever you will go, I wish you all the best. The same goes, of course, for the seniors at St. Andrew’s whom I hope to meet in the vineyard of the Lord when the time comes.

Christos anesti!

More Easter reading and future writing plans

For the Rowan Williams readers out there (and you know who you are), here are two pieces for the week, both profound, both very good, and both worth studying:

a column for the Observer, and

his Easter sermon for 2008.

And Philip Blond, a member of John Milbank’s Radical Orthodoxy group, writes on why neo-liberalism is on its way out.

Thanks to Simon Barrow of Ekklesia for pointing these two out to me.

Meanwhile, later in the week, I will post something on this year’s Holy Week and a few words of gratitude as the academic year ends.

Holy Wednesday

First, my recollection went well, thank you very much. I had reasonable expectations of what this would be and they were met. I am sure that more activities like this are lined up, and I found out that this was an experiment of sorts that my university and the Jesuits were doing to figure out whether there was an audience for that sort of thing.

I will write more about this after Holy Week.

*****

Second, I really am astonished about how some people can be so pissed off when their hero is attacked. On the guest book of one of my contacts, a largely symbolic protest campaign, someone left a pretty nasty message.

In the spirit of the week, I can only pray for that person and hope he is careful about what he says. I know how it feels to get into trouble for what I write. It is easier to seek forgiveness than to ask permission.

*****

Third, I am grateful to everyone who has been visiting and reading my sites (and my Facebook notes linked to the Multiply one). My Easter resolution is that I will keep on blogging!