Thursday, April 06, 2006

Anumang Hiram, Kung Hindi Masikip ay Maluwang

Seminaries and divinity schools have, for years, been described as
marketplaces of ideas. Unfortunately, many such institutions have been
marketplaces, or more appropriately, malls of Western ideas. In other
words, if one were to go “shopping” in these “malls” of theological
education, one will be amazed by the number of stalls, stores and shops
offering “imported” goods: from theologies, to liturgies, to libraries, to
models of hermeneutics.

Romy del Rosario, President of Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines, laments: “I cringe at the thought that the more we train our students, the further they are drawn away form the poetry and the arts, the thought forms and patterns, the hermeneutics, the sentiments and feelings, and the imaginative and visioning processes of their own people.”

Anumang hiram, kung hindi masikip ay maluwang. Anything borrowed is
either too tight or too loose. The saying is true with clothes. It is equally
true with theology. Carlos Abesamis, author of A Third Look at Jesus, points out: “Panahon na upang iguhit ang sariling palad. Panahon na upang lilukin ang sariling hugis. Ihabi ang sariling talambuhay.” I agree. We need more “shops” that proudly offer the depth and the breadth of diverse Filipino articulations and constructions of theology.

Anumang hiram, kayang iwasto para ‘sakto. Nevertheless, the Filipino has
the ability to transform anything borrowed to fit him or her perfectly. We
also need more “stores” that showcase the Filipinos’ religious imagination
that empowers them to beat swords into plougshares, to turn weapons of
mass destruction into instruments for mass celebration, and to transform
jeeps into jeepneys.

A long time ago in a barrio far away came a very old woman. She was
probably just passing by because she took the dusty road that bordered the
small community. Because it was almost dark, she stopped by the roadside
and began to build a fire. She took out an earthen pot from the bag she
lugged around and, after filling it with water, set it over the fire. Out of the
same bag she brought out a small river stone and a pinch of rock salt and
put these in the pot.

An old woman alone by the road is hard to miss. Soon children were upon
her. “Lola (Grandma),” they asked, “what are you doing?” “I’m cooking
soup,” she answered, “why don’t you join me?” They sure did and after a
while there was a huge circle of children gathered around the fire as the old
lady narrated stories about elves and fairies and dragons.
It was late. It was dark and the children were still out so their parents
began looking for them. They eventually found them with the old lady.
“Lola,” they asked, “what are you doing?” “I’m cooking soup,” she
answered, “why don’t you join me?” They sure did and after a while there
was a huge circle of children with their parents gathered around the fire as
the old lady continued telling stories of elves and fairies and dragons.
“Lola, “ a mother volunteered, “I still have leftover meat at home. We can
put it in the pot.” “We have vegetables we can add to the pot too!” another
remarked. And so everyone brought back what they could and put these in
the pot. Eventually, the whole community shared not just stories but a hot
pot of soup that began with a cold river stone and a pinch of rock salt.3

As one member of a community of about 85 million Filipinos scattered across 7,107 islands, where scores of languages are spoken, I don’t have the soup. Nor does Union Theological Seminary where I teach. What we all have are ingredients to share and these are ingredients we should always be ready to offer.

In a country whose traditions are both pluri-form and multi-vocal, we are among the many who have faith stories to share. And there are many, many more whose stories of faith are yet to be shared.

[From Anumang Hiram, Kung Hindi Masikip ay Maluwang: Iba't-Ibang Anyo ng Teolohiyang Pumipiglas (Cavite: Union Theological Seminary, 2006)