Thursday, September 26, 2013

40 Days

Yesterday, the 25th day of September marked the end of the traditional forty day mourning period following the death of Lianga Vice-Mayor Robert "Jun" Lala Jr who passed away last August 17. His family, relatives, supporters and friends commemorated the event with a morning mass at the Sto. NiƱo Parish Church after which everyone proceeded to the Lianga public cemetery to visit and pray at his grave. The Lala family later hosted lunch for all of the mourners and guests at the Lala residence.

Casual research on my part reveals that the significance of the forty day mourning period for deceased individuals especially for Catholics in the Philippines is rooted more in custom and tradition rather than in actual religious or church doctrine. The number 40 is important in biblical numerology and is mentioned often in the Bible. The great flood of Noah, for example, lasted for 40 days and nights. The people of Israel led by Moses wandered for 40 years in the wilderness after leaving Egypt after the Exodus. Jesus was said to have fasted for 40 days after he was baptized by John the Baptist and tradition holds that he ascended to heaven only after 40 days had passed after his resurrection.

Many Filipinos whether they are Catholics or not believe that a person's soul after death wanders the world and may visit the various places that have significance in its previous life.  Only after forty days will it be called to judgement and thereafter be allowed to ascend to heaven, descend to hell or be incarcerated in purgatory. This belief in so called "lingering souls" has been hotly debated in many religious circles and there are many priests and theologians to this day who still cannot agree whether it has any real basis in Christian doctrine.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Minding The Legacy

When Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel appointed and swore into office Marie Gene Lala as the newest member of Lianga's municipal council last September 9, he may have been largely motivated by the need to pay tribute to her recently deceased husband, Robert "Jun" Lala Jr, who was the town's vice-mayor when he passed away last August 17. But the governor may have wittingly done the people of Lianga a great service.

When Jun Lala died in office after just over a month of serving his second full term as head of Lianga's Sangguniang Bayan or municipal council, Dot Tejero who was the highest ranking council member automatically succeeded him to that office thus opening up a vacancy in the eight man legislative body. The law empowers the provincial governor to appoint a person to fill up the vacant position for the remaining portion of the unexpired term which ends in 2016.

In the past, the choice of who to appoint has always been subject to the pressures and requirements of political expediency and provincial governors have always used the rather discretionary nature of this particular appointing authority as an integral part of the much entrenched system of patronage politics that is a bitter and undesirable reality of the dysfunctional political system of this country.  I have written a previous blog post some time ago about this which can be seen here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


It used to be that in Lianga a bout with fever unless it was determined to be really a high grade one where one's body temperature rises to at least 39 degrees centigrade or higher, it was considered more of a nuisance rather than anything really serious. Nothing that regular doses of paracetamol or any of the other antipyretic drugs that help reduce fever cannot remedy in conjunction with rest and increased fluid or water intake.

The exception, of course, was made for children (especially the very young), the elderly and those already in poor health who even  in the more remote and far flung barangays or villages are immediately rushed to the local health center or hospital.  That is, if their families have the financial resources and the capability to do so. Otherwise, it may be up to the local mananambal (the local folk healer or practitioner of traditional medicine) to come up with some cure hopefully by using the appropriate herbal remedies and not some form of arcane yet useless sorcery.

Nowadays, any instance of elevated body temperature in both adults and children can now be a cause for panic. This is because there has been, for the past few months, an outbreak of dengue fever in this town and this health scourge has claimed several lives including that of the municipal vice-mayor of Lianga, Robert "Jun" Lala Jr., who passed away last August 17.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Gone Too Soon

As Christians we are taught as an article of faith that the ways of God are often mysterious and far beyond our limited and mortal comprehension, that there are many painful hurtful things and events that transpire in our everyday lives that may prove difficult for us to accept as part and parcel of the divine plan that we believe determines the direction and course of our existence in this world.

One such event was the passing away of Lianga Vice-Mayor Robert Lala Jr. (known affectionately to his relatives, friends and constituents as Jun or Junjun) last August 17, 2013 as a result of complications arising from a short but deadly bout with dengue fever.  His death was a sobering shock to all those who knew him because there were few men like him who lived life to the fullest and who found joy and laughter in everything he did.

I knew Jun intimately not only because he was a first cousin but because we virtually grew up together.  In Lianga and later on in Cebu City, I saw him grow up from being a lovable, tousled-haired and pint-sized kid with no hint of the seeds of greatness laying dormant inside him to the much beloved and much esteemed public servant that he eventually would became.  In the course of the long and difficult process that characterized the period between these two different stages in his life, Jun never lost the innate optimism, the unquestioning and limitless zest for life and the yen to help others that so distinguished him from his contemporaries and for which, in my view, he will always be remembered.