Wednesday, July 11, 2007


By Joel Ferraris

When I was chosen to pose for the cover of the second edition of Review Asia magazine I paused for a second. A bit adamantly, I accepted the "opportunity" because, aside from the fact that it was my friend Victor Bautista who invited me, the photo shoot will be done in my studio.

It was a mixture of excitement and hesitation because I am concerned about some repercussions as a result of my decision to accept the offer but on the other hand it could boost my career as an artist. But in my pocket full of intentions, I see the opportunity to share my insights to others after the release of this edition.

Both concerns have profound significance deep within my thoughts. As a Filipino I am aware and have experienced a lot of things that have contributed to or have caused the discontent among the masses in my country. I am one of them.

And as a Filipino artist I also understand the dilemma that my peers in this profession undergo as a result of trying to enjoy the freedoms of self-expression and creativity and to compete in the world market of art amidst the reality that we are surrounded by squalor and live manifestations of discontent and violent protestations that have become good subjects for artmaking for most of the artists.

I find it funny and ridiculous that some artists paint about life's bitterness, sufferings of the poor and all sorts of things that display moral rottenness and sell these artpieces to the rich at exorbitant prices while the latter continue to abuse and exploit the poor. In turn the artists who seem to be callous and enjoy using the sufferings of the oppressed as subjects of their art to catapult them to fame and fortune continue to live in decadence while their wives, mistresses, children and illegitimate children suffer. Sadly these artists do not know the answers to the ills of society but instead are willing contributors, especially in the destruction of families where the young, innocent children are emotionally and psychologically much affected. All these are included in the multi-level causes of a society's moral decay resulting in discontent. Still other artists opted to turn a blind eye on these things and do art for art's sake in a social environment hungry for genuine change.

Having to cope with these realities that oftentimes connive in sometimes unholy partnerships, I have to make sure that I know the solutions and way out of these odd combinations.

Beauty amidst squalor? High art amidst the realities of the poor, hungry masses? Collecting exorbitantly expensive art despite the reality that the whole world cannot solve the problems of poverty? And many more...

As I see it, another main contributor to the sufferings of the poor masses and the callousness of the rich and where artists were and are still involved in, is the practice of idolatry wherein the ignorant multitude of people, rich or poor, are blinded from the real and proper way of worshipping a jealous God the Father Almighty.
The question is, if God the Father Almighty is a loving and caring God and provides for the needs of the people and protects them, why is it that He seems to be deaf and blind to the cries of the poor and the oppressed? Is He not angry that people give much more attention to those handgraven images rather than offer spiritual and material help to their suffering neighbors? And if the presence of these images made by sinful hands enough tools to inspire faith in people why is it that people nowadays seem to have less faith and love for others as seen from all those negative things happening around the world?

In the Holy Bible it is strongly emphasized in the 10 Commandments that the use of hand-graven images are not allowed. And even if those who insist on defending the use of it, especially the ignorant multitude, cannot even tell the difference between simple veneration, worshiping and adoration. Sadly, those who are literate amd much more educated seem to be very busy running in the ratrace of this world and have no time to help the poor and the ignorant to study and understand well and deeply the real essence of Christiniaty.

In this spiritual battle, I have witnessed spiritists and fake healers use hand-graven images and amulets while they are bleeding people's pockets dry and have used fear to coerce and fool the ignorant and superstitious. There is a thin, blurred line that divides what represents Christianity and spiritism in the use of amulets and religious objects. I have witnessed a demon-possessed woman cling to the amulet for fear that demon will return to her when in fact it was that evil entity that forces her to rely on these hand-graven objects. Triumphantly and with our help, our pastor was able to drive that strong demon away in the name of Lord Jesus Christ while we pray to God the Father Almighty.
In the same spiritual battle there are people who are willing instruments of the forces of darkness to sow terror, deceptions and lies just to grab power especially in the government. This is evident in our country where dirty politicians use every means posibble just to win, forgetting the teachings in the Holy Bible read by priests or pastors in every mass or religious services they attend. They go to church and, if Catholics, own lavishly decorated religious images or have their names emblazoned in every donations they contribute to the church or institutions to display their "religiosity" when in fact there are scores of bloody election violence, lies and vote buying in history plus the reality of rampant drug addiction not only among the young but among the young professionals as well. They even have the temerity to court each religious groups just to win the election when in fact some of them have been found to have mistresses.

One ray of hope is seen in several religious group, the Couples for Christ for example, as they try hard to develop a way of life that could somehow awaken the rich to care for the poor and start a peaceful solution to the Christian-Muslim conflict in the southern Philippines by building homes for poor Muslims through Gawad Kalinga. These people had seen enough of those anti-Marcos protestations and bloody rebellion and have opted to start a genuine change in people's spirituality and moral values. Their efforts to strengthen the family as a unit of society had saved a lot of the youth from becoming victims of drug addiction and the doctrines of violent rebellion and armed struggle.

But still, as I have seen in Gawad Kalinga projects for example, people still use hand-graven images to decorate their newly acquired homes without even understanding that these objects, which could be used as instruments of spiritism, are abhorrent to the eyes of a jealous God the Father Almighty, especially when the dwindling number of priests cannot cope up with the demand for more people to work as servants of God the Father Almighty to bring spiritual enlightenment to the multitude of the poor masses and the few rich.

Certainly there is serious debate when it comes to the use of religious objects and images. Some have gone to the extent of writing extensively to the defense of this practice. But a closer look at King Hezekias and the reforms that he did during his reign will make one realize why God the Father Almighty was very much pleased with him and lengthened his life for a few more years. He destroyed the brazen serpent that Moses made years before as a result of the people's tendency to worship the object rather than an unseen God the Father Almighty.

Nowadays even in Europe, where the seat of Catholicism is, and in the Philippines, the only largely Catholic country in southeast Asia, people begin to ignore the real essence of Christianity as seen from the daily news about corruption and violence during elections and a lot more of these display of unfaithfulness. Even the pope himself called for a renewal in faith and reminded the Euro countries to recognize their Christian beginnings which greatly affected the Philippines after it was turned into a Christian country as a result of colonization by Spain.

Nowadays, with the threats of terrorism that could endanger our dear lives and tend to drive us to become bitter, the people's options are to either buckle-up and prepare to resist violence with the use of violence, as exemplified by the frat wars in my country's campuses in particular or the cruel, raging war in Iraq and the looming threat of a renewed global arms race in general, or do what the Amish in faraway Pennsylvania did - to pray to God the Father Almighty and to forgive and teach their young to forgive. In my case I opted for the latter formula in dealing with the frat culture of violence in our university and I found it very effective because God the Father Almighty is a powerful and loving God.

Examining the Two Commandments of Lord Jesus Christ, one will surely see that the Love of Neighbor is second only to Love of God the Father Almighty and that we cannot love our God the Father Almighty that we cannot see if we cannot love our neighbor that we can see. But this connection between the Two Commandments is blurred by an obstruction in the form of hand-graven, or nowadays machine-made images.
People tend to care more for the objects made by man in the guise of worshipping God the Father Almighty instead of forgiving, caring and loving their fellowmen created by God the Father Almighty. Sadly others insist that since the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us then the use of hand-graven images is now an acceptable Catholic practice, because Lord Jesus Christ was born more than 2000 years ago, while ignoring the fact that their fellowmen, whom God the Father Almighty created, are supposed to become the temples of the Holy Spirit and thus needs to be loved and cared for.
Now, how could one defend the use of hand-graven images as an expression of faith yet ignore the need to love one's neighbor in need? This reminds us of the story about that Good Samaritan. And with the dwindling number of priests, some of whom succumbed to the sins of the flesh, who will have the heart and willingness to educate the multitude of the ignorant to understand the true essence of Christianity, even before another war or terrorist bombing take their precious lives away, just to prepare people's souls to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
How could this be possible when nowadays people are so preoccupied in earning more to pay their credit cards or be abreast with the newest fashion and fast advancing digital technology?

It is faith, through the proper way of worship and adoration of God the Father Almighty, and deeper spiritual understanding that could help us uproot the roots of discontent because Lord Jesus Christ promised that the faithful will be protected and their needs will be provided. God the Father Almighty Himself delivered His people from their enemies most especially when they return to Him with a humble heart. Nowadays it is still true and possible, especially now that even our own selves are our enemies when we cannot resist the temptations of the prince of darkness and we succumb to human nature.

Love of neighbor is not enough if it only remains in the material plane. If we love our neighbor only according to our human version of love while ignoring the statutes set by God the Father Almighty to guide us on how to love then we are in the wrong direction. Worst is, if we become so engrossed in loving our neighbors, surrendering to our neighbors human will and desires at the cost of completely ignoring or forgetting God the Father Almighty and His commandments then we fall into the wrong hands.

If only people understand that, in the multitude of artists and craftsmen producing these religious images, there is the element of decadence going on, they might probably abhor the use of these hand-graven images done by sinful hands and go directly to their rooms and pray to God the Father Almighty in spirit and in truth ... for He is Spirit, pure and unblemished. This method of worship is possible because a lot of believers have done this and still maintain their strong faith without the use of hand-graven images. This mindset could easily be developed in childen when spiritually enlightnened parents start to teach them this proper way pleasing to the Eyes of God the Father Almighty. And I have done this since 1988 when I was baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Artists and craftsmen producing these religious objects have a lot to answer for becoming instruments in the practice of idolatry. King Solomon had warned about that. And even if it will be very materially beneficial for me to accept church-related projects by designing sculptures and murals that could spiritually inspire people to strengthen their faith I would rather use art mindfully so as not to let these cold, helpless objects alone speak a thousand words and become books to the multitude of the ignorant while I enjoy the material riches in payment for these for I have that fear too that someday, somehow these works of my still sinful hands could land in the expensive collections of art collectors and be kept from the sight of the rest who needs spiritual enlightenment.

The formula of armed rebellion during the time of our country's dictator had caused a lot of lives to be wasted in both camps before these poor souls could even have the chance to have spiritual enlightenment and enjoy the infinite heavenly bliss. Therefore it is the wisest and right move to seek first the Kingdom of God the Father Almighty and His righteousness so that all these things that we need in life shall be granted to us in His own perfect time. This is the best and most effective way to uproot the roots of discontent.

In that cover pose for Review Asia, I stand in protest against those, rich or poor, who ignore or completely forget the true essence of Christianity but instead fight for human rights and democracy and yet abuse these rights and free will granted to them by God the Father Almighty by surrendering to temptation of materialism, decadence and apostasy once these freedoms and rights are established.

To borrow a line from one Filipino social realist artist, "evil is not the monopoloy of the rich"...and yet some Filipino artists blame Christianity as the cause of sufferings in my country. Little did they know that it is human nature, as it succumbs to the sins of the flesh under relentless attacks of temptations of the devil, that is the culprit here simply because, even if the colonizers have gone a long time ago, nowadays it is those who are not faithful to the statutes of God the Father Almighty who are the willing pawns of the misleading designs of the evil one perpetuating the causes of discontent and misery.

I could have been a rebel commander in the hinterlands of Iloilo , equip my self with all sorts of amulets and secret spells as I used to, had I not been baptized in the Holy Spirit and given understanding to have a chance for spiritual enlightenment. I am witness to the power, glory and love of God the Father Almighty through His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what my countrymen needs. This is what the world needs for this will lead the way to true and real love. And Christians must deeply and fully understand the true essence of Christianity, regardless of race and culture, to be able give love to their Muslim brothers, to truly end killings and fightings as Gawad Kalinga started a model in the southern Philippine province of Mindanao.
In these times where the youth, some of them products of broken marriages, resort to drugs to escape a bitter reality, parents, especially fathers, need to lead the family to create a strong home full of love and founded on strong spirituality. Unless these things are put in place people will either try to escape the grim realities of life through drugs and other worldly but temporal means to attain bliss and pretend to be happy or become willing soldiers of the dark forces of evil in this spiritual battle.
God the Father Almighty promises total liberation from captivity to sin and wrongdoing. His way of life under His command transcends any cultural divide because His kind of love welcomes all peoples of this world.
Read more on ALIBI.