The Mad Rush at Gennesareth and the ULTRA Stampede

6 January 2006: Monday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time
Mark 6, 53-56: The Insistent Demand for Jesus

The Philippine Star’s headline yesterday, Sunday, 5 February 2006 read: "Wowowee stampede: 73 killed, 359 injured.” In grabbing the chance to escape poverty by winning cash prizes to up to 1 million pesos, people were killed in a mad rush to watch the popular noontime game show of ABS-CBN. Many of them have camped days before the stadium opened, and when it did, hordes of people at the back tried to get inside, crushing those in front of the gate. The Philippine Star tells us about Alberto Herrera, 39, who had lost his mother. He says, “We only wanted our lives to get better.”

We can make a simple analogy with the Gospel today. It tells us that as soon as Jesus disembarked from his boat, large throngs of people in great need came to him. It is said that as soon as the people recognized him, they literally ran towards him, hordes of people almost at a stampede. Just like the Wowowee victims, many of them came from the countryside, villages, and towns.

Let us compare both stories. First, we recognize the great desire of people to escape from poverty. Those from the Wowowee stampede had hoped for prizes that would be given during the show: jeepneys, houses, tricycles, cash prizes. The crowd in the Gospel also hoped to escape from their illnesses. Second, we have people who madly shoved, pushed, and rushed in their insistent demand to get what they wanted. In Wowowee, the pushing resulted to 73 dead, and 356 people injured. In the Gospel, the insistent demand of the crowd would have made Jesus tired. Third, we have icons of hope. The Star told us that one man pinned his hopes on Willie Revillame, the host. He said, “Willie always said that no one would go home weeping when he invited everyone to the show’s first anniversary.” Annabel Pabilona and Loida Abinez who lived as neighbors in a shanty in Sampaloc, Manila said that despite the tragedy, they would continue participating in game shows hoping for that one chance to escape poverty. The Gospel today has Jesus as an icon of hope. Those who came to him or those who were able to touch the tassel of his cloak were healed.

There are things nonetheless that should be brought to our attention. In both stories, the crowd came to get something out of Jesus or Wowowee. I perfectly agree that it is natural that we should come to get what we actually need, but there is something shameful in human nature that should be brought to our attention: that of inconsideration. Let me give you some examples.

For many young people, their homes have become boarding houses, a place that should cater to their needs and comfort. And for those especially with househelps, there is a pervading attitude that their house is a place to eat, sleep and getting things done for them. But try to request them to help in some way at home, whether to wash the dishes, do the laundry, or even fix their rooms, many of the present generation would complain. Surely to make a house a home, we have to ask what we can contribute.

In terms of friendship, some people become our friends when they need something from us, and when we become not so much of a use to them, we cease to be their buddies. In terms of our faith, many people come to the church to have their children baptized, married, or buried; or for students in helpless cases like being at the brink of a board exam. Other than that, the church has no place in their lives. In other words, the church becomes a safe house, just in case there is such a thing as heaven, hell, God or failure.

And in terms of our relationship with God, we can be people who use God: our prayers remain supplications of our personal need. We expect from God to fetch anything we request of Him, anything that we need. Prayer practically means demanding God what we want.

What difference it would have made if people have been considerate of WHAT others need. If those who were lining up at the ULTRA have been considerate of others, there would have been no deaths. If we could have been more selfless, then perhaps many needs of people could have found their solution: poverty or sickness for that matter. The sad thing about all these is the realization that to some extent, we are all guilty of what had happened. We all have contributed to a culture of selfishness and inconsideration. All that matters is that what we want and what we need are met by hook or by crook.

All you need to prove this is to go out and drive in Philippine traffic. This shameful attitude is embedded in our language: it is called, gitgitan. And it has to go.


Anonymous said...

pls excuse me, i just have this great desire to comment.

"gitgitan, it has to go." pano ba yon? inde ako naniniwala na walang puso ang mga ngtungo sa ultra last sat. na makasarili ang kanilang mga intensyon. Kung sarili lang, inde na nila kailangan mgtungo roon. I am sure, kung makasarili silang mga pumila, maaga na silang sumuko sa pag-aantay. Hindi ako naniniwala na kadamutan ang nanaig sa kanila. Hindi ako naniniwala na ang mga tulad nila na ngbakasali manalo sa isang show, ay mga taong walang sinasanto. Hindi ako naniniwala na ginusto nila ang may mamatay doon, mga taong kasama nila sa pila, mga taong kasama nila sa kwentuhan habang nagaantay. Sana tama na ang sisihan. Isa lang naalala ko sa titser ko sa religion "Man is basically good". Rich or poor.

God has a message. He is breaking down the barrier between rich and poor. Let us reach out to another.


Jessel Gerard said...

Hi Cristina! Thank you very much for reading and interacting with me in this blog. Let me comment on things you said.

First, that human beings are basically good. You are right. Your religion teacher is correct. And I agree with you. The very fact that I have made a comparison (meaning there are two things with similar attributes) affirms this truth. We do not deny that there is a great desire for people to escape poverty (paragraph 3). We recognized and affirmed this: In Wowowee: poverty and in the Gospel, sickness. The recognition of such needs is good. That is why both the show and Jesus responded (not reacted) to these needs. Our desire to cure and uplift them from poverty is an affirmation of human nature that is basically good, and possesses dignity. And you were right. Your teacher was right. And I agree: rich or poor.

However, basically good means that there are still some aspects of us that need reform. And this is the point of what I wrote; “I perfectly agree that it is natural that we should come to get what we actually need, but there is something shameful in human nature that should be brought to our attention: that of inconsideration.” (paragraph 5). And I gave examples. It is indeed good that our houses are places of eating, sleeping; as well as we need our friendships, our Church, our God. HOWEVER, there are things that need purification: we have to contribute somehow to our homes, our friendships, our Church, our God. A balance relationship has a give and take relationship. To have waited for hours and days is not a justification to shove and push. To wait for one’s turn is a basic tenet of ethics.

Thus, though it is indeed true that their needs are legitimate, as much as our personal dreams for ourselves, we forget other values. Hindi masamang habulin ang ating mga pangarap, basta walang naaapakan (literally, naapakan sila!). I am referring to those at the back of the line who pushed and shoved, fueled by their need, but not selfless enough to wait for their turn, respect those in front of the line. If they did, there would be no deaths. So I am not saying that their person is walang puso, makasarili, madamot, walang sinasanto. I am saying that even though they have waited for hours, those at the back should have waited: their act can be understood, but never justified. If not, cutting a line, even at mass, is agreeable. Gitgitan sa traffic, unahan na walang respeto sa ibang taong naghihintay sa berdeng ilaw, ay ok lang. On a larger scale, it is also cultural, as much as graft and corruption when accepted as part of our life has assimilated into our culture. Cultural means that I too have contributed to this way of life (paragraph 9). Thus this cultural disvalue should go. Sinisisi ko rin ang aking sarili.