A Confession to Pope Francis

by Rebecca T. AƱonuevo

Dear Pope Francis,

I write like I would do a confession to a common priest.

Here in the Philippines, when we confess our sins, we also ask for counseling at the same time, even if the priest will dissuade us from doing so. I am supposed to be wholeheartedly sorry for my sins, but I could be dragging, too, my neighbors for their faults, and this is pride—isn’t it. It must feel terrible for other people that I can’t own my sins by myself. Why cast the shadow on them?

I am sorry, dear Pope, that I can’t join the millions who will troop to meet you when you visit us and say Mass especially for the poor, and those who continue to suffer from the calamities in Leyte and Bohol. The news says that the hotels are booked months ahead as soon as you announced your coming. The decent hotels in Manila are never cheap, and only those who can afford, can book in advance. Once my friend and I, being the hardworking teachers that we are, tried to have a breakfast in one of the posh hotels: the price we had to pay afterward was obscene, for all the cheeses and cold cuts we could try, and so we had to calculate a way by which to scrimp in the next couple of paydays so we could recoup what we spent.

Now where is my sin, dear Pope?

Not only that I overspent, but that I kept on thinking after the deed, what profligacy is enjoyed by the few, how can families live rich everyday, how have businesses thrived in the country and at whose expense, how have some cheated on their taxes and paid pittance to their laborers, why have we allowed the mall culture to consume us—spending left and right on Christmas, and going through the rituals, but not raising a voice against our own complacency; we are easily entertained, you see, we forget or we give up being angry at so much injustice and corruption that our national and local leaders have consistently shown, so we continue to elect those who will serve only their own interests.

I dread the national elections in 2016, because unless Mary Our Mother succeeds in her intercession, you will hear when you are back in Rome, how our people, many of them from the throng who will welcome you and applaud your address, will elect into office a leader cast by the dark. Ours is a population that has reached 100 million, but in spite of our Constitution that promises basic human rights and equality to all, ordinary mortals hardly have a way of becoming leaders that the country needs, because the positions have already been reserved for the dynasties, whose coffers are full: the mayor ends his term and the wife follows, the son is next, and the son’s wife follows, on and on, surely in many parts of the archipelago. Positions are recycled for the same few, and we see their names and initials on parks and roads and street posts as if we owe them what ought to be their duty to the people.

My sin is anger, dear Pope. My anger knows no ebb. You will go to Leyte and you will see for yourself the zombies the poet Merlie Alunan speaks of—people walking around spiritlessly. Why do we take pride in resiliency, waving before the cameras even when our houses are submerged in floods? Why do we accept that the floods are a regular occurrence? Why do we accept death and wreckage everywhere when the history of governments should have moved leaders to manage disaster and risk from the very start?

I share the grief of France after 17 people, 10 of them journalists, were killed by extremists in a merciless gunfire attack last week. I remember, dear Pope, our own journalists, especially the ones who perished among the 58 people who were found in mass graves on the morning of Nov. 23, 2009, in the town of Ampatuan in the province of Maguindanao. I pray for the howling among our people that we may not forget. I confess my anger but I pray for anger that we continue to demand justice, and that it happen soon.

I thank you, dear Pope, when you tweeted: “We must never, never allow the throwaway culture to enter our hearts! No one is disposable!” That’s exactly how we teachers feel with the onset of the K to 12 program espoused by government. The teachers are easily disposable. I am angry that the government and private institutions, which happen to be Catholic schools, are getting rid of teachers in the name of sustainability. No remorse there. No respect. No conscience. These administrators are sending our students to meet you and hear your message. Can you remember us, Filipino teachers, and say a prayer for our cause, that the people in power and position may find their hearts and imagination moved, so they can see the massive death they will cause upon the teachers and their families if they pursue their profit-oriented reaction without heed to the values of Truth, Justice, and Peace?

For these — my anger and my pride, my self-righteousness, my moments of despair, and all the sins which I may have forgotten, grant me your absolution, dear Father.