January 31, 2023

Juan Kabayan

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President renews call for unity

PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. renewed his call for unity as the nation commemorated the birth of Jesus Christ.

In his Christmas message posted on his official social media accounts, Marcos expressed hope that, “Christmas paves the way for every Filipino to have strengthened faith in God and renewed hope that better things are to come.

“Manalig po tayo na sa ating pagtutulungan, matutupad natin ang pangakong ito. Higit sa lahat, buksan natin ang ating mga puso sa diwa ng pagkakaisa (Let us believe that by helping each other, we will achieve this promise. More than that, let us open our hearts to the essence of being united),” the President said.

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“Nawa’y ang ligaya at saya nitong Pasko ang siyang maging bukal ng lakas upang patuloy tayong magsikap para sa ikabubuti ng ating minamahal na bansang Pilipinas. Muli, isang maligaya at makabuluhang Pasko sa ating lahat (May the joy of Christmas be the source of our strength to continue working for the good of our beloved country. Again, a merry and relevant Christmas to all of us),” he said.

Earlier, the President urged everyone to embrace love, compassion and hope so the country can surmount the present challenges.

Marcos, who spent his first Christmas as President in Malacañang with his family, has for the past few weeks led Christmas-related activities for children and the less fortunate to make the season more meaningful to Filipinos which include gift-giving events and handing over of livelihood assistance.

He also opened the Palace grounds to the public for the traditional dawn Mass and the viewing of the giant Christmas tree and lanterns.

In his own Christmas message, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo wished his fellow Filipinos all over the world happiness, peace and good health this Yuletide season.

“Under the leadership of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) continues to do its part in fostering national unity as our country embarks on a journey of recovery and transformation in the post-pandemic era,” Manalo said.

For 2023, he said the department reaffirms its commitment to actively maintain its engagement with the international community and advance Philippine interests abroad to ensure a stable and safe political, economic, and social environment for all Filipinos.

For Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, Christmas is about “the story of God becoming people, dwelling among men, not in palaces or houses of stone, but in a wretched and open tent without outside and inside, all inclusive: heaven and earth, animals and men kings and shepherds, all meet at the feet of a newborn Messiah, the true king of the world.”

David said how he was amazed at how churches turned into one big magnet attracting the faithful in the early mornings for nine consecutive days in preparation for the birth of the Messiah.

“Hindi baleng mapuyat o gumising nang madaling araw basta makumpleto lang ang siyam na gabing nobena bilang paghahanda sa Pasko (They don’t mind not having enough sleep or waking up at dawn just to complete the nine-day novena preparatory to Christmas Day,)” he said, adding “the Church has become like a magnet during these times.”

Another Catholic prelate, Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula, called on the faithful to go beyond the allures of material things by helping the needy.

“As we contemplate the mystery of Our Lord’s Nativity, let us try to learn from the experience of the shepherds who heard the angel’s announcement of the Lord’s birth, and went to Bethlehem to see the Christ-child. We can learn three spiritual virtues from those shepherds: keeping watch, crossing over, and going in haste,” Advincula said.

By keeping watch, he explained, everyone must be attentive to the presence of Jesus by discerning the truth and by noticing the poor, going beyond personal borders by helping the needy, and rushing to our Lord’s invitation by fulfilling our mission, especially during the toughest times in our lives.

“In order to genuinely celebrate Christmas, we too need to keep watch. In the face of mystery, our stance must always be contemplative. Let us take a long loving look at the real. Let us intently and honestly listen to the truth. Let us be sensitive to the signs of the times. Let us have hearts that are attentive and receptive to God’s revelation and intervention in our lives,” Advincula said.

Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo called on the Filipino people not to lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas.

Gesmundo said that regardless of the way Christmas is being celebrated, the meaning is the same for all, a season of perpetual hope, love and peace.

“We smile more, share more, help more, and forgive more. At least during this season, conflicts cease, problems are paused, fights are forgotten. Such is the magic of Christmas,” he said.

“But while we welcome the truce on negativity, let us jot lose sight of what needs to be done to live out what Christmas truly means, and of the work required of us to ensure that we embody the true spirit of Christmas year round,” he said.

In her own Christmas message taped on Saturday in Filipino and English, Minority Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros said the story of the season is the story of hope.

“We are reminded that the birth of Jesus Christ is also a moment of reckoning; it is a belief that in the midst of everything, after the storm, the world will shine,” Hontiveros said.

She assured the public that in the Senate, they will continue to shine the light with their work.

Hontiveros is one of two members of the Senate minority bloc.