OBLIQUE OBSERVATIONS

By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

“Pausing puts things into perspective… “ – Denise Pass

ATTY. GILBERTO LAUENGCO, J.D. is a lawyer, educator, political strategist, government consultant, Lego enthusiast, and the director of CAER Think Tank. He is a Former Vice Chairman of MECO, Special Assistant of NFA and City Administrator among others. His broad experience has molded his unique approach to issues analysis which he calls the oblique observation.

There is a new Netflix series called, “3 Body Problem” with a protagonist that could somehow see a digital countdown that no one else can. In one episode, the said protagonist is told that she would not want it to get to zero. Although it was never revealed what would happen if the countdown went to zero, some viewers assumed that the end of the countdown would coincide with death. It got me wondering how people would act differently if we all had an internal countdown that would tell us how long we have left to live. Perhaps, with a continuing reminder of our mortality, we would all take stock of our lives and focus on what is really important. 

We may not have these internal countdown meters but, every year we are given an opportunity to stop and reflect on our lives. There was a time, not long ago, that Holy Week was like a “pause everything” week. There were no shops, no TV or radio shows (pre-internet or cable era), and no non-religious activities occurring. Metro Manila was like a ghost town with little or no traffic on the major thoroughfares. For families going to the beaches or other destinations outside of the city, the elders would enforce a muted vacation mode, especially during Good Friday and Black Saturday. This weeklong pause of the “regular programming” normally allowed people to stop and reflect, or at least spend valuable time, with loved ones. 

It must be noted that today, Holy Wednesday, is also often called “Silent Wednesday”. It is the only day of the Holy Week that Scripture is said to be silent about what Jesus Christ was specifically doing. Many scholars say that Wednesday is the day Judas betrayed Jesus Christ thus, it is also called “Spy Wednesday” by some people. Jesus Christ, however, is said to have just spent the day in Bethany “retreating into the silence and solitude”. It was, as if, a pause button was pushed during the middle of this momentous week.  

We all have these conflicts, desires, and other matters that seem to take up most of our time but, are in reality, mere distractions to our true and essential goals. Unfortunately, with everything that is going on in our lives, we rarely get the chance to stop and truly realize that in the end, many of the things we hold dear in our lives such as career, honor, money, pride, and other things are really not that important in the greater scheme of things. There was an article once about what people who are dying often regret. It was culled from the experiences of those who care for the terminally ill. On top of the list was they regret not having more spent time on things that matter like family and friends. Many of them regret spending most of their time on their career, projects, and even petty conflicts.

This Holy Week, perhaps, we can take the opportunity to pause. Turn off the phones and stay away from the toxic world of social media. Take some time off and reflect. 

Today, Holy Week may not be as silent as before because secular beliefs and institutions have chipped away at the traditions of Holy Week. Understandably many will continue to work during this Holy Week. 

In Metro Manila, the MMDA announced that there will be an uptick in road works conducted by the Department of Public Works and Highways, water concessionaires, and a telecommunications firm. Around 40 roads in the Metropolitan areas will be temporarily closed to traffic from 11 p.m. on Wednesday (March 27) to 5 a.m. on Monday (April 1) as the relevant authorities have deemed it the best time to conduct these works due to “limited traffic in the streets during Holy Week. Emergency, traffic, peace and order, and other related government service departments will also be hard at work during the annual mass exodus to the provinces. 

Local government employees at pilgrimage sites like Antipolo will also be busy assisting the millions of pilgrims trooping to their areas during this time. There are also robbers taking advantage of the empty houses to ply their trade. For all of the individuals, including the robbers, please find some time no matter how small to hit that pause button.

This is my oblique observation.