November 9, 2013

Scene Unexpected of the Prayer Operatives (SUPO): Reflections after the storm

I could have  entitled this article  Scene of the Storm Oddities  as a post storm reflections on  Yolanda, dubbed  as  one of the strongest typhoons  on earth which smashed the Central Philippines.  But the would- be acronym  SOSO sounds profane especially that this post deals with arguments on prayer and faith in social media related to  the storm.So I changed it  to Scene of the Prayer Operatives (SOPO) only to replace it, in  a matter of few seconds,  with the final title as you read it now to emphasize the intended meaning as represented by our local  dialect.

Taken from
Of course, the use of this acronym was influenced by  the  popular Philippine reality television series of ABS-CBN hosted by ace reporter reporter Gus Abelgas. Dubbed  S.O.C.O. (Scene of the Crime Operatives), it aims to find answers to serious crimes with the help of local police and forensic investigators.

If my memory serves me right, we used the word supo in gambling during our  younger days and in arguments which implies the discovery of  somebody’s  tactic  to  outwit another in  the game.This is closely related to another  Ilonggo term supok which means to contend, oppose, stand against. Scanning over the thousands website suggested by Google when I inquired, the convincing  explanation I got was  the conjugation of Spanish word  saber (to know). Hence, the title is used in  this context.

I was monitoring  in social media the unwelcome visit  of  Yolanda to Iloilo since classes were suspended and office closed  a day before the schedule. I have been appreciative of this gift of  technology to  mankind and the corresponding  initiatives or gestures of netizens to share links with one another on pressing issues or concerns. Yesterday, prior to  the blackout, my facebook (FB)  News Feed were flooded with satellite images of the direction of Yolanda, and of course prayer requests or respective prayer posts.  Until I started to become amuse  of  the exchanges of comments  and arguments over how prayers are posted.  Of course, each comment may reflect one’s theology or spirituality. There  were however others who could not hide their irritation or scorn to  perceived hypocrisy or  naivety .

Taken from 
Apart from the theological arguments in one FB group where I belong,  a  friend's post amused me and tempted me to click like, had it not been for the spark of conservatism in me.  Here's an excerpt: “Stop sending messages of prayers about the typhoon. It only causes people to panic. I read one which says  'Lord please cause the typhoon to change direction.' What??? You want the storm to pass over Cagayan de Oro or Batangas instead? Either way, people will be killed...And by the way, Jesus advised us to pray in private. So stop announcing your prayer habit; most likely, you just want people to know you are religious.” It got 275 likes and 30 comments as this article is being drafted. Except for one who called for tolerance, all other comments were favorable to  the post.While this friend is  known for his straightforward irreligiosity, I admire his spirituality. I'll deal with this in succeeding posts.  

But the differing views on prayer  reminds me of a scene during our overnight  class sessions  when I was still a student in social work. It was a class on Group and Community Processes where group dynamics, conflict, etc were being discussed.While  we were discussing at the wee hours, suddenly masked armed group barged into our classroom and ordered all of us to lie down pointing their guns on those who resisted. We were all caught off guard why such an incident happened inside the campus whose gates were manned by security personnel.  Male members were neutralized as the intruders took our teacher and a lady classmate as hostage. The atmosphere was so tensed dominated by crying, weeping,  sobs and suppressed scream as the intruders ordered us to keep quiet.
As expected almost all started uttering prayers, according to their religious orientation. Suddenly, at  my left , a classmate scolded another classmate on my right side who was holding a rosary and pleading to the Virgin Mary  to  instead direct the prayer to Jesus. Another  one commented  why to Jesus when you could directly pray to God. For a while their  fear was set aside to engage into heated arguments of correct theology. In fact, they almost quarreled.  I could no longer recall, if it was me or another who calmed them down by telling them just continue with their respective prayers and avoid further argument lest it would bring us more harm than good.

When the tensions subsided, we were told that the incident was orchestrated  as  part of activities of the social process. Insiders later told me it was supposed to be my girlfriend who should be taken as hostage to test how I would react. But the guard  confused her to another classmate with similar features. That was probably one reason why I scolded the group assigned including our teacher during the processing session. But this will be a good topic  later for my other blogs.

(To be continued)

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