“This is history!” wrote a participant.
Indeed it was. Over 115 media practitioners, priests, religious, and lay people converged for the first ever National Social Communications and Media Summit held at the University of Asia and the Pacific last April 23. The summit paved the way for media professionals and others engaged in social communications from as far as Laoag and Cagayan de Oro, and even from South Africa, to discuss how to live their faith in the realm of media and politics.
“This is the first [media summit of its kind], and this is, in a sense, unique,” quoted Fr. Francis Lucas, President of the Catholic Media Network (CMN), who gave an overview of the event. He said, “We are here to identify and express the sentiments of media persons about our faith and what the Church can do in strengthening our faith in the daily grind of our lives.”
Entitled “A Dialogue between Faith and Reason in Societal Affairs,” the gathering featured the talks of Mr. Edwin Lopez of Eternal Word Television Network, Inc. (EWTN), Mr. Miguel “Mike” Enriquez of GMA Network, Dr. Maria Riza Bondal of the UA&P School of Education and Human Development (SED), and former COMELEC Commissioner Rene Sarmiento.
Mr. Lopez of EWTN, aptly chosen to begin the series of talks, grabbed everyone’s attention by saying, “I’ve always wanted to become a priest, but my wife objected.” He discussed the realities in today’s communications, focusing on how mainstream media is primarily driven by the “pleasure principle,” that pleasure is the best guide for human behavior. He described how in one international media convention, a show claimed that they “sell delight and entertainment.” He emphasized the fact that all these happen while the Church is communicating a different message all along: the language of the Cross. Quoting Pope Francis, he explained, “Without the Cross, we won’t have Christ. We will only have fraud – that pleasure is the best guide for human behavior. And without Christ on the Cross, we will fall into despair and hopelessness. Our joy is not the absence of pain. It is not the absence of suffering. No. If we ever fall into that mistake, we will definitely fall apart. We will be divided…. Our joy is the assurance that despite suffering, pain, and affliction, we are not alone. Even in tragedy.”
Joining Mr. Lopez in the roster of notable speakers was celebrated radio and TV newscaster Mr. Mike Enriquez, whose ambition to become a Franciscan priest did not receive support from his parents. Mr. Enriquez gave the audience a realistic view of the culture in media and how media practitioners can practice their faith in the midst of this action-packed, fast-paced, and extremely competitive profession. “No two days are the same,” he said. “Today, I may be rubbing elbows with the high and the mighty. Tomorrow, I may be comforting a 13-year-old girl, who lost her entire family in the garbage on her birthday.” He cited that temptations, fame, and fortune hound media people. “Bente-kuwatro oras, di natutulog ang demonyo. You name it, we have it in media,” he said, adding that fame, improperly managed, could really wreak havoc. On the lighter side, he narrated, “The GMA management always tells me every time we have a meeting, ‘We have made you famous. Now all we have to do is make you rich.’ And my answer always is, ‘Please do so.’” Turning to the issue of faith, he expressed, “It [Faith] is a deliberate undertaking….It cannot be otherwise. That means it is an effort, and it’s difficult. It’s difficult to be a faithful Christian. I don’t think it was meant to be easy.” He then enumerated the virtues that media practitioners must practice, such as honesty, self-giving, and fear of the Lord, saying at one point, “It is hard to live one’s faith, media or not…but who the hell said it would be easy, anyway? The supreme hardship is the Cross.”
SED’s very own Dr. Bondal, on the other hand, explained why the laity should be involved in politics and how a correct understanding of the principle of separation of Church and State can lead to a better understanding of what the Church does, which is often stoned for “interfering” in temporal matters and “imposing” Catholic teachings on non-Catholics. She underscored the need to know the doctrine and morals of one’s faith because it has bearing on the decisions one makes in his or her life. “Whatever it is that the Church does in reminding us about doctrine, about morals, it is because the Church is a mother and a teacher who cares for us,” Dr. Bondal remarked. She likewise highlighted the holiness of the Church: “We say it in the Creed, ‘I believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church….’ In saying this, we need to know where that holiness and unity comes from. The holiness of the Church does not depend on our holiness because if it will depend on us, then the Church cannot be holy. The Church is holy because of its founder, which is Christ himself.”
Capping the series of talks was Atty. Rene Sarmiento, who talked about the relationship between politics and moral law. He presented the dissenting opinions of powerful figures in philosophy regarding the interrelatedness and indivisibility of politics and moral law. He also pronounced what the Bible say regarding politics and moral law, quoting lines from the books of Deuteronomy, Samuel, Daniel, Nehemiah, Micah, and Acts of the Apostles that tell rulers not to accumulate wives and riches, to make restitution for the offenses they committed against their constituents, to support themselves through honest efforts, and to do justice and love goodness in their reign. Bringing the discussion to the local setting, he mentioned the writings of Jose W. Diokno and Jovito R. Salonga, who both topped the 1944 Bar exams and served in the Senate for a time. Diokno’s The Filipino Concept of Justice and Salonga’s Distinguisjing Marks of Leadership both profess the uprightness of a ruler who knows what is right, what is wrong, and does what is right.
In addition, present in the summit were Bishop Bernardino Cortez, Chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Social Communications and Mass Media, who delivered the welcome remarks, and UA&P Pres. Dr. Jose Maria Mariano, who closed the half-day affair. His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, gave a pre-recorded keynote speech, wherein he stressed that faith and reason are not contradictory to each other because both came “from the same God, who is both Creator and Redeemer.” He told the audience: “We hope that this media summit may lead us to an exercise of communication that will serve the cause of truth and will promote trust of people among each other and also the search for the ultimate truth, which alone can give us meaning because that is the ultimate truth that we are looking for. We do not only go for information and data. While those truths satisfy curiosity and search for knowledge, in the end the heart of the human person searches for meaning, meaning that will last—what we call absolute truth, and that is already a natural thing—so that reason and faith may work together as we search for the one Man who is both Creator and Redeemer of Truth.”
Unlike other conferences, each talk in this summit was followed by a five-minute silence and reflection. After the talks, a breakout session was conducted focusing on what the commission can do to strengthen the participants’ faith as they carry out their work in the media. Here also the mainstream media practitioners were given the opportunity to voice out their concerns regarding the Catholic clergy and vice versa. Feedback from the breakout session include convincing radio stations to come up with new and more creative evangelization method, providing doctrinal and spiritual formation to media practitioners, teaching journalism in an atmosphere of optimism, training priests to become vocal, and holding more events that will encourage dialogues between the Church and the mainstream media.
The summit was organized by the Department of Religion of the UA&P College of Arts and Sciences in partnership with the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Communications and Mass Media.
Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved. University of Asia and the Pacific.