Tuesday, November 30, 2004

No easy fix for this troubled marriage

No easy fix for this troubled marriage

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Monday, November 29, 2004 11:16 PM

Hello Bob: I want to seek your advice regarding my married sister’s condition. I believe her marriage started on the wrong footing long ago when she came home pregnant by a guy we don’t even know. Since they were mature enough to decide for themselves at that time, they decided to get married before she gave birth.

Years passed and the relationship went from bad to worse, making her go home to us on a number of occasions. But every time the guy shows up at home, she immediately goes back to him without any attempt to resolve the problem that they had. To make matters worse, my sister had an extramarital affair with her former officemate because, according to my sister, the husband pushed her to do it since it was common knowledge to both of them that the husband, jobless, was the first to have an affair.

Our only concern now is the child. We can’t allow the child to grow up with a battered mom (emotionally and physically) and an irresponsible father. What moral values can the child get from them when both parties are doing the wrong thing?

Recently, my sister came back to our house with all her things without the child because the husband refuses to give her their one-year-old daughter. I know she’s going through difficult times now, but she refuses to be helped by her family members. My mom was asking if she needed legal help to fix the mess and she rudely replied that she doesn’t need any help from us since it’s her life after all. True, but we live under one roof now and we can’t just turn our backs away from her, especially since we know she needs help.

You know, Bob, instead of humbling herself, she is pointing to us for making her marriage a mess—how can that be? She was the one who came back to our house with all her things. We didn’t force her to leave her husband. Please help us with our current situation. Our household now is divided because of her. She just talks to my mom because my dad plainly accepts whatever “drama” she tells him. And you know what’s irritating? She eats here, she has her laundry washed here, I take care of her child and at the end of the day we are still the “bad guys”!

Concerned Lady

It’s a very complex case. Your sister is obviously into a very bad marriage. Both she and her husband have had an affair. There is a lot more conflict than she is telling you.

She is a battered woman who cannot seem to break away from a hopeless marriage. Her self-esteem is low and she is bitter and resentful of her husband. She’s hitting the family and blaming you because she’s upset, confused and feeling helpless to do anything about it. She’s full of emotions and hard feelings and is lashing out at those who love her.

The child is caught in the middle. You want to rescue the little one, but that might not be possible for a number of reasons. All your good will and best efforts might not amount to anything.

One of the most difficult things to do is to stand by helplessly and watch a loved one suffer. The most you can do now is to make the best of the situation. Your sister is under heavy stress. She wants to hang on to a lousy marriage because she sees no other option. I think she won’t fight to get her child right now because the kid is a link to the husband. She might feel differently when she is sure the marriage is over and there’s no more chance at reconciliation.

Meanwhile, you can suggest that she get professional help. I doubt, though, that she will listen. Though you need to be patient, you also need to draw some lines in the sand about her behavior while in your house. But then if your mom and dad cannot agree on that, it might not be possible after all.

If doing things for her irritates you, then don’t. Stand back for now and stay out of it. Sooner or later the situation will clear and she should settle down. It’s crisis time, things are not normal. Keep that in mind. Do what you can and stay peaceful.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

More signs of likely drug use

More signs of likely drug use

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Saturday, November 27, 2004 12:33 AM


Parents can ill afford not to remain vigilant in these times when drugs are everywhere.

Yesterday, we gave you some signs of drug use that you can look for in the home. Below are signs that will show up in school:

• sudden drop in grades

• cutting classes

• loss of interest in learning

• sleeping in class

• poor work performance

• not doing homework

• defiant of teacher and school authorities

• poor attitude toward sports and other extracurricular activities

• reduced memory and attention span

• forging class cards, failure to deliver notes from teachers, not informing you of teacher meetings, etc.

The above might be signs of problems other than drug abuse, but they are also seen when kids get into drugs.

You also need to pay attention to physical and emotional signs:

• the change of friends

• smell of alcohol

• unexplainable mood swings and behavior

• negative, argumentative and destructive

• confused or paranoid, anxious

• overreacts to criticism

• is rebellious

• no longer shares problems and feelings as he used to

• either overly tired or hyperactive

• drastic weight loss or gain

• unhappy and depressed

• cheats and steals

• always in need of money or has excessive amounts of money

• sloppy appearance

These signs are universally accepted as indicative of drug use. The more signs that are present, the greater are the chances that your teenager is using drugs.

If this is the case, you have a number of choices. You can choose to ignore them and pray that, by some miracle, they will go away and somehow everything will be all right.

Or you can tell yourself that it’s all part of growing up and he will pass through this phase without incurring very much damage.

If you choose any of these first two options, you do so at your own risk and that of your child. These are risks you would never take if you found traces of cancer or some other life-threatening disease in your child.

If you follow expert advice from therapists everywhere, you will move quickly. Time is of the essence. The first item on the agenda is to gather as much information as possible. Check out his friends, the school. Ask a lot of questions. Assume the worst and hope you’re wrong.

After doing this, confront your loved one gently and listen to what he has to say. Remember that you (his parents) are the last ones that he wants to know that he’s using drugs. So expect him to lie to you or, if he can’t do so because of the evidence you bring forth, expect him to minimize the extent of his drug use.

No matter what happens after you talk to him, you should consult someone who knows something about drug abuse and confer with him. Don’t take this matter lightly. If you miscalculate, the consequences for your loved one and your family could be great.

Once you get a realistic picture of what’s happening, you will be in a better position to do the right thing.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Is your kid into drugs?: a checklist

Is your kid into drugs?: a checklist

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Friday, November 26, 2004 12:15 AM

Part 2 of 3 parts

Parents who are courageous enough to want to know if their youngsters are using drugs need to stay alert during those critical teen years. This is when most drug use begins. Especially in third and fourth year high school, the number of students who start fooling around with drugs is especially great.

It is important for parents not to underestimate the power of the peer group. No matter how solid is your family, if your wonderful children get involved with a peer group that is into drugs, they are surely at risk. Don’t think that only children of dysfunctional families get into drugs. In fact, kids coming from the nicest families fall victim too. So it is most important that you keep a close eye on the youngsters that your kids hang out with.

Also be aware that young people may have two groups of friends, at least when they begin using drugs. The first is made up of users. They don’t want you to see or meet this group. The second is their old friends that you know. When beginning to use drugs, the young people will transition from the clean, non using group to the user group. Later, when they get deeper into drugs, they will pretty much abandon the nonusers in favor of the addicts.

The earlier you catch any problem, the easier it will be to deal with. The same is true of drug abuse. Get on your knees and thank God if you are able to discover your child’s drug taking in its early stages. If you move quickly to put a stop to it, you will spare yourself lots of unnecessary pain.

Still, most parents will not spring into action right way. Instead, they will wait and hope for the best. Often, the best turns out to be the worst. Their son goes deeper into drugs.

If you want to know the signs to look for, here are some of them. No one sign should be taken as an indicator of drug use. Instead a combination of the following can be signs of drug abuse, or, if not, signs of an emerging problem that needs your full attention.

Signs in the home:

• loss of interest in the family activities

• disrespect for family rules

• withdrawal from responsibilities

• verbally or physically abusive

• sudden increase or decrease in appetite

• disappearance of valuables or money

• not coming home on time

• not telling you where they are going

• constant excuses for behavior

• spending too much time in the room

• lies a lot

• finding the following are strong signs: cigarette rolling paper, pipes, roach clips, small glass vials, plastic baggies and plastic sachets, remnants of drugs (seeds, etc.)

Many parents don’t want to enter the room of their loved one to search it. Normally I would agree, but when there is strong suspicion that drugs might be present, then a room search is perfectly in order.

Tomorrow: signs at school; physical and emotional signs.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The single most telling sign of maturity

The single most telling sign of maturity

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Tuesday, November 23, 2004 12:18 AM

She was miserable in her relationship. They always fought. He was unfaithful and she caught him a number of times. There was a serious clash of values and the situation was not getting better.

Still, she was hoping to marry him.

Her family and friends thought she was crazy. All the signs pointed to a disaster in the making, yet she seemed intent on marriage. Perhaps it was because she felt she had given so much to the relationship. Maybe it was because she had given him her virginity. Perhaps she believed that he would change after they settled down and had a family. Maybe it was all of the above and some other mysterious reasons that kept her from fleeing what was seen as a toxic relationship.

Then, one day she got pregnant and the events began to dictate the direction she had hoped for all along. He was under heavy pressure to marry her and he did so, although very reluctantly.

It was soon clear that marriage was the biggest mistake she had ever made. Things got a lot worse and after two kids, she left him and went back to her parents.

She became a bitter woman who blamed God for not doing something to prevent her misery. She looked at her family and faulted them for insisting on the wedding after they learned of her pregnancy.

How many of us are like her? We get ourselves into all sorts of trouble, of our own mind and stubbornly insisting on getting what we want. Then when we get it and it does not turn out the way we expected it to be, we suddenly look around for someone else to blame.

It is so difficult for us to accept that our blunders are our own. So hard to face the music when it sounds terrible. We hate to accept our failures and our weaknesses. We find it so difficult to take responsibility for our actions, for our behavior.

We insist on our freedom to decide, but when things don’t work out as planned, we look for scapegoats to deflect responsibility for what was clearly our own doing.

It takes lots of courage and no small measure of maturity to accept total responsibility for ourselves. It calls for strength of character and a brave heart. We are quick to take credit for success, but we hide our failures as best we can. We even try to hide when there is no place to hide. We are happy when people praise us for our qualities of character and our talents, but we cringe and find great difficulty in handling criticism, even when it is given by sincere and well-meaning persons who care for us.

The ability to accept responsibility for myself, for my actions and behavior is I think, the single most telling mark of the level of my maturity. And the more complete is my acceptance of responsibility for myself, the closer am I to taking charge of my life and finding happiness and peace of mind.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Teeners also need to be told they’re loved

Teeners also need to be told they’re loved

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Monday, November 22, 2004 12:06 AM

Have you noticed how, when we have little children in our midst, we give them lots of affirmations. We cheer them on and encourage them in many ways. We hug them and tell them how much we love them. We congratulate them for this and for that.

Now, fast forward. The little one is a teenager. Are we still quick to affirm? Do we look for ways to encourage and to motivate? Most importantly, do we still say those three little but all powerful words, “I love you?”

Chances are things have changed dramatically. The affirmations are a lot less. The time spent motivating isn’t nearly as much as it used to be. And the I love yous are fewer and far between.

Countless times have I asked the question to teeners: “Do your parents say to you, I love you?” You would be amazed at how many youngsters admit that rarely are they told that they are loved.

Are they truly loved? No doubt, they are. It’s just that as they grow older, they are told less frequently.

That’s sad. Sad because it is during times such as these that our children need to be told again and again that they are loved. Adolescence and the teen years are a time of great inner turmoil and self-doubt for them. As they grow more independent and begin to move away from the childish ways of yesterday, they need to be reassured that our love for them is intensifying, not cooling off. They need affirmations and encouragement of every kind as they try their wings and start to fly.

As they assert themselves more and more, many young people feel they are loved less and less. As they become more and more their own person, they tend to follow less blindly than before.

This inevitably results in clashes and misunderstandings with parents. Anger and hard feelings on both sides are often the consequences.

The bumpy ride through those turbulent years can cause irreparable damage to our relationship with our children. So many parents feel bitter disappointment when, after staying close to their children during the early years, they sense that they are drifting from them.

Actually, the teen years are supposed to be a time when the youngsters assert themselves and start moving toward an even increasing measure of independence. It is a time of transition when the very nature of the parent-child relationship evolves into a more adult-like bonding. It is a time of great uneasiness for teenagers as they leave their childhood behind and walk into the adult world.

It often happens that we parents think that they no longer need to be affirmed and told that they are loved the way we used to do so. This is a mistake, and a big one.

In fact, the affirmations and the I love yous need to increase both in number and intensity. The young ones need to be reassured again and again that the good old days when they were showered with love and affection are still here. They need to know that even if they are changing, the love and affection their parents have for them remains steady and, in effect, continues to intensify.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Treated fairly, siblings can be the best of friends

Treated fairly, siblings can be the best of friends

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Saturday, November 20, 2004 12:14 AM

Last Part

I would like to share with you some thoughts about favoritism and how we parents can avoid creating undue pain and discord among our children.

I have always been very sensitive about the issue of favoritism in the family. Perhaps it is because, as a counselor, I have seen the damage it causes. This is why my wife and I have been very careful to avoid any hint of favoritism with our two daughters.

Ever since they were little, we always tried to be as even-handed as possible with them. If we bought a gift for one, we would buy a gift for the other. If we had something nice to say about one, we needed to find something nice to say about the other. If we went shopping for one, the other came along and we would buy something for her too.

Children want to be treated fairly, just as we adults do. They get upset when this does not happen, just as we grown-ups do. They get down and depressed when they are victims of unfairness, just as adults do.

Yet, there are parents who are very cruel in their display of favoritism. It is as if they make little effort to hide it. In so doing, they send a strong message to their other kids and it reads: “I don’t love you as much.” Of course, the parents will deny this, but to no avail. “Actions speak louder than words,” and their behavior is a clear indication of how they truly feel. In so doing, parents cause discord among their children. They turn them against each other.

Ask your friends to rank their siblings in terms of whom did mom or dad love more. Very few will tell you they were all loved evenly. Most will have horror stories about unfair behavior and favoritism.

My wife and I were extremely careful not to let this happen. In fact, we constantly encouraged the girls to stand together, to defend each other if need be. By dealing with them evenly and not allowing any hint of favoritism, we helped to bond them in the deep friendship they enjoy today.

We would always tell them to remind us if they felt they were treated unfairly. And when they did, we cleared up the matter and, if need be, apologized and made things right.

When one took up martial arts, so did the kid sister. They both took up swimming, riding, shooting, etc. What was good for one was good for the other if she wanted it. We were not prepared to give to one and shut out the other.

We watched closely for signs of resentment and would ask, “Do you feel it’s unfair?” And if they had a point, we would fix it.

Sometimes one was more lovable, more affectionate than the other. They both had their moments, but we held steady in our strategy to never show favoritism but always to do things to promote close ties between them.

Today they are best of friends. We smile when they hold each other and tell us that their friendship is such that “we won’t ever let a man come between us.”

Friday, November 19, 2004

How favoritism poisons family ties

How favoritism poisons family ties

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Thursday, November 18, 2004 10:42 PM

Part 2 of 3 parts

When favoritism is practiced in the family, an acute sense of injustice poisons the relationships between the offending parent, the favorite and the other children. Remember that the less-favored children are helpless to make right what they truly perceive as unjust behavior on the part of their parents. They simply are forced to live with the situation that eats away at their hearts on a daily basis.

They just have to accept the unacceptable, grin and bear it even if they hate every minute of it. It is like you having to work in an office where the boss blatantly favors your officemate. It drives you crazy. And when you can’t take it anymore, you leave and find another job.

But what if, like little children, you can’t leave and have to live with the situation? Everyday the injustice that you witness keeps eating away at your morale. Everyday, your anger and resentment are building up. You dislike the boss for his unfair treatment and you dislike the favorite for accepting the undeserved favors and advantages. You feel demeaned as a person. Your sense of self-worth and self-esteem take a hit.

As an adult, you might be able to do something about it. Maybe you can go over the boss’ head and talk to a higher ranking executive in the hope of rectifying the situation. If that fails and you can’t handle it anymore, you can always resign and go somewhere else.

Not so when you’re a child. You are helpless and feel hopeless about what is going on. And every time your parents show favoritism for your sibling, it is like a blow to the heart. You get upset with them and you start hating the favored one. You feel left out, less loved and less lovable.

You feel like rebelling but you cannot, especially if you’re still little. As an adolescent and a teenager, you can show your teeth and wait for the day when you can leave the house. Even then, however, the hurt remains. Those ugly feelings can linger in your heart for life. You might even take them to your grave.

I have often heard grown men and women speak with anger and resentment that won’t go away about the favoritism and the unfair ways of a parent. The hard feelings against the favored one are still visible even if there is an attempt to forgive. The hurt is so deep that healing is difficult and often never happens.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

When parents play favorites

When parents play favorites

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, November 17, 2004 10:42 PM

Part 1 of 3 parts

If there is one thing that can wreak havoc among brothers and sisters, it is favoritism. When parents favor one child over the other, they inadvertently start a war among the siblings.

It is easy to love one child more than another. There are many varied reasons that cause parents to show more affection for one than for the others. Not difficult to be cold to the child who is withdrawn and who is not as warm in displaying his feelings.

Unless we parents are aware and pay close attention to our feelings and behavior, we can easily fall into the favoritism trap. This daughter might be so cute and so demonstrative in her affectionate ways that we are naturally drawn to her, while a son is somehow always getting on our nerves with his behavior.

The first-born is usually the most welcomed of all the children. After all, there is indescribable joy when the first baby is born. It is an event that has a strong impact on the couple. One that is unforgettable. As the rest of the kids are born, it is somehow different. Though every birth can be a joyful happening, it isn’t the same as the first birth.

And the youngest also has a way of endearing himself or herself. Perhaps it is because being the last born allows the parents to focus more attention than when the children come in rapid-fire succession. This is why the middle children are often given less attention. They have a way of getting lost in the crowd.

What parents often do not understand is that when they favor one child, they run the risk of turning the other children against the favored one. Jealousy and envy are the harvest that parents reap when they practice favoritism. And both these feelings cause anger. Anger that can remain for a lifetime.

Children have an acute sense of justice. They watch their parents carefully and are quick to detect the slightest sign of favoritism. And when they do, it isn’t long before anger and resentment against both the parents and the favored one set in.

Since kids cannot easily express themselves in words, they have other ways of showing it. They become despondent, moody and irritable. They have less patience with the favorite, and later their resentment turns to hatred, especially if the favorite flaunts the advantages given by the parents.

Those kids who are not the favorites feel less loved. There is no doubt about that in my mind. They might never admit that it is so to their parents, but when they grow up, they are quick to say it to counselors and friends. And when war does break out among siblings, the angry accusations of favoritism will be thrown at both the parents and the favorite.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Gateway to drug use

Gateway to drug use

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Tuesday, November 16, 2004 11:21 PM

There is no doubt anymore in the minds of experts in the field that the use of tobacco and alcohol among youngsters is more likely to result in later use of illegal drugs. Many studies have supported the “gateway” theory of youthful drug involvement: “That once the use of tobacco or alcohol begins, there is greater likelihood of marijuana use, and once marijuana use begins, there is greater likelihood of other illegal drug use.”

Dr. Kathleen Etz of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a US government agency, has written that a new study has again confirmed this but has focused on a concept called “drug exposure opportunities.” Writes Dr. Etz: “We know that earlier drug use is associated with later, more advanced use; however, this research identifies a previously overlooked aspect of this transition: opportunities to use.”

The study should cause parents who take cigarette smoking and alcohol use lightly and “only a part of growing up” a measure of concern.

“The researchers found that alcohol and tobacco users were more likely than nonusers to have an opportunity to try marijuana and were also more likely to try the drug when the opportunity arose.

About 75 percent of alcohol or tobacco users reported an opportunity to try marijuana by age 18 and more than 85 percent of them made the transition to marijuana use. Only 25 percent of nonsmokers and nondrinkers were given an opportunity to try marijuana by the same age. Of these, fewer than 25 percent began smoking marijuana within six years after they were first given the opportunity. Overall, alcohol and tobacco users were seven times more likely to start using marijuana than individuals who had used neither alcohol nor tobacco.”

These findings (there were 42,624 individuals in the study) should cause parents to sit up, take notice and rethink how they view early alcohol and tobacco use.

And listen to this: “Prior marijuana use was closely associated with the opportunity to try cocaine and the likelihood of young people’s starting to use cocaine once given the opportunity. Among the young people given the opportunity to try cocaine, those who were already using marijuana were 15 times more likely to use cocaine than those who did not use marijuana. About 50 percent of marijuana users used cocaine within 2 years of their first opportunity to do so. However, among young people who never used marijuana, fewer than 10 percent initiated cocaine use.”

Since shabu is the poor man’s cocaine, I believe the same is true of the link between marijuana and shabu usage. It all makes sense. Young people are strongly susceptible to peer pressure. Once tobacco and alcohol enter into a group of friends, the pressure is on for all to use. And when marijuana and shabu are brought in, that same pressure is exerted on all to conform and use those drugs too. My years of working with drug addicts confirm this. Every single addict I know started using because of a friend.

Parents who learn that their kids are going with drug users should see red flags and get serious about helping their children exit from the group before it’s too late.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Make sure you love what you’re doing

Make sure you love what you’re doing

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Tuesday, November 16, 2004 1:22 AM

Dear Mr. Garon: I am a law student at Saint Louis University, Baguio City. I started my course in 2002 with such great vigor and enthusiasm that, at the start, my name was one of those that led the dean’s list.

Now that I am in my 3rd year, I got bored of the usual schedule of reading endlessly, which is the chief requirement in law school. I got so tired and extremely exhausted, so much so that during the final exams in the early week of this month, I simply set aside the books and had a good sleep and rest. I have not known the results but to be sure, of my 8 subjects, I have a failure.

How can I cope with stress? What shall I do to save myself from the tension that is life-threatening due to the routinary, monotonous and tight lifestyle brought about by my being a student of law?

—Jose Franco M. Valentin


First, I need to ask if you truly want to be a lawyer? If so, then you need to be willing to pay the price. Law is a very tough course. It requires, as you say, a lot of reading.

All learning is boring if there isn’t much interest in the subject matter. I hate math and never did even reasonably well in it. I am totally bored with math, so I stay away from it and I’m very happy to do so. No regrets whatsoever.

Now, if you truly want to be a lawyer, you will have to do a lot of reading even after you pass the bar. If that stresses you out so much that you can’t handle it, then perhaps law isn’t for you.

If, however, you do like what you’re studying, you might need to pace yourself better, eat a more balanced diet and exercise more. Remember that boredom is something that we all have to deal with sooner or later in every profession.

Since you have been on the dean’s list, seems like you have a good mind for law. Still, what’s needed is a love for what you are doing. If so, then you need to be willing to pay the high price in terms of pain for getting through law school.

Beware also of those moments we all have when we sometimes feel like throwing overboard everything we have worked so hard for. It is as if we experience a moment of madness and feel like dumping what, in truth, we hold dear. In times like this, it’s important that we hang in there, continue to work like crazy until the moment passes. I have had a number of these experiences during my lifetime. What I had to do was dig in and hang in there for a while. Soon enough, there would be new enthusiasm and I would be off again pursuing my goal. Good luck!

Monday, November 15, 2004

Blame the followers, but blame their leaders more

Blame the followers, but blame their leaders more

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Sunday, November 14, 2004 10:32 PM

Dear Bob: It must be over a decade by now since your Today column started now and then to address what, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to call the age-old moral-intellectual sickness of the Philippine “soul,” to use a word that Allan Bloom wrote in his 1987 great book on the American mind or psyche. Your recent umpteenth reprise of that haunting theme that won’t go away called it “the moral quagmire we are in,” and I’d add, permanently it seems, in that Third World mentality morass. For perspective, may I comment that Rizal first exposed that deep-seated cancer in his aptly titled 1887 Touch Me Not.

I noticed that on the same day your piece appeared, your paper’s editorial re-echoed your general theme in calling the people’s elected House of Representatives the “House of Reprehensible Thieves.” Here is one hint of who is most responsible for so many reprehensible rotten fruits in this uniquely Asian Christian land. It is not, as you come close to suggesting, your own Catholic Church and priests. They must “accept much of the responsibility,” you wrote as you overblamed and explained, for this and for that.

Why don’t you blame the people instead as individuals and families as the chief culprits? Weren’t they as a whole the amoral demented voters who never read inquiringly, even for their reprehensible leaders’ record of competence and integrity? Don’t our corrupt officials and managers come from them, or merely reflect and respond to them in one way or another? Who voted for the crooks, felons, criminally charged, murderers, deceivers, mere celebrities, incompetents, tax cheats, influence peddlers, other benighted ones in national and local government? Why don’t we gadflies take a lesson from a Briton in this regard named John Michael Pocock? In his 1997 Rizal book, he wrote: “The root cause of the Filipino’s slide to nothingness [into a permanent Third World economy and mentality] lies with the Filipino himself, and Rizal does not spare the rod on his own people… [but] holds him accountable for his condition.” He cited his humanistic Enlightenment hero for stressing that “Filipinos should redeem themselves by deserving it, by exalting individual reason and respect for self, by loving the just, the good, the great, even to the point of dying for these.”

Bob, at our advanced age, let’s tell it bluntly like it is, no matter how “politically incorrect,” in hopes that large enough critical minimum members be challenged thereby to overcome their IQ-moral stunting (as I call it), or moral quagmire (as you call it).

—Roberto M. “Bob” Bernardo

* * *

I cannot disagree with your insistence that it is we who make up the populace of this suffering nation that are to blame for ills of the country. Of course we are! I do not, for one minute, wish to distract from the individual responsibility that we all share in the mess that we find ourselves in. Shame on all of us!

But shame also on those who exercise moral authority over us. Just as we fault lousy teachers for failing to educate our children properly, so too do our religious teachers have to take the blame for not imparting the right Christian values to their flock.

There is no way around this. If we are an exemplary nation that lives the values we are taught, our moral leadership will quickly take the credit—and rightly so. In the same way, they need to accept that somehow they have missed the boat.

I am thoroughly convinced that if our clergymen were more holy, we would have a holier laity. It just follows logically. And that’s the point that I have been hammering time after time, ad nauseam. And I won’t stop saying so again and again because there is no way that it isn’t the truth.

Christianity swept the known world because the disciples of Christ were men and women who lived the works they spoke. In short, they walked the talk. Later when corruption set in, there was big trouble and the Church began to fragment. Then, as now, the problem started at the top, not the bottom. This is still the case today.

If only the clergy was holier, then the effects would flow outward to the people and into our everyday lives. But somehow we are into rituals that do not translate into effective action that can turn our country around. (Emphasis on the word “effective”).As in everything else, those who would take credit for success must also accept responsibility for failure.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Breaking the chains of a slavish relationship

Breaking the chains of a slavish relationship

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Friday, November 12, 2004 11:52 PM


There are varying degrees of slavery that women get into. Just as on the plantations of the old American South, some slaves had a better life than other, so, too, are some women who live with slave masters more fortunate than others.

Some are virtually locked up and cannot move about without the approval of the master of the house. Like the woman in yesterday’s column. Her husband monitored her cellphone calls. He wanted to know where she was throughout the day. He told her what to wear. He forced her to quit her job and remain at home. He dictated the places they would visit, the movies they would see and the restaurants they would frequent. He even directed the sexual activity they engaged in. In short, the woman spent her day following his dictates.

Though she had rights under the law and rights as a wife, she was, in effect, denied these rights. Still, strange as it may seem, she accepted it all as part of her married life. It was as if she embraced her slavery. It was only when she went into therapy years and countless sufferings later that she realized just how slavishly she had submitted to the slave master in her life.

The reason: low self-esteem. Women who willingly become slaves have serious problems with self-esteem. They might be very bright, even successful in their careers, but when it concerns their love life, they are suddenly transformed into submissive slaves.

They do not rebel and get out of their marriage because they truly believe they cannot make it on their own. When I asked my sister why she didn’t just leave, her answer was very telling: “Because I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I felt I would not survive out there.”

After the North won the Civil War and freed the slaves in America, many of them refused to leave the plantations for similar reasons. They didn’t know where to go or how to survive as free people. Consequently, they preferred to remain rather than to start to live an uncertain life as free men and women. At least they had enough to eat on the plantations even if they were barely subsisting.

Slaves in marriages reflect some of this same thinking. They claim to stay on because of the kids, their faith (even if the Church allows legal separation), what society might say, etc, etc.

The true reason, however, is because they are scared to launch themselves into the unknown. They doubt they can make it on their own and choose to remain in slavery rather than come to grips with a new life of freedom where some hard decisions will have to be made.

We can get used to anything, even slavery. We can go on and on forever in a dead relationship and keep it afloat by sheer will power.

It takes courage for a woman to break the chains of a slavish relationship and say goodbye to the slave master. But for those who are brave enough to make a stand and strike out on their own, great rewards await them. The greatest of all is freedom.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Portrait of an enslaved woman

Portrait of an enslaved woman

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Friday, November 12, 2004 12:00 AM

Part 1 of 2 parts

I sat with an attractive woman who had led a chaotic life. Intelligent and coming from the privileged class, she was educated in the best schools. Her family gave her a host of opportunities to better herself, but instead she chose to follow another route, the road to self-destruction.

Separated and deep into drugs, she led a dissolute life. She had wandered through life bouncing off one man and into the arms of another, then another until she hardly knew where she was and what was happening. As we reviewed her life, she wept and said in a soft voice, “I’ve been a slave and a loser all my life.”

She was telling the truth that she had learned late. “All the while I felt I was in command of my life, but I wasn’t. I was totally out of control. Others controlled me at every turn. I was truly a slave to them.”

She is not alone. So many persons are enslaved and don’t know it. Dominated and controlled by others, they live a miserable life of subjugation. They don’t truly have a life of their own even if they believe they do. They are deprived of their rights as individuals even if they think they are exercising these rights.

Slaves have no rights. Nowadays we don’t like to refer to people in our society as slaves because we all like to believe we are free men and free women. We are in the civil sense. We do have our rights, but I am not referring to that kind of freedom.

When a woman is trapped in a relationship where she is completely dominated by a man, then, that is not freedom. She has become a slave to that man. But, you may say she can get out if she so desires. Perhaps, but if that were so, then why does she remain and take all the abuse? Why not break out if she can? The truth is that countless women are caught in just such circumstances and they remain despite the pleadings of family and friends.

Some stay out of fear. But then, so do slaves remain captive of their masters because they fear retribution.

Still others refuse to leave an abusive relationship because they have become accustomed to being dominated. They are so used to being told what to do and when to do it that they fear leaving their slavery and face the world as free women.

You see these unhappy women caught up in the battered woman syndrome. My own sister was one of them. Beaten and maltreated by an alcoholic physician, she was a virtual slave who was completely dominated by his brutal ways. He wounded her physically, emotionally, psychologically and sexually. She felt so trapped that she even feared to tell us about the nightmare she was living every day. And since she lived a thousand miles away, we never had a clue as to what was happening.

The irony of it all is that she, like the other slaves, never saw herself as a slave. She believed herself to be a loyal and faithful, suffering wife. She was, in effect, an unfortunate slave to an insensitive beast of a man.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

What’s your idea of love?

What’s your idea of love?

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, November 10, 2004 10:00 PM

We all have our own ideas about love. Everyone has his own definition. Some are funny. Others are deep and cause us to think and review our own ideas about love.

Let me share with you some of my own ideas about what constitutes a dynamic and meaningful love relationship.

The first and a most important characteristic is that the lovers understand and accept that love is about the other as much as it is about oneself. That might sound obvious and simplistic, but the truth is many of us get into love expecting to get a lot more than we are willing to give.

Think about it. When you think of the beloved, do you focus more, or at least as much, on how you can make your beloved a better person than you do about what you can get from the beloved? I have my needs that are crying to be met. But so does the woman I love.

Problem is that often our needs will clash. When that happens am I willing to give as often as I expect her to make way? Or, do I expect more concessions than I am willing to make?

In a meaningful and true love, there is sensitivity and an awareness that one cannot lord it over the other. There is an acceptance and a deep respect of each other as equal partners. No double standard here. What goes for one, goes for the other. No one way loving. No second class citizen in this love relationship. There is a strong commitment to this belief of equality both in word and behavior.

Next, with this in mind, both partners work to heal each other’s wounds. We all enter into a relationship suffering from wounds inflicted in the past. We are hurting and we have the expectation that somehow we will find healing in love. But both must heal if there is to be a meaningful love.

Some lovers are so focused on themselves and their hurt that they neglect to pay attention to the wounds of the partners. They expect to be healed without working to heal the beloved.

True lovers know that their happiness depends on them serving as healers to each other. One way healing won’t do it. Love that is true is a partnership that works for both.

This calls for a good measure of maturity and a generous heart. It means having a healthy willingness to give as well to receive. It means believing that the more the beloved is healed and becomes the best that he/she can be, therein lies one’s happiness. When both lovers feel this way and back it up with a true devotion and dedication to pursue each other’s welfare, then you have a guarantee of healing, growth and the resultant high level of happiness. When both place each other at the top of the priority list and act accordingly, then only good things can and do happen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Hopeless relationships: a checklist

Hopeless relationships: a checklist

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, November 10, 2004 12:13 AM

Love is a many splendored thing,” says the song. But it can also be hell on earth when it goes wrong. The happiest people on the planet are those who are madly in love.

The most miserable, however, are those whose love has crashed.

Amazingly, there are people who get themselves into love relationships that are living hells and, instead of finding ways out, choose to go on in these toxic relationships. It is perplexing to loved ones and friends why these people don’t get out, why they cannot seem to break away when common sense clearly indicates that things will never work out and will only get a lot worse.

A group of therapists have worked out a questionnaire that will indicate if you are one of those persons. Remember that most of these people do not think that they are into hopeless relationships even if the rest of the world is convinced that it is so. Hence, the need for an index to help you and your loved ones to make a case and open the eyes of those who keep loving when love has no chance at all.

Here is the list. The more yes answers you give, the more likely it is that you are one of these persons who are into these kinds of hopeless relationships.

1. Do you obsess about people who have hurt you even though they are long gone?

2. Do you continue to seek contact with people whom you know will cause you further pain?

3. Do you go “overboard” to help people who have been destructive to you?

4. Do you continue to be a “team” member when obviously things are becoming destructive?

5. Do you continue attempts to get people to like you who are clearly using you?

6. Do you trust people again and again who are proven to be unreliable?

7. Are you unable to retreat from unhealthy relationships?

8. Do you try to be understood by those who clearly do not care?

9. Do you choose to stay in conflict with others when it would cost you nothing to walk away?

10. Do you persist in trying to convince people that there is a problem and they are not willing to listen?

11. Are you loyal to people who have betrayed you?

12. Do you attract untrustworthy people?

13. Have you kept damaging secrets about exploitation or abuse?

14. Do you continue contact with an abuser who acknowledges no responsibility?

15 Do you find yourself covering up, defending, or explaining a relationship?

16. When there is a constant pattern of nonperformance in a relationship, do you continue to expect people to follow through anyway?

17. Do you have repetitive, destructive fights that are no win for anybody?

18. Do you find that others are horrified by something that has happened to you and you are not?

19. Do you obsess about showing someone that they are wrong about you, your relationship, or their treatment of you?

20. Do you feel stuck because you know what the other is doing is destructive but you believe you cannot do anything about it?

21. Do you feel loyal to someone even though you harbor secrets that are damaging to others?

22. Do you move closer to someone you know is destructive to you even though you do not trust, like or care for the person?

23. Does someone’s talents, charisma, or contributions cause you to overlook destructive, exploitive, or degrading acts?

24. Do you find you cannot detach from someone even though you do not trust, like or care for the person?

25. Do you find yourself missing a relationship even to the point of nostalgia and longing, that was so awful it almost destroyed you?

26. Are extraordinary demands placed on you to measure up as a way to cover up exploitation?

27. Do you keep secret someone’s destructive behavior because of all of the good they have done or the importance of their position or career?

28. Does your relationship have contacts or promises that have been broken which you are asked to overlook?

29. Are you attracted to “dangerous” people?

30. Do you stay in a relationship longer than you should?

* * *

If you have problems about drugs, alcohol and behavior/attitude call my office at 8206107 or 8251771 or, e-mail me at gvcbuenca@ vasia.com or write me at P.O. Box 2099 mcpo, Makati City

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The insecure partner

The insecure partner

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Monday, November 8, 2004 11:50 PM

It was Margaret Mead who said that “jealousy is not a barometer by which the depth of love can be read; it merely records the degree of the lover’s insecurity.”

True. And the greater one’s insecurity, the easier it is for jealousy to kick in. A very insecure man can get jealous at the drop of a hat regardless of the loyalty of the beloved. Little things, innocent in themselves, are seen as threatening.

A good-looking man who joins the company and works in the same office as the wife is immediately seen as a threat even before he opens his mouth. I know of jealous men who get furious if the partner looks at a stranger in a fast- food restaurant. And the two don’t even know each other.

The insecure person can get jealous and feel threatened at mere possibilities, at situations that might arise and persons that could come into the picture. His mind is always working. He wants to know every movement the beloved makes. He is suspicious of her calls and of the clothes she wears. He can get very unreasonable and take drastic measures when no real threat exists. I know of men who insisted that their wives stop working because of jealousy.

The insecure man (woman too) gets obsessively jealous because he senses that his woman is all he has. He doesn’t know what he will do, how he can survive without her. He believes all is riding on this relationship and if it doesn’t survive, neither will he. This is why the obsessively jealous man sometimes resorts to extreme measures and kills his partner and then turns the gun on himself. With his woman gone, he feels he has no reason to live and blows his brains out.

The man who is at peace with himself and has a reasonably healthy self-image isn’t jealous without reason. And when he is jealous, he does not hesitate to confront the issues at hand and look for solutions. He is confident that even if his relationship does not work out, he can and will love again. In short, he isn’t a desperate man who needs to desperately cling to his partner.

Steve Berman tells us that jealousy dies hard. “Intense jealousy is nothing less than a plea from a man’s deepest self to look at his darkest pockets of self-denigration, as well as at his deepest uncertainties about his desirability to women. When jealousy strikes, it’s time for a man to radically and honestly reevaluate himself.

“For a man, making peace with the jealousy that is eating him up means nothing less than making peace with his most despised shortcomings and his most fragile insecurities.”

Monday, November 08, 2004

You’ve got to work for it

You’ve got to work for it

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Sunday, November 7, 2004 9:41 PM

If you are waiting for Lady Luck to come by and drop success on your lap, you’re going to wait for a very long time, perhaps forever. Success doesn’t just happen, it is made to happen by those who are willing and able.

You would be surprised to know how many people sit back and decide not to do better for themselves because they suspect that forward movement will be hard work that they are not prepared to do.

The great Thomas Edison was a relentless genius who slept in his laboratory when he was hot on the trail of a new invention. He knew that success is mostly about sweat. A thousand good ideas are thought about every day, but remain in the mind and never see the light of day because of fear and reluctance to work hard.

“Opportunity,” said Edison, “is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

“Words without actions” writes John Mason, “are the assassins of dreams. The smallest good deed produces more than the greatest intention. You will find an empty dream if you put nothing into it. Everytime one person expresses an idea, he finds 10 others who thought of it before but took no action. Ideas times nothing equals nothing. It takes work. Even a mosquito doesn’t get a slap on the back until he starts to work.”

We are all born lazy. In the first years of life, people do most things for us. We get used to it. We soon learn that work isn’t at all pleasant and we do what we need to in order to avoid it as best as we can.

But success and ultimately happiness will depend on work and on how much we are willing to take it upon ourselves. Even solid and mature loving makes many demands on us and calls for sacrifices that few are willing to make.

In fact, we have this Hollywoodish thinking that love just happens effortlessly. Great lovers make it look easy, not because it’s easy but because they work together so well.

If you want to succeed, roll up your sleeves and get down to work. Forget playing the Lotto and hanging around casinos hoping to make it big in an instant. The words of the manager of a casino should keep ringing in your ears. “You might beat the house tonight,” he said, “but you’ll return tomorrow and we will get it all back. . . and then some.”

It should be an encouragement to you to know that nobody is immune to problems. “Even the lion,” says Mason, “has to fight off flies.”

Expect difficulties, and don’t run from them. Instead, you should welcome them because you will find success somewhere there hidden among them. You will rarely find Lady Luck in the stories of successful people. If she does appear, it is only for an instant and then she is gone. Success can be found among obstacles and difficulties and is given to those who are brave enough to venture among them.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Don’t allow your problems to fester

Don’t allow your problems to fester

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Friday, November 5, 2004 10:35 PM

Counseling troubled people can be very frustrating. It is truly a lot of hard work. Those who come asking for help are usually in deep trouble. The problem has more often than not been festering for quite a while. People rarely come for counseling when the problem first surfaces and is more easily addressed. Ordinarily, they will see the counselor only as a last resort after having waited too long and tried all other options.

The counselor is now faced with a severe situation that is spinning out of control. Most often, the problem is about interpersonal relationships. The lines of communication between the spouses or lovers are perhaps severely damaged. The bridge between them is in a sad state of disrepair. Unresolved conflict has taken its toll. The hurt is deep and extensive. And a cold chill has settled over the relationship.

Maybe the couple is already at war and the sniping goes on even in the presence of the counselor.

Sometimes both parties come in together. More often than not, one has to drag the other in against his will. And many times, the counselor has to make do with only one party as the other refuses to cooperate.

When a love relationship is on the rocks, what is usually happening is that one party wants out while the other is trying to block the exit. Almost always it is the blocker who seeks help in “saving” the relationship that the other party isn’t nearly as interested in rescuing.

A very major problem is the death of love. When love dies or is almost completely drained from the heart of one spouse or lover, there is, most often, little desire to reenergize the relationship. The one who owns the dying love is thinking of ways to, at best, coexist in the relationship, or, at worst, he is searching for ways of ending it.

This is why he shows little enthusiasm for any real effort that it would take to reverse the situation. He might prefer to just let death set in and get it over with.

For these and any number of other reasons, the best advice of the counselor often falls on deaf ears. The one who needs it most is hearing, but isn’t truly listening. Many times, he sits through the process for formality’s sake or to assuage his conscience and in order to tell everyone when it’s over that he gave it his best shot.

Motivating people to change their thinking or behavior is difficult even under the best of circumstances. Doing so when one party wants no part of it is virtually impossible.

Why am I telling you all this? For one simple reason. Move quickly when the problem surfaces. Seek help as a first option rather than waiting for last minute. Be proactive rather than reactive. Your chances of success will be much greater.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The will to succeed

The will to succeed

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Thursday, November 4, 2004 11:46 PM

I often meet people who tell me they can’t stop smoking. I have to smile because I know they can if only they want it enough. To put the point across, I ask them if they would stop if a sniper was committed to shooting them down the next time they light up. Every single person assures me that under these circumstances, they surely would never light up again.

When it is a matter of life and death, it is amazing what we can do. When the stakes are high and we are shoved against the wall and our options are drastically reduced, we surprise ourselves with the stamina and the determination that seems to rise up from our inner selves.

Edgar Roberts had some inspiring words for those of us who doubt our ability to do the difficult. “Every human mind is a great slumbering power until awakened by a keen desire and definite resolution to do.”

When I see little kids, I can’t help but think about what they will become when they grow up. Will this one become a general, or a successful lawyer? Will that one make a significant mark on our society? You never know if the child facing you has the mark of destiny etched on his forehead.

One thing is sure, the kids of today will lead the world tomorrow. The path they choose will determine their future happiness and success. We need to train our children to be bold and courageous. We need to teach them to commit to little things, small projects that we know they can handle and will raise their self-esteem.

Success can become a habit if it is repeated often enough. Kids get that inner confidence that they can win when they succeed at little things.

Failure can also become a habit. It can kill initiative early on in life if it happens too often.

The way to avoid failure is to instill in our young ones a fighting spirit, a will to succeed that urges them on even when things are going against them. We must teach them persistence in the midst of hardship, because persistence can pull success out of impending defeat. Persistence can win when the odds are stacked against you.

Persistence can overcome the lack of talent. It is the stuff of which victorious underdogs are made.

David Ambrose said it well: “If you have the will to win, you have achieved half your success; if you don’t, you have achieved half your failure.”

When you make a strong commitment to succeed, all kinds of good things happen to help you along. People who might hesitate to help you get convinced by your steely determination. You make believers of them and they will help you along. Your commitment will create opportunities that will surprise you and urge you to do even more.


If you have problems about drugs, alcohol and behavior/attitude call my office at 8206107 or 8251771 or, e-mail me at gvcbuenca@vasia.com or write me at P.O. Box 2099 MCPO, Makati City

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Dealing with pent-up anger

Dealing with pent-up anger

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, November 3, 2004 9:11 PM

Hi, Bob: How do you handle arguments, Bob? Honestly, I’m really not good at it, especially with people who are oppressive, using their powers and authority to intimidate others. That’s why I would rather write to a person than talk to him in person to avoid confrontation.

I grew up in a family where we were not allowed to talk (or answer back, as some old-fashioned people say) to explain our side. We were always told that whatever we hear, however hurtful, we should accept it and never talk back. I grew up questioning that rule, Bob. I never understood why such a rule exists in the family.

That’s why as I grew up, I learned to fight to let people know how I feel and what I want to say. I even do that now to my family. To tell you honestly, I hate speaking my mind because if I do, almost always it ends up with an argument or misunderstanding. I’m not disrespectful of the olds, of authority and even of my parents, but since I grew up suppressing my feelings so as not to disrespect anybody, I think, I grew up disrespectful.

There are many instances when I lost my temper. I don’t call people names or hit anybody, Bob, but my problem is I cannot control my voice, and my anger really shows in my face. Although I want to speak in a lower voice in any argument, I always fail. I cannot control my voice. I do shout and this I want to avoid. I was told before by a very good person that he knows how I care for people, he admires my way of fighting for anyone’s rights, but what I should be aware of is the person I’m dealing with. I should change my approach. I accept all these, Bob.

Sometimes, I forget that I’m talking to my father or to a person in authority. I forget all about that. When I argue, what I only see is that this person doesn’t listen and he or she wants me to just stop talking. My father sees women as weak and not intelligent enough to deal with him. He tells me in sarcasm that I am very intelligent and will not listen to him at all.

I want you to tell me how to argue without putting myself in a bad light. How will I control myself and my voice if someone tells me to stop? How will I accept it when the one I’m arguing with is using emotional blackmail to make me stop? How, Bob? Please help me.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

More power! —M.A.

* * *

Your request isn’t of the usual kind. This is why it is quite interesting.

I’m not sure you need to learn how to argue in a more quiet, measured tone of voice. It seems to me that your problem is more of anger and unresolved issues that date back to your childhood.

It’s quite obvious to me that you have lots of anger toward your dad who “sees women as weak and not intelligent enough to deal with.”

Who constantly uses sarcasm to put down and ignore people.

It seems that you have a long history of frustrations and unresolved issues with your dad. No doubt in my mind that your being in a perpetual fighting mood stems from these frustrations and putdowns. Some kids in similar situations grow quiet and submissive. They keep their anger to themselves, bite their lip, and grin and bear it.Others, like you, cannot fight back. They become overly aggressive equally with friend and foe. It’s all about pent-up anger that is overflowing into their relationships. You may also have a negative view of men who don’t listen very carefully and perhaps of men in general because of the strong impact your father had and still has on you.

You may be a victim of some glaring injustices and favoritism in the family. Years of frustrations in dealings with this situation have resulted in hair-trigger responses to people in general.

In short, you’re so full of unresolved anger about so many issues that it spills out at a moment’s notice. Your hostility is aimed at dad even when you fight with others. Your angry tone is a product of never being able to get your point across in your family. Your friends even become victims of your anger toward your dad.

I can’t be sure of all this because a lot more time would be needed to sort things out. Still, I think you should spend time looking into the causes of your anger before learning how to manage it.

Why not write me more about this so that I can confirm and pursue this angle. Tell me more about it. I’ll wait for it. Till then, remind yourself that your friends are not your dad. Always keep in mind that most likely your angry disposition comes from past family hurt.

Keep yourself from firing shots at others when the verbal bullets might be meant for your dad.

Lastly, don’t take everything so seriously. Learn to simply ignore crazy statements from irresponsible persons. You’re no longer a kid who has to take it. You can and should just walk away and stay out of useless fights and arguments. This is for your own sanity.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The choice: marry her or leave her

The choice: marry her or leave her

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Tuesday, November 2, 2004 10:33 PM

Dear Bob: I’ve been wanting to write you about my problem regarding my sister, but it is only now that I found the courage to do so.

You see, we are a close-knit family. All my life, I’ve regarded my family as my stronghold, my refuge. But lately I have been experiencing what I consider as one of the most trying times in my life. Apart from a recent major misunderstanding within the family, I have been thinking about my sister.

She used to work in a parish as a secretary or assistant to the parish priest. It was in that parish office that she developed a relationship with a priest, the former parish priest assistant. Our family is close to church workers, particularly priests. My mom, who is a catechist, would invite priests and nuns to our house for merienda or for dinner, anytime, actually.

My family regarded this priest as a close friend but little did we know that he and my sister had been “extra close” to each other. I think that from friendship, their relationship blossomed into something romantic.

Raised as a Catholic, I know that the Church has not yet allowed marriage for priests. But more importantly, I am concerned about our community’s reaction if people would know about it. Currently, the priest is based in the US. He briefly visited the Philippines two months ago and because of anger and hate, I did not care to see him.

I hate him for betraying the trust and friendship my family has given him. We treated him as a dear friend, but he somehow led my sister into that relationship. But, yeah, my sister was part if it, too, of course.

How will I deal with this?

Thank you so much.

Name withheld as requested

* * *
Let’s not make any excuses for the priest. Sure, “he’s only human as they say,” but, still, he should have known better. It isn’t easy to live the vows and if he cannot live them, he should leave the priesthood. He can’t have it both ways.

I don’t blame your sister one bit, even if the relationship is consensual. The priest is in a position of authority. He could feel himself being drawn to her and it was his responsibility to pull back. We are quick to blame the woman and accuse her of seducing the priest. I doubt it. Chances are the priest seduced your sister.

If he has a solid spirituality and a strong prayer life, this wouldn’t have happened. Somehow, he got sidetracked.

What to do? You can tell your sister that if they are both serious about each other, then she should ask him to leave the priesthood and marry her. He can get a dispensation from his vows from Rome and marry her in the Church. But if he won’t leave, this affair has no future for your sister. Priests who get into affairs often will want to simply play and don’t truly love the woman. If they do, it isn’t enough to give up the priesthood. Many want to stay in for all the wrong reasons (comfort, finances, power and prestige) and simply go on and on while the woman keeps hoping she can lead a normal life. She can’t.

If your sister is involved sexually, she needs to pull back and tell him to make up his mind about her. Either he leaves the priesthood or leaves her. If he cannot decide, she should walk away before she gets hurt some more.

He’s in the States now. Chances are the relationship is over and your sister is left behind, badly wounded and shaken. She needs your understanding and acceptance. She was most likely victimized and manipulated by a priest who never intended to take her seriously.

Sit with her and love her. No use blaming her. If she’s willing, she needs therapy to deal with this trauma (breaking up with a priest after an affair is surely very traumatic).

This, assuming that the affair is over. If it’s still ongoing, then, do they have plans to marry? If not, you should do all in your power to convince her to leave him. Write me again if you like.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Living example remains the most effective sermon

Living example remains the most effective sermon

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Tuesday, November 2, 2004 12:00 AM

Dear Bob: I would just like to add to your article (since you were looking for possible answers to this “moral quagmire” that we are in) that it would seem the changes that we are looking for, or, better yet, the Catholic coherence we are so in need of, are really in the hands—the mind, the heart and the will—of each and every one of us and not just in those people, i.e., church clergy and hierarchy, whom you have cited in the article.

Each one of us, as free individuals, should struggle (with the grace of God through the sacraments and prayer) to live according to our Catholic identity. I think that the Church, in so far as she is able to reach the millions of us, has not been idle in the effort to educate us in Catholic doctrine, form us with her constant admonitions with regard to our moral life and administer the sacraments for our sanctification. But it is still up to each one to respond to what we receive by being disposed to be formed, to live a true life of piety, to frequent the sacraments and to really struggle in the midst of the ordinary and day-to-day circumstances we find ourselves in.

I find that to always point the finger at some other person is very convenient but I have to examine myself first. I find my own weaknesses and lack of effort to be a coherent Catholic and if I try to improve myself first, then that’s one small effort to improve society, is it not? And that is not even the first intention (improvement of society). The first and best intention would always be to do what is asked of us Catholics because God asks, because through this we are able to repay His love.

I think we each have to be personally responsible for our Christian vocation to reach God and to help others reach Him, too. I know you, with your effort to raise the consciousness of those concerned, are doing a big part. Please include the invitation to all the Catholic faithful to also do theirs.

Thank you and more power.



You are absolutely correct, Loreen, in every word you have written. If only we would do as you say, our country would quickly become the best that it could be.

It’s clear that you are one of those who are living what they preach. We need more like you. Sadly, however, that is not the case, as can be seen by mere observing what’s happening around us.

The truth is that we have become complacent and mediocre. We have become too comfortable with the evil that surrounds us. We mind our own business, but don’t care enough to take action to bring about substantive changes that need to be done.

I surely don’t mean to make excuses for each one of us, followers of Christ, but just the same, the corruption we see, feel and that touches us every day cannot be ignored if we are to be true soldiers of Christ.

I still believe that we need stronger leadership on the part of our churchmen. I am not attacking the Church that I so dearly love. No! I am, however, reminding in the strongest terms those religious leaders who are tasked to show the way. We are a reflection of them. Sure they are doing much, but the times call for much more.More must be done. The call to holiness cannot be heard very well nowadays. It isn’t enough to talk about it. The most effective sermon is the living example. Yes, we have wonderful, hard-working and holy priests, but they are too few. We need more, many more.

I continue to maintain that our priests are in great need of deep and effective renewal. The standards of the priesthood have fallen. We need to raise the bar.

Monday, November 01, 2004

‘Decisionitis’ can hurt you

‘Decisionitis’ can hurt you

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Monday, November 1, 2004 12:25 AM

Many of us have some pretty good ideas that never materialize because we cannot make up our minds to move forward and take that first step. There is an old saying that reads, “The hardest step in a long journey is the first.” The reason for this is that what motivates a person to take that first step is commitment. And commitment is a decision.

Many of us have a disease that is called “decisionitis.” This sickness of character is a kind of paralysis that prevents a person from deciding on matters of importance.

Indecisiveness (“decisionitis”) is perhaps the primary cause of unrealized potential. All of us, without exception, can do more than what we are now doing. We can be better than what we are. There is potential in all of us that lies unactualized, unrealized and quiet. It is waiting for a decision to move forward for it to spring into action. All it needs is a decision to start the process.

For those who have a severe case of “decisionitis,” that hidden talent will most likely sit immobile for perhaps a lifetime.

If you can honestly and sincerely read these lines and then tell yourself that you have done all that you can do to become better than you are, then rest quietly. Stay at peace. God is satisfied with you because you have used well the talents He has given you.

If, however, you know deep in your heart that you can do more for yourself, then understand that what is keeping you from more success, happiness and satisfaction is fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of being criticized and perhaps laughed at. Fear of this and fear of that. A dozen fears, or perhaps even two dozens.

It’s all about fear. What’s sad is that most of your fears are irrational. They make very little sense. This is so when friends and family can see your talent and urge you to shake off your “decisionitis” and commit yourself to action, to taking that first step that will give birth to a new initiative.

You’re not lazy. That isn’t the reason for your “decisionitis.” If you knew for sure that you would succeed, you would start moving before you finish reading this sentence. You would be off and running because we all crave for success, happiness and a better life.

We are immobilized by decisionitis because we doubt we can succeed. We fear failure and its consequences. And so “decisionitis” sets in and we can’t move. We can’t commit to an action that will bring out the best in us.

If there is something you feel you want to do; anything that will make you better than you are; something that you have been dreaming of doing, take courage and make that first step. Then watch the magic of the first step in a long journey start working.