Having been familiar with the socio-economic-political terrain of Ilocos Sur, I was so overwhelmed with the news of Erap former president Joseph Estrada visiting Luis “Chavit” Singson’s bailiwick that is Vigan City last Friday. His actual destinations were the towns of Paoay and Badoc Ilocos Norte. He was invited as a guest of honor at the Juan Luna day commemorative celebration, former governor and now Congressman Bongbong Marcos joined him in the event.
I had seen Chavit and Erap joining the people in the celebration of Vigan town fiestas. If not Erap it was Fernando Poe Jr., a frequent visitor of Vigan because of film making business, who joined Chavit in many of these celebrations. They were friends of the former governor of Ilocos Sur, and now the Deputy National Security Adviser.
Knowing Erap as being a “malalaki” (an Ilokano term for macho), they asked the former president if he was afraid to visit Vigan. But the former president said he had never been afraid of Chavit or any of the people who conspired against him and that his conscience was clear. Saying it in Filipino, Erap said “Ni minsan hindi ako natakot sa kanila (not once, I’ve never been afraid of them).”
As though trying to provoke him, the press asked again if he was ready to shake hands with Chavit if the latter would extend his hand to him. But Erap was quick to answer, “Anytime. I have already forgiven them all.” He further went to say, “Revenge is for the weak. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong. That is why I have forgiven them all.” But the former Ilocos Sur governor was not convinced that Joseph Estrada has forgiven him for his role in his ouster. For sure, Chavit expressed willingness to forgive the former president but still doubted on the sincerity of Erap.
This is politics; former friends turn enemies as former enemies turn friends. But on the issue of forgiveness it is something that each one of us has to practice if we are really called the children of God. This brings me to this particular text in the Bible. “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22).
Forgiveness must come from the heart, it must be sincere. God has forgiven us and we need also to forgive others. God’s grace is the model of forgiveness. “Jesus portrays the magnitude of God’s grace in terms that would have stretched his hearers’ imagination: each of us owes God more than we could ever repay.” Though we live wholly on mercy and forgiveness, we are backward to forgive the offences of our brethren.
“We do not forgive our offending brother aright, if we do not forgive from the heart. Yet this is not enough; we must seek the welfare even of those who offend us. How justly will those be condemned, who, though they bear the Christian name, persist in unmerciful treatment of their brethren! The humbled sinner relies only on free, abounding mercy, through the ransom of the death of Christ. Let us seek more and more for the renewing grace of God, to teach us to forgive others as we hope for forgiveness from him.” (From the Gateway Bible Commentaries on Matt. 18:21-22)
Ang dami nang pinaghihiwalay ng pulitika sa atin. Ipanalangin natin ang pagkakaisa at pagmamahalan sa ating bansa. Let us also pray for world peace and harmony. After all we are no different from one another being children of God whatever race, political affinity, socio-economic background, and nationality we belong.