Government should not force Catholics to observe Muslim and Iglesia ni Cristo holidays

Today is the Feast of the Birth of Our Lady, but here in Ateneo de Manila University we are having classes. The reason is because there are already too many class hours missed because of government imposed holidays:

MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared September 7 and 21 as non-working holidays, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said Friday night. Arroyo declared Monday next week a national day of mourning for Iglesia ni Cristo Executive Minister Eraño “Ka Erdy” Manalo, who will be buried that day, Remonde said. “All flags will be flown at half-mast,” he said in a text message to reporters.

On September 21, the Muslim Filipinos will be marking Eid’l Fitr, or the end of holy month of fasting, Ramadan, according to Remonde.(Philippine Daily Inquirer)

I think it is time to put some quantifiable measures on determining whether a day should be a national holiday or not.  I shall propose the following two parameters:

  1. The number of those celebrating the holy day is 50 percent or greater of the national population
  2. Those celebrating the holy day must leave their work/school offices.

I propose that these two parameters must hold in order for the Government to make a reasonable declaration of a holy day as a holiday.

Catholics in the Philippines comprise about 80 % of the national population.  Members of Iglesia ni Cristo are 2.3 % and Muslims are 5%.  So the only possible national holidays in the Philippines are those of Catholics.  Some may call this unfair.  But look at it this way: if Muslims or INC leave their work to celebrate their holy days, the Philippine government can still function. But if Catholics leave their work to celebrate their holy days, the Philippine government grinds to a halt. So the government has no choice but to declare a holiday.

Rules 1 and 2 are applicable to any country.  For countries with Muslim majority like Indonesia or Saudi Arabia, the government should not declare Catholic holy days as holidays but only those of Muslims. For countries with Orthodox majority like Russia, the government should not declare Catholic holy days as holidays but only those of Orthodox, e.g. Catholics and Orthodox Christians does not celebrate Easter at the same day because Catholics use the Gregorian Calendar while the Orthodox use the Julian Calendar.  (The INC is still a minority in any country.)  Otherwise, if we try to accommodate all holy days of minority religions in a country or city as legal holidays, it would arrive at a point where most days of the year are holidays. This is not good for business or for education.

Christmas, Holy Week, and All Saints Day are legitimate Philippine holidays by force of tradition after centuries of Spanish Colonial Government.  By tradition, each person goes to his or her family during these days, even if the person works in Manila and his or her family is in the province.  Today, September 8, the Birthday of Our Lady, there is no tradition of leaving work during this day, so the government may not declare it as a holiday, though all Catholic schools may call it a holiday.

So what should be a reasonable government position regarding holy days of Muslims and Iglesia ni Cristo.  Adherents to these religions may be allowed to celebrate their holy days with work pay; if they choose to work during their holy days, they will be given double their work pay for that day, which is the standard rule for Philippine holidays.  But in no way must the government impose these holy days as holidays for the pre-dominantly Catholic Philippines.  This is simply not just.  If the NEDA (National Economic Development Authority) revoked the Sep 7 and 21 holidays for BPO and Electronics sectors for economic reasons, then why can not the government revoke these holidays also for the Catholic sector for religious reasons?

Catholic institutions, like the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University, will have added number of holidays: secular holidays and Catholic Feast days.  If the government imposes additional holidays which are properly celebrated by other religions, the first reaction by Catholic institutions is to scale down the number of their own holidays.  Thus, for example, today, the Birthday of Our Lady, should be a school-wide holiday and no classes should be made during this day, like all Catholic schools in the Philippines.  But because of these new holidays, we have to make Sep 8 a working holiday.

I think Mama Mary is very sad.  What do we call the Ateneo Basketball Team?  It is the Hail Mary Squad.  What is Ateneo Alma Mater Song?  The Song for Mary:

We stand on a hill between the earth and sky.
Now all is still where Loyola’s colors fly.
Our course is run and the setting sun ends Ateneo’s day.
Eyes are dry at the last goodbye; this is the Ateneo way.

Mary for you! For your white and blue!
We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, constantly true!
We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, faithful to you!

Down from the hill, down to the world go I;
rememb’ring still, how the bright Blue Eagles fly.
Through joys and tears, through the laughing years,
we sing our battle song:
Win or lose, it’s the school we choose;
this is the place where we belong!

Mary for you! For your white and blue!
We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, constantly true!
We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, faithful to you!

This is very sad.  This is very, very sad.