Let's plant trees instead and take good care of them.
Dr Abe V Rotor
The Christian world loses millions and millions worth of palm trees every Palm Sunday. Coconut-based economy is the worse hit - the source of export of many products, and the foundation of people's livelihood. The coconut is the most important tree in maintaining the balance of tropical ecosystems.
Palm Sunday - the Day After
Let's join hand to save the trees
- Don't use young (bud) leaves of coconut for palaspas. You will kill the tree.
- Conserve the Oliva or the Cycads. They are living fossils, older than the dinosaurs. They are now endangered.
- Don't strip the young leaves of buri and anahaw palms. They are now in the list of threatened species.
- Get only the mature leaves - never the young leaves or bud. Get only a small leaf or part of it. Don't be wasteful.
- There's no need for each faithful to carry palaspas. One for a whole family is enough.
- Get substitute plants that are not ecologically endangered and economically threatened. (Examples: MacArthur's Palm, palmera, Areca or betel nut, bunga de Jolo, and 101 non-palm plants from bamboo to ground orchid). Use mature or older leaves - never the young leaves and buds.
- Seek advice from your community and religious leaders, and environmentalists.
Let's cite some popular religious practices, irrespective of denomination, and find out if they are favorable or not - and why.
• Retreat and reflection is therapy, helps the mind and body release tension and do away with the effects of stress.
• Abstinence conserves animal population especially during the lean months, conserving breeding stocks - like seeds (binhi) – in order to multiply in the next season.
• To some religions pork is banned. Pork is a carrier of known parasites such as tapeworm, hookworm, and ascaris.
• On Palm Sunday trees are stripped off of their buds, leaves and stems. This is detrimental to the environment especially in summer when plants face tight water regime. Millions of pesos worth of coconut trees, potential to provide nuts continuously for a period of up to 30 years, are simply sacrificed for a day's ritual. Endangered species such as the Cycad (Oliva), are pushed to the brink of extinction.
• Ancient religions regard certain places and trees sacred, thus enhancing their conservation. Such worship was replaced by later religions, thus losing their protection.
• The washing of feet is not only ritual, it is also sanitation, getting rid of germs and preventing their spread.
. Avoid dipping your fingers into the holy water bowl, and never wash your hands or face in it. Running holy water is best.
. Take communion on your palm, never with your tongue. Epidemic such as H1N1 (flu) can be spread this way.
. Holding hands in prayer is discouraged also for health and sanitation, keeping ones privacy in reverence, notwithstanding. Kissing icons is likewise discouraged for the same reason. Wiping holy objects with handkerchief will only pick up germs.
. Paying last respect to the dead should be done with extreme care, especially if the cause of death is highly contagious like anthrax, Ebola and SARS. Remember the tragic death of some religious sisters who contacted Ebola from their dead colleague?
. Don't walk on your knees to the altar; kneeling in prayer is enough. Be kind to your knee tendon and kneecap; knee injury may incapacitate you permanently. "You re not growing younger," an elder advised me. Let's learn from athletes who retired early because of knee injury.
. Removing shoes before entering a house of worship is an expression of respect and reverence, as well as for purposes of maintaining sanitation in the place. Any footwear carries dirt and germs, and may be teems with bacteria and fungi from long and intimate wear. This practice may not be as strict in Catholic churches as in Muslim mosques and Buddhist temples. Removing shoes in other places like prayer rooms, wakes, even homes, are becoming a popular practice.
. Many religious ceremonies are without the use of incense. Incense smoke and scent usually produce a pleasant and calming effect to the faithful. It is also an effective fumigant against flying and crawling insects. Its repellant effect helped keep down the spread of bubonic plague during the Middle Ages. The causal organism which killed a third of the population in the known world is carried by flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) that resides in rats. Incense comes in various preparations and offerings, candle sticks among the most common. Burning candles have similar but lesser effects. To get rid of flies around food, plant one or two burning candles to keep them at bay. Try it.
Sprinkling holy water with lotus flower before entering the Buddha Shrine. (Grand Palace, Bangkok)
Candle offering is often wasteful and dangerous. It also makes the place untidy. A lighted candle in an enclosed room reduces oxygen level while filling it with CO2 and the deadly Carbon Monoxide. (Our Lady of Manaoag Shrine, Manaoag Pangasinan.)
Proof of destruction on the altar of faith could be as evident as after a typhoon and other force majeure on the economy and environment.