Uncertainty

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May I veer away from law and write on another subject close to my heart.

I consider myself fortunate having been able to study anthropology in college. I graduated with the degree Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences major in Anthropology and Political Science from the University of the Philippines Baguio. When I enrolled, I only wanted to major in political science because I was made to believe that it is a good pre-law course. The University however, was offering double major so I had to pick another course. I know nothing about anthropology but I chose it because all the other courses were full. I never expected to love the course but I eventually fell madly in love with it. The course opened my mind by accounting for unexplained or mysterious practices observed or performed by different culture groups or communities. As student anthropologists, we were so proud to claim that our course is the mother of all social sciences. The studies conducted by Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Franz Boas, Bronislaw Malinowski, and others introduced me to a holistic approach when it comes to studying or analyzing societies, practices, institutions, and even individuals. We were taught not to let our biases interfere with our study or analysis. One of my favorite subjects or topics is religion so much so that my thesis was on the relationship of the traditional with the modern religion and medicine among the Ibaloi. Being a religious person, it was not an easy subject to study but I encountered studies that explain why religion is universal and why they have such form or structure.

Does it surprise us that in this time of Covid-19 we have become more prayerful? When the killer earthquake struck Luzon in 1990, people bent their knees in prayer. When undertaking a difficult task or embark on a dangerous journey, prayer becomes a must. Anthropological studies suggest that the reason for this is our need to cope with uncertainty. In agricultural societies, their belief system or religion are most likely aimed at preventing typhoons or pestilence, and ensuring a bountiful harvest. These are clearly beyond their control and they need to be assured through the exercise of religious rituals. It was observed among traditional societies that whenever the activity they engage in involves much risk or uncertainty, it was always accompanied by rituals or prayers. Among the Pacific islanders who are sea farers, prayers and rituals are always performed when they go out to the open sea.

It is as if the opposite is also true. As we become more confident as a society, religion or faith has become less important also. For instance, as agriculture becomes modernized, the rituals performed to ensure good harvest have turned obsolete. As if God and religion are now more and more insignificant in our society because we are more confident by reason of science, technology, and the availability of information. We are now able to explain or account for much of the things that were mysterious or unknown. Now that we are in the middle of this global health crisis and our technology cannot yet produce a cure, we necessarily turn to religion and God for assurance. This is not a criticism on our behavior, but this response is part of the mechanism of our culture or society as it responds to this upheaval. Our societies and the world order will have to change hopefully for the better.

I join all of you in praying for the fast recovery of those infected by the Covid-19 virus and for those who died, that they may find rest in the arms of God and strength and good health for all who are working to combat this dreaded disease. WE SHALL OVERCOME!

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