For the Love of God or the Love of Man

 “Would you change your religious beliefs to marry the person that you love? Why or why not?”

“If I had to change my religious beliefs, I would not marry the person that I love because the first person I love is God, who created me. I have my faith and my principles, and this is what makes me who I am. And if that person loves me, he should love my God, too.” —Shamcey Supsup, Third Runner up in Miss Universe 2011

I really am proud of Shamcey Supsup. I think no one could equal her compared to all Filipina beauty queens I know. She’s indeed a very beautiful person. Her features are perfect yet very Filipina. She glows with her sun-kissed skin and her smile is so warm and mesmerizing. She is also gifted with a perfect body yet no man could ever dare whistle at her as they would all sigh, awing at her loveliness. Such grace and poise of hers deserve much respect that just by walking her ‘tsunami walk’ would let eyes fall upon her without saying anything.

But one must also not forget that the Philippines’ Miss Universe had also graduated valedictorian in elementary, salutatorian in high school, magna cum laude in University of the Philippines-Diliman with the course of Architecture and topped the 2009 Architecture board exam. Based on the numerous interviews with people close to her or just know her personally, she’s a very kind, religious and simple woman. Certainly, she is of beauty and brains, but she’s more than that. She is of beauty, brains AND character. I think the last trait is what makes her most inspiring and commendable. It is true that God blessed her with gorgeous features and intelligence yet without her character, she may not be as moving person as she is now.

Yet that brought us Filipinos again to the feeling of ‘panghihinayang’. Panghihinayang is a type of feeling which has no direct translation to the English language but I describe that feeling as a combination of remorse, regret and that feeling of something necessary had been wasted. Having someone as beautiful, charismatic and as intelligent as Shamcey enter into such beauty contest shall probably never again happen on my lifetime. Of course, prior to her, another UP alumna, Teresa Licaros who graduated summa cum laude in communication arts and is now a practicing lawyer. Unfortunately, she did not enter the top 15 of 2007 Miss Universe and just brought Miss Photogenic. However, with all due respect to Atty. Licaros, she does not have much charisma and mass appeal of Shamcey. Something about her aura is very unreachable or was lacking the much needed X-factor which Shamcey also possess as beauty queen. We can never know for sure.

Anyway, despite the unmatchable traits of Shamcey, she fails to bring home the crown. I literally thought I was having a nightmare when her name was called as third runner up. How could she not win when she obtained high scores in swimsuit and evening wear from the audiences (and presumably, the judges) and she answered her question quite well? I say her answer was very good because given the same question to me, I would have answered the question the same way she did. For some minutes I was in shock and was devastated.

Nevertheless, I had come to my senses now that probably, Ms. Shamcey Supsup did make a crucial mistake in her answer, at least on the last sentence, “And if that person loves me, he should love my God too.”  Briefly and candidly, it sounds kind of arrogant in another religion perspective. But let me explain why I agree with the rest of her answer.

Religion is very personal and the heart and soul of one’s being. It gives a believer a sense of hope when he sees darkness and the humility to do what is proper at all times. For my part, I wouldn’t know what exactly I’d do in this world without my belief in God. I’d probably became a psychopath and go on killing people who are causing more and more injustices to my beloved country as well as those who seem to be not contributing anything good despite they have the ability to do so weren’t it be without the teachings in the Bible and my personal relationship with God.  I am a prayerful person, yes, but definitely, I am no saint. Yet every day, I strive hard to be a better individual because I let Jesus enter into my life. He is my first love and purpose on this world and thus I’ll do anything for Him. I always offer everything to Him.

Most probably, that’s how Shamcey Supsup views God too. But not everyone would agree with us. Gandhi said that “God has no religion.” Though majority of the world believe in the Divine Being, it’s a wonder why we cannot agree on how exactly to worship him. Even people having the same sect of religion do not even understand one another. For majority of Catholics I know, self-infliction of pain and crucifixion of some of our Kapampangan brothers during the Holy Week is gruesome. I, myself, frown to that idea even though I’m a Kapampangan as Jesus already committed the extreme sacrifice to save each and every one of us.

Legally speaking, the Philippine State also protects this right. Article 3, section 5 of 1987 Constitution declares:  No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights. In addition, the Supreme Court established the Benefit Neutrality-Accommodation Doctrine in the landmark case of Estrada vs Escritor. The High Court spoke through former Chief Justice Puno says:

Under the benevolent-neutrality theory, xxx, is that freedom to carry out one’s duties to a Supreme Being is an inalienable right, not one dependent on the grace of legislature. Religious freedom is seen as a substantive right and not merely a privilege against discriminatory legislation. With religion looked upon with benevolence and not hostility, benevolent neutrality allows accommodation of religion under certain circumstances.

And one more critical thing that a Filipino should not overlook under the impending Divorce Bill is that ALL grounds of legal separation may also be grounds of divorce too if such bill pass the Congress. One of the grounds for legal separation is, “Physical violence or moral pressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political affiliation.” Interesting, yes. Though the state does not look at the difference of religion of persons to bar them for marrying each other, it does not allow one to be compelled to accept a way to worship God that he or she does not want.

Though I am kind of worried that some couples split up by using the name of God in vain as a ground to be legally separated (or worst, divorced), I understand where the framers are coming from. It is also sad seeing a married couple fight over how to worship God. I mean, God gave us all the freewill to glorify Him and yet it is ironic that people created their own rules on who worships him better. This must not be as religion was supposed to be personal. In this light, like Shamcey, I candidly admit that yes, I want the person that I love to be practicing Roman Catholic like me.  I do not look at a man again knowing that he’s not a Roman Catholic. It may seem odd for some, but I would not trade my religion for the world. Besides, religious debates always do not end. Some countries even split up because of disagreements with religion. That pieces my heart. I think that the God in all religions calls for unity but we keep on dividing ourselves because of Him. Hence, I do not want my future spouse and I fight over the most basic thing that gives us hope.

That doesn’t mean that I do not respect the non-believers of my Christian faith. I actually have a lot of friends which are Islam and non-Catholic Christians as well as atheist. I respect everyone with what they believe in. That is what lacking in our world: Respect. We may say that this word sounds overrated with beauty contests but then again, nobody quite understands and practice it. Respect is venerating and understanding the practice of right of another person and regards its importance as our own. Unfortunately, the arrogance of humankind seems bigger than his respect for others. This backward thinking must be corrected now.

Probably, Shamcey would have done better had she omitted the last sentence. However, I do not blame her or anything. Actually, I’m really proud because she shown candor and her real character in front of the world. No beating around the bush, no sweet talking and no wasted second to give her heart in answering the question given to her. With that all said, I’m truly happy for her.

But perhaps it would be better if the Miss Universe organizers must not ask that very personal question or something similar to that again. It may be the root of misunderstanding that one regards one’s religion better than the others when in fact she’s just practicing an innate right of worshipping the God she believes in.

For us Filipinos, you are our Miss Universe, Ms. Shamcey Supsup!  Forever we’ll be grateful that you made the world awe again with the beauty of Filipina. Mabuhay ka!

“My personality is the only thing I can hold on to. I won’t change for anything, even for the crown.” —Shamcey Supsup
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