22 October 2010

Book Review: God Loves Bakla

Raymond Alikpala is an attorney working for the United Nations in Cambodia. God Loves Bakla is an autobiographical treatment of his struggles growing gay in the Philippines.

I would like to start this review by saying that, in fact, I rarely read autobiographies and especially ones written by our countrymen. Most autobiographies are written by retired politicians who are still trapped in the self-aggrandizing nature of popular politics. I definitely think that this book is an excellent read and would be really helpful to young Filipino men who are struggling with their sexuality. I won't go into too many details about the book or my criticisms of the narrative style because I find something much more interesting about the book and the story that will require us to really just wait and see.

First and foremost, Alikpala is a heretic. That is, he holds religious beliefs that are in conflict with the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the most dangerous type of heretic, naturally, because, by and by, he does not reject most of the dogma of the Church and he has found a way to coordinate the rejected parts with the accepted parts of Church dogma. This sets up the possibility that this book, may one day, become a hagiography. If the Church can use Alikpala and what he represents to renew itself internally, he may be on the path to sainthood. But, although Alikpala believes the Church makes historical mistakes and its views on sexuality are in that category, I think Alikpala actually advocates something more radical and in directly challenges the way in which the Church and religion itself interface in our lives.

Naturally, Alikpala discusses the role of the Holy Spirit in his life and from his descriptions of life's events it seems to be genuine. Taking a short stroll down Church history, it was the spiritual movements focused on the Holy Spirit that were most violently suppressed by the Church. The Free Spirit heresies are a good example of this.

Ultimately all collective religious attitudes are first founded on a numinous encounter with the Self. It is from this encounter that an image of the Self appears and the process of crystallization occurs. This happens to every religion -- including Buddhism. It is in this process that the numinosity dissipates. For most people, though, there is no problem. Most people are not called to have a direct, individual connection with the numinous. In our own cultural history, that was the job of the headman or ruler of a community.

Yet, because of the crystallization, the image begins to decline even for the masses and that is when renewal and transformation must occur. The Holy Spirit movements 1000 years ago are one example. Tantric developments of Indian Buddhism are another. St. Francis is another example. And now, after God Loves Bakla, we have to ask ourselves, whether Alikpala is not pointing to something bubbling up that even he himself is not consciously aware of.

It is this subversion that makes Alikpala's book so powerful and the contours of his individual struggle are worthy of reflection for those with their own struggles. However, if this will spark the kind of renewal that we need, we will have learn more about Albert and the images and feelings associated with him in more detail. It is this angel in which the Spirit spoke as Alikpala points out. Gomer was a central figure to Hosea and God's plan for Hosea and Israel. But we need to know more about Albert.

The version I read was a 274 paperback published by Central Books (2010) ISBN: 9789710111183. The book is written in English. I purchased my copy from Central Books, Mega Mall.

1 comment:

  1. "Most autobiographies are written by retired politicians who are still trapped in the self-aggrandizing nature of popular politics"

    cannot agree more. actually, i don't like reading autobiographies at all. i feel like it's a major excuse to peacock for the rest of your book's existence. idk

    and finally, a book i can buy here! haha