"Awa, Unawa, Gawa"
The Filipino Experience of Mercy
“Much of the Gospel has become part of us - compassion, forgiveness, caring, piety - and makes of us a basically decent people (PCP II, 15).” We are a decent people. We are not savages or “damaged”
as some observers would say. Yes, we have many fragilities and fractures as a society. But we are basically a people soaked in the values of the Gospel. In the words of Pope Francis, we can say
that we have been “mercified” (kinaawaan / kinahabagan). We live by mercy - “sa awa ng Diyos” (through the mercy of God). We rely on His mercy - “may awa ang Diyos”
(literally: God “has” mercy). Our elders even bless us in mercy - “Kaawaan ka ng Diyos.” (May God have mercy on you).
The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is both a confirmation and an appraisal of our history and culture as a predominantly Catholic country. On the one hand, after almost five hundred years
of Christianity, we are witnesses to the never-ending mercy and compassion - “habag at malasakit” - around us. Tragedies no matter how painful have become occasions of solidarity
and sharing. Poverty no matter how heartrending has become a humbling locus of our resiliency and grit. Our faith in the merciful God (“mahabaging Diyos”) encompasses all our personal
and social life. On the other hand, our culture and society is also replete with “walang-awa” (absence of mercy) and “pasang-awa” (barely passing). In politics, corruption
and public service are almost synonymous. In terms of economy, poverty and inequality have become a way of life. In religion, God’s name is constantly invoked to sow hatred instead of brotherhood
and cooperation. Among families, migration is tagged as the best solution to domestic problems. In ecology, natural resources are constantly exploited for profit and greed. Looking at ourselves
from the lens of mercy, we cannot help but feel conflicted. We are grateful for the abundance of mercy (“umaapaw na awa”) in our midst. But we are also enraged by the unconscionable
dearth of mercy (“umaapaw na awa”)
The Third Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE III) is our attempt to explore further our appreciation of mercy, the primary attribute of God. We will journey for three days with
the disciples in the 24th Chapter of Saint Luke, which is often called the Gospel of Mercy. We will use the framework of “Awa-Unawa-Gawa” to mine the richness of God’s mercy and the
trinkets of our Filipino culture.
Awa (mercy) is not just a concept or an idea for the Filipino. It is an experience of the heart, closer to the gut and more visceral. Awa is often associated with the poor and the
victims of injustice, describing their abject condition (kawawa). But awa is also sublimely associated with our connection with Bathala (God). We commend our personal
and communal struggles to the mercy of God (sa awa ng Diyos). In the face of Mahal na Poong Nazareno, we see very deeply the mercy of the Father.
Unawa (understanding) is more than rational understanding. It is closer to empathy and internalizing the situation of the other. If awa allows us to experience mercy in the gut,
unawa enables us to enter the world of our kapwa (neighbor). Unawa is not just knowing what mercy is. It is knowing the person behind the walls of isolation and
exclusion. Gawa (action) is fascinatingly rooted in awa and expressed more specifically in kawang-gawa (charitable action). Gawa gives flesh to awa.
It gives credibility to our musings on mercy. Without gawa, our claims for mercy would be reduced to gawa-gawa lamang (mere rhetorics). Awa-unawa-gawa gives us a
three-dimensional experience and understanding of mercy.