Bernardo M. Villegas
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Pope Francis As Our FAMY

           In the extremely hilarious 2014 American comedy film directed by Miguel Arteta entitled “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” the dad (played by Steve Carrel) of Alexander (played by Ed Oxenbould) refers to himself as “Famy”  because his being laid off from a very high-tech job necessitated his staying home to do the household chores and take care of their fourth child, a toddler less than a year old.  “Famy” means Father and Mommy.  When I saw this Walt Disney film on a flight from Manila to Singapore the very day Pope Francis left the Philippines on January 19, 2015, I thought of what he said in Luneta.  He exhorted the millions of people listening to him to use the three languages of the mind, heart and hands—and to use them in harmony. As the Supreme Pontiff of 1.2 billion Catholics all over the world, he has to combine the tasks of the father and the mother of a family.  He is all three to us:  mind, heart and hands.  He thinks, feels and acts for all of us.  He is indeed our FAMY.

          I highly recommend the film Alexander… to Filipino families for them to enjoy, together with their children, a very entertaining and wholesome story. It was released last October 7, 2014 and became a box office success.  Its DVD and Blue-ray were scheduled for release on February 10, 2015.  It is a refreshing antidote to the “new ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family” to which the Pope referred in his Message to Families at the MOA Arena on January 17, 2015.  There is no question that the Pope was referring, among others, to the anti-life, contraceptive messages that we have been getting from the West.  He did not mince words when he said:  “I think of Blessed Paul VI in the moment of that challenge of population growth, he had the strength to defend openness to life.  He knew the difficulties families experience and that’s why in his encyclical (Humanae Vitae) he expressed compassion for specific cases and he taught professors to be particularly compassionate for particular cases.  And he went further, he looked at the people on the earth and he saw that lack (of children) and the problem it could cause families in the future.  Paul VI was courageous, a good pastor and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching.  And from the heavens he blesses us today”

          I thank Walt Disney for producing a film that highlights the virtues that can be cultivated in a large family, a message that Pope Francis has been giving in his many talks with families.  The family of Alexander is above the fertility rate of white Americans and Europeans.  There are four children (Anthony, Emily, Alexander and baby boy Trevor).  Their parents, Kelly (played by Jennifer Garner) and Ben, are middle-income professionals.  When Ben lost his job as an astronaut, Kelly had to become the family provider working as a professional writer in a book publishing company.  Showing an admirable spirit of generosity and humility, Ben took over as  “housebound” and “famy”  and started looking for a part-time job as a developer of computer games. 

     The three older children are perfectly normal:  they go through a period of selfish behaviour, only seeking their own interests and satisfaction without thinking of the good of other members of the family.  Anthony is infatuated with the campus queen; Emily wants to excel as an actress; and Alexander wants to have a wonderful birthday party.  When things go wrong for all of them (including their parents’ professional plans), they come to their senses and realize that the greatest happiness they get is from giving of themselves to others in their family.  The subliminal message of the whole plot (based on Judith Viorst’s 1972 children’s book of the same name) is that happiness in this life consists in forgetting oneself and seeking the good of others, especially those who are immediately close to you in the family and in the work place.

          As an economist, I can also observe that if middle-income families in the Philippines and all over the world will not be afraid of having more than two or three children, the scourge of the demographic winter which is at the root of the global recession happening in Europe, Japan, and many other countries all over the world can be avoided.  Pope Francis was right on when he referred to Blessed Paul VI and the encyclical Humanae Vitae as being very prophetic.  We should be very careful not to cultivate the contraceptive mentality among Filipino families if we want to retain our most valuable economic asset:  a young and growing population.  For comments, my email address is