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The crusade continues

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AQUI en la Pampanga hay mucha piedad pero poca caridad.

It has been sixty-seven years since that lamentation over the “wealth in piety but poverty in charity” expressed by Bishop Cesar Ma. Guerrero, the first to occupy the bishopric of San Fernando, noting “the stark class differences between the rich and the poor, the strife between the landlords and the tenants, and a deteriorating socio-political-economic situation bordering on socialism.”

These were manifest situations of the imperative of revolution in his See. And a revolution did indeed obtain then in Pampanga, with the Huks already “at the very gates of Manila.”

Marked as apostates pursuing the establishment of a “godless” society, the Huks naturally had to be stopped, and their ideology uprooted to “save the country and preserve Mother Church.” A strategic policy of the Cold War placed the Church at the bulwark of the war against communism.

It was at the very cauldron of that simmering social ferment that Bishop Guerrero organized the Cruzada – the Crusade for Penance and Charity – in 1952.

In revolutionary praxis, the Cruzada served the ends of a counter-revolution. The conscientization of the oppressed masa that was the spark to start the inevitable prairie fire, doused by the sprinkle of holy water, the heart soothed by hymns and prayers, the soul seared with the promise of redemption, of eternal bliss in the hereafter. So long as the hardest of toils, the worst of privations, indeed, all injustices and oppression be borne as Christ did with His cross.

Unrepentant communists would readily see it as the affirmation of that Marxist dictum: “Religion is the opium of the people.”

Images of the Virgen de los Remedios and Santo Cristo del Perdon were taken all around the Pampanga parish churches and capillas where they stayed for days, the faithful seeking their intercession and intervention through nonstop prayers and nightly processions.

A hymn to the virgin was composed with peace as recurrent refrain: “…ica’ng minye tula ampon capayapan / quing indu ning balen quequeng lalawigan / uling calimbun mu caring sablang dalan / ding barrio at puruc caring cabalenan / agad menatili ing catahimican…” (…you gave us joy and peace / to the mother of our province / when taken in procession / in all the barrios in the towns / peace descended upon them…) Forgive the poor translation.

The charity end of the crusade – lamac – was institutionalized – all the barrio folk, even the poorest of them, contributed some goods that would accompany the images to their next destination and shared with the neediest there.

The Cruzada in effect became an equalizing and unifying factor among the faithful, regardless of their socio-economic situation. And relative peace did come to the province. For a time.

The breadth and depth of the devotion to the Virgen de los Remedios of the Capampangan moved Pope Pius XII to approve her canonical coronation as the patroness of Pampanga on September 8, 1956.

Since then, without fail, no matter the rains and high water, the Capampangan faithful flock to the annual commemoration of the canonical coronation. In a ritual of renewal of faith in their Lord of Pardon, of rededication to their Indu ning Capaldanan (Mother of Remedies), in celebration of their Tula ding Capampangan (Joy of the Capampangan).

Sixty-seven years hence, that “deteriorating socio-political-economic situation bordering on socialism” may have been arrested – the communist insurgency virtually as dead as Marx and Mao, if not deader. (Just a week or so back, the purveyors of the dictatorship of the proletariat declared by the provincial government as persona non grata in Pampanga.)

“The stark class differences between the rich and the poor, the strife between the landlords and the tenants,” though still obtain. In various manifestations, in the farms and factories, in the mills and in the malls – as much the wages of sin, as the sin of capitalism – from workers’ exploitation to farmland-grabbing, from contractualization to union-busting.

So, did the good Bishop Guerrero’s Cruzada of peace through charity and prayers fail?

So, we do still come in prayerful celebration every Sept. 8, in thanksgiving, in supplication.

O Virgen de los Remedios / damdam ca qng quequeng aus / iligtas mu que’t icabus / qng sablang tucsu at maroc / ibie mu ing quecang lunos / ‘panalangin mu que qng Dios. (O Virgin…/ hear our pleas / free and save us / from all temptation and evil / grant us your compassion / pray to God for us).

The Cruzada can only continue.

(Updated piece on Pampanga’s patroness, the Virgen de los Remedios, first published in Pampanga News, July 6-12, 2006)

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