HOMECOMING.

‘JUN, YOU ARE HOME.’

These were the words printed on huge tarpaulin streamers around the UST campus when Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, the whistle blower in the national broadband network corruption controversy, arrived in his alma mater to attend the Mass for Truth at the Santissimo Rosario Parish Church (UST Chapel) last May 2.

Showing their support for their former student, UST Dominican priests led by Acting Rector Fr. Rolando De la Rosa, O.P. concelebrated the colorful 10 a.m. mass that was attended by some 1,500 people from all walks of life— students, educators, professionals, parishioners, and the religious.

“Today we are ‘UST’ — United in the Search for Truth,” Father de la Rosa said as he opened the Mass to thunderous applause.

As if to emphasize that the Dominicans were behind Lozada, the Rector said concelebrating with him were Dominican priests from China and Vietnam.

He added that concelebrating with him was “the oldest Filipino Dominican priest from Catanduanes,” a Bicolano like Lozada.

It was a sentimental homecoming of sorts for Lozada and his wife, Violet, who attended the Mass in one corner of the church with her three children, two of them twins.

Lozada and Violet are alumni of UST: he graduated with a B.S. Electronics and Communication Engineering degree from the UST Faculty of Engineering in 1984 while she graduated with a B.S. Chemistry degree from the College of Science in 1985.

During his remarks after the Mass, Lozada reminisced his UST days.

“It was in the UST Hospital where I was first confined,” Lozada said in Filipino. “This is the church where I used to attend Mass with my wife. I pretended I was pious so I could impress her.”

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“This is the church where we were married,” he added. “We were married by Fr. (Butch) Bombase.”

The mass seemingly resembled an alumni homecoming because of the presence of many prominent UST alumni.

Father De la Rosa in fact acknowledged the presence of such alumni as former president Corazon Aquino (bestowed an honorary doctorate by UST in 1987), Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim (who went to UST High School), former senator Victor Ziga, and Adamson University president Fr. Gregorio Bañaga, CM.

Other prominent UST alumni present were architect Felino Palafox and Philippine Normal University president and former Eastern Visayas governor and Senate secretary Lutgardo Barbo.

The Rector also acknowledged the presence of former congressman and education secretary Florencio Abad, former social welfare secretary Dinky Soliman, former anti-poverty commissioner Teresita Deles, and De la Salle University president Brother Armin Luistro, F.S.C.

He also thanked delegations from other Catholic schools who are members, like UST, of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines.

Apparently committing a gaffe, Father de la Rosa acknowledged the presence of “the president of the Ateneo (de Manila University),” who was not around.

When he was corrected, Father Rector took a light dig at the proverbial rivals of the Dominicans.

“This is a place where Jesuits fear to tread,” he remarked.

The audience laughed.

Aquino was in her signature yellow attire and sat beside Lozada.

In her remarks after the Mass, Aquino thanked the Dominican fathers for hosting and leading the Mass for Truth.

She said she was eternally grateful to the Dominicans for allowing the use of the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City for the wake for her husband, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, after his assassination in 1983.

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“No church wanted us,” Aquino said in Filipino. “But my mother-in-law, Dona Aurora (Aquino), and I went to the Dominican fathers. And they allowed us.”

In her remarks, Aquino called for unity and perseverance as she expected the campaign for the resignation of President Macapagal-Arroyo to be long and drawn-out.

She was given a standing ovation after her speech.

Lozada agreed that the campaign might take some time.

“Samahan ninyo na lang ako hanggang matapos ito,” he told the audience, who also gave him a standing ovation.

As if to relieve the spirit of the first People Power, the crowd sang “Bayan Ko” twice with their arms raised.

Before the Mass ended, a second collection was passed for the “sanctuary fund” for Lozada and his family.

Lozada and his family and other guests were afterward treated to lunch at the UST Central Seminary Rector’s Hall.

While the Lozada truth campaign’s official color was green, many of those who went to the March 2 Mass were in yellow, the color of the Church and also of UST.

Some wore black and yellow arm-bands with the words, “Moderate Your Greed,” printed on them, referring to former National Economic Development Authority Romulo Neri’s request for Lozada to see to it that those seeking kickbacks in the broadband deal “moderate their greed.”

Since the chapel only has a 900-seating capacity, the mass organizers placed tents and hundreds of mono-block chairs outside to accommodate the overflow crowd.

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