MOTHER Mary is always with us in the battle against our own “Egypt,” Fr. Virgilio Ojoy, O.P., former vice rector of UST, said in his homily during the celebration of the Feast of La Naval de Manila last Oct. 13 at the Santo Domingo Church.

Reflecting on the theme “Maria, Pagninilay at Pagpapahayag ng Magandang Balita,” Ojoy honored the Blessed Virgin for standing behind Filipinos in their struggles.

Egypt was described as a symbol of cruelty, greed, fear, and power in salvation history, which saw the Israelites enslaved by the Egyptians.

“Lahat tayo ay nakakaranas na mamuhay sa Ehipto. Ehiptong maituturing ang paggasta ng pera ng lipunan na para sana ay sa mga magsasaka. Ehiptong maituturing ang pagkakalubog ng ating bansa dahil sa pork barrel kung saan ang mga mambabatas ay sangkot sa hindi wastong paggamit ng pera,” Ojoy said.

Ojoy said the Blessed Mother had lifted the faithful from their own Egypt — injustice in the country — to a community built with God’s love and grace. “Pinagbuklod ni Maria ang ating Simbahan at bansa mula sa karahasan at panlilinlang sa isa't isa, patungo sa isang komunidad laban sa kasamaan,” Ojoy said.

Processions are not just the faithful’s gathering, but a representation of the Church’s journey and pilgrimage, said Fr. Filemon de la Cruz, O.P., vice rector for Religious Affairs.

“It is a visible profession of faith and a ritual. Underlying the rituals are the deepest values of our faith and relationship with God,” De la Cruz said.

Beltran said the Filipinos’ devotion to Mary was not a product of bandwagon mentality, but an expression of faith.

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Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P., former rector of UST, explained the Filipinos’ attachment to the Virgin Mary.

“Our Pope said the ‘fastest way to get in touch with the son is through the Mother.’ Filipinos don’t actually adore Mary. Filipinos recognize her as the fastest way to get closer to Jesus,” De la Rosa said.

Beltran emphasized that the gathering of Marian devotees for the La Naval festivities was in commemoration of the stunning victory of the Philippines against Dutch invaders in 1646.

Filipinos and Spaniards sought the aid of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in the five famous naval battles against the Dutch invaders, with a vow that all the defenders would walk barefoot in procession towards her shrine in the old Santo Domingo Church in Intramuros.

The Philippines, equipped with only two galleons, faced 15 Dutch ships and won the battles miraculously.

Marty's week

Meanwhile, Fr. Fausto Tentorio, a slain Italian missionary who fought for the human rights of the Lumads in Mindanao was hailed as a "modern-day martyr" in the annual UST Martyr's Week at the Faculty of Sacred Theology last September.

The well-loved priest of the congregation of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) dedicated his life to the indigenous people, fighting for their ancestral lands. Tentorio, 59, was killed by a gunman on Oct.17, 2011 at the compound of the Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in North Cotabato. He suffered from 10 gunshot wounds.

Tentorio succeeded in developing the physical and moral state of the tribal people through Church activities. He led medical missions and provided free education, producing 3,000 scholars in 18 schools.

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Two years following his death, Tentorio’s legacy continues through the “Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio Foundation, Inc.,” which aims to pursue justice for other victims of extrajudicial killings and to continue his educational, economic, and livelihood projects for the tribal people.

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