Yes, Halloween is a Catholic event!

Did you know? Before Halloween became a creepy holiday for fans of Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and other assorted ghosts, ghouls, and goblins, it was actually a Catholic event. According to Fr. Jojo Zerrudo, parish priest at the Most Holy Redeemer Church in Quezon City and current Catechetical Director and Exorcist of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cubáo, Halloween is one of the most important feast days of the Catholic Church (see video below).

Make no mistake, Halloween is simply a modern contraction of the archaic term “All Hallows’ Eve” which simply means All Saints’ Eve since the following day is All Saints Day (in the same manner that December 24 is the eve before Christmas Day). In fact, Halloween is part of a triduum, a religious observance which lasts for three days. Halloween actually is the first day of this triduum; the second day is All Saints’ Day on November 1, followed by All Souls Day on November 2.

I will not venture on tracing how Halloween, a holy Christian feast day, ended up as a ghoulish freak show lest this blogpost turns into an encyclopedic article. You may read all about that topic here. Rather, I’ll just share to you this short video interview of Fr. Jojo that was produced by the Diocese of Cubáo’s Media and Communications Ministry and uploaded on YouTube on 4 October 2016. Here, Fr. Jojo explains how Catholic Halloween really is, its connection to All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day, and how we can reclaim it.

“Let us conquer again —for Christianity— Halloween”, says Fr. Jojo, “because it was really meant to honor all the Saints”.

In another inteview prior to the production above, Fr. Jojo said that “dressing up children as zombies, devils, and the like for Halloween gives them the impression that evil spirits are fun and friendly.” So instead of decorating your homes and offices with jack-o’-lanterns, skulls, spiderwebs, and other freakish decors, and instead of dressing up like someone who had gone super crazy after losing millions in a horrid casino game, just contemplate on the lives of Saints. Venerate them, study their biographies, emulate their holiness, and offer prayers and Masses to our dearly departed loved ones. Because this triduum belongs to them, this triduum belongs to us, not to the minions of satan. It’s high time we reclaim Halloween for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Happy Halloween!


The Holy League: the first Avengers

Our Lady of the Rosary Nuestra Señora del Rosario— holds a special place in the hearts of Filipinos of old. As connoted by the blessed title, it is connected the most to the Rosary. According to Catholic tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Dominic (Santo Domingo de Guzmán) in 1206 and gave him the world’s first rosary beads, hence the Marian title. But why is October reserved by Catholics as the Month of the Holy Rosary?

The answer lies in foreign history oceans away from ours: the Battle of Lepanto, one of the greatest naval battles in world history. It was a naval warfare waged between the Liga Sancta and the Ottoman Empire that took place off the coasts of Lepanto (now Nafpaktos in Greece) on 7 October 1571. The Battle of Lepanto was the last great battle between Christians and Muslims.

The Battle of Lepanto of 1571 full version by Juan Luna.jpg

“La Batalla de Lepanto“, oil on canvas by Juan Luna (1887).

During the late 16th century, Christendom in Europe was facing a huge threat from the formidable Ottoman Empire especially since the latter controlled maritime power in the Mediterranean Sea. They even regularly raided the coastal cities of Italy, the seat of the Papal States. So when the Ottoman Turks were set to invade Cyprus, Pope Pius V was compelled to form the Liga Sancta, or Holy League, that was composed of several Catholic maritime states, including that of our former king, Felipe II or Philip II, from whom our country was named, and his half-brother, 24-year-old John of Austria.

It was Don John of Austria who became the over-all admiral of the Holy League against the Ottoman Turks. Before the naval confrontation, he successfully formed armies from volunteers across Christian Europe while Pope Pius V rallied their spirits with the power of the Rosary. What is remarkable is that these men, about 28,500 soldiers (one of whom was a young Miguel de Cervantes, Spain’s most celebrated writer) and 40,000 sailors and oarsmen, prepared for war not only through military training but through prayer and fasting, imploring the aid of God’s grace through the intercession of the Virgin Mary.

Come battle time, the Christians found themselves heavily outnumbered: the Muslims had more than 81,000 men! Indeed, only today’s imagination could determine how fearful or courageous was the temperament of each and every soldier of Christ during that moment at sea, when Western civilization was at stake. But being outnumbered by the enemy did not deter the commanders of the beleaguered Holy League to carry on, lest they lose Europe and the rest of the world to infidels. At the frontlines of the order of battle against the Turks was a who’s who of European Christendom: Venetian nobleman Agostino Barbarigo helmed the left wing, Italian admiral Giovanni Andrea Doria commandeered the right, while young and dashing John of Austria himself led the central command.

In the thick of battle, the Christian warriors, with swords and guns and rosaries, were invoking the name of the Mother of God asking for her intercession. Strangely enough, she appeared: with sword in one hand and a rosary in the other (many Christian fighters swore to have seen this apparition). This miracle provided the tired and wounded soldiers of Christ renewed energy to drive away the enemy. Towards the end of the day, their prayers were answered: the Ottoman Turks were defeated as more than 30,000 Muslim warriors perished during the battle. Several thousands more were taken as prisoners while hundreds of their galleys were either sunken, burned, or captured. There were Christian casualties, but smaller: 10,000 fighters perished. But as consolation to those lost lives, thousands of Christian slaves who were with the Muslim fleet during the battle were saved. And only less than 20 galleys from the Holy League were lost in the battle.

The Christian victory at Lepanto was the decisive turning point in which control of the Mediterranean Sea was finally taken away from centuries of oppressive Turkish rule. The Islamic Empire was never able to recover since then. Meanwhile, the leaders of the Holy League credited the victory not to themselves but to the Virgin Mary, whose intercession with God they had implored for victory through the power of the Rosary. That is why Pope Pius V, the brains behind the Holy League, instituted the feast day of Our Lady of Victory every October 7th, as well as the month of the Rosary every October, to commemorate Christendom’s exceptional victory at the Battle of Lepanto. The name of the feast day has since been changed in 1913 to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

The astonishing Battle of Lepanto can be likened to today’s big-budget Hollywood films, more so with the epic battle scene seen recently in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Avengers: Infinity War”. We could even go a step further by pointing out that the Holy League composed of King Philip II’s imperial army, Don John of Austria, Sebastiano Venier of Venice, Marcantonio Colonna, and a host of others was the first Avengers. Pope Pius V served as the group’s Nick Fury. As for Our Lady of the Rosary… remember Thor’s surprise appearance in Wakanda in the said film just when our superheroes were close to being overwhelmed by Thanos’s four-armed Outriders? I think you get the picture. 😊 But instead of that huge Stormbreaker, the Virgin held a small rosary.

And yes, we can consider Miguel de Cervantes (who, by the way, was shot thrice during the battle) and reserve commander Álvaro de Bazán as their Marvel Netflix allies. 😂

Image: La Naval de Manila Facebook page.

While the climax of the Battle of Lepanto can be likened to that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest epic film, the battle itself has a mystical connection to Filipino history. Several decades later, the Virgin Mary once again had a special role in yet another battle, this time against another group of infidels who were craving for our shores: the Protestant Dutch. Nick Joaquín, poetic champion of beer and rosary, wrote the following in one of his most famous essays, the “La Naval de Manila“.

The Church was quick to acknowledge the role of Mary at Lepanto; October 7, the date of the victory, has ever since been her feast as Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, a feast and an avocation of hers around which maritime traditions consequently clustered: the Virgin of the Beads is popularly a Virgin of Sea Battles, a Virgin of Naval Victories. Some eighty years after Lepanto, she was again to justify those titles, to manifest her power in the faraway Orient of the conquistadores, to wield her mighty beads in favor of a handful of islands: the small necklace-like archipelago that had been named after the brother of the Lepanto hero.

The 1646 Dutch attacks, now known as the Battles of La Naval de Manila, occurred five times, between March 15 and October 4 (amazingly just a few days short of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto!). All those attacks were thwarted by the combined forces of Spaniards and Filipinos who, before going to battle, also asked helped from the Virgin for her intercession. So once more, as what had happened in Lepanto, many participants of the battles against the Dutch affirmed that they saw Our Lady fighting with them!

To give thanks to God for those five naval victories, the first celebration of La Naval de Manila was held on 8 October 1646. The 16th-century image of Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario —Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary— served as her representation.

May we make it a point to pray the Rosary every day, not only during the month of October. But on this day, may we pray it with more earnest, for it was exactly on this day centuries ago when God manifested to man that He can make the Heavens join them in battle against bloodthirsty infidels and other worldly evils if only they pray the Rosary fervently.

—¡Viva la Virgen del Rosario!—

A close encounter with a Dick

Senator Dick Gordon has become relevant again these past few days. Not because of the Blue Ribbon Committee which he chairs but because he has revived yet again his deep-seated mania of adding a ninth ray to the sun in the Filipino flag. You may read Ambeth Ocampo’s latest column about this matter for more details.

After hearing all this latest news about Gordon’s ninth-ray obsession, I was reminded of a Facebook post which I wrote two years ago. It was about my first and only encounter with him during the 2013 La Laguna Festival. I’m sharing it now on this blog (with slight edits)…

La imagen puede contener: 1 persona, meme y texto

One balmy evening a few years ago, I was inattentively listening to Dick Gordon delivering a candid speech to a huge and festive crowd at the capitol grounds of Santa Cruz in La Laguna Province. I couldn’t remember exactly what he was talking about. What I do remember is that his presence there was irrelevant. Anyway, I was concerned with something else — my stomach was rumbling. I was having a bout of sudden diarrhea, and I hate doing the deed in some public restroom. But I couldn’t help it anymore.

I was at the left side of the stage by the stairs, my eyes surreptitiously scouring the huge grounds for a portalet, but saw none. I suddenly remember that there’s a restroom at the nearby DECS building (I wonder now if the old balete tree is still there). So off I went.

As I was slowly trudging the steps on my way to that building, Dick was already talking about rampant corruption in Filipino culture. Pointing the microphone to the audience, he asked who was to blame for all this corruption that we have in our society.

After a few seconds of playing with the crowd, he answered his own question. What he said was something unholy to my ears.

My diarrhea suddenly forgot that it had to embarrass me.

I had to look at him onstage. With a sick smile on his face, Dick was pointing his accusing finger towards our country’s Spanish past. I don’t remember his exact words, but he either said “Kastilà” or “Spaniards”. Whatever. What he said made my blood boil, especially since, after doing some reassessment of Filipino History through the years, I’ve discovered the reverse. But here comes this politician to a supposedly fun event, corrupting the minds of Lagunenses for whatever goddamned purpose he may had without even using pertinent data or sources.

But then again, why should he even cite sources? He attended a provincial fiesta anyway. It’s not a class lecture or any of that sort. But that’s EXACTLY the point! Why should he even talk about Filipino History —TWISTED Filipino History to be precise— during such an event? His speech was supposedly to animate the crowd, to greet them a happy fiesta, to make himself look cool even if he really wasn’t.

I stopped dead on my tracks, hesitated for a few moments, then went back to the stairs. I had to confront this buffoon. It’s now or never.

After several boring minutes of grandstanding, the hosts finally took the mic away from him. Dick Boredom was then on his way out, but it took him quite some time to get off the stage because so many people were greeting him, shaking his hands, patting him on the back, doing selfies and stuff. His personal goons couldn’t do much to steer away the crowd who wanted a piece of the Dick. He was a rock star that night.

But not to me. He was just another rock. An insignificant pebble. A troglodyte, actually (note: Jessica Zafra doesn’t own that word). He had to be given a Stone Cold Stunner if only to wake him up from his hispanophobic delights. But of course, I couldn’t do that. The diarrhea was at it again, especially when I saw his face getting closer to me.

I saw people near me shaking his hand. It gave me an idea. When the Dick was already standing right in front of me, still with a big smile plastered all over his face, I grabbed his empty right hand which was still looking for another hand to shake it. Since the music onstage was blurting out loud, almost as loud as the irritating sounds from within my bowels, I inched my face close to his ear:

“Get your facts straight, sir. The Spaniards did not teach us corruption. It was the Americans. Thank you”.

The plan was to immediately bolt for the DECS restroom. But he did not let go of my hand. He gripped it hard before I could leave, then tugged it towards him. Angrily, he whispered back: “It’s not the Americans, it’s the Spaniards!”

From the corner of my eye, I noticed that a goon or two of his noticed that their boss was getting upset. Before any untoward commotion happened, I shook off my hand from his grip in order to free myself. I didn’t say a word anymore, just a smirk on my face. I left him scowling towards me as I was walking away towards the old balete tree.

That was simply my purpose — to ruin his rock star night for disrespecting our forefathers who worked hard in order for us to have towns and provinces and Cross and cuisine and roads and bridges and cattle and agriculture and industry and arts and “palabra de honor” and culture and history and name for our country that we still use and apply to our daily lives. Somehow, I succeeded.

And yes, I did scream “success!” when I got out of the DECS building. 

But seriously, Dick, is hispanophobia a standard in all of your speeches? With a surname such as yours, I think I understand why.

To end this blogpost, let me leave you with the opening sentence taken from that Ocampo article I mentioned earlier. Because I find that opening as a perfect ending…

“Dick Gordon is so often starved for attention that the public is well-advised to ignore his antics.”

¡Feliz Navidad!


(Lectura del santo Evangelio según San Juan 1:1-18)

En el principio ya existía la Palabra, y la Palabra estaba junto a Dios, y la Palabra era Dios. La Palabra en el principio estaba junto a Dios. Por medio de la Palabra se hizo todo, y sin ella no se hizo nada de lo que se ha hecho. En la Palabra había vida, y la vida era la luz de los hombres. La luz brilla en la tiniebla, y la tiniebla no la recibió. Surgió un hombre enviado por Dios, que se llamaba Juan: éste venía como testigo, para dar testimonio de la luz, para que por él todos vinieran a la fe. No era él la luz, sino testigo de la luz. La Palabra era la luz verdadera, que alumbra a todo hombre. Al mundo vino, y en el mundo estaba; el mundo se hizo por medio de ella, y el mundo no la conoció. Vino a su casa, y los suyos no la recibieron. Pero a cuantos la recibieron, les da poder para ser hijos de Dios, si creen en su nombre. Éstos no han nacido de sangre, ni de amor carnal, ni de amor humano, sino de Dios. Y la Palabra se hizo carne y acampó entre nosotros, y hemos contemplado su gloria: gloria propia del Hijo único del Padre, lleno de gracia y de verdad. Juan da testimonio de él y grita diciendo: «Éste es de quien dije: “El que viene detrás de mí pasa delante de mí, porque existía antes que yo.”» Pues de su plenitud todos hemos recibido, gracia tras gracia. Porque la ley se dio por medio de Moisés, la gracia y la verdad vinieron por medio de Jesucristo. A Dios nadie lo ha visto jamás: Dios Hijo único, que está en el seno del Padre, es quien lo ha dado a conocer.

Cuarto domingo de Adviento (2017)


(Lectura del santo Evangelio según San Lucas 1:26-38)

Al sexto mes fue enviado por Dios el ángel Gabriel a una ciudad de Galilea, llamada Nazaret, a una virgen desposada con un hombre llamado José, de la casa de David; el nombre de la virgen era María. Y entrando, le dijo: «Dios te salve María, llena eres de gracia, el Señor es contigo.» Ella se conturbó por estas palabras, y discurría qué significaría aquel saludo. El ángel le dijo: «No temas, María, porque has hallado gracia delante de Dios; vas a concebir en el seno y vas a dar a luz un hijo, a quien pondrás por nombre Jesús. El será grande y será llamado Hijo del Altísimo, y el Señor Dios le dará el trono de David, su padre; reinará sobre la casa de Jacob por los siglos y su reino no tendrá fin.» María respondió al ángel: «¿Cómo será esto, puesto que no conozco varón?» El ángel le respondió: «El Espíritu Santo vendrá sobre ti y el poder del Altísimo te cubrirá con su sombra; por eso el que ha de nacer será santo y será llamado Hijo de Dios. Mira, también Isabel, tu pariente, ha concebido un hijo en su vejez, y este es ya el sexto mes de aquella que llamaban estéril, porque ninguna cosa es imposible para Dios.» Dijo María: «He aquí la esclava del Señor; hágase en mí según tu palabra.» Y el ángel dejándola se fue.





Tercer domingo de Adviento (2017)

(Lectura del santo Evangelio según San Juan 1:6-8, 19-28)

Hubo un hombre, enviado por Dios: se llamaba Juan. Este vino para un testimonio, para dar testimonio de la luz, para que todos creyeran por él. No era él la luz, sino quien debía dar testimonio de la luz. Y este fue el testimonio de Juan, cuando los judíos enviaron donde él desde Jerusalén sacerdotes y levitas a preguntarle: «¿Quién eres tú?» El confesó, y no negó; confesó: «Yo no soy el Cristo.» Y le preguntaron: «¿Qué, pues? ¿Eres tú Elías?» El dijo: «No lo soy.» – «¿Eres tú el profeta?» Respondió: «No.» Entonces le dijeron: «¿Quién eres, pues, para que demos respuesta a los que nos han enviado? ¿Qué dices de ti mismo?» Dijo él: «Yo soy voz del que clama en el desierto: Rectificad el camino del Señor, como dijo el profeta Isaías.» Los enviados eran fariseos. Y le preguntaron: «¿Por qué, pues, bautizas, si no eres tú el Cristo ni Elías ni el profeta?» Juan les respondió: «Yo bautizo con agua, pero en medio de vosotros está uno a quien no conocéis, que viene detrás de mí, a quien yo no soy digno de desatarle la correa de su sandalia.» Esto ocurrió en Betania, al otro lado del Jordán, donde estaba Juan bautizando.


Segundo domingo de Adviento (2017)

(Lectura del santo Evangelio según San Marcos 1:1-8)

Está escrito en el Profeta Isaías: Yo envío mi mensajero delante de ti para que te prepare el camino. Una voz grita en el desierto: Preparadle el camino al Señor, allanad sus senderos. Juan bautizaba en el desierto: predicaba que se convirtieran y se bautizaran, para que se les perdonasen los pecados. Acudía la gente de Judea y de Jerusalén, confesaban sus pecados y él los bautizaba en el Jordán. Juan iba vestido de piel de camello, con una correa de cuero a la cintura y se alimentaba de saltamontes y miel silvestre. Y proclamaba: —Detrás de mí viene el que puede más que yo, y yo no merezco agacharme para desatarle las sandalias. Yo os he bautizado con agua, pero él os bautizará con Espíritu Santo.