Saturday, October 21, 2017







Thursday, October 19, 2017




The veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Divine Shepherdess (Divina Pastora) traces it its origin to Spain, when a Capuchin priest named Padre Isidro had a vision in 1703 of the Virgin Mary as a young woman with a crook or staff in her hand and on her head a large pastoral straw hat falling over her shoulders. Happening after his contemplation on the Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the vision reinforced the priest’s belief in Mary’s tender love and gentle care for the flock of God, to whom she was sent as a mother and guide. Mary’s right hand rested on the head of a trusting lamb that symbolized the follower of Christ who was also Mary’s special charge.

The vision, once visually portrayed through paintings and later on through statues, quickly earned the admiration and affection of the people who made space in their churches for the Divina Pastora. A devotion grew and developed vigorously in Spain and in countries evangelized by the missionaries. Staunch devotees of the Divina Pastora are now spread all over the Spanish-speaking world.

In the Philippines, this devotion to the Divina Pastora is concentrated today in just a few places but the nexus of fervor is in the historic church of one of the earliest Philippine parishes and towns (est. 1595) formerly known as Ibon but now famous as Gapan City in the province of Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon. In this prosperous city, stands the church sanctuary that houses both the revered images of the Divina Pastora and the Three Kings, co-patrons of the parish.

To those who seek the maternal blessings and the fruitful intercession of Mary, the shepherdess of the flock, the shrine in Gapan City is a locus of encounter with Jesus through Mary. All over the Central Plains of Luzon, people with physical, emotional, financial and spiritual cares draw close to the comforting presence of the Mother of God who shares with her Divine Son a special solicitude for the needs of all the members of the Christian flock.


The original image of the Divina Pastora cherished by the people of Gapan, of all Novo Ecijanos, and devotees from elsewhere is a one and half meter wooden image whose provenance is depicted in two versions. The first of these recalls the arrival of an Augustinian friar bearing the image and entrusting it to the town’s parish church. The image was at times missing or had been lost from the church,  but soon re-emerged among a callos tree abundant in the area.

Another version, supported by recollections of present-day heirs of the Valmonte family, tells of their clan’s special connection with the Blessed Virgin. A certain Juana dela Cruz Valmonte had a perplexing dream of the Virgin Mary and upon counsel of her father, she approached an Augustinian friar in Intramuros for its interpretation. The priest readily surmised that the Blessed Mother wanted the woman to obtain an image of the Divina Pastora from Spain. Another version narrates that the priest, impressed by Juana’s faith, himself gifted her with a wooden image of the Divina Pastora.

The image occupied a privileged place in the Valmonte family’s domestic altar, where they experienced the powerful protection and efficacious intercession of the Blessed Virgin. The people of Nueva Ecija were agrarian folks. The Valmontes beseeched Our Lady for bountiful harvests, and they witnessed their intentions fulfilled. They came to Her for many other petitions, and the Divine Pastora never failed to manifest Her miraculous touch.

It was then that the family celebrated the beneficence of the Divina Pastora with a yearly fiesta in her honor on the 1st of May, the last day of the harvest season, happily coinciding with the start of the Marian month and later, the feast of the St. Joseph the Worker. Family, friends, neighbors and devotees from near and far flocked to Gapan to join in the festivities. Having heard of the marvels of God through the Divina Pastora, people came in droves in an outpouring of affection and tenderness to their shepherdess and mother.

Thus, the family thanksgiving feast gave way to a church and town fiesta where the diminutive image of the Virgin assumed a central role in the merriment and pious expressions. From the family altar, the image was carried in procession through the streets of the town and enshrined temporarily in the main church for the sacraments and devotional prayers. The Augustinian clerics embraced the growing religiosity that evolved around the image, her miracles and her influence on the increasing number of devotees. The town officials exulted in the opportunity to offer people the chance to revel in their newfound spirit of faith, solidarity and communion.

Many years later, the original image owned by the Valmontes has been officially donated to the church. From the family altar, the Virgin Mary descended into the streets of the town inviting her flock to herself and to her Son, and made her way into an exalted and secure niche within the hallowed space of the local parish church and in the hearts of the people of farming and fishing villages of the whole of the central plains. As people flocked to the place of Mary’s famed miracles, the pilgrimages enlisted the quiet town among the faith’s most desired destinations.


The unique Filipino piety growing around the Marian image of the Divina Pastora soon became ready for international recognition and acclaim. In 1964, the Holy Father Pope Paul VI bestowed on the image his pontifical approval by mandating the canonical coronation of the Divina Pastora. This happened on April 26 of that year. The worldwide church gazed admiringly and lovingly on the Divina Pastora of Gapan.

As Bishop Mariano Gaviola put the crown on the head of the Virgin (two images, one church-owned and the privately-owned of the Valmontes both honored), the people’s exuberance and reverence contributed to the solemnity of the occasion. The simple dream of Juana Valmonte became the realization of the people’s religious aspirations and sentiments. The plain prayers of petition and praise at the foot of a family altar metamorphosed into the solemn proclamation of the Divina Pastora’s extended Patronage to the entire Diocese of Cabanatuan and to the whole province of Nueva Ecija.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, in 1986, elevated the simple sanctuary of the Divina Pastora and the Three Kings in Gapan City into a National Shrine of Mary, through a moving ceremony presided over by the great Filipino Cardinal of Cebu, Ricardo Vidal. This affirmed further the effects of the Divina Pastora devotion, that the doors of the church in Gapan are flung open to the entire Filipino nation.

From there, the Divina Pastora truly lives among her children. She walks in the midst of the Lord’s pastureland, guiding the flock to green meadows. As shepherdess she knows each of the sheep by name, and the lambs run to her for solace and peace. The sheep know Mary’s voice, in the same way that they recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus the center of all hearts. The sheep listen to Mary and follow her, as she says to them in turn: “Do whatever He tells you!” (Jn 2:5).

Tuesday, October 17, 2017



Sa kasaysayan nakikita nating ang mga Kristiyano ay nalilito sa ugnayan ng pananampalataya at ng karaniwang buhay, ng pananalig at pangangatwiran, ng katapatan sa pamahalaan at katapatan sa simbahan. Sa mabuting balita ngayon (Mt 22) dinadalaw natin ang napapanahong paksang ito. Sabi ng Panginoong Hesus sa mga alagad ng mga Pariseo: Ibigay kay Cesar ang kay Cesar, at sa Diyos ang para sa Diyos!

Ang Cesar o emperador ang kumakatawan sa makalupang kapangyarihan na sumakop sa Israel. Malinaw na sinasabi ng Panginoon na dapat mag-ambag ang mga tao sa ikabubuti ng lipunan. Kung kailangang magbayad ng buwis, na gagamitin sa kapakanan ng lahat, dapat itong sundin. Ang mga tagasunod ni Kristo ay makikilala bilang mga tagapagtaguyod ng anumang mabuti sa pakikipag-ugnayan ng mga tao sa pamayanan at lipunan. Mula pa sa panahon ng mga apostol, ang pananampalataya ang nagsasabi sa atin na maging asin at ilaw ng daigdig, nabubuhay sa mundong ito bilang lasa at halimuyak na kaaya-aya.

Pero hindi doon nagtatapos ang payo ng Panginoon, sa pakikiisa sa layunin ng mga nasa kapangyarihan. Sinasabi din niya na dapat ibigay sa Diyos ang nararapat sa Diyos. At ano nga ba ang saklaw ng Diyos na dapat nating isuko sa kanya? Ang sagot ay – lahat! Lahat-lahat ng nasa atin ay kaloob ng Diyos kaya dapat nating ipagpasalamat at ialay pabalik sa kanya. Kung ang Cesar ang lehitimong kapangyarihan na dapat igalang at sundin para sa kapakanan ng lipunan, ang Diyos naman ang pinakamataas na kapangyarihan na dapat luhuran ng lahat, sa langit man o sa lupa (Fil 2:10), maging ng Cesar o emperador man.

Naririnig natin ngayon ang mga pulitiko, tagapagbalita, at pati ang taga-kalat ng “maling” balita na tumatalakay sa pagkakaiba at pagkakahiwalay ng simbahan at gobyerno. Sinasabi ng ilan na hindi dapat makialam sa desisyon ng pamahalaan ang mga mananampalataya; na walang puwang sa pang-relihyon at pang-moral na aspekto sa larangan ng pulitika at pamamahalang panlipunan. Pero ito ay “fake” na paliwanag. Hindi magkatunggali ang langit at lupa. Tandaan nating nang itanong ito sa Panginoon, hindi ito tunay na paghahanap ng katotohanan. Sa halip, ito ay patibong ng mga Pariseo na nais magsalita ng maling katuwiran ang Panginoong Hesus. At dito sila nabigo!

Kaya nga, ibigay kay Cesar ang para kay Cesar. At ibigay sa Diyos, ang lahat-lahat!



Throughout history, Christians have been baffled by the relationship between their faith and their life context, between faith and reason, between loyalty to the state and fidelity to the church. Today's gospel (Mt 22) revisits what is now a very relevant topic for reflection. In the gospel, the Lord Jesus, replying to the disciples of the Pharisees, says: Give to Cesar what belongs to Cesar, and to God what belongs to God!

Cesar or the emperor represents the earthly power that governed Israel at that time. The Lord clearly tells the people that they must positively contribute to society by becoming good citizens. If it means paying taxes, which are just and needed for the welfare of all, then by all means, give it to Cesar. In that way, followers of Christ will be known as supporters of whatever is good that is found in human and social relationships. From the time of the apostles to our time, Christian faith encouraged believers to be salt of the earth and light of the world, living on this earth as flavor and ferment.

But the Lord's words do not end with the advice to cooperate with the good intentions of civil and temporal power. He also says that we must give to God what belongs to God. And to what has God claim over us? The answer is – everything! All that we have and all that we are are gifts we received from the Lord and therefore, we must render thanks and offering by willingly giving back to him all! While Cesar represents the legitimate power to which we must give cooperation for the good of society, God signifies the sovereign power to whom every knee must bend, in heaven and on earth (Ph 2:10), even Cesar himself.

Today we hear politicians, commentators, and even purveyors of fake news all talk about separation of church and state. This gives rise to the claim that people of faith should not interfere in the decisions and actions of the people in temporal power; that religious and moral views have nothing to do with state actions; that the vision of God must not enter the arena of politics. But this is a “fake” distinction. The earthly and the heavenly are not opposed. In fact, when this question was asked of Jesus, it was not intended as a serious quest for truth. Instead, it as a trap. The Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus by making him commit a mistake in judgment. But they failed miserably.

So give to Cesar what belongs to him. Give to God, well, everything!

Thursday, October 12, 2017


i found this great article about Our Lady at:

all credits and much gratitude to that blog and writer!


Bakit Pebrero ang Pista ng La Purisima sa Sta. Maria, Bulacan?

Sa darating na Unang Huwebes ng Pebrero, muling ipagdiriwang ng bayan ng Sta. Maria sa Bulacan ang  kapistahan ng kanilang patrona, ang La Purisima Concepcion. Kasabay din nito, kanilang ginugunita ang ika-221 guning taon ng pagkakatatag ng kanilang bayan.
Ang pagpipista ng La Purisima ng Sta. Maria ay maituturing na isa sa mga panatang laganap sa katimugang bahagi ng Bulacan kung saan ang pananampalatayang Kristiyano ay ipinunla ng mga Franciscano.  Sa simula ng kanyang nakatalang kasaysayan, ang Sta. Maria ay dating sakop ng bayan ng Bocaue na sakop naman noon ng Meycauayan. Ang mga bisita ng Sta. Maria, Bagbaguin at Sta. Cruz ay inihiwalay sa Bukawe upang maging isang ganap na “Pueblo”. Ito ay tinawag na Sta. Maria de Pandi. Matapos ang Ikalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig, nahiwalay naman sa Sta. Maria ang bayan ng Pandi.
Pinangalanang Sta. Maria ang bayan dahil sa pamimintuho ng mga naninirahan doon sa Mahal na Birheng Maria sa titulong La Purisima. Taon-taon ay dagsa ang mga deboto ng Banal na Ina upang bisitahin ang kanyang imahen sa bayan ng Sta. Maria. Di-mahulugang karayom ang mga nagsisimba sa loob at sa labas ng kanyang dambana sa araw ng kapistahan. Isang hayag na patunay ito ng walang-maliw na pananampalataya ng mga Katoliko sa bahaging ito ng Bulacan.
Dalawa ang pinaniniwalaang pinagmulan ng imahen. Una, sinasabing kasabay na dumating sa Pilipinas ng mga imahen ng Virgen dela Paz sa Antipolo at Virgen de Salambao ng Obando ang imahen ng La Purisima ng Sta. Maria. Ikalawa, iniukit ito ng isang prayleng kastila sa Galleon patungong Pilipinas para sa bayan gamit ang isang kahoy mula sa galleon na pinaglululanan niya. Nang mailuklok ang imahen, mula noon ay patuloy na sumailalim sa pamamatnubay niya ang bayan ng Sta. Maria. Hindi na rin mabilang ang mga himala at biyayang tinanggap ng bayan mula sa Diyos sa pamamagitan ng pamimintuho sa kanya.

Ayon sa mga panayam mula sa mga taga-Sta. Maria, ang imahen ay konektado sa Pista ng Candelaria, ang palilinis o Purificacion sa Mahal na Birheng Maria. Sa mga matatandang tala at sa mga libros canonicos ng simbahan, gamit ng parokya ang titulong La Purisima.
Noong kasagsagan ng Digmaang Pilipino-Amerikano, nasunog ang simbahan ng Sta. Maria kasama ang ilan pang mga gusali sa bayan. Isang deboto ng Mahal na Birhen ang nagligtas sa imahen. Mula noon, sa loob ng humigit-kumulang tatlumpung taon, walang nakaaalam kung saang lugar napunta ang mapaghimalang Birhen. Ilan sa mga balita ay matatagpuan daw ito sa bayan ng Gapan sa lalawigan ng Nueva Ecija. Isang babae diumano ang lumapit kay Teofilo Ramirez na nagsalaysay na ang imahen daw ay nasa isang kubong malapit sa isang ilog sa Gapan. Ang babaeng ito raw ay nanaginip na kinausap siya ng Mahal na Birhen na itinuro ang kanyang kinaroroonan. Binanggit din nitong nilisan ng Birhen ang bayan dahil sa napabayaan na siya ng kanyang tagapag-alagang si Apolonia Alarcon. Ipinahanap ni G. Ramirez ang imahen at ito ay natagpuan. Ibinilik ito sa simbahan ng Sta. Maria sa unang Huwebes ng Pebrero nang buong kasiyahan st simula noon ay ginunita na taun-taon ang pagkakabalik sa imahen mula nang ito ay mawala maliban na lamang kung papatak ang unang Huwebes sa Pista ng Candelaria.
Bago matapos ang dekada 90, ang imahen ay muling nawala bago sumapit ang kanyang kapistahan sapagkat ninakaw ang Birhen sa kanyang altar ng ilang masasamang-loob. Muling nanalangin ang mga deboto ng Birhen na sana ay maibalik ang imahen sa lalong madaling panahon. Ang kanilang panalangin ay nabigyan ng kasagutan sa tulong ng pinagsamang lakas ng mga pulis at ilang mapagmatyag na mamamayan nang makita ang imahen sa isang tindahan ng mga antigong gamit na nakahanda na upang iluwas sa ibang bansa. Bagama’t wala na ang kanyang mga lumang gamit, muling naibalik sa kanyang altar ang imaheng minamahal at pinag-aaalayan ng pagsinta ng mga taga-Sta. Maria.
03 Pebrero, 2013
Lungsod ng Meycauayan, Bulacan

Wednesday, October 11, 2017



Mas simple ngayon ang mga kasalan kaysa noong una na buong baryo at lahat ng kamag-anak ay inaasahang dadalo kahit walang imbitasyon. Noon, kapag hindi dumating ang kamag-anak o kapitbahay, sumasama pa ang loob ng mga ikinasal. Pero ngayon nag-aatubili tayong pumunta kasi baka hindi tayo kabilang sa listahan ng mga panauhin na karaniwang limitado na sa pinakamalalapit na tao.

Ang Mabuting Balita ngayon (Mat 22) ay naglalarawan ng Kaharian ng Diyos gamit ang imahen ng isang marangya, masagana at pang-lahat na piging sa mga probinsya noong dati. Nagpadala ang hari ng susundo sa mga panauhin. Sumama ang loob niyang hindi makararating ang iba. Pagkatapos, inanyayahan niya ang lahat ng matagpuan niya. Nang magsisimula na ang handaan, napansin ng hari ang kakulangan ng kahandaan ng ilang mga tao. Pinarusahan niya ang mga ito.

Ang talinghaga ay tungkol sa pagmamatigas at pagtanggi ng mga tao sa paanyaya ng hari, na makikita sa hindi pagdalo o hindi pagiging handa sa okasyon. Magarbo ang kasalan, umaapaw ang pagkain at inumin, kumpleto ang kasiyahan at paglilibang. Pero ang tanong: Bakit dedma pa rin ang mga tao? Bakit ang ilan naman sa mga dumalo ay hindi nakabihis nang maayos?

Bilang mga Katoliko, ina-alayan tayo ng Diyos ng piging ng kanyang Kaharian sa ating lingguhang Eukaristiya. Bawat Misa ay piging-kasalan ng Anak ng ating Hari. Nakabukas ang mga pinto ng Kaharian at lahat ay tinatawagang dumalo. Pero tulad sa talinghaga, nasaan ang mga Katoliko pag Linggo? Sa lahat ng lugar siguro – sa pamilihan, sa mall, sinehan, at mga pasyalan – maliban sa simbahan. Totoo nga na masaya na ang marami na matawag na Katoliko kahit hindi ipinahahayag ang pananampalataya sa pamamagitan ng panalangin at pagsamba kasama ang pamayanan ng magkakapatid.

At silipin naman natin ang mga nagsisimba ngayon. Marami sa atin ang narito dahil sa nakaugalian lang o natatakot na makagawa ng kasalanan, o kaya dahil nahila tayo ng asawa, magulang o among pinagtatrabahuhan. Tulad ng mga panauhing hindi maayos ang bihis, maraming mga Katolikong nagsisimba ang hindi handa para sa Misa dahil wala ang puso sa ginagawa nila. Pakinggan natin ang mga laman ng isip natin ngayon: Saan kaya makapunta pagkatapos ng Misa? May aabutan pa kaya akong tinda sa talipapa? Ang haba naman ng sermon ng paring ito. Inip na ako. Naku, sana puwede na akong mag text.

Habang ipinagdarasal natin ang mga wala rito na sana minsan ay makapiling natin sila sa Misa, tutukan din natin ang mga dahilan kung bakit tayo naririto. Nawa mapahalagahan natin ang Eukaristiya bilang masayang pakikitagpo natin sa Panginoon linggo-linggo. Party-party kasama si Kristo!



Today weddings are much simpler than before, when entire villages and even distant relatives were “expected” to join without formal invitations. Then when neighbors or relatives fail to show up, the hosts feel slighted. Now people will hesitate to come uninvited since there is a fixed guest list that is normally limited to the closest family and friends. 

The Gospel today (Mt 22) portrays the Kingdom of God with the imagery of a lavish, rural, open banquet of ancient times. The king sends his messengers to fetch his guests. He feels bad that some cannot come and even resorts to punishment for their failure to show up. Then he invites just about anybody he can find. When finally the banquet starts, the king notices those who are not dressed up for the occasion. These too, he punishes.

The parable depicts the resistance of the people to the king's invitation to the feast, either through non-attendance or through non-preparedness for the occasion. The wedding is grand, overflowing with food and drink, complete with opportunities for enjoyment and merriment. But the questions we can ask are these: Why did the people ignore the generous feast? Why did some of the guests come unsuitably dressed?

As Catholics, we are offered the feast of God's Kingdom in our Sunday Eucharist. Every Mass is God's wedding feast for his Son. The doors of the Kingdom are flung open and all are invited. But like the parable, we see Catholics all over the place on Sundays, except in church. Compare the number of people in our Mass today with the multitudes of Catholics in malls, shopping centers, gyms, movie theatres and amusement parks. Truly, a lot of us contentedly carry the name Catholic without feeling the need to express our faith through prayer and communal worship.

And then look at the people inside the church. Many are here because we forced to be here either by habit or tradition or fear of committing mortal sin, or because we have been dragged here by spouse, parent, or school requirement. Like those who are not dressed properly for the king's banquet, many of those who attend Mass are not properly disposed. Listen to your thoughts as you go through the Mass: Where will I go after Mass? What will I eat for lunch? This Mass is taking too long. I'm bored to death. I just want to go out and text my friend!

While we pray that those who are not here will one day show up and love the Mass, let us focus on our reasons and dispositions for being here. May we value the Eucharist and truly experience it as our weekly encounter with the Lord in his great feast! Let's party with the Lord!