The Diocese of Balanga made history last November 27. It was the eve of the first Sunday of advent. It was the feast of the Miraculous Medal. It was the birthday of our hero, Ninoy Aquino.
We started at half past two in the afternoon. The youth of Bataan were there. Their elders were there. University presidents and high school teachers, the governor and the congressmen, the mayors and the barangay leaders – everyone in Bataan was there. It was a fiesta without food! It was a fiesta on the way up to the mountain of the Lord!
The whole rosary procession was one kilometer from end to end. There were fifteen thousand people walking up in prayer to honor Jesus in the Eucharist and Mary with her rosary. It was an awesome sight! The whole ascent to the Dambana ng Kagitingan was almost seven kilometers. It took us two hours to go up! We did not mind! We knew Jesus was walking with us! We knew the heroes of Bataan were walking with us. We are heroes with them!
When we got to the peak of the mountain, the full moon in its full radiance started to rise from the eastern horizon as if to greet us and say “You are all heroes and I honor you! On that moonlit night, we celebrated the Eucharist with all the priests of the diocese. It was an awesome experience of Church. The bishop and his brother priests, the youth and their parents, the leaders of government and business, the Aetas and the lowlanders – all coming together around the altar of the Lord on top of the mountain fifteen thousand strong! It had no precedence! It was a moment of grace! We were making history!
The advent wreath was blessed and first light of advent was lit. From that single advent light, the fifteen thousand candles in the hands of God’s chosen people in Bataan were lit. Farmers in the rice fields below saw Mt. Samat aglow. Their hearts warmed because they knew that up in the mountain of heroes, the new heroes of Bataan were committing themselves to the challenge of the Church. The farmers in the field seeing the sight knelt down to pray like the shepherds on that first Christmas midnight! They saw the mountain aglow with light! In their hearts, the farmers in the lowlands heard a voice within them saying “I bring you tidings of great joy! A new year of grace is upon Bataan, the land of heroes and martyrs!”
As the lights in the hands of God’s people remained lit, the song “Bayani at Banal” was sung and the young people danced. “Bataan, Bataan, peninsulang minamahal, tinawag maging banal ng Panginoong sa ‘yo’y humirang!” The gentle wind continued to caress us. It was chilly but we had enough warmth inside us. We did not feel the cold! Our hearts were afire!
After the blessings of the bishop were invoked upon the people, fireworks burst in the sky around the cross of Mt. Samat! We looked up and saw the cross gloriously hovering over us wrapped in multi colored fireworks! There were greetings of “Happy new year!” It was new year indeed! And we welcomed the new year on the mountain of the Lord!