Friday, March 29, 2013


"Traditionally, the position of the Church regarding other religions was clear: The Catholic Faith is the only true religion, and outside of the Catholic Church there is no salvation. With all charity, the emphasis was on bringing the lost sheep back to the fold so that Our Lord's desire "that they all be one" might be fulfilled."

It is one of those little known churches in New Manila. 

Built along a quiet street, in a sloped corner surrounded by mansions, whose thick, concrete walls rise up to block the mercy of heaven, the House of God doesn't even have a parking lot for pilgrims. A hint, that maybe, it doesn't want to court attention.

The sanctum was a chance discovery. Mom and I were having our Visita Iglesia when someone belonging to our party suggested a sound idea: that we should give up our journey to the Church of Jesu in Ateneo and Parish of the Holy Sacrifice in Diliman.

"Mahal masyado sa gasolina." They reasoned. My mom agrees. "Hanap na lang tayo ng mas malapit na simbahan." She said.

With the aid of Google Map, I searched the area for places to visit. Something closer; better if it forms a string - like a rosary - with the last two churches to complete our pilgrimage.

"Kanan ka sa Betty Go-Belmonte," I instructed the driver. "Kung saan maraming tao, nandoon ang simbahan."

But the road was eerily empty. There were no faithful marching towards their destination, not even cars lining up as each one look for a tight space to park. As we cruised deeper into Betty Go, doubts begin to cloud our vision. Maybe there's no church there after all.

And then, we passed by a strip where a traffic build up happens when there is supposed to be none. Cars line both sides of the road as well. "I think we found our church," I said in a hushed voice. The holy shrine, shrouded by trees, was a little bigger than a chapel. It has no courtyard, and the gate directly leads to the balcony. If not for the people wandering outside, nobody would ever think they are standing in front of the Our Lady of Victories Church. 

The Our Lady of Victories is a two-story edifice, whose naive and altar lie above ground. Parishioners must climb a steep stair to reach the entrance, and it was this flight of stairs that initially puts us off. Only when the security officer told us of a ramp at the back of the church did we decide to pick my mom, who was waiting inside the car, and visit the sanctuary. 

Upon entering the chamber, a first-time guest will be amazed at the church's opulence. The wrought iron chandeliers suspended on the low ceiling, the ornately crafted hardwood pews, the massive retablo in front of the gilded altar, and fine terracotta covered the floor. The naive harkens to the old days. There is a whiff of Baroque in the interiors.

Looking around, I was thinking. Maybe, a very rich patron had given away his fortune - including his estate - and this church was the fruit of his charity. It is when I noticed the pious ladies with long, flowing veils covering their heads did I realize we have entered a place very different from the ones we used to go.

Turning my head around I saw pamphlets on top of a coffee table. I took one to read its contents. Seeing the words "Pope Pius" and "Vatican II," I began to grasp the idea behind the founding of this Church. It finally answers the question why there was a sign outside saying "Latin Mass only".

I turned a page of the pamphlet and read the article's title. "Who are we?" In bold capital letters. There and then, the remnants of the Dark Age appeared in the austere faces of those around us. At this time and age, there will always be people flinging themselves to the trenches, resisting the march of modernity; and whose religion had seen better days, before a grand council wiped out the old, orthodox ways of communion with the almighty.

In silence, they still profess their righteous conviction.

And I wish one day to take part in their celebration.



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