LETRAN: School of Heroes and Saints
June 4, 2006
Blessing of Letran College Abucay
The nation remembers Bataan every year on April 9. My parents used to call April 9 the Fall of Bataan. A few decades ago, April 9 was renamed Araw ng Kagitingan. How you call April 9 will reveal how old you are. Don’t ever associate Bataan with a “fall”. Remember Bataan for “kagitingan”. The dust of Bataan is mingled with the sweat and blood of the heroes of the last world war. Bataan has become synonymous with battle—heroic battle, battle with valor, battle with admirable bravery.
There is an inborn valor in everyone from Bataan. This valor has been there even before the last world war broke out. This valor has been in the veins of every Bataeno even before April 9, 1942. This valor and courage is our inheritance from the Dominican Fathers who taught our forefathers in Bataan to love God and country. Pro Deo et Patria. The first Dominicans in Bataan- Father Alonzo Jimenez, Fr Pedro Bolanos, Father Juan de Santo Tomas Ormaza and deacon Domingo Nieva-- loved Bataan with the love that our forefathers had not seen before. The Dominicans of Bataan who came to our peninsula in September 1587 gave their very best to learn the local language, to know the local terrain and most of all to love the people of Bataan and bring them to Lord. Their mission was simple and profound—that Bataan may truly be a people devoted to God and dedicated to Motherland.
The Dominican founded the towns of Abucay, Samal, Orion, Orani, Balanga, Hermosa and Pilar. From these mission foundations, Bataan contributed heroes and saints for the Church in the Philippines and Church universal. The first Filipino Chief Justice in the Supreme Court, Cayetano Arellano, was born in Bataan and studied in Letran. The first Filipino painter, Tomas Pinpin, was trained by the Dominicans too. From the parish of Abucay, the Church has raised to the honors of sainthood, San Miguel de Aozoraza, Dominican priest companion martyr of Lorenzo Ruiz. The Dominican taught Bataan heroism and excellence. The Dominicans taught Bataan valor and greatness. The Dominicans taught Bataan to live pro Deo et Patria.
Today as we remember the outpouring of the fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we profess faith that the opening of Letran in Abucay will indeed be new Pentecost for this part of the country. I pray that Letran may contribute a new breed of heroes and saints in Bataan pro Deo et Patria.
There is a crisis of saints and heroes in the Philippines today. The problem of the Philippines is really a poverty of role models for the youth and children. The Church in the Philippines will be renewed if our Catholic schools and parishes will produce saints and heroes as the Dominicans of Bataan two centuries ago did. Unfortunately, what we produce from our Catholic schools are not heroes and saints but celebrities. Celebrities are admirable but only saints and heroes can change the destinies of peoples. The product of a good school is a talented person prepared to face the world. The product of a Catholic school is another Christ. I challenge Letran to set this as a goal---to form new Quezons and San Vicente Liem dela Paz for the Church. May Letran be a colegio for new Arellanos and Pinpins, for God and country. And from among the community of Dominican Fathers who will live in Letran Abucay, may San Miguel de Aozoraza be resurrected in the holiness, piety and devotion of the Dominicans in this college.
The image of knights in shining armor may have turned anachronistic in our time but the valor and courage of the knights of long ago are still very much needed by our generation. The swords and shields of the knights of long ago no longer appeal to our youth but the discipline and clarity of vision of the knights area what the youth need to learn again. The crusades and knights in battle gear are images of the middle ages but the battle against mediocrity and the war against sin are still waiting to be won.
Letran Abucay, give us knights of valor and courage. Give us knights of discipline and clear purpose. Lead us in battle against mediocrity and sin. Arriba! Deus Patria Letran!