A blessing for all builders
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - March 21, 2019 - 12:00am

A fast-growing town in Pangasinan is invoking divine blessing for our country’s “Build Build Build” program, consciously or not. 

It is because this town is building a  statue of Saint Vincent Ferrer, patron saint of builders from around the world. The saint has been assigned that role in the Catholic world following his fame for “building up” and strengthening the Church through his preaching and missionary work. 

Bayambang town broke the Guinness Book of World Records – and has kept the record last April 5, 2014  – for the longest barbecue running to eight kilometers. It was timed with the quadricentennial celebration of the 400-year- old town.

This year, from April 1 to 8, the town will celebrate its 405-year-old existence, and aspires once again to set another world record, featuring the unveiling of a  super structure, 51 meters long, of the saint. It will be the main event for the town’s 405th town fiesta. The eight-day festivity is expected to unite all Bayambanguenos and visitors from around the world. 

The statue will surely tower over the sprawling town proper in this progressive municipality, and will permanently change the Bayambang skyline. It will serve as the centerpiece of the Saint Vincent Prayer Park, honoring the saint who has been an inspiring figure in the town for centuries.

Mayor Cezar Quiambao of Bayambang, who has infused new energy to this once sleepy town when he was elected mayor three years ago, is spearheading this “blessed project,” the brainchild of his wife, Bayambang First Lady Nina Jose-Quiambao. Both are devotees of Saint Vincent, as they have lived their lives building a new future for their town, and rebuilding the lives of their townmates.

“We are creating a landmark for our people. From this day on, they will remember that one moment in our existence as a community, we were all united and we all closed ranks to set up this blessed statue and accentuate the colorful history and promising future of Bayambang,” Mayor Czar beams. 

 Saint Vincent was born in Valencia, Spain on Jan. 23, 1357. He was the fourth child of nobles Guillem Ferrer and Constancia Miguel. His story began even before his birth when a poor, blind woman told his pregnant mother that the child she bore within her was an “angel who would one day restore her sight.” Saint Vincent did so years later.  

Having been ordained as a priest in 1378, Vincent Ferrer spent his life spreading the Word of God in Spain, France, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. His preaching has encouraged usurers, blasphemers, and other hardened sinners everywhere to embrace a Christlike life. As many as 10,000 people, including at least 50 priests, followed the Saint as he travelled through Western Europe, sharing the Gospel and the teachings of Christ. 

Saint Vincent died on April 5, 1419 at Vannes, France. On June 3, 1455, 36 years later, Pope Calixtus III canonized him in Rome.

Bayambang has embarked on ambitious growth projects under the mayoralty watch of original Skyway builder Cezar Quiambao, and the projects have been marked with great success. 

With this new project, the material progress of this town is adding a new dimension to its aspirations. This new pathway for development is unique in itself, and may yet be a model for all communities who must pause and consider spiritual development as a welcome dimension to growth and progress. 

In the past, the moral and spiritual life of the people are sacrificed at the altar of prosperity and progress. This time, modeled by Bayambang town, a town’s advance toward progress is prompted and energized by devotion to something or someone inspiring something unmistakably spiritual.

 Come to think of it, dear readers, our building program as a nation must be marked by such devotion to something loftier – and nobler.  

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Now, about my favorite humanitarian organization. The Philippine Red Cross is not just about blood-letting and blood-giving, it is also about giving water in times of crisis. It took only a week for the PRC to address the immediate needs of hospitals and communities heavily affected by the water crisis in Metro Manila.

As of March 18, PRC had distributed 1,033,000 liters of clean and safe water to an estimated 43,000 individuals from Rizal Medical Center, Quirino Memorial Medical Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, East Avenue Medical Center, Mandaluyong City Medical Center, and the National Center for Mental Health.

It has also started to provide water in communities, including Barangays Old Balara and Culiat in Quezon City; Barangay Highway Hills in Mandaluyong; and Barangays Tumana and Nangka in Marikina.

Chairman Richard Gordon said PRC earlier prioritized hospitals and medical institutions to ensure that medical services will not be interrupted.

“We received requests from different hospitals and we delivered immediately. The condition in crisis-affected hospitals has now improved, but we are still on standby as this may extend until June. We are now delivering water supply to barangays to prevent health concerns,” Gordon said.

Since March 11, a total of eight water tankers were deployed to deliver water in priority areas. PRC’s response to the water crisis is the fastest operation in the organization’s history.

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In his recent sermon at the Church of the Risen Lord in UP-Diliman, Dr. Mariano Apilado preached about forgiveness.  One parishioner asked if the Bible teaches that forgiveness is the same as justice, and should one forget about justice and just forgive? Another asked, “Must we forgive without repentance from the one being forgiven?”

Apilado reiterated instances where forgiveness was given unconditionally. Esau forgave his brother Jacob for stealing his birthright in exchange for a bowl of porridge; Joseph forgave his brothers who had sold him to slavery. King David took a grandson of King Saul as a member of his family. The father forgave the prodigal son who returned to his father, repentant. The woman caught in adultery, was not punished by Jesus who said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

These incidents, Dr. Apilado said, exemplify the truth that forgiveness is unconditional. The forgiven commits himself/herself not to sin again, “a sign that repentance is imperative.“

Dr. Apilado quoted  US President Abraham Lincoln’s message:

 “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God sees us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Apilado said, “President Lincoln’s statement, did not use the word forgive but he outlined exactly what needs to be done to live the forgiven Christian life: bind up the nation’s wounds, care for those who have fought, including their widows and orphans, and do all which may attain a just and lasting peace among ourselves and among all around us.”

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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