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March 8, 2018, Quezon City, Cubao, the Philippines – Sister Antonette Lumbang, OP, was among a group of Adrian Dominican Sisters in the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter to participate in the Second Annual Walk for Life February 24 to commemorate the peaceful people’s uprising.
The purpose of the walk was to “champion the value of life, which is threatened with prevailing issues in the country,” Sister Antonette explained. These issues include extrajudicial killings, part of the war on drugs launched by President Rodrigo Duterte shortly after his election in 2016. This campaign has resulted in an estimated 12,000 deaths of suspected drug dealers, drug users, and others, according to the 2018 World Report of Human Rights Watch. Other life issues include the proposed re-institution of the death penalty and the destruction of the environment, Sister Antonette said.
The Sisters left Pampanga, where many are stationed, at 2:45 a.m. on February 24 to participate in the 4:00 a.m. walk and a program of testimonies by several pro-life advocates from Catholic lay organizations. Sister Antonette was especially struck by the witness against the death penalty of a Filipina actress (Ms. Cherry Pie Picache) whose mother had been brutally murdered. The actress instead advocated for restorative justice and forgiveness. “Through prayer we can achieve this difficult Christian response,” Sister Antonette said. “The process demands radical love from us, love which we can give even to those who harmed or hurt us, following Jesus’ own radical love for us despite our sins.”
The event culminated in the celebration of the Eucharist with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as presider. During his homily, Cardinal Tagle warned the faithful to be vigilant, “not to be influenced by the prevailing culture of seeing everything, including human life, as a ‘commodity or thing’ which can be disposed of when no longer needed,” Sister Antonette said. “Cardinal Tagle’s call was for us to bring back the mentality of valuing every life as a gift from God, which therefore should be treasured.”
In the afternoon of the same day, Sisters participated in another Mass, community march and lighting of candles, organized by the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) in the chapel of Stella Maris College in Quezon City. This entire event is a commemoration of the February 25,1986, EDSA Revolution and the role of the AMRSP in advocating for peace and justice since its founding in the 1970s during the martial law. “The AMRSP was not cowed during the Marcos dictatorship,” wrote Father Cielito R. Almazan, OFM, and Sister Regina Kuizon, RGS, co-chairpersons of AMRSP, in a letter to members. “It will not be cowed now. Despite the challenges we face in our country today, it will remain in the front lines in fighting injustice. … It will continue to lead and be in solidarity with the people, for the people.”
Feature photo: Participants in the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) Mass get a better view on a large screen.
December 8, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – The Adrian Dominican Sisters join in calling for justice, an end to impunity, and prayer for the people of the Philippines, as we mourn the loss of Father Marcelito (“Tito”) Paez, 73, the country’s first Catholic priest to fall victim to the rash of extrajudicial killings that have taken place during President Duterte’s term in office.
A retired diocesan priest from the Province of Nueva Ecija and a long-time friend of our Sisters in the Our Lady of Remedies Chapter of the Congregation, Father Tito was gunned down by motorcycle-riding assassins on the evening of December 4. Earlier in the day, Father Tito had assisted in providing bail to release a political prisoner.
Sister Zenaida Nacpil, Chapter Prioress of Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, remembers Father Tito as “a consistent defender of the poor who died helping a voiceless poor political prisoner. He died a martyr for justice and peace!”
In a statement issued by the National Clergy Discernment Group, Father Wilfredo Dulay, MDJ, wrote:
[Father Tito] was killed by assassins riding motorcycles in tandem, a manner of murder now so commonplace in the Philippines it is now considered routine alongside illegal arrests, extra judicial killings and forced disappearances. What is happening to our country? Has it become the location of the new killing fields of Asia? Violent death has become a daily occurrence in many of our poor urban neighborhoods—random, arbitrary, brutal as in cruel and inhuman. It is doubly scary because the unnamed but usual suspects are law enforcers whose declared profession and vocation in life is to protect the lives of the people of this country.
Monsignor Manuel Gabriel, convener of the National Clergy Discernment Group, made the following comment about the murder of Father Tito:
"Today, I grieve for a friend who has given his life so that his people may have life in abundance. In this year of the clergy and those in consecrated life, I grieve for a brother priest who was brutally slain because he took the road less traveled, the pastoral care of political detainees. I am in pain for the Diocese of San Jose de Nueva Ecija for losing a pastor who has dedicated 45 years of his life in the service of the poor and the victims of injustice.
“Our country lost Father Marcelino "Tito" Paez to the culture of violence and death plaguing our country. I have known Father Tito Paez since our seminary days. I have worked with him in the National Clergy Discernment. I feel certain that, given this tragedy, Father Tito challenges me and fellow priests to transform our griefs and pains to actions on behalf of justice. We need to strongly embrace our prophetic task to proclaim the reign of God and condemn the reign of terror. Father Tito Paez must not end up as a statistical number or [be] seen as a collateral damage in our society. His martyrdom has to enliven our prophetic ministry to our people."
Sister Zenaida notes that “there are many mobilizations against militarization tactics.” Among them are those initiated by the Lumad, indigenous people of Mindanao in southern Philippines, who have been picketing in front of the Department of Education because their schools are being used as military camps. Sister Zenaida invited a group of Lumad high school students to share their stories and songs of protest with other students at one of the schools our Sisters run.
As we enter this Advent season of hopeful waiting, we join our prayers with and for our brothers and sisters in the Philippines that God’s justice and peace will prevail. We pray for the repose of the soul of our brother in Christ, Fr. Tito, who “considered our convent as his second home, a place to rest and re-charge in quiet prayer,” Sister Zenaida shared in remembrance.
A Mass in Father Tito’s memory will be celebrated at St. Catherine Chapel on the campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 21, 2017.
A group of Lumad high school students share their stories and songs of protest with students at Holy Rosary College at the invitation of Adrian Dominican Sisters Zenaida Nacpil, OP, and Myra Dalisay, OP (center, second row), Principal of the school, located in Tala, north of Manila.