THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
Today, the faithful will gather in limited numbers in certain Churches for the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. Others will mark this important event in the Church’s calendar using the online platform. All of them will hear once again the timeless message of Easter Sunday.
That message is this: “Be not afraid.”
The words came from the very lips of the risen Christ. On Resurrection Sunday, the words were meant in particular for His disciples who visited his tomb and found it empty. Today, those words are meant for the world that is enveloped by fear – and for all of us who face an uncertain future, afraid and doubting.
Resurrection Sunday is always a special day for Filipinos. It has always been. It seems the Nation needed to hear each and every year the repetition of that counsel and call to action: “Be not afraid.” It appears we have a lot of issues with fear.
Some 79 years ago, our countrymen heard this message in a unique, special way.
At that time, Bataan – the last stronghold of Filipino soldiers against foreign invaders – had fallen. That signaled the ultimate defeat of allied forces in the country during the Second World War. That “defeat” was defined purely in military terms. In human and spiritual terms, Filipinos saw it as a form of “victory” – triumph over fear. Despite the military defeat, our forebears knew that on that day, they were no longer afraid.
That message was delivered not from a Church pulpit, but from a clandestine radio station at the Malinta Tunnel in Corregidor Island.
That message inspired by the words of the risen Christ was written by an army second lieutenant by the name of Salvador P. Lopez. He would survive the war and would one day become the President of the University of the Philippines.
That message written by Lieutenant Lopez was read on the air by another soldier one rank below his: Third Lieutenant Norman Reyes.
The broadcast came from they called the Voice of Freedom, and it began with the words:
“Bataan has fallen.”
The historic broadcast continued:
“The Philippine-American troops on this war-ravaged and bloodstained peninsula have laid down their arms. With heads bloody but unbowed, they have yielded to the superior force and numbers of the enemy.
The world will long remember the epic struggle that Filipino and American soldiers put up in the jungle fastness and along the rugged coast of Bataan. They have stood up uncomplaining under the constant and grueling fire of the enemy for more than three months. Besieged on land and blockaded by sea, cut off from all sources of help in the Philippines and in America, the intrepid fighters have done all that human endurance could bear.”
It was not to be a newscast regarding that historic defeat.
It would be a tribute to the spirit of the Filipino and a call on the nation to hold on to faith.
At the latter part of the broadcast, it read:
“Bataan has fallen, but the spirit that made it stand — a beacon to all the liberty-loving peoples of the world — cannot fall!
All of us know the story of Easter Sunday. It was the triumph of light over darkness, life over death. It was the vindication of a seemingly unreasonable faith. It was the glorious resurrection of a leader, only three days before defeated and executed like a common felon.
Today, on the commemoration of that resurrection, we can humbly and without presumption declare our faith and hope in our own resurrection, our own inevitable victory…
We, too, shall rise. After we have paid the full price of our redemption, we shall return to show the scars of sacrifices that all may touch and believe. When the trumpets sound the hour we shall roll aside the stone before the tomb and the tyrant guards shall scatter in confusion. No wall of stone shall then be strong enough to contain us, no human force shall suffice to hold us in subjection, we shall rise in the name of freedom and the East shall be alight with the glory of our liberation.”
The Filipino Nation are a resurrection people, our forebears declared at the grim hour of defeat in the hands of cruel invaders.
And right they were.
The message of Easter Sunday – “Be not afraid” – still rings today and continues to remind us of the tensile strength which defines our character as a people.
Today, we are faced with an “enemy” – unseen, but no less cruel, no less capable of torturing and ending the lives of many of our countrymen.
This “enemy” has held us in fear for one year now.
After a year, we can hear the rumblings of hopelessness, the murmurs of cynicism, the sighs of surrender.
And so, we are reminded again today: “Be not afraid.”
This is a reminder that has appeared in the Bible 365 times.
It seems fear has been man’s biggest scourge.
It is also the one nemesis of mankind that has been defeated today by the empty tomb of Easter Sunday.
As we celebrate Antipolo’s 23rd Cityhood Anniversary today, let us draw inspiration and courage from the Risen Christ as we continueto brave and rise above this pandemic.
*For feedback, please email it to [email protected] or send it to Block 6 Lot 10 Sta. Barbara 1 cor. Bradley St., Mission Hills Subd., Brgy. San Roque, Antipolo City, Rizal.