Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag: The Summer Feast 2021

The convent of Our Lady of the Rosary, Manaoag had been busier than usual for a few days before the feast.  Brothers from various communities had been coming to visit and to celebrate mass to honor Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag.  For the past nine days, the rosary and novena prayers had been said every 7:00 in the morning and 4:00 in the afternoon, in preparation for the summer feast of Apo Baket.    

On the day of the feast, April 21, 2021, 7:00 in the morning, the Minor Basilica roused the town of Manaoag with much gusto and energy as the marching band began blaring some musical pieces as soon as the sun rose, right after the first mass.  For half an hour, the xylophones and the drums, the trumpets and the clarinets set the scene for the activities of the day.   While the band was hyped, the day crawled in stripped down to the bone by covid-19, interrupted by the masses which became the highlights of the day. 

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On the day of the feast, April 21, 2021, 7:00 in the morning, the Minor Basilica roused the town of Manaoag with much gusto and energy as the marching band began blaring some musical pieces as soon as the sun rose, right after the first mass.  For half an hour, the xylophones and the drums, the trumpets and the clarinets set the scene for the activities of the day.   While the band was hyped, the day crawled in stripped down to the bone by covid-19, interrupted by the masses which became the highlights of the day. 

But not this year.  This year, people came to the shrine just for the mass.  However, this year the parish set up a community pantry of rice and a variety of vegetables, free for those who might need them.  Parish organizations and other families and individuals stocked the Parish Community Pantry, and people helped themselves freely.   Behind the display tables was a sign that read, “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan.  Kumuha batay sa pangangailangan.”   It was a welcome change for the parishioners to think more of and to do more for others.  The Parish Community Pantry indeed made a big difference and was a pleasant surprise in the Summer Feast of 2021.   We hope to remember this

for a long time would continue long after the pandemic.  We also hope that we would learn to get only what we need so that just as we have received from the generosity of others, we may charitably be mindful of others also who might be just as needy as we are. 

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The Summer Feast of 2021 was celebrated also in the midst of other celebrations.  We are celebrating the 800th anniversary of the death of St. Dominic.  We are commemorating the first Mass and Baptism in the country which happened 500 years ago.  Finally, we are beginning the centennial celebration of the canonical coronation of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, which will culminate in 2026. 

Many Dominican brothers came to celebrate all the masses, which were live-streamed today from the Minor Basilica.   The altar was surrounded by the images of 15 Dominican saints and St. Joseph.  To the right corner of the altar the image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag was enshrined in a boat, which was cordoned off to keep people from touching the image.   This, too, was part of health protocols as a consequence of covid-19. 

After the 7:30 am mass, the image of Our Lady of the Rosary was carried in motorcade through the streets around the town of Manaoag.  This too, like the community pantry, has become a pandemic-inspired innovation to bring the Blessed mother to devotees who are unable to physically visit her at the shrine, for reasons of health and safety.   Lunch was catered in the convent refectory where the Dominican Community, the novices, the Missionera sisters and sisters from another religious congregation ate.  The employees, too, were treated to a catered lunch in the minor basilica compound. 

At 4:00 pm., Archbishop Socrates Villegas, DD., OP, celebrated the main mass of the fiesta, with thirteen (13) Dominican priests concelebrating.  Bishop Soc preached three points:

1) Look for the Lord, not for fear or favor but for love, manifested in fellowship and service, united with one another and with St. Dominic.    

2) We can find the Lord “in the Father’s house”, in obedience.

3) We can only find the Lord in mystery.

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After the mass, another motorcade with the image of Apo Baket was sent off with a blessing and a prayer.  The motorcade went around the streets of the Poblacion, in lieu of the traditional procession.  Meanwhile in the church, at the sanctuary, the 15 Dominican Saints and St. Joseph were presented and acknowledged.   Finally, Our Lady of the Rosary was returned to her throne as the grand choir serenaded the faithful with a short repertoire of glorious music.  Fr. Carlo Rey Canto, OP was the main emcee for the presentation of the saints and farewell to the Blessed Mother.  He was accompanied by two other emcees. 

The festivities ended at 6:30 pm, followed by a dinner for the Dominican friars, including the provincial, Fr. Filemon dela Cruz, OP and the syndic, Fr. Boyd Sulpico, OP, who came for the BOT meeting of Letran Manaoag, the following day.  The brothers who came from other communities rushed through dinner and said goodbye to beat the 8:00 pm curfew in Manaoag.

 

Despite the pandemic, the Summer Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag still happened.  Thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Fr. Anton Eudela, OP, the conventual liturgist, Fr. Allan Lopez, OP, the parish priest, Fr. Stephen Redillas, OP, the prior of the convent and the rest of the Dominican community in Manaoag for their service and support.  The motorcades and the community pantry were welcome innovations to reach out to the devotees,  just as the Apo Baket reached out to the faithful of Manaoag and Zambales and a host of other individuals and families who have been touched by her maternal care.  Next year, pandemic or not, the Summer Feast will happen again; and again in the year after that; and the year after.  Let us see what new surprises await us.  You are all invited!