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Universal Mother


October is Marian month to Roman Catholics, who make up the majority of Zamboanga City’s population. October 12 is celebrated by Zamboanguenos as the feast day of their patroness, the Nuestra Senora de la Virgen del Pilar.  Her embossed image on the eastern wall of Fort Pilar is a 300-year old shrine where she is prayed to regularly by her local devotees and visited by pilgrims from all over the country and world.

As a Catholic saint, there’s no other like her.  She is as perennial as grass – to use a phrase in “Desiderata” -  yet quite exclusive and special to particular communities who love her.  That’s how she has acquired hundreds of monikers.   One of these is Nuestra Senora de Katilingban, declared by Zamboanga’s urban poor residents who acquired their own home-and-lots in the three low-cost settlements in the city sponsored by Katilingban Para Sa Kalambuan, Inc.  Her oil canvass image – very Filipina-like with children milling around her - hangs in the chapel of Katilingban homesite in Barangay Sinunuc.  Cool! But what good will arrogating your own patroness do for her devotees?

A columnist-journalist recently wrote, though in a different context:
“The paradox of reform movements is that, if you want to defy authority, you probably shouldn’t think entirely for yourself. You should attach yourself to a counter-tradition and school of thought that has been developed over the centuries and that seems true. . . Various spiritual movements have drawn from Transcendentalism, Stoicism, Gnosticism, Thomism, Augustine, Tolstoy, or the Catholic social teaching that inspired Dorothy Day. . .They gave movements a set of organizing principles. Joining a tradition doesn’t mean suppressing your individuality. Applying an ancient tradition to a new situation is a creative, stimulating and empowering act. Without a tradition, everything is impermanence and flux. “ (Emphasis mine.)
The fundamental belief about Mary is that she is the Mother of God, and so through her intercession nothing is impossible. In a world that is filled with unending mysteries and growing troubles, she embodies both the faith and reason people need to make life worth living while striving – and praying - for a better future.  That’s how the ball bounces with Nuestra Senora de la Virgen del Pilar for Zamboanguenos, and with Nuestra Senora de Katilingban for the same city’s urban poor. (Peace Advocates Zamboanga)

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