About the sermon given in
Agoo Basilica and what they find
at the church with the rouge
Agoo, La Union Province
Great murals and paintings
of the saints adorned the walls, pews packed to the limit so people stood in
the main doorway. The first church on the journey that hadn't been looted,
Hellmantle imagined the churches they had seen adorned with paintings and neat
with shellacked wood carved by skilled hands before the plundering. But the
beauty of Agoo Basilica, its symmetry of parts, saddened him because it brought
to mind that sackers had stolen so much. The organ, the vestments, and even the
priests' robes were so full of the Holy Spirit that his sadness, magnified by
exhaustion, made his heart leap up to his throat.
They stood at the doorway
listening to the priest, who they could barely see, but the voice was strong
and triumphed over ceiling fans above the arches. The sermon went like this:
"The word of the Lord came
to me again: ‘What do you see?' And Jeremiah answered: ‘I see a boiling pot,
tilting away from the north.' The Lord said: ‘From the north disaster will be
poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of
the northern kingdoms.'
God remembers when their faith was like a bride, and says: ‘Hear the word of
the Lord, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the House of Israel.'
"'The House of Israel had
become a corrupt and wild vine. But O faithless Israel is more righteous than
unfaithful Judah.' You may ask who are the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the twelve
sons of Jacob, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham? All these are the twelve
tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed
them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him:
Around Jacob's deathbed he calls forth his twelve
Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to
you in the days to come.
Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;
Listen to your father Israel.
Reuben, you are my firstborn,
My might, the first sign of my strength,
Excelling in honor, excelling in power.
Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel,
For you went up onto your father's bed,
Onto my couch and defiled it.
and Levi are brothers -
Their swords are weapons of violence.
Let me not enter their council,
Let me not join their assembly,
For they have killed men in their anger
And hamstrung oxen as they pleased.
Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
And their fury, so cruel!
I will scatter them in Jacob
And disperse them in Israel.
your brothers will praise you;
Your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father's sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion's cub, O Judah;
You return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
Like a lioness - who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
Until he comes to whom it belongs
And the obedience of the nations is his.
He will tether his donkey to a vine,
His colt to the choicest branch;
He will wash his garments in wine,
His robes in the blood of grapes.
His eyes will be darker than wine,
His teeth whiter than milk.
will live by the seashore
And become a haven for ships;
His border will extend toward Sidon.
is a rawboned donkey
Lying down between two saddlebags.
When he sees how good is his resting place
And how pleasant is his land,
He will bend his shoulder to the burden
And submit to forced labor.
will provide justice for his people
As one of the tribes of Israel.
will be the serpent by the roadside,
A viper along the path,
That bites the horses' heels
So that its rider tumbles backwards.
I look for your deliverance, O Lord.
will be attacked by a band of raiders
But he will attack them at their heels.
food will be rich;
He will provide delicacies fit for a king.
is a doe set free
That bears beautiful fawns.
is a fruitful vine,
A fruitful vine near a spring,
Whose branches climb over a wall.
With bitterness archers attacked him;
They shot at him with hostility.
But his bow remained steady
His strong arms stayed limber,
Because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
Because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
Because of your father's God, who helps you,
Because of the Almighty, who blessing you
With blessings of the heavens above,
Blessings of the deep that lies below,
Blessings of the breast and womb.
Your father's blessings are greater
Than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
Than the bounty of the age-old hills.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
On the brow of the prince among his brothers.
is a ravenous wolf;
In the morning he devours the prey,
In the evening he divides the plunder.
"Book of Genesis, chapter
49, verses 2 to 28." The priest paused. The silence was filled with shuffling
"'But God sent me ahead of
you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save you as a great band of
survivors.' Genesis 45, 7." Bless thee, thy word of God. Amen."
The organ music started for
three hymns before the people departed. At the stroke of six the first ring of
the bell, a loud speaker from the bell tower blared soothing music of divine
choir voices with a strong voice preaching the Word of God. In the center of
town beside the bustle of the main road, everyone stopped moving to listen.
Even Jeepneys stopped. Like the voice of God coming from above, people stood in
solemn respect for the divine word while the rouge bell tower struck six
Hellmantle watched the
white-haired priest greet his flock in front of the lectern when suddenly the
priest looked at him. His eyeglasses reflected light from overhead chandeliers
but Hellmantle saw his head lift slightly. Eerily, it was the same face he had
seen in his dream.
The priest walked towards
them at the doorway. Difficult not to notice, they stood head and shoulders
above most Philippinos in the church.
"Good you could make it," he
said. Hellmantle detected an accent but not the country of origin. "Come from
Manila?" His eyes piercing as if sharpened by the glare of the sea.
from Manila. Though we motorcycled here from the north," replied Hellmantle.
"The north? Vigan?" his
voice wispy and dry after the sermon.
"We went through Banaue and
across to Sierra Madres to Aparri and over to Laoag and then Vigan." The
priest looked closer at the two of them. Hellmantle noticed that the priest's
nose was as crooked as an oak branch.
would you do that, son?" Hellmantle could now see the clear eyes behind the
looking for a Dutch priest who once knew Dane Hellmantle," said
Hellmantle. "Dane Hellmantle was a Legionnaire who fought in Dien Bien Phu."
Startled, his reflex was to take both of them by the arm out to a sheltered
patio beside the church near the back away from a crowd of people standing
around them. The three of them were out of sight through an old corridor.