Catholics return to EDSA as bishop warns of ‘curse’

Paterno Esmaquel II
Catholics return to EDSA as bishop warns of ‘curse’


'A curse awaits a nation that kills its own people,' says Archbishop Socrates Villegas on 'Lord, Heal Our Land' Sunday at the EDSA Shrine

MANILA, Philippines – “I started marching in 1983. Now I’m back!”

Damaso Magbual, who is turning 74 in December, laughed as he recounted the protest marches he joined during the time of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. “In ’84, we always marched every Friday in Makati before. You were not born yet,” he said.

Magbual, a prominent figure in election reform, said he was also in EDSA for the 1986 People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos. 

On Sunday, November 5, Magbual was among thousands of Filipinos who returned to EDSA to denounce the killings in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. 

The EDSA event – called “Lord, Heal Our Land” Sunday – began with a Mass at EDSA Shrine presided over by Archbishop Socrates Villegas. The Mass was attended by prominent figures such as Vice President Leni Robredo, who did not deliver a speech or grant media interviews. 

After the Mass, a procession was held from the EDSA Shrine to the People Power Monument a kilometer away. In front of the procession was a crucifix, and at the tail end was the image of Our Lady of Fatima, the same icon used during the 1986 revolt. 

Up to 5,500 people trooped to EDSA on Sunday, according to estimates from the Philippine National Police (PNP). 

‘A President with the mindset of a mayor’

While walking to the People Power Monument, we asked Magbual how it felt being back in EDSA more than 3 decades after toppling Marcos. 

“I feel sad, naturally, because our institutions, the democratic institutions, were destroyed by Marcos, and we have not recovered from that,” Magbual said.

On extrajudicial killings, he said that “due process should be observed.” He added: “Who likes drugs? Nobody. But the law must be applied properly.”

“The problem with the current administration is, you have a President with the mindset of a mayor who was able to terrorize the entire city, but you cannot do that for the entire country!” Magbual said.

EDSA PROCESSION. This image of Our Lady of Fatima is brought in a kilometer-long procession from EDSA Shrine to the People Power Monument on November 5, 2017. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Like Magbual, veteran actor Noel Trinidad joined the EDSA events during “Lord, Heal Our Land” Sunday.

Trinidad, 76, said he returned to EDSA to show that not all Filipinos accept what is happening.

He joined the EDSA procession along with his sister Marilyn Mapa and his wife Lally Trinidad, who carried portable chairs as they walked. (“I’m also 76 so I have to sit down,” Mrs Trinidad said with a smile.)

‘Mahaba pa ang storya ng Pilipinas’

Asked how he feels that he is back to the streets, Trinidad said: “It’s not easy to change. Basta tuloy lang ang laban. ‘Wag lang gi-give up (But we should continue the fight. We shouldn’t give up).”

Mahaba pa ang storya ng Pilipinas (The Philippines’ story still has a long way to go).”

EDSA VETERAN. Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas returns to EDSA on November 5, 2017, for a Mass and procession against drug war killings. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

As in the case of Magbual and Trinidad, the memory of People Power is not lost on Villegas, who was the 25-year-old private secretary of then Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin when the 1986 revolution happened.

Villegas in his homily said the Philippines needs healing – and this should begin within.

He drove home his point by appealing for repentance among cops, politicians, and even his fellow priests. (READ: FULL TEXT: Villegas homily on ‘Lord, Heal Our Land’ Sunday)

The 57-year-old Villegas, outgoing president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), also left a warning.

“May sumpang parusa ang bayang pumapatay sa sariling kababayan.” (A curse awaits a nation that kills its own people.) –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at