SONA 2020

For Duterte’s SONA, the Catholic Church plays the music of resistance

Paterno Esmaquel II
For Duterte’s SONA, the Catholic Church plays the music of resistance

Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

'The Lord will hear our voices – once silent and meek, now growing,' says Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila

A rousing melody by Maestro Ryan Cayabyab, prefaced by the words of two of the country’s hardest-hitting bishops, is going viral in the Catholic social media sphere ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 27.

O bayan ko, kailan ka tatayo? / Kay rami nang dugong inalay sa ‘yo / O bayan ko, ang oras ay malapit nang maubos / Bangon na, O bangon bayan,” went the song of Cayabyab, which ABS-CBN said was first performed in 1998.

(O my nation, when will you rise up? / A lot of blood has been spilled for you / O my nation, time is running out / Rise up, rise up, O rise up, nation.)

The song was featured as a music video posted by the Manila Cathedral on Sunday, July 26, titled “A Call to Prayer and Action.” The Manila Cathedral said it was publishing the video “on the eve of the 2020 SONA” as a call to “be vigilant and brave.”

The music video was introduced by two of the Catholic bishops who have drawn Duterte’s ire the most: Bishop Broderick Pabillo, temporary head of the Archdiocese of Manila; and Archbishop Socrates Villegas, protégé of the late Manila archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin who helped mount the 1986 revolution that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Panginoon, ang iyong mga anak ay iligtas mo sa kadiliman (Lord, save your children from darkness),” Villegas prayed at the start of the video.

Pabillo, who recently contracted COVID-19, appealed to Filipinos to speak out “amid the plague of terror and deception, amid the pestilence of violence and injustice, amid the disease of greed and corruption.”

“The Lord will hear our voices – once silent and meek, now growing, not in hatred but in love for this country. He will shine his light upon us,” Pabillo said.

The music video comes as Duterte faces growing unpopularity due to his failure to stop the rise of coronavirus cases in the country. While no local survey can capture these frustrations as the Philippines is under quarantine, an international survey by London think tank YouGov showed this to be the case.

The survey found that Filipinos who rated the Duterte government’s response as “very” well or “somewhat” well fell from 72% in May to 51% on June 29, a month before the SONA. That is a 21-point drop in one month.

From bishops to priests and nuns to its lay members, the Catholic Church is again finding itself at the forefront of this growing resistance movement against the government. Mirroring its activist role during the Marcos dictatorship, the Catholic Church has recently spoken in a louder voice on issues such as the Anti-Terror Law and also the shutdown of broadcast giant ABS-CBN.

Former lawmaker Walden Bello wrote on Rappler ahead of Duterte’s SONA: “The wind has shifted, and it has blown Duterte’s cover, exposing the empty core underneath that previously charming (to some) tough-guy exterior. He’ll be facing a different audience from those in previous years, with a very large number of them possessed with eyes from which the scales have fallen. The one thing on their minds while Duterte goes through his theatrics will be: ‘Cut the BS, man. Just tell us what you’re going to do to get us of this mess.’” – with a report from Pia Ranada/

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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