Philippine Coat of Arms: a Catholic Interpretation

Icons of the Philippine Coat of Arms

Icons of the Philippine Coat of Arms

Wikipedia has an excellent entry on the Philippine coat of arms that describes its evolution from that of a colony of Spain, to that of the US, and finally to its independence as a sovereign nation. The historical interpretations of the the heraldric devices such as the sun, stars, eagle, and lion are well-known. What I shall propose here is a possible reinterpretation of the devices in the light of the Scriptures and the Catholic Faith.

The top icon is Crown of Spain who gave the gift of Christianity to the Philippines; it may also be interpreted as the billowing sails of Magellan’s Spanish galleon whose front hull is shaped like the bottom of the shield. The yellow and white are the colors of Vatican City, the seat of the Catholic Church. The three stars and the sun represent the doctrine of the Trinity–three Divine Persons in one God; they also represent the the wounds of Christ on his hands, head, and heart. The sun represents the radiating Sacred Heart of Jesus pierced by thorns or the Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced by swords. The blue and red represents the water and blood that flowed from the pierced Heart of Christ, as seen in the Icon of Divine Mercy.  This is reenacted during mass when the water (blue) is mixed with (wine), which becomes the Blood of Christ after consecration.  The sun on a white ellipse may also represent the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ hidden under the appearance of bread in the Sacred Host.

The Eagle icon is the Eagle of the United States of America. The Eagle also traditionally represents St. John the Evangelist because of his lofty description of the pre-existent divinity of Christ as the Logos or the Word of God (Jn 1:1). In the Book of Revelation, the wings of a great eagle was given to the woman pursued by the Red Dragon so that she can escape to the desert (Rev 12:14). The eagle is at the foot of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with the man with the the eagle’s wings (angel) representing Juan Diego whose native name was Cuauhtlatoatzin or “The Talking Eagle.” Our Lady of Guadalupe is the second patroness of the Philippine Islands as defined by Pope Pius XI; the primary patroness of the Philippines is still Our Lady under the title of The Immaculate Conception whose colors are blue and white.

Lastly, the Lion icon is the Lion of Spain. The lion represents the Judah, the Lion’s whelp, from whose loins the Messiah, the Son of David, Jesus Christ, shall come:

“You, Judah, shall your brothers praise –your hand on the neck of your enemies; the sons of your father shall bow down to you.9Judah, like a lion’s whelp, you have grown up on prey, my son. He crouches like a lion recumbent, the king of beasts–who would dare rouse him10 The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs, While tribute is brought to him, and he receives the people’s homage.11 (Gen 49:8-11)

The present-day Jews are named after the Tribe of Judah, who survived the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians but was later sent to Babylonian exile.  The Lion of Judah is the municipal emblem of Jerusalem.  The lion also traditionally represents St. Mark the Evangelist because he begins his Gospel with St. John shouting in the desert where the wild beasts like lions live. St. Mark also described Jesus as living in the desert for 40 days to be tempted by the Satan, living with wild beasts, and ministered by angels (Mk 1: 1-13).  St. Peter describes the devil as the roaring lion:

Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.9 Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. (1 Pet 5:8-9)

Thus, if the sun represents the human person, he would always have his guardian angel (eagle) and a demon (lion) by his side to influence his will whether to obey God or to go against His Holy will.

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Fr. Timoteo Ofrasio, S.J., to celebrate traditional latin low mass on the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola at the Divine Mercy Church at Sikatuna, Quezon City

My friends and I attended the traditional latin high mass yesterday at the Parish of the Lord of Divine Mercy at Sikatuna, Quezon City.  The officiating priest was Fr. Michell Joe Zerrudo.  In his homily, Fr. Zerrudo announced that this Friday, 31 July 2009, the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, he invited a Jesuit to celebrate a Traditional Latin low mass at 8 a.m.  The Jesuit’s name is Fr. Timoteo (Tim) Ofrasio, S.J.

Fr. Zerrudo said that Fr. Tim was a professor in theology and an expert in liturgy after Vatican II.  Fr. Tim is also composer.  Fr. Zerrudo sang a few lines (I forgot the lines) and he said that was the song Fr. Tim composed. (The other songs I found from OPM were “Paghahandog sa sarili” and “Panalangin sa Pagiging Bukas Palad”).  Fr. Zerrudo said that the interest of Fr. Tim on the Traditional Mass is itself a story of grace.

I do not know Fr. Tim personally, nor I have ever seen his face.  But I shall definitely be there at Sikatuna this Friday to see a rare and beautiful sight: a Jesuit celebrating the traditional latin mass on the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  This is the mass St. Ignatius and his companions knew and defended with their lives from the attacks of the Protestant reformers who denied the sacrificial nature of the mass and the reality of the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, as taught by the Council of Trent (hence the name Tridentine Mass).  This is the mass that Magellan heard when he set foot at Limasawa, at the start of the colonization of the archipelago and the conversion of our forefathers to the Catholic Faith.  This is the mass the Jesuits celebrated 150 years ago when they set foot again in the Philippines after their suppression and founded Ateneo Municipal de Manila, which later became the Ateneo de Manila University.  This is the mass Jose Rizal heard in his youth in Ateneo and in his cell in Dapitan and in Fort Santiago.  So what could be more apt way to celebrate the Ateneo de Manila University’s sesquicentennial than for a Jesuit to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass in the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola?

Here is Fr. Tim Ofrasio’s address:

Fr. Timoteo JM. Ofrasio, S.J.

Email Address: tmofrasio@yahoo.com

Professor of Liturgy and Sacraments at Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City