Last Sunday, Christmas Day, the parishioners of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Batangas City were shocked to find out that a seemingly crazed man, armed with a metal candlestick, attacked the altar and the image of the Santo Niño. Photos (with captions) of the carnage were immediately posted by Fr. Leonido C. Dolor, the basilica’s Director of the Archdiocesan Commission on Social Communication and Mass Media, on his Facebook page and has since become viral on the said social networking site.
As of this writing, the album already has 103 shares.
The description on Fr. Dolor’s album reads:
At around three in the afternoon, Christmas day itself, a man for reason not yet assessed, took hold of one of those big candelabras at the altar of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Batangas City and laid waste the marble altar (see photos) and then took a swing at the altar of Sto. Nino, breaking the glass panel and deforming the crown of the Child Jesus! Is this his way of saying “Happy birthday, Jesus?” He later fought the “tambays” outside the Basilica who tried to apprehend him.
This crime is a concern not only for the Catholic faithful of Batangas City and elsewhere but for heritage advocates and travelers/tourists as well. Whenever me and my wife visit an old town, we make it a point to stop by the town proper’s old church. And although no religious services were held during the times that we get to visit these churches, we almost always gain easy access to their interiors, including the bell towers. Many of these churches’ caretakers are hospitable and accommodating whenever we request entry for photograph sessions. But this crime which happened in Batangas City’s basilica last Sunday is not just a case of vandalism but can also be considered a security breach, thus it might set a precedent: future church visits might become a pain in the neck for tourists. Many churches might even have their doors locked after a Mass.
And to make matters worse, it coincided with the gruesome bombings of about five churches in faraway Nigeria.
Via Facebook, I inquired for more details from Fr. Dolor. He replied immediately, saying that the vandal had a “brief psychotic reaction due to deprivation of food and sleep”. It was later learned that this man walked all the way from Macati City to Batangas for five days without food nor sleep! Further inquiries also revealed that this man was a Pentecostal, but that he was “angry at God”; Fr. Dolor did not elaborate further. What is sad here is that one of the “tambays” (bystanders) who tried to apprehend him was injured during the commotion (he was hospitalized; please pray for him).
On a positive note, we should still be thankful that this crazed man was in no way a terrorist, and that the damage he had wrought upon the basilica’s altar was minimal compared to what had happened to those churches in Nigeria. But as mentioned above, this might set a precedent regarding security measures. There is no problem to that. The Catholic Church as well as all the other religious denominations should really plan more about this (especially during these days when not even banks are in danger of being attacked by mindless scum). But hopefully not to the detriment of a social-networking-starved and a digital-camera-wielding public. Why, even Fr. Dolor himself has a Facebook account.