Monday, October 6, 2014

La Naval: Heritage Icon of Heroism and Holiness

La Naval: Heritage Icon of Heroism and Holiness

By Fr. Virgilio A. Ojoy, OP |Philippine Daily Inquirer

The five La Naval battles, fought fiercely at sea from March 15 to Oct. 4, 1646, by the Spanish and Filipino soldiers against the mightier, more heavily armed Dutch invaders, were a painful birthing of saints and heroes.

The Spanish and Filipino soldiers were fighting with faith and for their faith. They believed that, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, God could work wonders. That was why they incessantly prayed the Rosary while the battles were raging.

Wittingly or unwittingly, they were fighting for their Christian faith that was staunchly Catholic, with a unique devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. That faith faced a grave threat from the Dutch, who by then generally embraced a faith that veered away from the Catholic tradition.

Rosary and Victory

In a sense, the Filipino and Spanish soldiers were waging a war, literally dying, for the faith they wanted to live by. We do not exactly know what became of each of them, except that a few died during the battles. Some of them might have become martyrs, others may have become saints.

What is certain was that, by being ready to die for the faith they wanted to guide their lives with, they were actually striving for holiness.

From Oct. 2 to Oct. 12, the yearly Rosary and novena prayers will be said in honor of Our Lady of La Naval, in her National Shrine at Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City, to commemorate that momentous victory.

Once again, the devotees will be treated to nine days of prayer and reflection, with the theme “Maria, Inang Layko, Ina ng Layko” accentuating the role of Mary as the Model and Mother of the laity.

The theme was chosen as 2014 has been declared Year of the Laity by the Church in the Philippines as part of the nine-year preparation for the 500th anniversary in 2021 of the arrival of Christianity on Philippine shores.

Holiness and the World

In its pastoral exhortation, “Filipino Catholic Laity: Called to Be Saints, Sent Forth as Heroes,” the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines enjoins the lay people “to find their sanctification in the world, and to sanctify the world and transform it so that this world becomes more and more God’s world, God’s kingdom, where His will is done as it is in heaven.”

The first task lay people can do to sanctify themselves and the world, says pastoral exhortation, is to shun consumerism, that desire to feed one’s self-centeredness with the frivolous pleasures, shutting out others especially the poor and the needy from one’s life.

This is rooted in greed and selfishness that create not so much the oppressed or the exploited but even worse—the excluded, the outcast and the “leftovers,” those who are no longer even part of society.

Instead of greed, selfishness and consumerism, the lay faithful are encouraged to nurture in their hearts and in themselves the virtues of justice and charity so that they can actively participate in the task of creating wealth, preserving it, and sharing it. Through this, they can “exterminate” the existence of the excluded and form a community, nay, a Church where everyone is welcome.

Sanctify Politics

In the Philippines, the problematic areas into which true and authentic Catholics can infuse their souls are in politics, business and commerce.

It is hoped that Catholics who are appointed or elected to public office (and there are many, most of whom are even educated in Catholic schools!) can cleanse our political life of graft and corruption and rid it of political patronage, both of which are closely intertwined with the pork barrel system that should be eradicated.

Voters are urged to make educated choices during elections and avoid selling or buying votes as well as engaging in bribery and accepting kickbacks.

Authentic Catholic lay faithful are also encouraged to cleanse and free the area of business and commerce from the collusion of tax-collecting agencies with some business people, which generates the further impoverishment of those who are already excluded.

Mary, Model of Heroism

The Blessed Virgin Mary is always looked up to by all Christians, especially by Catholics, as a model of holiness. She exemplifies a devout listening to and reflecting on the Word of God and obeying it.

The lay faithful in the Philippines face a formidable battle—against enemies that can wield their power and influence in government, in the justice system, and even in the media, which also needs the healing of its propensity for the news rather that the truth.

Often, the enemy is within themselves—in their values, in their well-entrenched practices and habits which, although wicked, are widely accepted by reason of their sheer longevity.

The novena to Our Lady of La Naval is an avenue by which the call for the laity to holiness and heroism is echoed. Hopefully, like the La Naval battles won through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, today’s battles of conquering oneself, and of transforming Philippine society and Church, can also see a glimmer of that victory that has eluded Las Islas Filipinas for a long, long time.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Remembering the old ‘La Naval’

Remembering the old ‘La Naval’ 

Procesión de las Procesiónes: The La Naval de Manila 

Photo c/o Francis Jason D. Perez III

By Lourdes Syquia-Bautista |Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:08 am | Monday, October 6th, 2014

To me, October invariably brings memories of La Naval de Manila—a novena and procession celebrated to honor Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary at Santo Domingo Church. I’m not referring to the one in Quezon City but to the old Gothic Santo Domingo in Intramuros that was destroyed during the Liberation of Manila in 1945.

Once again I am clad in the long beige-and-red uniform of Santa Catalina College and attending the novena of La Naval. To Filipinos, especially of that time, October was La Naval and La Naval was the fiesta par excellence, at least as far as drawing power was concerned.

As early as four o’clock in the morning the huge bells would start tolling. But long before that there would be early Mass-goers waiting for the massive doors to open. Masses would continue nonstop at the main and side altars until almost 10. (Remember that we fasted from midnight. There were no afternoon Masses then.) High Mass was at eight. All these Masses were attended by thousands.

Afterwards the crowd would dwindle, only to return in the afternoon for the novena. Devotees came from all over. Out-of-town buses from Bulacan, Pampanga, Rizal, and Laguna crowded the patio; calesas transported people from nearby suburbs, and residents from Santa Ana, Malate and Tondo, riding on tranvias, alighted at Plaza Lawton and then crossed the Sunken Gardens and the Muralla to get to the church. From black limousines descended society matrons in their elegant ternos, and aristocratic gentlemen in their white de hilo suits. And all of them crowded the church, praying the rosary aloud, singing the hymns, reciting the novena prayers, and listening to the sermons which, to my recollection, were never shorter than 30 minutes. (For your information, all these prayers and songs were said in Spanish and Latin. The sermon was likewise in Spanish, delivered in the florid manner of the times and from the pulpit without a microphone.)

The climax of the celebration was the procession in the afternoon of the second Sunday of October. One particular procession I will never forget was when I was 12.

We, the students of Santa Catalina, dressed in our white gala uniforms, with veils on our heads and lighted candles in our hands, headed the long procession. My schoolmates and I walked in front of and behind the image of St. Catherine of Siena. We recited the rosary, sang hymns, and marched self-consciously to the music played by the Letran band.

I cannot describe the pride and excitement I felt in being part of that retinue. Looking sideways I saw people lined three-deep on the pavements, reciting the rosary, lighted candles in hand. Glancing up I saw faces crowding the wide windows of entresuelos and second floors, all reciting the Ave Maria. The deep, abiding faith of the devotees I could almost taste in my mouth.

We arrived at the patio of the church way ahead of the others and stayed by the side to await the arrival of the image of Our Lady. I saw the carrozas of famous Dominican saints being pulled by sweating men, the decorated images swaying in the night whenever there was a rut underneath.

And then, at last, after a long time, I heard the music coming from the UST band signaling her imminent arrival. Finally, I caught a glimpse of her statue soaring above the multitude of devotees. In front of her, beside her, behind her walked the Dominican priests in their white habits and black capes looking like the brave medieval knights of old, jealously protecting their Lady.

Before I knew it, the surge of humanity had carried me along with them inside the church where I knelt in one tiny corner trying to catch my breath. Incense assailed my nostrils; O Salutaris and Tantum Ergo throbbed in my ears. Tiny bells rang and I looked up to see the Holy Eucharist floating in a haze above me. I was overwhelmed by a spirit of devotion and reverence I had never felt before.

The Holy Eucharist was lowered and I saw the image of Our Lady, in all her splendor, regal, majestic, wearing her crown of jewels, holding her scepter, her rosary, scented by thousands of roses and illumined by hundreds of candles. In her arm she held her Divine Son, who wasn’t looking at her, however, but at us, as though saying, “I am not only hers, but yours as well.”

A strong feeling of joy gripped me, held me spellbound, and at that precise moment the plaintive strains of Adios, Reina del Cielo sung by the tiples filled the whole church. I was overcome and the tears fell unbidden. When I could see again I looked up, but the curtain had already been lowered, hiding her from view.

When the crowd thinned, I went out the door and was met by a cold blast of October air. I knew I had to hurry; it was late and my parents were waiting for me on Cabildo Street for dinner at the house of Don Paco Gonzalez, my father’s best friend.

I tarried in the patio, nevertheless, not wanting the spell to be broken. I lingered by the fruit stalls, smelled chestnuts roasting on the fire, heard the lanzones vendors chanting as they counted fruit by the hundreds, and from the corner of my eye caught sight of the Ferris wheel going round and round…

And then, once more, the huge bells started pealing and the sounds reverberated in my heart. A sense of well-being enveloped me and I felt protected, secure and happy. I felt that I loved everyone. I thought my people to be lovely people and my country the best place in the world.

NOTE: Lourdes Syquia Bautista, 90, is a retired professor of the University of Santo Tomas.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Songs for the Blessed Virgin Mary

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The Rosary and the Battle of Lepanto (detailed)

When Saint Pius V ascended the throne of Saint Peter early in 1566, Christendom faced extreme peril. The Huguenots had been waging a particularly violent war in France since 1562; the Spanish Netherlands exploded in revolt later in the year; England, having gone from schism to heresy, was openly assisting all the anti-Catholic forces; but the greatest danger came from the constricting tentacles of Muslim aggression throughout Europe and the Mediterranean.
Don Juan of Austria, the supreme commander of the Holy League against the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.
The defense of Malta understandably raised Christian spirits, but it was only a defensive action. The powerful Ottoman fleet, still intact, continued to raid Christian lands. The year after that strategic triumph, Ali Pasha, who commanded the naval forces in Malta, captured Chios, the last Genoese position in the Eastern Mediterranean and through treachery murdered the ruling Giustiniani family. Then for three days the Mohammedans roved over the island, massacred all the inhabitants and destroyed everything Catholic. Two boys in the Giustiniani family, aged ten and twelve, were martyred. The younger boy, almost cut to pieces, was told to hold up one finger if he wished to apostatize and live. He clenched his fists so tight that they could not be opened even after death.
Some months later, Suleiman led another of those huge armies—always at his disposal—of 200,000 men and 300 cannons up the Danube River Valley toward Vienna. But instead of focusing on his main objective, he allowed himself to be distracted by a minor irritant in southwestern Hungary. The small, walled town of Szigetvar and its Croatian overlord, Count Zriny, who was cut from the same cloth as Skanderbeg, continued to resist occupation. Like most tyrants, Suleiman would not accept what he saw as insulting behavior and so deviated from his original plan. After losing several weeks just transporting his cumbersome equipment over difficult terrain, he was tied down another five weeks by the heroic resistance of the Hungarians. Zriny died leading a final charge with a sword in his hand and praise of Jesus on his lips. However, Suleiman could not enjoy any satisfaction from his misdirected effort, for he had died the night before. Vienna would have to wait for another day. Selim II, known as the Sot because of his drinking habits, took over the throne in Constantinople, having already eliminated all rivals in his family, and plotted the next attack on Christianity.

The Pope of the Rosary
From the moment of his elevation, Saint Pius V, through his experience and extraordinary vision, not only recognized the grave peril to Christendom but also saw the solution; the Ottoman power could be broken solely by means of a crusade; and crusades are won not only on the battlefield but also in the spiritual life, that is, on the supernatural level. Spain and Venice, as we shall see, viewed the Turks as a threat to their material welfare—as indeed they were—but the holy Pope also saw them as a threat to the order that God Himself placed in the world and for that reason employed the weapons of spiritual warfare.
Saint Pius V increasingly asked for more prayers from pious Catholics, especially from the monks and nuns in their cloisters. If he asked for more sacrifices from others, he certainly intended to carry his portion of the burden by doubling his accustomed exercises of piety and mortification. A devotion to which he gave special attention was the Rosary, so much so that he was called the “Pope of the Rosary.”1 In fact, the great saint secured the uniformity of recitation of the Hail Mary through a Papal Bull published in 1568.
Maps showing the positions of the Christians (red) and of the Turks (black) in the naval battle off the coast of Greece at 10:30 a.m. and noon.

The Holy League

While Saint Pius V was trying to organize an effective alliance against the increasing danger, another Muslim provocation illustrated the precarious situation. During the Christmas season of 1568, the pent-up hatred of the “converted” Moors, known as Moriscos, burst forth in all its massive cruelty. Savage tortures were employed against their victims before they were violently dispatched, especially against humble village priests and their altar boys. If they called on Jesus or His Blessed Mother for strength, their tongues were cut out or their mouths were loaded with gunpowder and ignited. These descendants of the invaders who had nearly destroyed Christian Spain during an occupation lasting eight centuries again drenched the country in blood.
Ferdinand Braudel in his acclaimed work on the Mediterranean2 remarked that there was no doubt about the links between the Spanish rebels and the corsairs of Algeria, the latter being staunch allies of the Turks. The Barbary pirates brought men, ammunition, and weapons to the southern Spanish coast and took Christian prisoners as payment, thus introducing another thread in the noose strangling Catholic Europe.
Initial attempts to subdue the well-organized revolution met with failure until Don Juan of Austria was placed in overall command. A soldier who possessed all the extraordinary abilities of leadership, including judgment and courage, he vigorously and relentlessly pursued a campaign that destroyed the enemy strongholds and brought the survivors to their knees. Meanwhile, all the courts of Europe were informed that extensive preparations for greater aggression were visibly under way at Constantinople.
Only a saint who lived daily in God’s presence and His benevolent power could have assessed the seemingly insurmountable difficulties of forming an anti-Turkish league and then going forward with such energy and tenacity.3 Saint Pius V repeatedly sent out requests to the counts of Europe to join the crusade; yet, one treacherous or indifferent monarch after another excused himself. Spain, which could be motivated by Catholic considerations, and the Republic of Venice, whose territories were most vulnerable, did not refuse; nevertheless, they sent evasive replies.
Spain, alone among the Europeans, was willing to contribute its resources in men and material, although it had difficulty in seeing beyond its narrow interests. On the other hand, Venice, basically unreliable in any idealistic cause, was willing to fight only when its commercial interests were threatened. Yet Saint Pius V was finally able to bring the greatest power in Europe and the possessor of the largest fleet in the Mediterranean to the bargaining table.
Once there, the skillful and occasionally duplicitous negotiators, mutually distrustful and desirous of financial advantage, began to haggle over every possible issue. Throughout the long, agonizing months, the Pope’s overpowering personality swept aside all obstacles to force a decision. Although sick and in constant pain, the indomitable Pontiff finally concluded an agreement with the two shortsighted governments in March 1571.
According to the treaty, the choice of its supreme commander was reserved for the Pope. Behind his sumptuous chapel adorned with gold cloth and silver vessels was a bare, miserable oratory where the Dominican monk would go in the early morning hours to pray unobserved. Prostrated on the cold stones before a crucifix and with deep groans, the holy monk appealed to God for guidance. The Pope then went into the rich chapel to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. When he reached the Gospel of Saint John, he began to read, “Fuit homo missus a Deo, cui nomem erat Joannes!” (“There was a man from God whose name was John!”).4 Turning his face toward the Virgin, he paused and realized that the commander of the crusade was to be Don Juan of Austria. The choice of this truly great crusader was of inestimable value, for the lack of competent leadership caused several scandalous failures during previous decades.

The Battle of Lepanto
The Battle
In the middle of September, the largest Christian fleet ever assembled sailed out from Messina in Sicily to seek out and destroy the Muslim fleet commanded by the Sultan’s brother-in-law, Ali Pasha. Saint Pius V granted all members of the expedition the indulgences of crusaders. Not one of the 81,000 soldiers and sailors had failed to confess and receive Holy Communion.
The immense fleet moved eastward across the Ionian Sea in a file stretching out for nearly ten miles. Ten days later it arrived at Corfu off the northwestern coast of Greece. The Turks had ravaged the place the month before and left their usual calling cards: burned-out churches, broken crucifixes, and mangled bodies of priests, women, and children.
Here the animosity between the Italians and Spanish that festered just below the surface almost erupted when the Venetian commander, the crusty, battle-scarred old Sebastian Veniero, hung four argumentative Spaniards from his yardarm. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. Don Juan wondered if the Christians would annihilate one another before the enemy was even sighted.
Then word arrived: “Ali Pasha is in Lepanto!” A long thin body of water, known as the Gulf of Corinth, separates central Greece from the Peloponnesus, the southern peninsula. About a quarter of the way into the inlet from the west sits Lepanto, the fortified headquarters of the Turkish fleet.
From Corfu the fleet worked its way down the northwest coast of Greece. On October 5 came the infuriating news that Christendom had suffered another cruel indignity from the Ottomans. Cyprus, the jewel of Venice’s far-flung island possessions, had been attacked the year before. The besieged capital, Nicosia, had fallen quickly, and its twenty thousand survivors had been massacred. The fortified city of Famagusta held out for another year due to the courageous leadership of Marc Antonio Bragadino, its governor. With no hope of relief in sight and starvation and disease reducing the population, Bragadino agreed to what appeared to be honorable terms and surrendered. In an act of unbelievable treachery, the Turkish general, three days later, hacked the Venetian officers to death. For the next week, Bragadino was horribly mutilated and then flayed alive.
At sunrise on Sunday morning, October 7, the chaplains on each ship were celebrating Mass as the vanguard of the fleet cruised south along the coast, turned the corner at the headlands, and entered the Gulf of Corinth. Since dawn the Turks had been moving in their direction from the east, with the advantage of having the wind at their back. While the ships of the League maneuvered from file to line abreast, Don Juan, with crucifix in hand, passed by each galley shouting encouragement and was met, as he made his way through the line, with tremendous applause and enthusiasm. By using tact and understanding, and forcefulness when necessary, he had welded many disparate elements into a united fleet.
The young crusader divided his force into four squadrons. On the left, he placed the soft-spoken but fierce-fighting Venetian Agostino Barbarigo. Don Juan led the central squadron, ably supported by Veniero and the papal commander, Marc Antonio Colonna. The cautious Gian Andrea Doria controlled the fate of the right wing. Only the Christians displayed their forces in such a way as to create a reserve squadron, and they had the good fortune of having this under the command of the Marquis de Santa Cruz, the Holy League’s most respected admiral.
Although the Christian galleys were outnumbered, 274 to 208, they had superior firepower in cannon and harquebuses, while the Turks relied mostly on bows and arrows. By nine o’clock the two lines were fifteen miles apart and closing fast. Just before contact was made, the wind that had been favoring the Turks shifted around from the east to the opposite direction. The Christians drew first blood when their huge, though unwieldy, galleys fired many rounds of cannon shot with devastating effect. But because of their lack of maneuverability, the floating batteries quickly passed out of action.
Alvaro de Bazan, first Marquis de Santa Cruz, commander of the reserve squadron of the Holy League. Painting by Andrea F. Phillips
Barbarigo’s counterpart, Mohammed Sirocco, made a quick dash between the Venetian commander’s left wing and the shore line, hoping to swing around and trap Don Juan’s squadron from behind. Barbarigo quickly slid over and intercepted the Turks, but several galleys had slipped by and attacked him from the rear. When his squadron closed in to help, Barbarigo, standing in the midst of fierce struggle, lifted the visor of his helmet to coordinate their attack. An arrow pierced his eye; mortally wounded, he was carried below. However, his quick, self-sacrificing action had prevented Sirocco’s flanking movement. The Christian left then trapped the Muslim wing of fifty-six galleys against the shore and methodically destroyed it.
The center of both lines bore down heavily on each other without any thought of subterfuge or trickery. The Muslims were yelling, screaming, and banging anything that would make noise. The Christians were in an ominous silence, weapons in one hand, rosaries in the other. Usually, the flagships stand off from the heat of battle, but not this time; both supreme commanders set a hard course for each other. Ali Pasha’s Sultana gained the initial advantage by ramming into the Reale up to the fourth rower’s bench. Don Juan grappled the two ships together and boarded. Instantly, a dozen Turkish ships closed in behind Ali Pasha, supplying him with thousands of janissaries. Veniero and Colonna hugged the Reale from either side. Reinforcements arrived from other galleys. Some two dozen ships became interlocked, thus forming a floating battlefield. The battle raged back and forth over the blood-soaked, carnage-strewn decks.
Many in the Christian fleet performed magnificent acts of valor. The ferocious old Veniero stood at his prow in full view, firing shot after shot while his young servant reloaded. A Sicilian sergeant, rather than die of disease, jumped out of his sickbed, went on deck, and killed four Turks before dying from nine arrow wounds. The duke of Parma, companion to Don Juan and future military genius, jumped aboard a Muslim galley and cut down the first twelve men he faced.
Finally, Don Juan, huge broadsword in one hand and an axe in the other, led an attack across the Sultana that ended in the death of Ali Pasha. From that point on the spirit and fighting capacity of the Turks declined.
One last hope for the Ottomans remained. Aluch Ali, the clever Barbary corsair, out-foxed Doria by dragging him too far to the Christian right. He then cut back and slipped through the opened hole. Cardona, with a handful of galleys, attempted to block him but was wiped out. Santa Cruz, who was giving valuable support to the center squadron, broke away to intercept Aluch Ali. The latter, seeing his opportunity for an unhindered attack on the Christian rear disappear, fled to the open sea with just a few of his ships. Most of his squadron was destroyed when Doria wheeled about and assisted Santa Cruz in finishing the weakened Ottoman fleet.
The Holy League had achieved an overwhelming victory in the largest sea battle fought up to that time. The Ottoman Empire lost about 240 galleys and saw 30,000 killed. The League suffered a trifling 12 galleys sunk; 7,600 men were killed.
At the time the battle was won, Saint Pius V was studying financial sheets with the papal treasurer. He rose, went to the window and looked toward the east. When he turned around his face was radiant with supernatural joy, and he exclaimed, “The Christian fleet is victorious!”5 After human agencies verified the news two weeks later, Saint Pius V added the Feast of the Holy Rosary to the Church calendar and the invocation Auxilium Christianorum to the litany of Our Lady, since the victory was due to her intercession.    

1. C. M. Antony, Saint Pius V: Pope of the Rosary (New York: 1911), 77.
2. Ferdinand Braudel, The Mediterranean (New York: 1973), 1061.
3. For a complete and accurate account of the difficulties, see Ludwig von Pastor, History of the Popes (St. Louis, Mo.: 1929), vol. XVIII.
4. Father Luis Coloma, Story of Don John of Austria (London: 1913), 215.
5. Robin Anderson, Saint Pius V (Rockford, Ill.: 1978), 78. Several biographers use a longer quotation. See Antony, op. cit., 91.

The 15 Promises of Our Lady to those who pray the Rosary with Devotion

(from St. Dominic and Blessed Alan de la Roche)

1. Whosoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary shall receive signal graces.

2. I promise my special protection and the greatest Graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.

3. The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against Hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.

4. It will cause good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant Mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men [and women] from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire for Eternal Things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.

5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.

6. Whosoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself [herself] to the consideration of its Sacred Mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the Grace of God, and become worthy of Eternal Life.

7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the Sacraments of the Church.

8. Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the Light of God and the plenitude of His Graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the Merits of the Saints in Paradise.

9. I shall deliver from Purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.

10. The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of Glory in Heaven.

11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by recitation of the Rosary.

12. All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.

13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire Celestial Court during their life and at the hour of death.

14. All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only Son, Jesus Christ.

15. Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.