Faith and Gratitude

“It is hard to imagine how my life would be without the missionaries who came into the country. I am grateful because I am now harvesting the fruits of their labor. “

Faith and Gratitude

by Elbert L. Balbastro

Columban seminarian

My fondest memories while growing up are mostly from my involvement in Church activities. Every night, we had an evening prayer called Barangay sang Virgen, wherein we placed the statue of our Blessed Mother in one house then prayed the rosary together with the family. The next day, we would transfer  the statue to the neighbouring house and would perform the same activities.

My playmates and I used to pick flowers and petals on the street for the Flores de Mayo celebration in May. During Holy Week, on Good Friday, a procession of the statue of the dead Jesus alongside the statues of various saints would take place, from the church to the cemetery where we bury the statue of Jesus in a designated place. On the morning of Easter Sunday, we would reenact the meeting of Jesus and Mary, called Salubong (to meet or to welcome).

Christmas in the Philippines starts as early as September, making it the longest and happiest celebration we have. As a child, I remember singing Christmas Carols in front of every house in my village and helping make a parol (lantern).

In Iloilo, we celebrate the Dinagyang festival to honor Senor Sto. Nino every 4th week of January.  There is street dancing with people shouting “Viva Senor Sto. Nino.” This is the time to commemorate the goodness of God and the graces bestowed on us through Jesus Christ.

All the fascinating and joyful expressions of faith that I had experienced remain in my mind and have become an integral part of my faith in God as a Christian.

As we mark the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines, I couldn’t help but express my gratitude to God for the gift of faith. It is hard to imagine how my life would be without the missionaries who came into the country. I am grateful because I am now harvesting the fruits of their labor. I thank them for their sacrifices, coming to an unfamiliar place and risking their lives crossing the Pacific oceans despite the uncertainties. Such faith is  worth emulating. By introducing us to the Catholic faith, making known the person of Jesus, and the devotion to Mary, I am able to appreciate the beauty of life and to be hopeful, trustful, and faithful especially during the more turbulent moments in  life. Storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, a pandemic and other natural calamities have struck the Philippines but Filipinos remain resilient and continue to live happily because of our strong bond to God.

I chose to join a missionary society to honor the legacy of those missionaries who first came to the Philippines. It is my way of expressing my sincerest appreciation for their contribution to the Philippine Church. As I prepare myself for the upcoming event which will be in March 2021, I want to express my utmost gratitude to God, the missionaries, and the lay faithful. The faith of the Filipinos is a grace from God and also a constant reminder that God is always present in our midst no matter what happens.

“Salubong” at Our Lady of Remedies Parish, Malate, Manila