Thursday, December 6, 2007
Pastoral Ministry in the Mountain Province
It’s been a week since the conclusion of the Long Retreat, and now we tertians are on the road again, this time to the Mountain Province, a region in the north central part of Luzon known for its breath-taking natural beauty. As the name of the province suggests, the terrain is very mountainous (elevation is about 5,000 feet above sea level). Temperatures in the Mountain Province at this time of year are considerably cooler than they are in Manila or any of the southern regions of the Philippine archipelago. The Mountain Province is perhaps best known for the Banawe Rice Terraces, one of the natural wonders of the world. The rice terraces were constructed thousands of years ago by the Irugot and Ifugao tribes. Carved right into the mountainsides, the terraces are irrigated naturally with mountain springs and are still actively used to grow rice. I can’t wait to see these rice terraces with my own eyes. I hope to take photos and post them on this blog in the new year.
Our mission there for the next two and a half weeks is to assist in various parishes in the cities of Bontoc, Lagawe, Banawe, and Tabuk. Duties will include sacramental ministries (confessions, baptisms, eucharist, funerals as needed), catechesis for school children, and visiting the sick and homebound. A highlight of each of us tertians will be our engagement in a Filipino custom known as “Simbang Gabi,” a novena of pre-dawn Eucharistic liturgies leading up to the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord (“Noche Buena”). Beginning on December 16th, for nine consecutive mornings, the Filipino faithful come to their parish churches at 4am (!) to celebrate the liturgies of Simbang Gabi. Each Mass is followed by food and fellowship. The custom came to the Philippines back in the 17th century by way of Spain and Mexico. However, this novena has not been observed in Spain or Mexico for centuries, and is today only celebrated in the Philippines, and with great affection and fanfare. Can’t wait to experience it myself!
On Christmas Day, I head back to Manila to meet up with my parents, my sister (Maria), and my brother (Ron) and and his wife (Michelle), and their young son, all of whom are flying in for a Bigornia family reunion (my mom’s side of the family) here in Manila. It’ll be a Christmas to remember for us all!
My next blog posting probably won’t come until after the first of the year, so I take this opportunity to thank you again for your prayerful support in these last four months, and to wish you the quiet joys and peace of the season. Merry Christmas, and a prosperous New Year!