For many people, October 4th was an ordinary Thursday. But for us, who serve at the Parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Meycauayan City, it was definitely one of the most important days in our lives as Catholics. We even filed our leaves off work for this day, and some students I know had to be absent from their classes. Why? It was the feast day of our dear patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi.
I was lucky enough to be picked as the official photographer of the events. So excuse me if I don't detail the life of St. Francis here or the history of the parish. I intend to detail on this blog everything I could remember from that hectic yet definitely fulfilling celebration.
Basically, the celebration began on September 22 (Saturday) when the Parish Commission on Youth - together with different church and community organizations - held the Lakbayan. It is the traditional retrieval of the Cross of Toril from Bahay Pari (then Sitio Toril). This commemorates the birth of Catholicism in our town as - as history recounts - the first parish was actually established in the said place before it was transferred to its present location in Poblacion.
As what we have been doing for ten years already, there was a motorcade to parade the cross for all the people to see. As soon as the cross reached the church, it was venerated at the altar, and a mass was held. Afterwards, a Taizé prayer led by the PCY happened at the Multi-Purpose Hall.
D-Day: Happy Fiesta, St. Francis!
My day started early on that morning of October 4th. I got to church at around 6:30AM and the others were there already. Kuya Marvin (one of the main organizers) was already there, together with other involved personalities.
At 6:45AM, Most Reverend Bishop Emeritus Cirilo Almario, D.D. arrived at the sacristy, assisted by Luis Francis Tan. He officiated the 7AM mass, which was concelebrated by Msgr. Epitacio Castro (Parish Priest of St. Francis of Assisi Parish), Fr. Romi Sasi, and Fr. Ulysses Reyes.
Well, I really wasn't able to concentrate on this mass because I had to run to everywhere to take pictures and videos. Tina, my friend who assisted me, was late so I had to carry out two responsibilities for a time. Nonetheless, it was a good experience. She arrived in time for the liturgical readings so it was good.
Anyway, I had to mention here that the choir for the 7AM mass was the Marian Music Ministry from St. Mary's College of Meycauayan. It is headed by Robby dela Vega, a good friend who helped much in the preparations for the feast.
After the mass, I had to run off to Ate Ces' house because I was wearing jeans. I got reprimanded by Kuya Marvin (and I think I learned my lesson from there) that I have to wear slacks and blouse when I'm taking pictures during masses. Good thing that I had time to spare as we waited for the Suguran to begin.
Suguran is how we call the street dancing event every feast day. It features the students from the different high schools in Meycauayan as they dance on the streets in colorful costumes and different props to commemorate St. Francis and St. Clare. A group of female dancers also wore green Filipiniana and brought bamboo sticks to represent the town of Meycauayan. (Meycauayan derived from the term Mey-KAWAYAN. Kawayan means bamboo.)
But I think the main attraction in this Suguran is the actual suguran (fight). Well, it was just a dance reenacting what happened in our town before Christianity dawned. I am yet to know the full history from Kuya Ronron or Kuya Marvin but I could tell that centuries ago, there were two tribe leaders who were fighting. When the first Franciscans arrived in Meycauayan, they were converted to Christianity and eventually made peace with each other.
Honestly, it's not just the history that I find extremely attractive about this part of the celebration. What I love most about this event is the fact that my town has something to boast, like other major cities in the Philippines. We flaunt a story using the loud drumbeats, colorful costumes and lively choreography. We celebrate the feast remarkably. I guess that's really something to be proud of for many residents of Meycauayan.
The 9AM mass which took part immediately after Suguran was basically the highlight of the day. It was a high mass officiated by His Reverend Jose F. Oliveros, D.D. and concelebrated by (if I'm not mistaken) 11 other priests. It was actually my first time seeing quite a lot of priests in a mass but it was worth the experience.
Before the actual entrance procession for the mass, there was another grand entrance procession which presented the participants of the Suguran as well as the members of the different church organizations. Honor Guards from the Knights of Columbus Council 3941 was there as well.
Topping the whole pre-entrance procession was, of course, the star of the day: St. Francis of Assisi. His statue was placed on a coach and was enthroned in front of the altar. People were asked to wave their handkerchiefs to pay tribute to the patron saint. The people did, and although it's kinda awkward to admit this, the view gave me goosebumps.
Okay. So the pontifical mass followed. There were lots of people (and animals, too!) in the church and it was really exciting to see that much mass attendees.
I have to take note of the offertory. Aside from the typical wine, water and host that people bring to the altar, it has been a common tradition for the La Purisima Bakery to provide two large (and I mean LARGE) breads every October 4th. It will be blessed and will be distributed to the people after the mass. People believe that if they eat the blessed bread, they would be healed from their sickness or their problems would be solved. I don't doubt these beliefs. I mean, people can put their faith on anything they want to, after all.
After the mass, plenary indulgence was given by Bishop Oliveros, making the mass a really, really important one. I kinda regret that I didn't concentrate on the mass as I had to run around from time to time. But then again, I hope I would still be worthy of that blessing.
As every Filipino fiesta means food, we had delicious lunch at the convent. The food was really nice, and it kinda prepped us up for the next important things that we had to do for the day. We also got to bond with Fr. Uly, our spiritual director; Fr. Sasi, and Msgr. Epi. Joking about just anything, it was really fun.
Ending the Celebration
Work resumed at 5:45 PM when Most Reverend Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, D.D. arrived. He officiated the 6PM mass and was assisted by six priests and one deacon. I didn't took that much pictures since I knew I had to concentrate on that mass.
The procession immediately began as soon as the mass ended. I was supposed to not join it anymore because I was really tired already but I realized that it's a little sacrifice that I have to do. We ended up walking from the church to Banga to Calvario and back to the church. Good thing we didn't pass by flooded areas.
After the procession, I felt ecstatic - especially when I saw Fr. Uly and Fr. Sasi dancing (for St. Clare) with the SFO members. I realized that even though the event was not as grandiose and extravagant as originally planned, it was definitely one of the most exciting fiestas I've ever experienced in Meycauayan.
|Me with Tina|
As we were having dinner at the convent that night, I realized how important it is to dedicate even just a day to a saint who had been practically a huge part of my existence. St. Francis of Assisi has been an inspiration to me since day one, as much as St. Jude Thaddeus. So it was an honor to have been a part of a very important celebration to honor his memory.
Honestly, I consider October 4th a miracle. You see, there was a typhoon that time. If I'm not mistaken, Zambales was experiencing hard rainfalls. But as you can see in the first picture of this post, the sky was clear. Although it turned dark (that we had to switch the lights on during lunch) and it drizzled in the afternoon, we still experienced good weather up until the procession.
That is why I am thanking St. Francis (and St. Clare) for all the blessings we received that day; and for all the blessings we have received and will continuously receive. I hope that until the very end, I would be strong enough to perform various tasks for his parish, and for the glory of his name, of Jesus, of Mo. Mary, and of God.
St. Francis, pray for us.
For more pictures, kindly visit the Facebook Page of Parish of St. Francis of Assisi
3rd, 4th, 5th photos were taken by Tina
Last one was taken by Celine