Faith has no expiration date
FAMILY JEWELS - Michelle Dayrit-Soliven () - June 12, 2011 - 12:00am

Faith has no expiration date. The more we believe, the more blessings we receive.

My story today may be a suitable read during the Holy Week. But knowing each day, each week that we are blessed with is holy, I will go on with my story.

It was on Good Friday, upon the invitation of my cousin Trade Undersecretary Tito Panlilio and his family, that I experienced the kind of faith the people of San Fernando, Pampanga have. 

As we drove through the streets of San Fernando that day, we witnessed multiple groups of bloodied men young and old, walking while bravely flagellating themselves in humble devotion. Arriving at the ancestral home of Tito’s family in San Fernando, we were deeply moved by the scene that welcomed us. The closely-knit members of the Panlilio clan were all gathered together in the living room, earnestly praying the rosary right in front of their life-size image of the Mater Dolorosa.

Amidst warm hugs and kisses of “Welcome prima!”, we joined them as they continued to recite the 3 o’clock prayer. I gazed at the Mater Dolorosa, the Panlilio family’s pride, regally dressed in a black velvet gown with intricate gold embroidery. Tito’s daughter, Criselle Panlilio-Alejandro, pointed out the single tear below the Virgin’s eye, informing me that the Virgin Mary of Sorrows is mourning the crucified Lord Jesus Christ.

“Ever since I was five, I have been a devotee of the Mater Dolorosa. My family and I would go to San Fernando to attend the procession. My uncles and aunts would prepare the carosa and dress up the Virgin. And we did it every year. I must have missed attending this occasion only twice in my life,” said Tito.

Tito told me that this family tradition began in the 1800s. That was the time when the parish church designated his ancestors to own the Mater Dolorosa and annually ensure that she was prepared for the Holy Week procession. The ivory head of the Virgin, Tito said, is still the original one from the 1800s.

Because faith in Mama Mary is intrinsic in most members of Tito’s family, the tradition of venerating the Mater Dolorosa has been passed on from one generation to the next.

“Like many traditions,” said Criselle, “the Good Friday procession involving the Mater Dolorosa is more greatly appreciated as one grows older.”

With the Panlilio family’s pride — the Mater Dolorosa: (First row, from left) the author Michelle Dayrit-Soliven, Tito, Don Pablo and Rafa Panlilio; (second row, from left) Vini Luciano, Alice Panlilio, Michelle and Rely Liwag, Melot Panlilio, Tati Luciano, Matthew Dayrit, Shirley and Ramon Panlilio and Mylene Dayrit; (third row, from left) Enzo Panlilio, Mikey Liwag, Mark Dayrit and Christine Dayrit, Binggoy Ocampo, Ging and Panlilio.

Now in her mid-twenties, Criselle said the ancestral house was restored after it was damaged by the lahar. It was declared a National Heritage Site in 2007. “To this day,” Criselle added, “it is in this bahay na bato where the Dayrit-Panlilio-Hizon clan gathers together to observe the Holy Week, most especially Good Friday.”

For Criselle’s brother Enzo, the Good Friday experience has always been about the procession. “As a boy, I was fascinated with Bible stories and I was always in awe seeing the carosas in full motion. It is a holy event but the grandiose nature of the procession makes it such a spectacular sight.”

Another brother, GB, said: “I love seeing how so many of us Filipinos participate in special Church holidays and giving reverence to the Lord.”

Criselle shared with me her dad’s story of how his family’s devotion to Mater Dolorosa began. “It was Holy Wednesday of 1954. Lolo Sitong (Luis Dayrit Panlilio) and his younger brother Lolo Carling (Charlie Dayrit Panlilio) prepared the carosa of the Mater Dolorosa for the evening procession. At that time, the carosas were powered by heavy-duty batteries rather than generators. Before lunch, they ensured that everything was working, including the batteries. After lunch, Lolo Sitong’s father-in-law asked him to accompany him to check the sugar haciendas since after Holy Wednesday, there would be no more work until after Easter. Lolo Sitong agreed to go with him. They were on their way out when the electrician came running after Lolo Sitong to report that the batteries of the carosa were surprisingly not working. Lolo Sitong told his father-in-law to go ahead and he would follow later on.”

While Lolo Sitong was checking on the carosa, Criselle continued, there was an ambush by the Huks in the hacienda. Lolo Sitong’s father-in-law and driver were killed. “This is what our family considers the miracle of the Mater Dolorosa: If Lolo Sitong had been with them, he would have been killed as well. But because he had to attend to the Mater Dolorosa, his life was spared. Ever since that incident, my family has made a devout panata to the Mater Dolorosa. We also believe that it is because of this that the Panlilios have been blessed with longevity.”

Criselle added: “Lolo Sitong lived till 91, Lola Memeng (Lourdes Dayrit Panlilio) till 93. Meanwhile, Lolo Pabling (Pablo Dayrit Panlilio) is still strong at 98 and Lola Teresing (Teresita Dayrit Panlilio) is a durable 100-year-old woman.”

Today the tradition is continued by the next generation composed of Panlilio first cousins Tito, Corito, Vicot, Vini, Rely, Tati, Lito, Connie, Melot, Dely, Detdet among others. They are evidently devoted to maintaining the tradition of the Mater Dolorosa.

My Catholic belief taught me that blessings are received by those who have devotions to Mama Mary. So I asked Tito what indulgences have he and his family received from their devotion to the Mater Dolorosa.

“For my uncles and aunts, they have been gifted with long, happy and fulfilled lives. My wife Sabrina and I believe that our graces, our successes, good health and our happy family life are indulgences from our devotion to Mater Dolorosa,” Tito answered.

For Tito, the Mater Dolorosa has also been the center point of family bonding and renewal of friendships among relatives near and far. And the relationship that they rekindle is so strong they always remember to be there for each other. That, in itself, is an indulgence that is enough to last them a lifetime.


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