2016 Sinulog at Joso Catholic Church
PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero Ballescas (The Freeman) - February 3, 2016 - 9:00am

As the International Eucharistic Congress was winding up in Cebu last Sunday, hundreds of Filipinos from various parishes of the Saitama Diocese in Japan gathered together to worship our Sto. Niño during the Sinulog celebration at Joso Catholic Church.

Bringing with them their statue of the Sto. Niño, they joined the mass celebrated by Fr. Jack Serate, a Cebuano priest from the Order of Friars Minor (OFM). Fr. Jack is also the Director of the Saitama Catholic International Center (Open House), a Catholic ministry that assists needy migrants in Japan.

In his homily, Fr. Jack reminded everyone that "in the Year of Mercy, let our supplications to the Sto. Niño not always be only for our own personal intentions but for others in need. Dancing in front of the Holy Child is also a call to action to go and reach out to the poor. The closing of the IEC challenges us to be like Jesus in the Eucharist, that we should also be the bread of life to others. The feast of the Sto. Niño, the Year of Mercy, the International Eucharistic Congress rolled into one: The merciful God-child, the bread of eternal life."

There were about 200 or more participants for this year's Sinulog in Joso. When asked about his estimates of the participants, Fr. Jack replied, "Puno jud kaayo ang simbahan labi na sa misa. More than 200. Namauli ang uban pagkahuman sa misa. Maybe 300+?  Daghan pud ang communion hosts pero gamay ra ang nahibilin way labot sa wa mo-communion."

Days before last Sunday's Sinulog were cloudy, rainy, and very very wintery cold. The Sinulog organizers led by Sr. Maria Carmen Segovia, Obet Mandreza, Bong Olea, Nonoy and Nora Albarillo, and Dodong and Eleanor Soliva shared with us their concern about the attendance for the event due to the bad weather. They shared that as they were setting up the tents to be used for the event, the winds were very strong and the clouds threatening to pour out more rain. On their way by car to Joso early  that Sunday morning, Fr. Jack also shared that the fog was very thick as they crossed cities to get to Joso, making driving through the fog a big challenge.

But lo and behold! When Fr. Jack and his party reached Joso before the 10a.m. mass, the sun came out brightly, the winds left, and everyone felt that beautiful, comfortable spring weather, rather than winter, was all around! The Joso organizers also could not contain their joyful gratitude for the "miraculous" sudden appearance of the bright sun that brought warmth all around and that chased the winds away!

Sto. Niño certainly gifted all with that beautiful sunny Sunday! Lain gyud ang atong Senyor Sto. Niño no? According to Fr. Jack, "Merciful Sto. Niño indeed."

Just like in Cebu, after the mass, a procession followed outside the Church. The worshippers, with their statues of their beloved Sto. Niño, danced to the beat and shouted Pit Senyor! Then, happy dance and song numbers followed as Filipino food and drinks were sold in the booths.

Congratulations to the Joso Catholic Church community for organizing a very successful, happy event. Congratulations to all the participants too who shared their happy dances and songs for the Sto. Niño and the crowd.

It is always a happy occasion for us to see so many of our kababayans enjoying events that allow them to worship together and that allow them to remember the wonderful feasts back home they used to observe with the rest of their family members, friends, and neighbors. The events also allow Filipinos to bond together and to be reminded about the importance of uniting and celebrating love for God and our country. It is an added blessing, too, to be allowed to continue to practice one's faith and to celebrate Filipino cultural and religious events in a foreign country like Japan.

Events like the Sinulog, attended as well by foreign friends and spouses of the Filipinos, are important occasions to bridge cultures. Filipinos are bringing and sharing their culture and their faith in God and their love for family in Japan and elsewhere in the world. It takes time for multiculturalism to be actualized, where people of various cultures can learn to accept each other despite diversities. Meanwhile, Filipinos continue to believe and hold firmly to the Lord, wherever they are, however they can.

cherryb_thefreeman@yahoo.com.

AS THE INTERNATIONAL EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS ATILDE BONG OLEA CEBU JOSO JOSO CATHOLIC CHURCH PLUSMN QUOT SINULOG STO YEAR OF MERCY
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