Diocese of Bangued


john.jpgMalibcong, Abra: The Sacred Scripture is filled with mountain experiences from the Old Testament to the Paschal Mystery – the life, passion death and resurrection of the Incarnate Word. The mountain time and again is associated with what is sacred, the dwelling place of the Divine. Yaweh called Moses to commune with Him in Mt. Sinai where the Ten Commandments were handed over, the followers of Jesus went up to a mountain in Galilee and there heard the Sermon of the Mount – the compendium of the Gospel Message. The transfiguration happened on top of a mountain, the beginning of the final journey to Jerusalem until the disfiguration of Christ’s body on Mount Calvary.   

Go up onto a high mountain” (Is 40:9) was the opening of the Final Statement of our 16th National Biblical Workshop celebrated in the mountains of Bontoc. The same invitation challenged Fr. Oscar Alunday, SVD, his mothresize-of-image-02.jpger and me to go up to the hinterlands of Abra to celebrate the Paschal Mystery with God’s chosen people peacefully living in their mountainously grand ancestral domain especially given to them by the Almighty. We started on Tuesday morning after visiting and praying with the family of former Condrado Balweg and blessing the remains of Corazon Molina Balweg in Ubbog. It was a real challenge driving for five hours the JPIBC van filled with ten boxes of BEC bibles brought by Fr. Oscar from ECBA. The parish of Malibcong nestled in a hidden valley surrounded by mountains heartily welcomed us with Fr. John Bala, SVD the parish priest – an Indonesian confrere who loves to do mission in the mountains ever since his mission in the Philippines. Fr. Oscar a full-blooded native of the place took care of Gacab and Taripan area while Fr. John was pasturing the surrounding communities of Bangilo. I (a native of Mindanao) was privileged to take care of the mother community of Malibcong.  

It was Wednesday (March 19) lunch when we met the bishop of Bangued Most Rev. Leopoldo Jaucian, SVD DD in Malibcong whose back was filled with earth-mud negotiating the mountains for his confirmation mission and patronal fiesta of Bangilo. The bishop was filled with joy meeting and serving his flock in the hinterlands missing his meeting with the Philippine President who visited the province of Abra on that same day. The preference of the missionary bishop was to meet the Lord who personified Himself in His brothers and sisters in the mountains. He possessed that zeal of a true missionary – a witness to the Word. resize-of-bishop.jpg

Malibcong mission is celebrating its Golden Jubilee as a parish this year under the patronage of St. Therese of the Child Jesus the patroness of the missions. Fr. Oscar aside from doing pastoral work administering the sacraments conducted the Basic Bible Seminar in his area while Fr. John the parish priest took the opportunity of visiting the people around Bangilo (from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday) when this writer takes care of the seat of his Parish. A Lenten Biblical Recollection was conducted in Malibcong in the morning of Thursday and in the afternoon was the celebration of the Last Supper with the washing of the feet before the breaking of the bread ushering the Great Paschal Triduum. The people took turns in their community vigil at the altar of reposition. resize-of-stations.jpg

On Good Friday morning the faithful gathered together at the church where they started with their general stations of the cross (each station was adorned indigenously with materials uniquely from the place) that went around the whole village for more than two hours. Almost the entire population joined the “stations of the cross” reflecting and meditating on the passion of the suffering Word. The seven last words of Jesus on the cross were spontaneously preached by those who were assigned. It was an event when Jesus was crying out those words using the language of the people – in Tingguian. The afternoon then was spent in venerating the cross culminated by receiving the Holy Communion.  The blessing of the new fire and the lighting of the Paschal Candle was done solemnly in the evening of Saturday when the Exultet was chanted followed by the celebration of the word. The people intently listened to the story of their salvation unfolding when at the end everybody was singing the Gloria to their heart’s joy with the ringing of all the bells as someone slowly opened the curtains uncovering the image of the resurrection. That night all the faithful pronounced again their baptismal vows. It was a covenant renewed. resize-of-eastermass.jpg

The bells were ringing as early as 3:00 o’clock in the morning waking up the whole village when at 3:30 the procession with the image of the risen Lord commenced from the Church going up to the mountain where they are to meet in a synchronized manner the communities from the other side who were bringing with them the image of the sorrowful Virgin Mary. After almost an hour of climbing the mountain the two communities met in an Easter Ceremony while the children dressed like little angels were joyfully singing the Marian Easter Song again in their own cultural language. After the jubilant meeting of the communities with the sacred images together they went down towards the side of the river where the mass of the resurrection was celebrated. The celebration of the word and the Eucharist on that Easter dawn was beautifully orchestrated by the meeting of the two celestial bodies, the moon coming down and the sun coming up from behind the mountains revealing the grandeur of creation around us singing Alleluia… the Lord is Risen! Each one was greeting everybody… Happy Easter!       

THE JPIBC -Vigan City  







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