By Leslie Ann Aquino
Migrants, refugees, and displaced people whose feet will be washed by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle during Holy Thursday’s “Washing of the Feet” ceremony, will symbolize the endeavor for peace and the challenging conditions that keep peace from many people living in very difficult situations.
The priest who was held hostage by the Maute terrorists during the Marawi war last year – Father Teresito “Chito” Suganob – will be one of the those who will take part in the ceremony thick with symbols – from the act of humility of a high church official washing the feet of a simple person, to the struggle for peace that each selected participant brings into the picture.
Fr. Chito, 57, from the Prelature of Marawi, has worked tirelessly for Christian-Muslim dialogue in Mindanao.
“Even after his agonizing ordeal as a hostage during the Marawi crisis, he says he still believes in promoting understanding and peace among peoples. In this Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons, his living witness is a beacon of faith and communion,” the Manila Cathedral said in a Facebook post.
Also selected to be part of the ceremony are the parents of Joanna Demafelis, the Filipina OFW who was found dead inside a freezer in Kuwait.
According to the Manila Cathedral statement, the experience of Mr. and Mrs.Crisanto and Eva Demafelis is a witness to the plight of our fellow Filipinos working abroad who despite the presence of danger, risk their safety to give their families a decent life.
The other participants in the Washing of the Feet ceremony are: Mr. &Mrs. IrfanMasih and ShaziaIrfan, Mr. &Mrs. Danilo and Janet Pelayo with daughter Danica, Isidro Indao and Kayla Bontolan, and Mr&Mrs Giovanni and YolicresBadidles.
The Irfancouple are Catholic foreigners who sought refuge in the Philippines because of religious persecution in their homeland.
The Pelayofamily –relocated from their home in Paco, Manila to Cabuyao, Laguna – represent the thousands of families in poor communities who face the risk of losing their only home and are challenged to start over again.
“Environmental defenders” Indao and Bontolan are Lumad leaders and evacuees who fled their homes because of militarization and destruction by logging and mining companies, according to a statement from the Manila Cathedral.
The Badidlescouple from the Philippine Navy, on the other hand, represent the lives of our soldiers who leave their families for their assignments, and willingly offer their lives to defend the nation.
The people in the ceremony were chosen in response to the call of Pope Francis to “embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.”
The call was also echoed by Cardinal Tagle, who is also the president of Caritas Internationalis.
The “Washing of the Feet” will take place at the Manila Cathedral at 5 p.m. during the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
‘A respite from work’
Meanwhile, Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Public Affairs Committee, has lamented how the Holy Week observance has now become a respite from work for many.
“Today, Holy Week becomes a respite from work and not so much a season for sacred observances,” Father Secillano said in an interview.
The priest also noticed a decrease in the number of people practicing Holy Week traditions.
Secillano said this is particularly true for the “pabasa” (chanting of the Lord’s passion).
“There are less people attending ‘pabasa’ compared to what it was before,” he said.
“Perhaps it is due to generation gap and a paradigm shift in the understanding of Holy Week,” added Secillano.
The “pabasa” is the ritual reading of the “pasyon,” an epic poem in stanzas of five lines of eight syllables, each interwoven with a dramatic theme recounting the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But the CBCP official is not worried of the possibility of such religious traditions dying in the future.
“No, we should not be worried. That day will come when we will all realize our need for God,” Secillano said.