Monday, September 8, 2014

The Divine Mercy Shrine of El Salvador, Misamis Oriental

The Divine Mercy Shrine of El Salvador, Misamis Oriental has become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the Philippines. Pilgrims come to the shrine to pray, attend masses, make confession, make spiritual retreat or healing petition, and attend important religious occasions such as the Holy Week, the Feast of the Divine Mercy and the birthday of Mama Mary or the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.                                                                                                             
The shrine is situated on a 9-hectare Divine Mercy Hill in Barangay Ulaliman, El Salvador City. The main feature of the shrine is the statue of Jesus Christ. The statue was made in accordance with Mother Faustina  Kowalska’s  description of the Divine Mercy who is Jesus Christ who appeared to her in dreams. The 50-foot tall statue overlooks Macajalar Bay and awes visitors and pilgrims with its imposing size. Over the head of the statue is a halo. The right hand is raised in blessing while the left is placed on the breast which flows forth two rays. In the “rays” are stairs leading to the chamber of the Sacred Heart where devotees can make their petition to God. The ones in the right go up into the chamber while the others in the left descend into the ground. A well manicured garden adorns the sloping ground in front of the statue. And right below it is a huge lawn where devotees can gather to attend mass that is held in the open during special religious occasions. Devotees are required to dress modestly while inside the shrine premises. Female devotees are required to wear long skirt. Those without it are given one upon their entry into the shrine. Another important feature of the shrine is the almost completed church that is oval in shape and is spacious. On the outside at the edge of the roof is crown of thorns adornment that encircles the church.

Following pictures were taken during the birthday of Mama Mary on September 8, 2014 at Divine Mercy Shrine, El Salvador Misamis Oriental.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Kurdish Female Warriors Take on the ISIS

Flag of Peshmerga
With its military victories in some parts of Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State or ISIS is able to control large swath of land on said countries. Members of the militant group are known for their ruthlessness wherever they are. They forced minorities such as Christians and Yazidis to convert to Islam or be killed. There are reports of mass rape of women and of abduction and of making them sex slaves to the militants.  Captured women are married off to the militants or are sold as bride for as low as $100. Caught enemy combatants are beheaded, crucified or tortured. Even the Al Qaeda is appalled with the extreme brutalities of the ISIS. The king of Saudi Arabia and some Muslim clerics have denounced the atrocities of the ISIS and call their actions as not compatible with Islam.
Lately, the Iraqi security Forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters with US air strike support are able to slow down ISIS advance and are able to retake strategic areas that were captured by the ISIS. The Peshmerga or “those who confront death” is the security force of the autonomous region of Kurdistan. In the recent conflict it is in the forefront of battling the well armed, well funded and highly motivated ISIS militants. It also take up the cudgel for their fellow Kurds including the Yazidis to protect them from the militants who consider them as “devil worshippers”, and are therefore a fair game for persecution.

Members of Peshmerga forces include women, and an all –women Peshmerga Battalion is in the frontline against the ISIS militants. The reported violations of some Kurdish women by the ISIS militants made many women that include the youth and housewives to volunteer for military service. As combatants the women can help protect their homeland and stop the ISIS militants from making them booties of war if their village is overrun. 

For the terrorists it is ironic that women who they think are inferior to men are challenging them in the battlefield.  It is believed that this ruthless group considers it to be a worse nightmare for a jihadist to fight female enemy warrior. They believe that they would be denied entry into paradise if women killed them. Indeed the Kurds know the mindset of the terrorists and turn their absurd beliefs against them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Higalaay Kagay-an Festival 2014: Religious Procession (Street and Fluvial)

The feast day of Saint Augustine on August 28, 2014 started with a mass at Saint Augustine Cathedral at about 4:00 am. It was followed by a street procession which passed through the city’s urban villages or barangays . Later in the morning at about 10:00 a.m. a fluvial parade of decorated boats and rafts from the different barangays went upstream from Macabalan to the Duaw Park at the back of the city hall buildings. The fluvial parade is a part of the religious procession of the fiesta. In addition to the boats that carried the icons of Saint Augustine and his mother Saint Monica, participating barangays had with them the icons of their respective patron saints. Also in the parade was the boat boarding Miss Beatrice Alvarez Pohl, the newly crowned Miss Cagayan de Oro and the other young ladies that participated in this year’s beauty pageant. The procession is a way of seeking divine providence and of promoting endeavors that protect and preserve the environment. 

Higala-ay Kagay-an Festival 2014 (the Fiesta)

Every year, August 28 is a holiday for the people of Cagayan de Oro. It is the feast day of Saint Augustine, the patron saint of the city. The date is an official public holiday in the city and public and private employees are given a day off from work to observe the occasion.

Local residents call this occasion simply as the fiesta. The celebration is inherited from the Spanish colonizers who introduced Christianity in the Philippines. The fiesta used to be a purely religious occasion. But through the years Filipinos infused or added some Innovations of its practices making the fiesta not only a religious but also a cultural occasion. Since non religious practices are introduced or added to the celebration which involves people of diverse faith, the fiesta is also a secular holiday. Most of all, the local government and the people of the city view the fiesta and its related activities as a way to promote tourism and economic growth to the city and its adjacent places.

The present administration of the city dubbed the fiesta as “Higala-ay Kagay-an Festival”. “Higala-ay” is a word that is fitting to the occasion. It is a local word which means friendship in English. The word also aptly describes the admirable traits of a typical “Kagay-anon” or a native resident of the city. The locals of the city are generally known for their hospitality and friendliness- the traits which they believe are responsible for making the city a prosperous and peaceful place as it is today. And indeed “the City of Golden Friendship” is the nickname of the Cagayan de Oro.

In connection with the fiesta, local residents as well as visitors are treated with beautiful and enjoyable events and show such as “kumbira”, garden show, “kahimunan”, cowboy festival, beauty pageant, street dancing, fireworks display, fluvial and street parade among others. Those events precede the most important one- the fiesta.

Like Christmas, August 28, the fiesta, is also the day when family members, relatives and friends gather to see one another and enjoy the day together. The fiesta starts with a mass at the Saint Augustine Cathedral, and it is followed with a procession in the streets and a fluvial parade. In that day local residents prepare or cook sumptuous foods which are then serve on the table for friends, relatives or even total strangers to partake. Drinks such as wine, beer and others are also served. Some “Kagay-anons” serve foods to their guests on the eve of the fiesta. Others do it at lunch on august 28 and still others prefer to entertain their guests during supper. Most often the show of live band in public places and fireworks displays in the evening accompanies the celebration. Aside from the eating of foods people also entertain themselves with singing and dancing. In their homes, in the streets and other places people greet others with the words “Viva SeƱor San Agustin!”

Higalas Parade of Floats and Icons (Civic-Military Parade) 2014

It is a usual sight in the main thoroughfares of Cagayan de Oro a day before the feast day of Saint Augustine on August 28, 2014. A street parade is held every year in August 27. The street parade with its new label as the Higalas Parade of Floats and Icons is an inseparable event that is conducted relative to the celebration of the fiesta. Over the years, the number of participants of this particular event along with the floats and other things has increased relative to the city’s growth in economy and population.                                             

This year's parade on August 27, 2014, started at the Rodelsa Circle or the rotunda at about 7:00 a.m. The participants consisted of contingents from the military, students, civic and business groups among others. Conveyances such as floats are also on the road. The most conspicuous of them are the icons of saints Augustine and his mother, Monica. Another highlight is the Miss Cagayan de Oro 2014 and other young beauties on their float. The parade ended at the Lim Ket Kai commercial complex at past 11 a.m.