Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Janissaries

The word “janissary” comes from the Turkish “yeni cheri” or new troops. The janissaries were the elite troops and the first standing army of the Ottoman Empire. They were also the sultan’s household troops and bodyguards.

In 1380 Sultan Murad I organized the first janissary army to replace Ottoman troops derived from different Turkish tribes. These troops fought for war booty, and their loyalty belonged to their tribal leaders. Their divergent loyalties and cultural differences might turn one tribe against another. This attitude was not conducive to a stable and reliable army which the sultan could rely to protect his throne and his empire. He needed disciplined, well trained and loyal troops. And he could only attain that desire by enlisting soldiers from his non-Muslim subjects from such places as Greece, Albania, Serbia and other territories of the empire.

The first janissaries were those captured in battle. Later on as the power of the Ottoman Empire grew, the recruits were taken from the sultan’s Christian subjects who paid levies to the empire. The devsirme system of the empire was a form of levy on which Christian families would send some of their sons to serve the sultan. And the boys were then conscripted as janissaries.

Boys with ages 14 to 18 were preferred but sometimes those with ages 18 to 20 were also accepted. For practical reason these boys were then converted to Islam and given the finest military training. The boys were isolated from their families and from the rest of the society. Their barracks were their home, the corps was their family and the sultan was their father. They couldn’t marry until their retirement. They were not allowed to grow beard, but only a moustache because beard signified a freeman. Only the best could become a janissary at age 24 to 25.

The janissaries developed into disciplined and skilled troops that the sultan could rely to depend his person and his empire. They became fearsome soldiers of Europe. In recognition of their valuable services, the sultan rewarded them benefits and privileges. The janissaries were paid salaries not only in war but also in peace. They were also entitled to war booty. They were given pension upon retirement and their children were well taken care of. They also enjoyed a high standard of living and social status. A janissary had a big opportunity to become a civil or military official. He could even become a grand vizier of the sultan. Because of their power and influence the janissaries later become a powerful political and military force in the Ottoman Empire.

In the 15th century the devsirme system of recruiting janissaries was relaxed. A Muslim could be enrolled as a janissary. Some of janissaries were enrolled into the corps even if they were born as Muslims. In the 17th century the devsirme system was totally abolished. After this period volunteers who came mostly from Muslim families were enrolled. This changed system of recruiting janissaries started their decline as potent fighting force.

With their power, the janissaries interfered in the affairs of the empire. They exerted their influence in policy making to suit their interest. They engaged in palace coups and changed leaders they did not want. When Sultan Osman II wanted to curb their excesses after the Ottoman defeat in Poland, they arrested him, had him imprisoned and later murdered him.

The janissaries wanted more privileges and higher pay which the sultan granted lest they turn against him. They could marry while still in the service, and they could live outside the barracks. They also engaged themselves in business and dealt directly with society.

The essence which the janissaries were originally organized was completely gone. Instead of being a protector of the sultan, they become a threat to him. The original hallmarks of discipline, loyalty and courage of a janissary were no more. He became corrupt, undisciplined and ineffective soldier. The janissaries’ failure to crush a Greek rebellion that resulted to the independence of Greece totally discredited them as a dependable fighting force.

The cost of paying 350,000 men many of them not actually serving as soldiers and the janissaries’ abuse of power, military ineffectiveness and resistance to reform were too much for the empire to bear. In 1826 Sultan Mahmud II plotted against the janissaries to replace them with a force along western European lines. Upon knowing the plot, the janissaries revolted. Then the sultan waged a war against them. The janissaries marched to the palace, but Sultan Mahmud with the help to the loyal troops contained them. The loyal troops blew up the janissaries barracks in Constantinople with artillery fires that resulted to 4,000 deaths. Captured janissaries were either exiled or executed. Following its defeat, the janissary corps was disbanded.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Some Facts on Joyful Christmas

Christmas is the merriest season of the year. However, people differed in their views about Christmas and some of the practices related to it. Some people accept Christmas as part of their religious or social traditions. Others do not celebrate it at all because of their religious or other beliefs. But the fact is that Christmas is an occasion that is widely celebrated all over the world and has affected the lives of many people in some ways. Christmas is just around the corner. And it is worthwhile to make this year’s celebration as joyous and memorable as ever. We could start entertaining ourselves in connection with the celebration of Christmas with a small discussion of some facts that follow:

December 25 as Christmas Day. Although December 25 is the day that is traditionally celebrated as Christmas, the Bible did not specify the exact date of Jesus’ birth. And religious scholars have not established the date of his birth either. A clue to the question is the book of Luke 2:8-14 which stated that during Jesus’ birth the shepherds were watching their flocks at night. Considering that it is usually a winter season in Palestine in December, Biblical scholars contend that Jesus could not have been born during that month because shepherds most probably would not go to their field in a wintry evening. It is said that early Christians did not celebrate the birth of Jesus. It was also said that pagans celebrate their festivity called Saturnalia during the winter solstice which may occur from December 21-22 to honor the sun god. At about 440 A.D. Christian converted Roman officials made December 25 as the date of Jesus’ birth to make Christianity acceptable to the pagans.

The three kings. It was never mentioned in the Bible that there were three kings who visited the infant Jesus to pay homage to him. It was mentioned that he was given gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh by the magi from the east. Although there were only three gifts that were presented to Jesus, the givers who were called magi might be a group of people composing more than three persons.

The date of Christmas of Eastern Orthodox Churches. Some Eastern Christian Orthodox Churches celebrate their Christmas on January 7 rather than on December 25. The reason of it is that most Christian Orthodox Churches especially the Russian and Serbian use the old Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar.

Not all Christians celebrate Christmas. Jehovah’s witnesses, a Christian denomination do not celebrate Christmas. They consider Christmas as pagan in origin and therefore not a Christian holiday. They also believe that Jesus Christ and some known Biblical personalities did not celebrate birthdays. And that Biblical accounts related to birthdays were mostly associated with unpleasant events.

 “Happy Holidays” Greetings. Generally, people associate Christmas with the Christian religion. But some people are non-Christians, others do not profess to belong to any religious group while still others do not celebrate Christmas at all. Greeting them with “Merry Christmas” is some sort distasteful to them.  “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas!” is a more acceptable way of greeting them during the celebration.  Those people also prefer to call the occasion “the holidays” instead of Christmas.

The longest Christmas celebration in the world. The Philippines is a country with the longest Christmas celebration. The merriment starts as early as late September with the playing of Christmas carols over the radio and some business establishments, and ends at the feast day of Epiphany on January 6. The official celebration however starts at the ”Misa de Gallo” or the evening mass that starts on December 16 and culminates in the Christmas  Eve. The New Year and the Epiphany are considered by many Filipinos as part of their Christmas celebration.

Christmas tree. Christmas tree has its origin in the pagan traditions of having tree as decoration during the winter festivity. The evergreen boughs, mistletoe and holy were regarded as the hope for life in the wintertime when trees had no leaves. Early Christians prohibited the tradition because of its pagan origin. The Germans however revived the tradition in the 16th century by using tree as a decoration during the festivity of “The Feast of Adam and Eve” which was celebrated on December 24. The German brought the Christmas tree tradition in the 17th century to the United States.  The Americans in turn spread the use of Christmas tree as decoration throughout the world.

White Christmas. The song “White Christmas” was the best-selling Christmas single of all time. It has sold more than 50 million copies. The song was composed by Irving Berlin and popularized by Bing Crosby at Decca Records which released it in 1942.

Santa Claus. The figure of a red- suited Santa that is chubby, bearded and round bellied who is on a sleigh drawn by reindeers  was taken from the poem  “A Visit to Saint Nicholas” which is better known today as “The Night before Christmas“. The poem was attributed to Clement Clarke Moore. One of the first artist to define Santa’s modern image was Thomas Nast an American cartoonist of the 19th century who made a picture of Santa in the “Harper’s Weekly” in 1863.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Taj Mahal, a Magnificent Monument to a Man's Undying Love and Devotion to a Woman

Photo by Jankit (Wikimedia Commons)
Shah Jahan (1592-1666) was originally known as Prince Khurran. At his father’s death in 1627, he became the 5th mogul of the Muslim Mugol dynasty that ruled India from 1628 to to 1658. As an emperor he was called Shah Jahan. He later married a young woman who was betrothed to him. Her name was Arjumand Banu Begum, a daughter of a Persian noble family. After the marriage she was given the name Mumtaz Mahal.

Mumtaz was a woman who possessed admirable grace and beauty. Although she was only the third wife of Shah Jahan, she was the favorite among his wives.  Their loving relationship was intense. He was deeply in love and devoted to her. He wanted her to be always by his side so that she was with him even in his military campaigns.

On Shah Jahan ventures at Ber Hampur, Mumtaz died while giving birth to her 14th child. This ended the couple’s 19 years of loving companionship that blessed them with 14 offspring, seven of which died at a very young age. 

The unexpected loss of his beloved wife gravely saddened Shah Jahan, and he was inconsolable in his bereavement. He was in secluded mourning, and it took him long to get over his sorrows. Her loss adversely affected him emotionally and physically so that it made him look grayer and older.

Mumtaz was buried in Berhampur. A year later, in 1631, her remains was disinterred and placed in a golden casket and carried back to Agra, Shah Jahan’s capital, for final interment.

To honor the memory of his wife that he loved very much, Shah Jahan built a mausoleum the beauty of which the world had never seen before. When completed, it was called Taj Mahal which means “crown palace”. The mosque-like mausoleum stands at a raised platform of 186x186 square feet. It is made of white marble. The inside and outside are decorated with inlaid design of flowers and calligraphy. It has a bulbous central dome which is 58 feet in diameter and 213 feet in height. At the corners of the raised platform are four minarets with a height of 162 feet each. Surrounding the mausoleum are gardens, walkways and fountains. The mausoleum took 21 years to finish, from 1632 to 1653, and employed about twenty thousand artisans and craftsmen.

In 1657 when Shah Jahan became ill, one of his sons, Aurangzeb, took advantage of the situation by grabbing power and imprisoning him. Shah Jahan spent the rest of his life in prison. When he died, he was also laid to rest in the Taj Mahal.

The magnificence of Taj Mahal is a description of Shah Jahan’s deep and undying love to his departed wife. The monument is an awesome beauty so that many people consider it as the eight wonders of the world.
Indeed, the beauty of the Taj Mahal is a source of awe and admiration of many people. For example, it was mentioned in an old song written by Frankie Laine and Fred Karger. The title of the song was “Magnificent Obsession” which was popularized by Nat King Cole. The opening of its lyrics goes as follows:

“You’re my magnificent obsession
The greatest wonder of this earth
The Taj Mahal and other splendors
To me have really no worth . . . .”

The mausoleum that Shah Jahan built is indeed a splendid architectural beauty in the world. But, perhaps, to him, it was nothing compared to the life of Mumtaz, his wife and eternal love. It goes without saying that for a man, the woman that he truly loves is more precious and more beautiful than any of the greatest work of art.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Santa Claus, a Figure Blended from Different Christmas Traditions

One of the most visible figures during the Christmas season is Santa Claus. During the holiday commercial establishments have personnel dressed up as Santa to enliven the spirit of the season and to help heighten business activities. In the west and in other regions of the world Santa is generally depicted as jolly, fat, white-bearded old man with red suits. He is also depicted as always on sleigh pulled by reindeers as he comes to homes via the chimney to deliver toys to the children.

It is said that the real Santa was the Greek bishop Nicholas of Myra who was born in third century in the village of Patara, now a part of the southern coast of Turkey. Nicholas, an only son, was raised in a rich family. At a young age his parents died because of an epidemic and he inherited their wealth. As a devoted Christian, Nicholas lived his life in accordance with the teachings of Christ. One of them was to share his material possessions to the poor. His love of the children, his generosity to the poor, and his help to the sick made him a true follower of Christ. He became a bishop at a very young age. During the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian the Christians were persecuted and their religious leaders were imprisoned. One of them was Bishop Nicholas of Myra. The situation of the Christians changed for the better when the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great converted to Christianity. During his reign he gave the Christians freedom to exercise their religion. This development enabled Christianity to spread like wildfire throughout the ancient Roman Empire. However, the Christians were deeply divided on their doctrine so that in 325 AD Constantine had to call the bishops for a council in Nicea to discuss on the issue. Nicholas was one of the bishops in the attendance list.

Nicholas died on December 6, 343 AD. His person and his good deeds were widely known throughout Christendom so that he was made as patron saint of people of different walks of life in many places, and many churches were named after him. Stories on his deeds abound. One of the most popular stories was on the three poor girls whom he saved from slavery. It was said that their father could not afford a dowry for their would-be husbands. During the time it was the father’s obligation to provide for the dowry so that he could get ideal husband for his daughter or else she would consign her life to being a slave. Out of nowhere, a sack with three gold bars was left in the house of the girls and their father was able to solve their problem. The sack of gold was attributed to Saint Nicholas who was said to have thrown it through the window and landed right in a wet stocking which was left hanging by the fire.

The Vikings who were sea-faring people made St. Nicholas as one their patron saints. They helped spread the saint’s stories to the lands that they went to such as Germany and Netherlands. The Dutch settlers in America started the tradition of associating Christmas with St. Nicholas whom they called “Sinter Klaas”. Overtime that name has evolved into what is now Santa Claus.

To counter the commercialized tradition of Saint Nicholas day which was on December 6, and to divert the focus of reverence to Christ rather than on Saint Nicholas on Christmas, Martin Luther came up with Kris Kringle. In that concept the giver of gifts to children is the child Christ who does it when they are asleep. And because of that situation they never know who the giver of the gift is.

Father Christmas who was also called “Old Man Winter” was a figure related to a traditional pagan celebration of the winter solstice that is assimilated to Christmas. He traveled from home to home and was given foods and drinks by the people.  In return Father Christmas granted them blessings of a moderate winter.

The tradition on Santa Claus is a blend of religion, historical facts, myths and legends so that most people consider Santa Claus, Kris Kringle and Father Christmas as one and the same person. From the historical Saint Nicholas people derived the tradition of putting in toys in the stockings which are by the fire. From the Kris Kringle is the tradition of giving gifts to children when they are asleep so that they don’t know who the giver is. And from “Old Man Winter” is the legend that Santa Claus travels from house to house. In the Middle Ages St. Nicholas was typically depicted as a tall, thin and bearded Cleric. The fat and white bearded appearance of Santa Claus as he is depicted today is generally traced to a 19th century poem entitled “’Twas the Night before Christmas”.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hagia Sophia, a Beautiful, Historic World Monument

Photo by Bigdaddy (from Wikimedia Commons)
Hagia Sophia or the Church of the Holy Wisdom in Greek, Sancta Sophia in Latin and Aya Sofya in Turkish is a historic monument of two great empires that shaped the course of world history- the Roman and Ottoman Empires. It also served as a house of worship of adherents of two of the world’s largest religions- Christianity and Islam. It was the largest cathedral in the world until 1520. Hagia Sophia is famous for its massive dome.

Hagia Sophia was built on the site where Emperor Constantine built a wooden church. The second church was built by his son Constantius and the Emperor Theodosius the Great. That church was burned. Under the supervision of Justinian I, the church was rebuilt in its present form around 532 and 537 AD.

Constantine was the first Roman Emperor who became Christian. He later promoted Christianity and moved his capital from Rome to Byzantium, an ancient Greek city. After he defeated his rivals, Constantine rebuilt Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople. It later became the capital of the eastern half of the Roman Empire which was also called the Byzantine Empire. Its heartland was Asia Minor and the Balkans.

Constantinople was situated on the southern coastal tip of the Balkan Peninsula along the Strait of Bosporus that separates the continents of Europe and Asia. The city’s strategic location provided the Byzantine Empire easy economic and military access to its territories across Asia and Southern Europe.

Justinian hired architects Isodore Militus and Arthemius of Tralles, both teachers of Geometry to design the church. He imported materials from neighboring places such as Ephesus, Athens, Rome and Delphi. The original dome of the church which Militus and Arthemius designed collapsed in an earthquake in 558. The replacement of 563 had to be repaired after a partial collapse in the 9th and 14th centuries.

In 1204 Hagia Sophia was attacked and sacked by the crusaders and looted of its properties. They arrested the Patriarch of Constantinople and replaced him with a Latin bishop. This event irreconcilably divided the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches which had long standing disputes that started from the great schism of 1054.
Photo by Andreas Wahra (from Wikimedia Commons)
Islamic text inside Hagia Sophia
In May 1453, Constantinople, the seat of the Byzantine Empire and the greatest city of Eastern Christendom at that time fell to the Muslim Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmet II. Amazed by the architectural beauty of the church, he converted Hagia Sophia into a mosque. Since then it remained a principal mosque for about 500 years. Hagia Sophia’s design then served as model of many mosques built around Constantinople and its neighboring areas.

The prominent feature of the cathedral is its dome which measures 230 ft (70 m) in width and 246 ft (75 m) in height. The dome is supported by pendentives which are rested on a square of 4 columns below. The 48 windows around the base of the dome reflect sunlight everywhere into the interior of the nave.

A mosaic depicting Jesus (center)
Mosaic of Virgin Mary and child Jesus. Photo by Griffendor (from Wikimedia Commons) 
The changes made during the Turkish era had markedly altered the outer appearance of Hagia Sophia so that it was indistinguishable that it was once a church. There are buttresses built to support the outer walls to ensure their endurance over the century. Four minarets were added by the corners of the church. The mihrab, the fountain, and mausoleum give the Hagia Sophia a mosque appearance. However, the inside of the edifice reveals the original purpose of its building. There are 6th century church features such as mosaics painted on the walls depicting various Christian religious scenes. When Hagia Sophia was a mosque some mosaics were covered with plaster because of Muslim prohibition of figurative imagery. Further renovations of the church that was turned into mosque were made by Abdulmecid in 1847 who invited Swiss architects Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati to do the job.

After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and following the establishment of Turkey as a nation, Constantinople was renamed Istanbul in 1930, and President Kemal Attaturk had the Hagia Sophia secularized by turning it into a museum in 1934.

Hagia Sophia is a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. This priceless historic world monument is a UNESCO world cultural heritage site. Hagia Sophia is a major landmark and a tourist attraction of Turkey. All year round it is visited by tourists from different parts of the world.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Parol, a Traditional Philippine Christmas Decoration

In the Philippines people adorn their homes with a replica of manger where the infant Jesus was born in Bethlehem, with Christmas tree, with the "parol" or the Philippine Christmas lantern and with other adornments. The parol, especially in the rural area, is a traditional Christmas decoration of Filipino homes. The name parol is derived from the Spanish word “farol” which means lantern or lamp.  


A parol , as its name suggests, is a Christmas lantern that is made in divergent sizes, shapes and colors. It is commonly star shaped although there are lanterns which are shaped as box, bells or others depending on the ingenuity of the makers. Most lanterns which are star-shaped are five-pointed star although there are others that are four-pointed stars. The star shape is inspired with the bright star that guided the three magi in their search for the Infant Jesus. Although a  parol is called a lantern, many are designed and made without light in them. Most of the lanterns are not designed to be carried outdoors but rather they are used to adorn the exterior of the house. Most lighting is Christmas lamps that are attached on the body of the lantern.  Usually, the lantern’s framework is made of thin bamboo strips which are joined and bound with string.  Some designs have ring around the star and tails at the bottom while others have none. The framework is covered with crepe paper that is attached by pasting it on the bamboo strip. Other types of decorative papers are also used. The allure of the finished product depends on the design of the lantern and the paper cutting skill of the maker.  Elaborate paper cutting designs on the body of the star, the ring and tail as well as the attractiveness of the lighting can make a lantern stand out from other lanterns.    
Some poorer Filipino Families can earn additional income during the Christmas season by making parols. September starts the beginning of the month when they make use of their craft in Christmas lantern making. The parol is priced as low as 50 pesos (about 1.15 US dollars) for the smallest and the simplest, and as high as 3,000 pesos (about 69.14 US dollars) for the biggest with the most elegant design and lighting.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas: a Season to Celebrate the Fulfillment of God's Promise

Photo by Dnalor_01 from Wikimedia Commons                 
All over the world Christmas is the most popular occasion of the year. Some Christians consider it a religious celebration while others shun it believing that it is replete with practices that are deemed to be pagan in origin. The popularity of Christmas has made it not only a religious but also a cultural tradition so that even non-Christians are influenced or affected with the merriment that goes with the celebration of that holiday.
To many people Christmas is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ who they believe is God’s promised Messiah. Indeed there are over 360 prophecies in the Old Testament on the Messiah.  And Biblical scholars believe that only the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ life could be related to many of them.  Jesus Christ was born during the reign of Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar or about 700 years after the prophecies were made.  

Isaiah’s Prophecy

One of the most notable prophecies about the Messiah was by Isaiah at around 712 B.C. Chapter 9, verse 6 in the Old Testament says, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”

A birth by a virgin

Mankind inherited the sin committed by God’s original creations Adam and Eve who disobeyed Him in the Garden of Eden. God had to send His Son to the world to redeem mankind, and chose a virgin to beget His only Son. Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and call His name Immanuel.” This prophecy was fulfilled in Luke1:34-35 “Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’” The word “Immanuel” means God is with us. Man cannot reach God, but God came in the flesh to this world through his Son Jesus.

God has a Son    
The Old Testament itself stated that God has a Son: Proverbs 30:4 (about 700 BC) says, “Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in a garment? Who has established all ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if you know?”

Born in Bethlehem

The Old Testament also made mention of the place where mankind’s savior would be born.  Micah 5:2 (about 710 B.C.) says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrata, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler of Israel, whose goings forth are from old, from everlasting.” This prophecy is fulfilled in Luke 2:4-6 which says, “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife who was with a child. So it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.”

Confusion on the nature of Christ

Since the early Christian era the nature of Christ has been the cause of confusion and division among Christians and non-Christian who deny the Divinity of Christ. Roman Catholics believe that there is only one God in three persons- the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Non-Christians and even some Christian religious group question this concept of a monotheistic God. But adherents of trinity believe that trinity is one of the great mysteries of God as far as the Catholic and other Christian faith are concerned. Indeed, in Isaiah 9:6 the “Mighty God” is one of the names of the Messiah. Jesus himself said in John 10:30 “I and My Father are one.”

The greatest moral example of mankind

Jesus is one of the historical and religious figures that set good moral examples for mankind to follow. He was chaste and lived a sinless life. He helped the poor and healed the sick. He told his followers to love God and to love not only their neighbors but also their enemy. He also defied traditions that were unreasonable and even barbaric but were socially acceptable during His time. A case in point was the adulterous woman who was to be stoned to death. Jesus told her accusers to cast the first stone if they themselves had never sinned at all. There are many other good deeds by Jesus which are worth emulating. Love is one of Jesus’ central themes during his ministry. Laws and cultures of some western countries are founded in Judeo-Christian traditions and many of them are inspired by the teachings and examples set by Jesus.

God loves us

There are controversies regarding the month Christ was born. In most parts of the world Christmas is usually celebrated in December. Some biblical scholars say that December is not a likely month for Jesus’ birth because the Bible says that at that time shepherds were out in the field at night watching their flock. They probably would not do it in a harsh winter month. Jesus may have been born in months other than December. But should the month of celebration of Christmas really matter? The most important thing for us is to be grateful of God’s fulfillment of his promise which he did because of His love for us. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Floyd Mayweather Jr. Should Fight Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao’s easy victory over the previously unbeaten Chris Algieri has built up pressure for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight to happen possibly in the first half of 2015. There has long been a clamor from boxing fans and promoters the world over for the two boxers to fight. However, issues on drug test, money and personal grudges prevented the much awaited fight to materialize. Boxing fans put the blame on the non happening of the fight more on Mayweather than on Manny Pacquiao. They think that Mayweather is making excuses to avoid an encounter with Pacquiao so that he could maintain his undefeated record.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao are today’s world most popular boxers. And a boxing match of them is estimated to generate as much as 1 billion dollars in pay-per-view revenue alone considering that Pacquiao’s fights in Macau, China has spurred interest in boxing in that country. Boxing promoters are working out for the realization of the fight and are contemplating to give Mayweather juicy offers such as a bigger prize and a rematch option in case he loses the fight to make him accept the challenge. If the fight takes place Mayweather is estimated to earn from 150-100 million dollars and Pacquiao from 100-60 million dollars. That kind of money is the biggest purse they could ever earn in their career if they could cut a deal for the dreamed mega fight.  

Both fighters are already very rich and famous and have cemented their legacy in boxing. Floyd Mayweather is the reigning undefeated welterweight boxing champion and has fought the best opponents in his weight category except Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao is an eight division world boxing champion and has fought the best opponents in different weight divisions.

Former boxing champions such as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, Oscar de la Hoya, Felix Trinidad among other boxing greats had never turned down a challenge from worthy opponents in the course of their boxing career.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. should agree to fight Manny Pacquiao. For what good are his undefeated records and his money if he continues to avoid one of the best opponents there is to fight? Pacquiao has already signified his willingness to fight Floyd anytime, anywhere and that his phone is always open for communication with Floyd regarding the fight. Mayweather and Pacquiao both become what they are now because of the patronage of the fight fans that enjoyed seeing their fights. They should return the favor by seeing to it that the fight should happen. Both of them are in their mid thirties and there are only few remaining fights left for them. Mayweather is a long reigning undefeated boxing champion and is currently considered as the best boxer in the world pound-for-pound. However, his refusal to face Manny Pacquiao might overshadow that reputation. And the future might remember him in boxing history as a cowardly undefeated welterweight champion.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Armed Conflicts in Syria and Iraq Threaten Christian Communities with Extinction

Photo credit to Massalim (from Wikipedia)
Civil wars and rebellions in Syria and Iraq have triggered the Diaspora of Christians to other lands where they can make their family safe from harm. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Arab Spring which toppled down well entrenched authoritarian leaders and the rise of the ISIS in Syria and Iraq have had a negative impact on the lives of Christians and other minorities such as the Yazidis.

Peoples in the west have negative views on autocratic leaders such as the late Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Khadafy of Libya and the deposed and imprisoned Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Although those leaders were considered as dictatorial and corrupt, they were able to effectively control troublesome and problematic groups such as the Islamist extremists and the separatist minorities. On the positive side, the strong authoritarian regimes had made Christians live peacefully with their Muslim neighbors. The deposition of Hussein only resulted to a replacement by a weak leader who could not deal with rival factions in Iraq. In the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected president. However, the military view Morsi and his organization as extremist, and the military led by General  Abdel Fattah el Sisi deposed him in a coup d’ etat in 2013. If Morsi had stayed long in office, the Christians could have been a target of persecutions in Egypt and could result in their leaving the country. It is noteworthy that in Morsi’s short stay in office there were clashes between opposition groups and his supporters, and there were mass protests by the people in the streets.  With Morsi gone, Egypt now has enjoyed a relative peace compared to other countries that are also affected by the Arab Spring such as Syria and Iraq.

 Although the west depicted Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad as a brutal dictator, minorities such as Christians have not suffered persecutions under his leadership. Armed oppositions of his regime such as the Nusra Front and the ISIS are groups with extreme religious views and are considered terrorist organizations by the west. Replacement of the present Syrian leadership with any of these groups may not bode well for the minority Christians living in Syria.  

The crisis in Syria and Iraq has brought forth the emergence of groups that have extreme religious view such as the al Nusra and the ISIS. The ISIS has captured swath of lands from those countries for its caliphate. Wherever it goes it commits unimaginable atrocities to fellow Muslims, Christians and other minorities such as the Yazidis. Its onslaught seemed to be unstoppable at the start, but lately its image of invincibility has started to crumble with the gradual recapture of ISIS-held lands by the Iraqi, Kurdish and the coalition forces.

ISIS has a signature style of casting terror into the minds of its victims to make them submit to its will. Its acts include forcibly converting Christians and other groups including even the Shias to its extreme interpretation of Islam. Christians are given the option to pay the jisya tax if they will not change their religion otherwise they will leave the area or be killed. People who cross ISIS’ path will be killed, their properties seized and their female relatives raped or turned into sex slave. Under this condition Christians and even Muslim evacuate to other areas for their own safety.

It remains to be seen if the ISIS could successfully and effectively run its caliphate. Its seized oil wells and refineries are bombed by US and coalition planes to cripple down its ability to fund its operations. However, some analysts say that ISIS is not easy to defeat. And they are not certain when the conflict ends. But until then Syria and Iraq will be depopulated gradually of its Christian minority. Christians will emigrate to the neighboring countries and to far away western countries including USA, Canada and Australia. And probably those who do will not come back. The armed conflicts have paved the way for an eventual disappearance of Christianity from the land of its birth. It is ironic that as the Christian faith steadily spreads in many countries making it as the largest religion of the world as ever, it is slowly disappearing in the land where it has a 2,000 year-old rich biblical and historical legacies.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Kobane, a Significant Battle Site between the Kurds and the ISIS

A US Air Force Photo from Wikipedia
The initial military successes of the ISIS in Iraq and Syria have been reversed with the recent gains made by the Iraqi and Kurdish forces which are supported by US and coalition airstrikes. Waging a jihad and trying to establish a caliphate based on its extreme interpretation of Islam,  the Islamic State, an offshoot of Al Qaeda, is a big threat not only to the security of the Middle East but also to the world.                                                            
Although it claims to be inspired by Islam, the ISIS is disowned by Islamic religious and political leaders who say that its action is un-Islamic. In the battle fronts Muslims and non-Muslims are the victims of the ISIS’ aggression. Local tribesmen have to cooperate or do the bidding of the terror group lest they be punished. ISIS brutalities include among other acts mass executions of captured enemies and kidnappings of women and making them as sex slaves.

The terror group is able to sustain its operation through seizure of oil fields and selling oil through the black market, kidnapping for ransom and other illegal activities. It is also able to have its supply of recruits with the use of the internet. Its effort in the social media such as Facebook and Twitter has attracted fresh fighters from western countries, USA, Canada and other parts of the world. Lately, however, the number of new arrivals has decreased which is an indication that the appeal of the terror group to attract new members to its fold might have been affected by flood of news report depicting it in a very bad light.

The Kurds are indigenous people in parts of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran who are courageously resisting the ISIS advance into their territory. While some Iraqi forces ran away from the enemies in battles, the Kurds prefer to fight to the death rather than giving in to the demand of the terror group. The Kurdish forces in the battle front include even women. The Kurds are the largest stateless ethnic minority in the Middle East who has suffered long years of persecution from the leaders in the four countries where they live in.

To show its power, the ISIS has to deal with the Kurds defiance. It has attacked some Kurdish inhabited area to include Kobane which is situated in the Syria-Turkish border. The ISIS captured part of Kobane on September 2014. But fierce resistance of the outgunned Kurds has kept the jihadists from moving further. At that time many analysts thought that it would just be a matter of time before the town could fall to the terrorists. However, the intervention of the US with its air support has helped the Kurd stall the advance of the ISIS and prevented it from capturing the city.

Turkey which was earlier hesitant to provide military assistance to the embattled Kurds in Kobane has now allowed hundreds of peshmerga forces to enter Kobane through its territory. This peshmerga forces now is using artillery to pound ISIS positions. This development is a big boost to the morale of the Kurds in its effort to repel the ISIS from Kobane.

To some analysts Kobane is of less significance than to other areas that are also besieged by the terrorists. But the city has now gained prominence with the attention given to it by the world media. The city is now widely known to many people all over the world because of the ISIS phenomenon. Whichever side prevails in this ongoing battle will have the psychological edge over its opponent. For the ISIS a victory in Kobane is an inspiration to expand the coverage of its caliphate, and for the Kurds, a victory is a promotion of solidarity and loyalty to their own ethnic group and to the land or the territory which they consider as their own. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Kurds

Kurdish girls
The Kurds are semi-nomadic tribes living in areas that is called Kurdistan which spans Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. They are ethnically related to the Iranian people and speak Kurdish, a language of the western Iranian branch of the Indo-European language. The Kurds have a population of about 26 to 34 million in Kurdistan that live within the territory of other countries: about 55% in Turkey, about 18% each in Iraq and Iran and a bit over 5% in Syria. Kurds represent 18% of the population of Turkey, 7-10% of Iran, 17% of Iraq and 9% of Syria. In addition, there are about 1 to 2 million Kurds who are living in Diaspora. Most of the Kurds are Sunni Muslims, but there are others who profess diverse beliefs such as Christianity, Judaism, Yazidi and Shia Islam.                                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                                 Kurdish-inhabited areas                                                                                                 
The rise of Islam and the Arab conquest resulted to the conversion of the majority of the Kurds to the Muslim faith. In the 11th century the Kurds were subjugated by the Seljuk Turks, and Kurdistan was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century. Ethno-linguistic and cultural differences as well as suppression by the Arab and Turkish rulers gave rise to the aspiration of the Kurds to have an independent state of their own. 
After the end of WW1 and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the Kurds were promised an independent state of Kurdistan in the Treaty of Serves in 1920, but this was not kept. The proposal for independence was dropped from the provision of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

In Turkey, the desire of the Kurds for an independent state and the government’s effort for the nation’s integrity resulted to the suppression of the Turks and to their rebellion. Out of this conflict the Marxist inspired Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan or PKK has emerged. The PKK and the Turkish army engaged in an open war from 1984 to 1989. The PKK was listed by the United States, Turkey and the European Union as a terrorist organization.

In Iraq, in 1970, the government announced a peace plan that would provide the Kurds autonomy. However, its policy of Arabization was a contradiction to that plan and created an atmosphere of animosity between the Kurds and the Iraqi regime. The Kurds were subjected to harassment such as deportation from their ancestral lands and then having the lands resettled by Arabs. In 1991 Kurdish guerillas captured Erbil and Sulaimaniya from the Iraqi troops. The Iraqi government retaliated by imposing fuel embargo to the Kurds and by stopping salary payment of civil servants in the Kurdistan region. The move of the Iraqis backfired when the Kurds held a parliamentary election in 1992 establishing the Kurdistan Regional Government or KRG. The authority of the KRG and the legalities of its laws were recognized by the new Iraqi constitution that was ratified in 2005. In Syria the Kurds have also experienced persecution and discrimination such as prohibiting them from using Kurdish in naming their children and their business and in speaking their own language.

The Kurds have fared better in Iran than in other countries that include parts of Kurdistan as their territory. This is maybe due to the linguistic, ethnic and other affinities which the Iranians and Kurds share. Kurds in Iran have the least desire for an independent state than those Kurds of other countries.
The Arab Spring which toppled autocratic leaders in the Middle East also sparked the civil war in Syria. ISIS an offshoot of Al Qaeda has come out as the biggest threat not only to President Bahar al-Assad but also to the entire Middle East and the world. The militant Islamic group conquered a large swath of land in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate lead by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The brutalities employed by ISIS such massacres of men including children, mass abduction and rape of women, destruction of historical and religious sites and persecution of people on account of their ethnicity or religion have shocked the world. Some Muslim countries including clerics have denounced the ISIS and called their actions as un-Islamic.

Landlocked Kurdistan which lay on the borders of Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran with rich oil fields is a logical ISIS target. And in fact some Kurdish territories are under siege by the militants. This situation will only strengthen the spirit of nationalism and cooperation among the Kurds. Even if majority of them are Muslims, Sunni Kurds came to the rescue of fellow non-Muslim Kurds such as the Yazidis during the conflict. There is also cooperation between the Marxist PKK and Kurds who are adherents of religious belief. Therefore, Kurds fight against the ISIS has unified them.

In the conflict involving the ISIS, it is the Kurdish forces that bear much of the brunt of the battle. In contrast to the Iraqi security forces which ran away from battles leaving behind their weapons to the enemy, the Kurds are a sight of bravery in combat. With the help of the US and European countries which provided them air support, the Kurds are able to slow or halt the ISIS advance.

The courage and determination of the Kurds to defeat a barbaric enemy has won the admiration of the world. Its defeat of the ISIS could only further their resolve to have an independent state of their own. And a victory might make many countries favorable to that aspiration. However it remains to be seen whether Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria would allow an establishment of an independent Kurdistan that is carved out from their respective territories. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Social Media and the Battle against the ISIS

The rise of the ISIS and its battle against the governments of Syria and Iraq and the Kurds and other armed groups has caught the curiosity and attention of people around the world. Negative news reports on ISIS members’ actions in combats and their treatment of captives and civilians have horrified many people.

Aside from the physical battle, the parties to the conflict also take into account its psychological dimension to boost the war effort. In this regard, the social media particularly Facebook and Twitter has become an unwitting tool or a venue for the battle to win the people’s hearts and minds in the conflict involving ISIS and its opponents.

Concerned of the bad publicity it has brought to Islam since the ISIS claims that it has carried out its act in the name of the religion, leaders of Saudi Arabia and religious clerics as well as some Islamic association of America and Europe have denounced the ISIS stating that the actions and behavior of its members are not compatible with the tenets of Islam. In fact Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Jordan have joined the US led coalition to provide airstrike against the ISIS’ members and their facilities. Other western countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands and Australia have also given support to the forces that are fighting the ISIS such as the Kurds and the Iraqi army.

In a battle, the side which has a superior firepower, proficient and well motivated troops as well as good commanders usually prevails over its weaker opponent. However, the battle to win the people’s hearts and minds including those of the non-combatants cannot be overlooked. This is proven in the American defeat in the Vietnam War. And in the Arab Spring the social media particularly Facebook and Twitter was a tool that galvanized world opinion against state of affairs in the Middle East. The use of the social media stoked the flame of people’s revolt that toppled down long serving and well entrenched autocratic rulers such as the late Col. Muammar Khadafy of Libya and former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
Appalled by the atrocities of the ISIS, some internet users are bringing their opinion and sentiments against it in the internet. Some formed groups in Facebook with the aim of denouncing the ISIS and of giving users updates on news and on the battle that is raging on between the ISIS and the Kurds and other forces opposing it such as the Iraqi and Syrian armies.

The opposition to ISIS is gaining momentum in the social media. And the post and the interaction of users about the ISIS could somehow influence world opinion for or against it. A group such as the ISIS that wants people to submit to their wishes and demands through sheer acts of terror cannot possibly win the hearts and minds of the people in the world.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Brutalities of the ISIS

Waging jihad to establish Islamic caliphate, the ISIS emerges as the most fearsome and well funded terrorist organization in the world. Its ferocity and determination have made it conquer large swath of lands in Syria and Iraq. During a battle Iraqi security forces fled from engagement leaving behind large quantity of weapons given to them by the Americans. The bonanza of American weapons and their initial military victories were a big boost to the morale of the ISIS fighters.

The advance of the ISIS has displaced thousands of indigenous population. Its onslaught created a flow of refugees in Northern Iraq and the Turkish borders. The ISIS which is mostly composed of Sunnis is at odds with the local Shiites, and armed confrontations are common occurrence between them. Conquering an area, the ISIS militants give the minorities such as the Christians and the Yazidis to convert to Islam or be killed. In areas that fell under their control after a military operation, the militants imposed harsh actions to the local populace. Women and children are separated from the men. The men including older male children are then killed execution style. The method of execution includes shooting, beheading and crucifying. Captured or kidnapped women are then raped or made as sex slaves. Selected young women are gifted to ISIS commanders as “wives”. Captured children are trained to become “holy warriors” or suicide bombers.

The US and western nations airstrikes have given the Kurds, the Iraqi security forces and other local militias a breathing space to deal with the ISIS. The Peshmerga the Kurdish armed forces which took the brunt of the fighting were able to recapture lost grounds. With US air support and weapons supplied by France and other European nations' the Kurds stalled or halted the ISIS advance into their territory.

Getting back at the Americans, the ISIS beheaded two American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in an effort to intimidate them and their allies. France which is active in the campaign against the terror group was also given a warning that its citizens will be targeted.

Despite the US air strikes, the ISIS militants have shown their superiority over local adversaries especially the Iraqi security forces. In the middle of September 2014, ISIS militants besieged an Iraqi army unit guarding a strategic supply route in Western Anbar. Suicide bombers dressed as Iraqi soldiers on bomb-laden Humvee vehicles drove through an army camp and detonated the bombs into the Iraqi soldiers’ positions. The explosions inflicted heavy casualties to the surprised Iraqi army. Amid the chaos and confusion that ensued, the militants then assaulted and overran the camp and killed as many as 250 Iraqi soldiers. Those who were not killed were captured or were able to escape. It is estimated that the Iraqi security forces lost about 500 of its troops that are listed as either killed or missing in that battle.

The brutalities of the ISIS have made some leaders and clerics of Muslim world such as Saudi Arabia to denounce the group. They stated that the group’s actions are disgrace to the Islamic faith and are not compatible with the principles of Islam. And that the ISIS does not represent the Muslims. Putting their money where their mouths are, Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain with Qatar in supporting role have joined the coalition of countries that conducted airstrikes against the ISIS in Syria.

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!”