Thursday, February 25, 2010

LOVE is in the Air…

Feb 14 2010 was a big day for us!

What comes to mind when you think of the date??? Valentine’s Day obviously…but…hmm… what would we good ol’ seminarians do on this special lover’s day beside locking ourselves up in our room and sulk? Haha! Well, we have our ways to make the best out of it.

Actually, what helped to make things simpler this year was the fact that besides celebrating Valentine’s day, it was also the Chinese/Lunar New Year. So the Chinese and Vietnamese (yours truly included) decided that since this we cannot go home and celebrate this very special day of ours back home, we might bring it over and celebrate it in a big nice way with the international community here.

Of course, we knew better than having the celebration on the 14th itself (being a Sunday, everyone is probably out partying, and ahemm… contrary to what everyone might think, I am sure some of us do have unforgettable Valentine’s celebrations somewhere out there :P), so we decided to have our little celebration on the 15th instead.

Just in case you are not clear with the celebration of the Lunar New Year, there are many rituals and customs to follow. Two of the very important events would be the reunion dinner (where all family members were to gather together for a truly sumptuous dinner on the eve of New Year), and the paying of respect to the Gods and elders on New Year morning. What we decided to do was to have a little Lunar New Year liturgy incorporated into the evening prayer, followed by the eating of a special Chinese new year dish… Yu Shang (literally translated as ‘raw fish’… I'll get more to it later).

So, during the evening prayer we started off with a little introduction, and while we sang the opening hymn, 4 of us Chinese and Vietnamese paid our respect to God with joss sticks. At the end of the divine office, a brief introduction was given to everyone on the ritual of tea serving to the elders. (as customary, the traditional Chinese would serve Tea to their elders on Chinese New Year morning). Right after, we invited our seniors up to the front and we started the ceremony.

It was rather awkward at first when the first 7 students prepared to serve the tea to the seniors, but as one student started kneeling, everyone follow suit. What came after was that all the students said their wishes to the seniors, upon which they serve a cup of tea to them. After drinking the tea, the seniors in return extend their wishes and blessings back to the student, and as a symbolic gesture, gave the students two mandarin oranges.

After the first group of students completed serving tea, everyone else was quite ready to get their hands on it. There were laughter and giggles, and everyone pretty much enjoyed the experience.

Now… here’s the thing. Actually, in the real tradition, the seniors are not suppose to return their blessings with mandarin oranges, instead, they were suppose to return with ‘Ang Pao”. (Chinese Red Packets, and of course… with $$$ inside the packet). We figured that the seniors would probably have to starve themselves if they were to give us Ang Pao, but seriously, how can we neglect such a good custom???

Well, thanks to the real BIG generosity of our Rector, we got to propagate this wonderful tradition. Fr Brendan had in fact prepared Ang Paos for all the students, and after the tea ceremony, he stayed back and gave it to us, without doubt, all of us received our “blessings” with a great display of our sparkly teeth.

After the liturgy, we adjourned to the refractory for yet another exciting activity. Oh… I forgot to mentioned, the Centennial group also decided to hold a party with the community on that evening to celebrate the birthday of Fr Allen and Br. Shaun.

Before the party started, Eugene took over the floor and introduced the special Chinese Dish “Yu Shang” or “Lou Hei” (schooping up). It was a dish in which all ingredients represented a good wish for the year, and while mentioning the wish, the particular ingredient is mixed into the center plate. At the end of the mixing, we have a colourful array of ingredients representing fortune, fame, love, health, etc etc… All were then asked to take a pair of chopsticks and mix and toss the ingredients as high as possible. (The higher they go, the more one receives receipt of the wishes). After the fun tossing, we started eating and the party began.

What came after was the usual games and songs, and Fr Allen and Br Shaun had their fair share of limelight for the night when they were asked to participate on activities for their birthdays.

Well, there you go, a truly wonderful day spent with a truly wonderful community. Although I’m far from home, I did feel the wonderful joy of Chinese New Year oozing in the air.
Here’s wishing everyone a truly wonderful and joyous year of the Tiger. May all your dreams come true, maybe you filled with blessings and graces. And as a typical Chinese would wish… may this year bring you fame, fortune, love, good health, good career, plentiful descendents, babies………


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another Grand at Mergrande

Last Feb 8 was another day for fun in the sun at Mergrande. Last time, only the class of in Introduction to Scriptures and Johannine came here for their integration during the last semester. This time the whole community and the staff came for our own Community Recreation. It was also different from the last time when were joined with the staff since this time; the staffs did not bring their families. It was purely the community and the staff only. And we had the whole place for ourselves since it was a normal working day.

We left the house around 8:30am going to the place. However some went earlier to prepare for the food and the place. Still some seniors went late as they attend to important matters in the house. Upon arriving the people tried to fix their things and find a place to rest and just enjoy the day. Well this time the TOM had already arrange games for us to do while waiting for the food. They already put us also to different groupings for these fun games.

1st game was the “sack race” where each team should be represented by five members. The mechanics were easy. They just had to put in the sack and run to the obstacle then go back and pass the sack to the next player. Well it was not the usual sack race. In this game the sack is worn on the head while the players hop going to the obstacle. This was really a crowd favorite. It was group 3 who won this game.

2nd game was named “Mary Goes to town”. It was played putting the ball in between the legs while holding a crutch at one hand and balancing a place in the head. Then the player run to the obstacle and pass everything to the next player. Yet after the trial they took off the plate. Since we have only a pair of crutches care of Kuya Nards, only four teams can play. The crowd was really shouting wild at the players by this time.

The last game was the famous “pinaka” (the most), for group five. It was give away game so most of the group members of group five would have a prize. After the games the people went into groups for sharing stories and just wasting time with each other.

Then lunch came and we feasted on the bountiful foods that we brought and prepared thanks to our generous brothers and staff who prepared and cooked most of it even the night before. Still we keep on exchanging stories. After lunch each tried to find a perfect spot for sleeping and resting for awhile.

Still some were restless that they played volleyball making an improvise court and net while others dive to the waters of the beach. Some continued the fellowship with some bottles of beers. Still others swam in the swimming pool. It was a good day to relax and just waste time with each other. We left around 3:30pm by batches again. After arriving most really went strait to their beds and rest.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

The National Bible Week

January 25-31, 2010 marks another national event here in the Philippines, that is, the National Bible Week. The letter from the Episcopal Commission for the Biblical Apostolate was sent to all dioceses and parishes, encouraging all Christians to make this week a special occasion for Bible. The theme selected for this National event was, “They may all be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us…” (Jn 17:21)

Sr. Miriam, our dean of studies, also got the letter and made an announcement, informing all the students of the coming event. Thanks to her generosity and open-mindedness that she gave us freedom to decide if we would like to do something during this Bible week or not. So a meeting among students was held in order to discuss about that. In order that we may also be one with others (as the theme says) in this National event, we agreed that we would contribute something. However, with limited time and budget (we requested some amount of money, though), we would do only the Bible exhibit and Bible games in a rather small scale as our contribution from the SATMI students to the parish during this Bible week. All the tasks were, then, distributed. We were working against the clock. Thanks to the cooperation among the students, everything was finished on time (I mean, almost everything).

As always, we would like to reach out and share our knowledge with others, especially the parishioners. Therefore, the exhibit was held just outside the church so that people would get a chance to participate. We put up tents in front of the chapel of the saints. Inside the tents there were panel boards with some basic information about Bible like how to read the bible; bible as inspired; bible as a collection of books; what is hermeneutic; how to do a group bible sharing; relationship between bible and theology. We exhibited a glass cabinet to show the bible in different languages including the original Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. We also had the most sophisticated and scholarly bible timeline I have ever seen in my life (all the credits to Bro. Ole who invested his time and resources to get it). On the last day of this Bible Week, January 31, there were Bible quizzes with some prizes. The response from the people was quite positive. Many parishioners showed their enthusiasm to learn more about Bible by spending time looking at the exhibits and participating in the Bible quizzes.

The funny thing was that when we were looking at some of the recommended activities during this bible week in the letter from the Episcopal Commission again, we found that bible exhibit was no where in the list. So we were laughing and joking with one another saying that this exhibit should not have been there in the first place because it was not recommended by the Episcopal Commission for the Biblical Apostolate.