PADAYON (Soldier On)

‘Mag-sige pa ta ani?’ (Should we go on doing this?). This is the question that I have asked myself 2 years ago.

With a busy schedule, I found it difficult to find time to do any volunteer work for Senyor Sto Niño. Aside from “time poverty”, there is also the element of unresponsiveness that can be a hair pulling moment specially if one is soaked in a job that is driven by quick results. Here, you won’t find a state of immediacy so be prepared to pull expectations lower. Outcomes happen at a slower pace.

The challenge that we constantly face is the differences in intentions of service and commitment. Also there is the diversity in generation. The younger breed tends to be entrepreneurial and want the freedom to try new things which is in stark contrast to a senior generation that likes identifying strategies and to keep things the way they are, preferring conformity and order.

It is clearly a feat to manage and bring the unique needs and styles of everyone together. It is this seemingly abysmal battle that have caused a few to slide and skedaddle.

But despite the many drawbacks that any team is likely to experience, the next question would be — Why are we still here? What has attracted us to this devotion to the Holy Child?

I believe that there is a force in complete control of all things. Our dearest Senyor Sto Niño’s hand of divinity has made us fit for this mission. He has provoked us with that thirst for fullness. He stirs us to do something great with our lives. He did not make us change the existing reality, instead He made us build a new reality that continue to draw believers in. He has guided our every step, our every move. Each year, our loving little King has made us grow in our faith so we can serve Him courageously BOLD. He gave us the courage to commit ourselves humbly.

As long as we are steadfast in our prayers and supplications to the Holy Child, we are assured of his love wrapped in grit, honesty, and rawness. We are forever aroused to participate in love-inspired actions. The sense of community has become very strong and the shared faith by His ardent followers is testament to how he turns our brokenness into something beautiful.

The light beaming in from the stained glass windows of the St. Benedict’s church provides perpetual radiance to the shrine of our dearest Niño. The light of heaven illuminates the sacred space that shelter souls. The home of our spiritual mystery. A place for reverence. The mystical place where we are assured of a love given in full – reassuring and peace-filled. He is always present here. Ready to answer our prayers. He is GOD.

It is here that we are made witness to the miracles that have healed the hearts of the weary souls. The despair of parents torn apart from their children for years in the hope of bringing them all to Aotearoa one day. Families in grief for losing love ones to cancer and senseless murder. Prayers from a father who was made redundant. A mother’s intercession for a son who has turned prodigal. Cries from a daughter who is dealing with depression. The pleading of a person seeking inner peace. New migrants imploring for jobs to convert their status to resident visa. The sinners, the losers, the crippled, the poor, the sick, the traumatized, the haters, the abandoned, the paralyzed, the unforgiving — they all come on bended knees – naked and bare – ready to redeem the gift of devotion. To experience deliverance and redemption. To seep in the sacred. This communion teaches one to accept defeat head up with eyes open and with greater reliance on our loving King. To see his gracious purpose in all our trials and to see His blessings in everyday. And you learn that you really can endure, between cleansing tears, that you really are strong and you really do have worth – to love Him more.

Senyor Sto Niño makes everything softer. He makes surprise, magic and miracles happen everyday. We just need to look closely and learn to wait.

And so each year, on the 3rd Sunday in January, we dance our pasalamat (thanksgiving) and panaad (promise) to start the year with a renewed life. We have all gone a long way in our devotions to Him and continue in our commitment to bring more devotees to our beloved Patron.

Year after year, we have been blessed with so many people working together to make each and every fiesta a memorable and joyful event, giving glory and honour to Him. Four groups of dancers, coming together to create a tapestry for grace (gliding on blistered feet) ready to chant – Pit Senyor ! Viva Senyor Sto Niño! A community working as one bonded emotionally by love to serve and conjure the magic that is Sinulog. Each one soldiering on. Each one with flame in their wings to celebrate the burning passion in their heart. We are building a community of faith, one soul at a time, one family at a time. We are building a strong and vibrant true church where each one knows their mission.

And yes, I-PADAYON. Sa gugma nga walay paglubad. (Serve in love without losing luster). Let us go on. Let us take part in a living communion that needs to be sustained, deepened, enriched and strengthened. Let us live our passion so that at end of this day, at the end of this year, at the end of this precious life, we can hold our head up high, with a wide toothed grin – proud of a life well lived embraced by our dearest Senyor Sto Niño because what He intended for us goes far beyond anything we can imagine.

– chichi abadingo