Facing ruined or damaged churches, Bohol, Cebu’s faithful keep praying-A A +A
Monday, October 21, 2013
WHEN Arlene Alparaque, 30, of Davao City again saw the Basilica del Sto. Niño for the first time in two years yesterday, she couldn’t help but make the sign of the cross.
The sight of its ruined belfry triggered the reflex. “Dili gyud ko katoo nga matay-og ang simbahan (I would never have thought the church could be shaken),” she said.
In front of the ruined Loboc Church in Bohol, two aftershocks interrupted the first Sunday mass since last Tuesday’s quake.
But the more than 300 parishioners stayed all throughout. The priest even cracked some jokes to ease the tension.
Bohol and Cebu’s survivors woke up to at least nine aftershocks that hit the two provinces before 6 a.m. yesterday, five days since a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the Visayas.
The quake destroyed the churches in Loboc, Baclayon, Loon and Maribojoc, and damaged at least 18 other churches in Bohol, reported the National Disaster Risk Reduction Council. In Cebu, eight churches were damaged, but the loss of the Basilica’s tower stood out.
Yet hundreds gathered yesterday in front of ruined or damaged churches in the two provinces, briefly stopping when aftershocks came. And then they prayed on.
In Cebu, Alparaque was on vacation and visiting relatives in Carmen town. The last time she saw the Basilica in Cebu City was two years ago, when devotees filled the church and its Pilgrim Center outside during the Pista Senyor or Sinulog festivities.
Her faith, she said, remains strong.
Mark Juniper Fariñas, a 23-year-old student, said that while the Basilica’s belfry was destroyed, the people’s faith in the Santo Niño remains intact.
“The biggest lesson that we can learn from the earthquake is that God is our only refuge,” he told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday.
Fr. Tito Soquino of the Order of St. Augustine said the sight of parishioners hearing mass at the Basilica, despite the quake’s effects on them, shows that “their faith remains unshakeable.”
He serves as the executive director of the Sto. Nino Foundation.
After the earthquake last week, the Basilica’s administrators revived the “Batobalani sa Gugma”, the gozos that are sung in honor of the Santo Niño during the annual fiesta.
“(Singing the gozos) is one way of reminding ourselves of our faith in God,” Fr. Soquino added.
In Loboc, Bohol, Fr. Andres Ayco celebrated mass in an open space in front of the church’s ruins.
Churchgoers used tents. Parishioners brought their own chairs. The famous Loboc children’s choir sang.
It was a thanksgiving mass, said Fr. Ayco.
He told parishioners they had so many things to be thankful for, despite everything.
“Luyo sa atong pag-antos, gikinahanglan nga duna gihapon ta’y pagsalig sa Ginoo (In the midst of our suffering, we need to sustain our trust in God),” said Fr. Ayco.
He talked about plans to build a new church in a new area, so the ruins of the second oldest church in Bohol can be left in place. Another option was to rebuild on the same site. Both options, he said, will be presented in all the chapels in Loboc.
For now, masses in Loboc will be held in their municipal gym.
In yesterday’s mass, among the prayers of the faithful was that there wouldn’t be any more aftershocks.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 21, 2013.