THE Bell Church is Barangay Macasandig in Cagayan de Oro City is one of the structures that survived severe flooding in the past. It has twice withstood rampaging floodwaters brought by major weather disturbances – tropical storms Sendong in 2011 and Vinta last December.
The Bell Church has withstood some of the biggest storms in recent memory, but its devotees have a daunting task to face: To clean the church and the holy statues that adorned its altar through an elaborate purification ceremony.
Greg Marten Lao, past president of the Bell Church-Cagayan de Oro chapel, said the city has about 300 members composed mainly of the members of the Filipino-Chinese community.
Lao considers the chapel as the spiritual and cultural hub not just for the Filipino-Chinese but by people from all walks of life.
Although the city has a sizable number of Filipinos of Chinese descent, it has no Chinatown; so the Bell Church sort of serves as the best venue for the “Tsinoy” residents to reconnect with their roots by taking part in traditional rituals in an ambience so familiar to them and their ancestors back in China.
Inside the Bell Church during the purification ceremony, devotees light incense sticks, offered fruits and prayers and bow several times to the icons placed inside glass chambers at the altar while its spiritual leader, Elias Ng (also called by the faithful as “Master Ng”), chant prayer in Hokkien, the dialect mostly spoken by the Chinese living in the Philippines.
Lao said this is the second time that the Bell Church has conducted the purification rites, the first was during the aftermath of Sendong when its chapel in Sitio Tambo, Barangay Macasandig here, was submerged in floodwater.
The chapel in Macasandig is situation beside the Cagayan de Oro river, the usual path of the numerous floodings the city had experienced in the past.
Lao said they did not choose the location of the chapel, adding it was upon divine intervention that it has constructed.
An indigenous religious organization founded by Ng Pee in the Philippines 1954, the Bell Church has its beginnings in Baguio City where its first church is also located.
The Bell Church has chapels in the cities of Dagupan, Quezon, Manila, Dumaguete, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Cotabato and Zamboanga. It also has places of worship in Hong Kong and San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Like the other chapels, the Bell Church in Cagayan de Oro has attracted even the non-members and is considered as one of the city’s tourist attractions.