I am referring to the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines, the preparation for the celebration of its anniversary the Archdiocese of Cebu, in particular, is now in its final sprint.
It is definitely a complex question to answer. We can say, of course, that many good things have indeed happened, have indeed been accomplished, etc., but neither can we deny that there are still many issues to be tackled, problems to be solved, things to be done.
I suppose this is how things in general will always be. There will always be lights and shadows, progress in some areas and deficiencies and failures in others. But we just have to move on and do our best to chart a clearer and coordinated way to live our Christianity, personally and collectively, better. This will always be a work in progress, never a finished project in our earthly life.
I believe the first thing to do is to be profusely and sincerely thankful to God for the countless graces we have received through the history of our nation. We have to be thankful that as a people, we already had a strong religious inclination even before Christianity came to our shore.
We already believed in some deity, in some spiritual and supernatural beings, etc., albeit mixed with a lot of superstitions. In this regard, we showed ourselves as a simple and a believing people, open and receptive to the Christian faith when it finally came to us.
Despite the heavy drama that played out in the Christianization of our country, we can confidently, even proudly say that we are a Christian nation that also knows how to be open, tolerant and friendly to a variety of other religions and beliefs. This can easily be shown by the many manifestations of popular piety that we can see in many parts of our country.
In Cebu, for example, the devotion to the Child Jesus (Sto. Niño) is strong and widespread. In Manila, we have the devotion to the Black Nazarene. The celebration of the feasts of patron saints is practiced everywhere. We have the “Simbang Gabi” tradition. And each liturgical season, as in Lent, Easter, Advent, has its peculiar way of living it. Thanks to God, we have a good number of priestly and religious vocations in the seminaries and various religious communities.
But a lot still need to be done and improved. The Christian formation of everyone has to continue developing, this time tackling the challenges of the new developments and the so-called new normal. The life of prayer really has to be made strong and consistent, one that would lead us to bear real and tangible fruits of personal holiness and apostolate.
There is also the question of whether we can truly consider ourselves as the vanguard of Christianity at least in Asia as we are expected to be. Yes, we cannot deny that many Filipinos who are working abroad or who have already migrated, are bringing with them at least some traces of the Christian spirit to where they work and live.
Indeed, there are many fruits that we can reap after 500 years of Christianity, but there are still a lot more, in fact endlessly more, that still need to be done. Our Church leaders—bishops, priests, and active lay people—should continue to do their best in propagating the Christian faith and life everywhere, starting with where they are now.*