Celebrating 500 Years of Christianity in the PHL

Dr. Angie Cruz: ‘I could almost feel God smiling.’

By Marilyn Abalos

A great number of Filipinos worldwide commemorated a Thanksgiving Prayer Service on Monday, March 15th (March 16th Manila time).  The special service was organized by Dr. Angie Cruz, founder of the Institute for Spirituality in the Workplace, with co-hosts: Friends of the Philippines Society USA, Inc. and NaFFAA-NY. 

Hosted by Loida Nicolas Lewis, participants included Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN in NY; Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Papal Nuncio to Spain; Rev. Baltazar Obico OFM, Vicar of Santuario de San Antonio, Makati; Fr. Joseph Marabe, director of the Filipino Apostolate of NY; Rabbi Joshua Stanton; Mohammed Nu’man Pimbayabaya; Deputy Consul General Kerwin Tate, Philippine Consulate General; Ryan Cayabyab, National Artist of the Philippines; Raul Sunico, dean of the Music Department, St. Paul College of Manila; Laura Garcia, National Federation of Filipino American Associations, NY Chair. Nina Pineda of ABC TV served as Mistress of Ceremonies.

“I think it was God who put that strong desire in me to celebrate the 500 years,” said Dr. Angie Cruz. “I asked around if there will be a celebration.  Looked like nothing was being planned.  So I told Loida (Nicolas Lewis) I wanted to do something.  She got as excited as I was.”

Cruz received the support and encouragement from long-time friends Edwin Josue, Jerry Sibal, and Laura Garcia who formed the Host Committee who “helped create the program.”  Through the support of the Host Committee, she was able to garner the participation of significant religious clergy as well as performing artists.  “They did such a fantastic job,” she said. “I could almost feel God smiling during our celebration.”

Pope Francis: Thanking Filipinos for the joy ‘you bring to the whole world.’
National Artist Ryan Cayabyab
Emcee Nina Pineda of ABC TV

The Thanksgiving Prayer Service opened with excerpts from Pope Francis celebrating Holy Mass on Sunday March 14th at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to mark 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines along with Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. 

“500 years have passed since the Christian message first arrived in the Philippines. You received the joy of the gospel,” said Pope Francis. “This joy is evident in your people.  We see it in your eyes, on your faces.  In your songs and in your prayers.  I want to thank you for the joy you bring to the whole world and to our Christian communities.”

“The coming of the Christian faith to our land is God’s gift,” said Cardinal Tagle at the Mass.  “The fact that the Christian faith was received by the majority of our people who gave it a Filipino character is also a gift of God. The Philippines has the 3rd largest number of Catholics in the world.  It is truly God’s gift. 

National Artist Ryan Cayabyab performed an original composition commemorating the 500 year-milestone.  Raul Sunico played a classical piece for the programs, while tenor Joseph Legaspi and soprano Mheco Manlangit performed solo numbers as well. 

NaFFAA NY President Laura Garcia recited Psalm 138 during the Thanksgiving Prayer Service.  It opens with “I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods.  I bow before your holy Temple as I worship, I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness…”

“A program that speaks to the heart of many through prayer, meditation and music. An enlightening discussion of what the Spanish friars brought to our country despite the atrocities and abuses,” said co-host Edwin Josue.  “A clever idea of our good friend Dr. Angie Cruz.”

Jerry Sibal of Friends of the Philippines Society remarked that “It’s a perfect time to educate and inform the public about the influence of the Spanish in the Philippines.” It is his hope, he said, that Friends will provide the platform in bringing about a better understanding of culture and religion.  “I would want Friends to create a community of love, peace and joy.”

Community leader Steven Raga said, “This month marks a historical time for Filipinos across the world. It is an honor to be celebrating 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. This is a time for solidarity, remembering our faith, and to appreciate our loved ones.”

Loida Nicolas Lewis said centuries after the Spanish brought Christianity to the shores of the Philippines, “Filipinos all over the world are known for their deep faith, kindness, adaptability, compassion, and joy.”

While she acknowledged the abuse and injustice that the Spanish did wroth in the Philippines, the Spanish also brought the Napoleonic Code and establishment of law, art, music, literature and national communication with the Spanish language.  She highlighted the influence of religious orders from the Jesuits to the Augustinians to the Franciscans, influencing the practice of faith and character of the Filipino people. 

She recognized the frontliners specifically Filipino nurses, doctors, medical technicians and other healthcare workers who sacrificed their safety and lives during the pandemic because “they remained true to their professions.”

Mrs. Lewis also stressed that Filipinos are “undergoing a trial of faith” – decrying the abuses, shameless corruption and lack of compassion of those in power in the Philippines – comparing high offices as “den of thieves.” She closed with an appeal and prayer for more “servant-leaders” who would be more dedicated to serving the people rather than personally benefiting from positions of power. 

You can view the Thanksgiving Prayer Service on YouTube entitled “Celebrating 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines.”

© The FilAm 2021

Leave a Reply