September 29, 2023

On Nov. 25, the Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe celebrated her turn in culminating the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.
The mystic town of Sagada, Mountain Pro-vince was blessed again to have been chosen as the venue for the culmination.
The clergy of Bontoc-Lagawe and the parishioners of Sagada gathered at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church for the historic celebration of the holy mass with Bishop Valentin Dimoc presiding over the holy mass and delivered a meaningful, informative, and faith-provoking homily.
The holy mass was livestreamed to allow the rest of the country to participate.
To recall, on Oct. 11, Bishop Valentin celebrated the Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) Sunday with the holy mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Being the chairperson of the IP Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, he was privileged to celebrate the IP Sunday for the whole nation through live streaming. Amidst the municipal Inter-agency Task Force advisory suspending mass gatherings, the celebration was permitted but creating conditions were agreed, such it is not a congregational mass, closed door, and basic protocols be observed.
The IP Sunday was great. The young people participated as music ministry, lectors, gong beaters, and dancers.
The bishop did not fail to acknowledge the Basic Ecclesial Communities of Sagada, as he appreciated the active participation of the youth and he encouraged them to be constant in their services.
The homily of the bishop must be shared. It’s a homily that narrates a history of faith that impacted to the lowlanders and highlanders. We ponder on his homily.
The 500 years of Catholic presence in the Philippines is a gift and mission.
It is a gift because the missionaries were not capable of reaching our shores but fortunately the superpower nation during that time was Spain with its Catholic leaders. The Pope made an agreement with the King of Spain through the “Patronato Real” to accommodate the missionaries in their evangelization of indigenous populations.
It is not surprising, therefore, that explorers of the King of Spain were accompanied by adventurous and zealous missionaries. Was it not the Lord Jesus himself who said to his disciples not to bring along any money and extra clothing and other things along the journey?
If the Jews in the Old Testament consider the Persian King Cyrus as instrument of God to bring back to Jerusalem the exiled people in Babylon, can we not also consider the King of Spain as instrument of God in bringing the Catholic faith in the Philippines?
We thank our loving and merciful God in sending brave missionaries to our shores. We thank the missionaries in their persistence to share the faith. Our faith came with very difficult encounter between the IPs of the Philippines and the Spanish explorers and missionaries.
Even though our people experienced culture and political-military shocks as symbolized by the sword, our people were able to gradually recognize the Cross of the Catholic faith within four centuries of presence. Our mountain people reacted and resisted the various cultural shocks brought about by such encounter with white people. But missionary activities persisted.
After the Spanish missionaries, with their commendable efforts to enter and establish themselves in the later part of the 18th century, even with some resistance from our IPs, the other Catholic missionaries persisted.
In less than 400 years, after the Spanish-Filipino war of 1898 and the coming of the Americans, the zealous and more culture-sensitive European or Belgian missionaries came in 1907 to our Montañosa homeland.
They established not only churches, convents, and rectories but also clinics, schools and dormitories.