Members of Palawan Ecumenical Fellowship explain the significance of interreligious dialogue to achieve harmonious relationship (from left to right: Ptra. Evelyn Servando of Confederation of Jesus Christ’s Believers and Ministers, Inc (CCBMI); Rev. Fr. Salvador Saturnino of Roman Catholic Church (RCC); Rev. Fr. Camilo Caabay (RCC); Bishop Adone Baldevieso of CCBMI; and Norma Valencia of Roman Catholic Focolare Movement). (Photo by Rachel Ganancial)
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An interfaith group in Palawan announced Saturday that it will start its countdown on November 30 to celebrate the 500th year anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines which will be marked in 2021.

The Palawan Ecumenical Fellowship (PEF) composed of seven church traditions said in a press conference that it is all systems go for the province to participate in marking the country’s half a millennium of Christianity.

Norma Valencia of the Roman Catholic Focolare Movement (RCFM) said an interreligious dialogue has been done before the countdown to develop closer relationships and better understanding among Christians of different church traditions.

“Mahalaga na makipag-dayalogo tayo sa kanila upang magkakilalanan. Sabi nga, kung tayo ay anak ng iisang Ama sa langit, puwede tayo mag-usap. Kung puwede tayo mag-usap, pwede tayo magmahalan. Magmahalan sa paraan na puwede tayong makipamuhay ng may kapayapaan,” she said.

Valencia said the interreligious dialogue was among the activities they conducted since they embarked on a nine-year journey to prepare for 2021.

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She said aside from the interfaith forum, PEF has also done other collaborative actions regarding local issues, such as opposing together the “bingo social” in Puerto Princesa City before and prayer vigils and rallies with hopes that in these nine years, renewal in Filipino faith would make the celebration more meaningful.

“Meron maliliit na milestones na nangyari na pero we look forward na marami pa rin siguro na mangyayari sa mga darating pa na panahon,” she said.

Valencia said that in 2020, indigenous peoples (IPs) in the province will be included in the ecumenical fellowship. PEF will go to Rizal to invite the Pala’wan IPs.

She said it is also their way of supporting the Pala’wan IPs whose rights are not always protected.

“Ito ay tinatawag na ‘Lakbay pagmamahal sa mga kapatid na IPs’ sa bayan ng Rizal, particular ito sa mga Pala’wan. Para rin itong pagbubuo ng pamilya sa maikling panahon. Pero gusto rin natin maramdaman na kasama natin sa buhay natin ang ating mga indigenous people,” she said.

Rev. Fr. Salvador Saturnino of the Roman Catholic Church said that the group respects differences, especially the IPs that have their own governance.

“Nagsta-start pa lang ang ating grupo sa lakbay pagmamahal para sa mga indigenous people. Hopefully, hindi lang isang grupo ang ating mapasyalan kung hindi ay marami pa tayong mapuntahan. Dahan-dahan lang siguro,” he said.

Meanwhile, the group is also marking the celebration of 2020 as the “Year of Ecumenism” as part of the celebration of the birth of Christianity.

“Itong pag-launch natin ng Year of Ecumenical ay bahagi ito ng paghahanda sa inaabangan natin na pagdiriwang ng ikalimandaang taon ng anibersaryo ng pagdating ng mabuting balita at ebanghelyo sa ating bansa. Alam natin sa ating kasaysayan na noong 1521, ang Pilipinas ay nakatanggap ng mabuting balita,” Saturnino said.

It can be remembered that Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan brought Christianity to the Philippines in 1521. In 2021, it will turn 500 years.

The celebration will be led by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“Sa pangunguna ng Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, gusto nila ng husto at wastong pagdiriwang nito kaya noong 2012 ay nagpalabas sila ng pastoral letter. Naglabas sila ng guidelines kung paano paghahandaan itong pagdiriwang sa 2021,” he said.

Since 2013, there are designated celebrations dedicated to every sector and aspect of the community in preparation for the “meaningful celebration”.

In 2013, the Year of Integral Faith Formation was celebrated; in 2014 was the Year of the Laity; in 2015 was Year of the Poor; 2016 Year of the Eucharist and the Family; in 2017 was Year of the Parish as Communion of communities; in 2018 was Year of Clergy and the Religious;  2019 is the Year of the Youth; and in 2020 will be Year of Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous People.

Other representatives who joined the press conference were Pastor Evelyn Servando of Confederation of Jesus Christ’s Believers and Ministers, Inc (CCBMI); Rev. Fr. Camilo Caabay of the Roman Catholic Church; and Bishop Adone Baldevieso of CCBMI.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.