Easter time had an annual ritual during my childhood- my family and I would attend Easter Vigil mass, the Filipino church community would host an Easter Day picnic party, I would stuff my mouth with tons of food from the potluck, and the day would end with a toothache from all the chocolate bunnies I had consumed. It wasn't until I moved to college that I had realized that Easter wasn't that "big of a deal" with many people, even those of Christian faith. And although I regularly attended mass, prayed a lot, and was active member of my local church community, the magic of Easter had dwindled every year. It seemed as if people only cared about the Easter eggs when it came to the holiday. The lack of people celebrating Easter- the day the Lord had risen and saved us from sin, made the holiday not special to me. Thinking back, my college years were filled with stress, bad anxiety, and not so great people in my life, which had blinded me by the importance of Jesus's sacrifice. Ultimately, it was from my own suffering that made my faith uninspiring.
This year, I decided to go back to my motherland, the Philippines, and attend Easter with my family. Based on Russell's article of "Christianity in the Philippines," the country is known for being the third largest Catholic country in the world with 85% of the population Christian. I wanted to see how other Christians would celebrate Easter in their country. Personally, I didn't know what to expect from the trip except that I was excited to be celebrating my faith in a whole new way. With my brief trip, I was lucky to have spent it with my extended family and newfound friends.
As I share with you photos of the many churches I visited, one thing I would mention about Easter day was that there was nothing more satisfying than to hear fireworks above the church as I witnessed the priest say, "He is Risen." Although the locals seemed to act mundane after the mass celebration as they walked towards the potluck festivities, I felt moved by the country's immense love for their faith. It was the way they made the sign of the cross, the way they said "Amen," and the way they always told people "God bless you" at the end of their conversations that humbled my heart. I couldn't help but think about home and how people express their faith.
The churches in Manila are absolutely breathtaking! I've learned that many of the churches were built during the Spanish colonization. Most of the paintings are hand drawn and some even replicate some of the paint works in Europe. I am sure that the churches have been renovated throughout the years, but the intricacy and quality of the paintings amaze me! I imagine myself painting all over the churches, and I feel like those painters would have had sore arms all the time. Visiting the churches around Manila really astounded me!
Personally, I don't know how else to reflect my feelings about my faith today besides the fact that I almost feel guilty and ashamed about how religion is depicted in America. Being an adult, I felt robbed out of understanding my faith because I had to compensate for others disbelief in God, and although diversity brings differences, it doesn't mean that it should change what you believe. Today, Hollywood/media censor religion- but I wonder if it's because they want to condition religion as if it was a "bad thing" to believe that there is life after death. However, this trip made me realize that that idea is far from the truth. Having faith does not separate people or create hate; those who doubt it does. Like the fireworks in the sky, faith only soars from love, and celebrating Easter in Manila will always have a special place in my heart. Until next time, Ressa