"The more you honor Me, the more you will be blessed."

By: The Rev. Vicky Esguerra

"The more you honor Me [Jesus], the more you will be blessed," summed up the essence of the grandiose dual celebrations at the IFI Pandacan Parish with the rededication ceremony of its newly renovated beautiful Altar coinciding with the annual feast of the beloved Santo Nino on January 14, 2023, Saturday. The Rt. Rev. Vicente Salvador Ballesteros, diocesan bishop, and the Rt. Rev. Warlito Baldomero, OIC parish rector, led the well-attended festivities, starting at 8:30 A.M. with the blessing of the Altar and the concelebrated Holy Eucharist. The 2023 Fiesta Hermano Mayor, main contributor to the major fiesta expenses, was Mr. Joel Cruz, business owner of the famous "Afficionado" perfumery in the Philippines.

Subsequently in the afternoon, the Pandacan's IFI-RCC clergies and congregations participated in the joint liturgical activities, including the traditional "buling-buling" (street dancing in Filipiniana costumes). Leading the RCC parishioners was the Rev. Fr. Andy Lim, parish rector; as the IFI's was led by Bishop Buddy Ballesteros. This joint occasion was also graced by the presence of political and civic dignitaries, including the Manila City Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan, Vice-Mayor Yul Servo, Senator Imee Marcos, among others. Concluding the day's IFI parish festivities was the evening procession participated in by the faithful cum Santo Nino devotees.

Graced by local dignitaries and "balikbayan" parishioners, the opening ceremony in the IFI Pandacan parish was led by the Rt. Rev. Vicente Salvador Ballesteros and the DGMA clergy. The Altar was dramatically unveiled to the tune of Handel's Messiah and the applause of the congregation. Then Bishop Buddy, assisted by Bishop Warlito Baldomero, OIC parish rector, blessed the icons of the Santo Nino, God the Father, Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph. Subsequently, he prayed and consecrated with oil and blessed with incense the Altar Table, Tabernacle, pulpit, lectern; and proceeded also to bless the other side icons.

In his homily, Bishop Buddy commenced with the exhortation, "The more you honor Me [Jesus], the more you will be blessed." He underscored the importance of "gratitude as the mark of a noble soul."… "Gratitude is expressed in many forms," according to him, "as in (1) greeting and celebrating with Him [Santo Nino] on His birthday, (2) offering Him a most valuable gift, i.e., the newly renovated and consecrated Altar, and (3) remembering and thanking Him always for the blessings received."

Bishop Buddy admonished that there was no excuse with alibis when thanksgivings are due after receiving the blessings asked for. He expressed disgust over situations when people only remembered God during times of distress or crises in life, and then forgot to express gratitude, "Walang utang na loob!" He cited recent past instances when being grateful was most appropriate: (1) Pandemic – getting sick with covid and eventually getting well; (2) Economic crisis – depressing time because of lack of income due to closed churches and reliance on streamlined Masses; fiesta cancelled; but now fiesta is back; (3) Fiesta Vengeance – with beautiful Altar renovated despite pandemic; (4) DGMA role in Concordat between IFI and RCC – one baptism accepted and Church unity realized; (5) New Altars renovated and blessed – Paco, then Pandacan, next Krus na Ligas; (6) Challenge to Pandacan congregation – "Anything and everything for God!" God gave His only Begotten Son Jesus for us and for our salvation (John 3:16).

According to Bishop Buddy, "Pandacan's best gift to the Santo Nino is the newly rededicated Altar. It is an Altar fit for a King; the best we can do, the best we can offer. Despite the outright objections of some people, the Parish Council strengthened its unity and commitment to give this Altar offering to the Santo Nino. VIVA SANTO NINO!"

The Pandacan Santo Nino Altar was designed and conceptualized by Mr. Joel Ballesteros, a Fine Arts graduate of the University of Santo Tomas. The construction was executed by the regular abled workers of the Ballesteros family. The Altar project was undertaken under the initiative of the IFI Pandacan Parish Council headed by Bishop Warlito Baldomero (chair), Mr. Ferdie Bonus (vice-chair), Ms. Maricel Domasig (treasurer), and the other Council members.

Presiding in the morning's Holy Mass was Bishop Buddy and assisted by Bishop Warly and Msgr. Cesar Emmanuel Ballesteros (DGMA domestic prelate and vicar). The following were the clergy concelebrants: The Reverends Sherryl Ann Javier-Bianson, Ryan Bores, Dionito Cabillas, Orlando Concepcion, Albert Dacera, Victoria Esguerra, Severino Ismael II, Nixon Jose, Fedelino Ofdi, and Hermogenes Verano. Pandacan YIFI member Mc Domasig served as the lector/commentator. The IFI Pandacan Parish Choir provided the liturgical music, while selected guests were chosen as scriptural readers and offertory servers.

The afternoon festivity was highlighted by the joint liturgical service participated in by the IFI and RCC clergies and congregations, and graced by the presence of political and civic/ community dignitaries. This was followed by the town procession with the display of the two Santo Nino icons of both parishes, and the street dancing (buling-buling) along the processional route joined in by Filipiniana-clad congregations of both churches. The late afternoon IFI Holy Eucharist was celebrated by Msgr. Manny Ballesteros as presider and preacher, and capped by the evening procession of the IFI congregation on the Pandacan street route.



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