Text and photos by Mike Baños
The Bell Church of Cagayan de Oro and the local government represented by Mayor Oscar S. Moreno joined hands in praying for peace and prosperity in the Year of the Earth Dog during New Year’s Eve rites held 15 February 2018 at the local church in Tambo, Bgy. Macasandig.
“In our church, we believe that the first person to plant an incense stick in our incense urn will have the best chance to get his wish,” explained Greg Marten Lao, former Bell Church Cagayan de Oro Chapter president. “So we have this ceremony on the eve of every Chinese New Year, usually held from 11am to 1AM.”
Like in last year’s New Year’s Eve rites held in this same church, Mayor Moreno again led the lighting and planting of the big incense stick in the incense urn.
Asked about his wish for the Year of the Earth Dog, the chief executive replied, “Peace and Harmony.”
The evening’s festivities were dampened by a heavy downpour just before 10AM but the skies cleared up just in time to enable the traditional shooting of fireworks at Rodelsa Circle.
Lao said the fireworks this year were sponsored by the various associations of the Filipino-Chinese community in Cagayan de Oro led by Mr. See C. Hong and was held earlier at 10:30pm to allow more people outside the church to witness the it since they could only accommodate a limited number of people in Bell Church.
“Last week during our Feb 10 launching, we stressed the qualities of the Dog who represents service, loyalty and responsibility,” Lao explained. “We hope that the Filipino-Chinese community can work closely with the mayor and the city government to improve the local economy especially with the Chinese investors we are inviting to visit and consider Cagayan de Oro.”
Lao called the media’s attention to the Bell Church water fountain which is designed as a receptacle for money “so we hope this year we will have plenty of money for Cagayan de Oro.”
“The City Government in Cagayan de Oro has joined the Chinese community of Cagayan de Oro in celebrating Chinese New Year,” Mayor Moreno said in response.
“We can learn a lot from Chinese traditions, values, and philosophies. And aside from that, Cagayan de Oro is what it is now, largely also because of the contribution of the Filipino-Chinese community. They are very much a part of the city, of the region, and even of the country. It’s appropriate and consistent with our philosophy of living in peace and harmony, that we join the Filipino-Chinese community in celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year.”
The following day, the Cagayan de Oro Filipino-Chinese Community held its traditional motorcade starting at Rodelsa Circle, around the city then back to Bell Church to distribute tikoy to everyone for luck.
“We have been doing this for the last four years,” Lao said. “Everybody regardless of wealth or social stature is welcome to partake of this lucky tikoy because it comes from the church.”
Lao said most people in Cagayan de Oro observe the Southern Chinese traditions from Fujian province with 95% of all Chinese-Filipinos in Cagayan de Oro originally coming from the town of Jinjiang, near Xiamen. However, only in Bell Church are Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity represented in one church.
Bell Church was founded in 1960 by Chinese immigrants from Canton, China. They established its first church and main office at the boundary of Baguio City and Trinidad municipality, Benguet.
The name Bell Church comes from the basic function of a bell, which is to call one’s attention to an important message or warning of an impending threat.
Bell Church has five major patron saints who symbolize the five major religions in China: Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Confucianism.
In a similar manner, the Bell Church’s mission was formed primarily to serve as a catalyst for mankind’s spiritual awakening, and the full acceptance of the ultimate importance to traverse the right path in life. This is achieved by fostering brotherhood aimed at the fulfillment of one’s shared responsibility to society.
Last February 7, Bell Church Spiritual Leader and Head Administrator Rev. Elias R. Ng presided over the Rededication and Reinstallation of the Patron Saints of Bell Church at their Cagayan de Oro Church in Tambo, Macasandig.
Bell Church was not spared the destruction wreaked by the flashfloods spawned by Tropical Storm Vinta last December 22, 2017. The whole church compound was flooded, including everything inside the church.
With the cooperation and support of all Bell Church members in Cagayan de Oro, repairs and cleaning were carried out in time for the Lunar New Year’s Eve last February 16, 2018.
The ceremony started with the placing of treasures inside the incense furnace, representing gold and silver paper money, rice and coins. The subsequent lighting and offering of the big incense stick by Rev. Elias R. Ng and the ringing of the bell served as a blessing to the church, its members and the city of Cagayan de Oro.
Officers and members of the Cagayan de Oro Chapter of the Bell Church took turns carrying the statues of the five patron saints to the altar as a sign of unity in fulfilling the church’s mission and show of devotion to the patron saints.
The lighting of the candles by the officers signified a new beginning and life after hardships with them leading the way illuminated by the light of wisdom from the saints.
The flowers represented growth to empower the congregation to continuously and actively participate in propagating the Bell Church’s teachings. The fruit offering represent blessings of prosperity for the church and members to enable them to better serve those in need.
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