Filipino Day: Feasting, Fellowship, and Faith

No one appreciates Divine Mercy like the men and women of Filipino heritage. For about 20 years, on the fourth Saturday in June, Filipino Americans from across the Northeast have been traveling to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, to share food, enjoy the company of friends, and of course, to pray and celebrate Mass.

Filipino Day 2019 fell on June 22, a sunny summer day, albiet with a brief rain shower or two. Marites Malapit, the secretary of the Filipino Apostolate of Union County, New Jersey, has been coming with a group to Filipino day at the Shrine since it first started. "We come up to the [National Shrine of The Divine Mercy] for Divine Mercy Sunday in the spring," she said. "So it is nice that when we return, we have the whole Shrine to ourselves."

Divine Mercy Sunday attracts upwards of 17,000 pilgrims. On Filipino day, about 400 Filipino pilgrims have the chance to enjoy all the sites the Shrine has to offer, such as the life-sized Stations of the Cross and the Shrine of the Holy Innocents, without the stress of an enormous crowd. "It's a time for many of us to reunite with old friends we haven't seen in a long time," Marites said.

Buses arrived before lunch. Hundreds of Filipino Americans unpacked their coolers and picnic baskets to enjoy some homemade, traditional Filipino food.

Feasting
Ellen Gabitan of Edison, New Jersey, and her group enjoyed a plate of es ceviche, a Filipino and Spanish dish consisting of fresh fish cured in citrus juices. They also ate adobo, which are pork slices cooked in soy sauce, as well as mung beans cooked with shrimp. They also enjoyed a plate of bright yellow, juicy mangos. "And of course, you have to have rice with every meal," Ellen said as she pointed to a huge bowl at the center of the table. For dessert, they had cambrosha, a fruit salad covered in heavy cream. "Once you try some cambrosha, you always come back for more," she said.

Fellowship
Sitting on the other end of the picnic table from Ellen, fellow Divine Mercy devotee, Linda Bolcer, was enjoying her meal when she recalled the reason Divine Mercy has such a special place in her heart. She first learned about Divine Mercy in 1991 thanks to the apostolic work of Msrg. Jeremias Rabanal, who has been celebrating Mass at Filipino Day for many years.

Linda and her husband, Charlie, got married on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 1997. "Separately, my husband and I both were inspired with the idea to get married on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday," she said. "We got married in Cranford, New Jersey. The reception ended at 12 a.m. The following morning, we boarded a bus at 4 a.m. to make it to the [National Shrine of The Divine Mercy] in Stockbridge." As if that weren't a sacrifice enough, that night in the United States, Daylight Savings time started, to which Linda and her husband lost an additional hour of sleep. Many of her family and friends who attended the wedding went along, too, and some travel back with her every year for Filipino day.

Faith

After lunch, the crowd made their way to the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine behind the National Shrine, to pray before the Blessed Sacrament and recite the Rosary together, in English as well as in Filipino.

Mass began at 2 p.m., with the main celebrant Fr. Mariusz Jarzabek, MIC, and concelebrants Msgr. Jeremias Rabanal and Rev. Eduardo P. Jocson.

In his homily, for almost an hour, Fr. Mariusz expounded upon the message so dear to the hearts of the Filipino people, the message of Divine Mercy. "Jesus revealed the Divine Mercy devotion to bring sinners to Himself, to make people free, to take the pain of the sin out of our hearts," he said. "Jesus is calling sinners. If you committed sin, Jesus is calling you."

After Mass, Fr. Jeremias said, "All of us need to be promoters of Divine Mercy. Thank you who have been here especially those who have been here many years. I hope that you'll keep on coming for as long as you can. I hope that you will keep on passing on the word that here, there is Divine Mercy. Promote this message starting in your families. I thank the Marian Fathers, and I keep on thanking God and the Blessed Virgin Mary."

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