Pink: The Color of Peace and Harmony

Masjid Dimaukom

The Pink Mosque of Maguindanao — constructed in December 2012 and formally opened to devotees in June 2014 — is a gift to the people of Datu Saudi Ampatuan from its mayor, Samsudin Utto Dimaukom, Al-Hadj.

Pink, Mayor Dimaukom revealed, is his favorite color; in fact, it is also the color of choice for the town’s municipal hall and other government structures.

Ni-research namin ‘yan kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng pink, [it means] peaceful, pagmamahal, iba-iba naman ‘yan, pwedeng pagmamahal kay Allah, pagmamahal sa taumbayan, at pagmamahal sa bayan.

Masjid Dimaukom, as the mosque is now called, stands on the Dimaukom family property and has come to symbolize peace and love.


To Get There

The national highway that connects Cotabato City and Isulan, Sultan Kudarat passes by Datu Saudi Ampatuan. There are vans coming from Cotabato City bound for Tacurong City (also in Sultan Kudarat) or Isulan and vice versa. If coming from Isulan, ride a Cotabato City-bound jeepney stationed at the Isulan “roundball” or rotonda. First trip leaves around 7AM and every 30mins, thereafter, depending on the volume of passengers. Advise the driver that you’ll get off at Datu Saudi (to avoid any confusion as there is another town called Ampatuan); or, you can simply tell the driver that you’re going to the Pink Mosque. It is now a popular landmark in Maguindanao known to many locals. The  mosque is just a short walk from the main highway and fronting the municipal hall.


The Taong Putik Festival of Aliaga, Nueve Ecija

Forget colorful costumes. Forget fancy dance routines. No streetdancing. No drums. No parties. This is one somber festival.

Devotees burn candles as offering to St John the Baptist.

Devotees burn candles as offering to St John the Baptist.

The Taong Putik Festival is an annual event held in Brgy. Bibiclat in Aliaga, Nueve Ecija. Celebrated every 24th day of June — on the feast of St. John the Baptist, who is also the barangay’s patron saint — the Taong Putik Festival commemorates an event, which if wasn’t averted, would’ve been one of the bloodiest massacres in the annals of World War II.

As early as 3AM, devotees flock to nearby ricefields to bathe in the freezing waters and rub their faces, arms, legs and body with mud. Now draped in mud-soaked dried banana leaves or water hyacinths fashioned into cloaks — usually hiding their faces — the “taong putik” (loosely translated as “mud people”) go from house to house to receive donations of money and candles which they would offer during the mass.

The solemn celebration culminates in a procession around the small community, where the image of St. John the Baptist is paraded. In the afternoon of the 24th, the fiesta atmosphere begins, highlighted by a carabao race and other games.

Nature’s wrath or Divine intervention?

The Taong Putik Festival commemorates an event, which if wasn’t averted, would’ve been one of the bloodiest massacres in the annals of World War II.

The Taong Putik Festival commemorates an event, which if wasn’t averted, would’ve been one of the bloodiest massacres in the annals of World War II.

1944. In retaliation for the killing of their soldiers by Filipino guerrilla fighters, the Japanese Army gathered all adult males in the village of Bibiclat for execution. Held in a small chapel, the men, fearful for their lives, began praying to their patron saint, St. John the Baptist, pleading for deliverance.

Before noon, the scheduled time for their execution, the men were led to the plaza where they were arranged in a single line, ready for the firing squad. As the executioners took their positions, a crowd of women and children gathered to witness the carnage. And as their lamentations and cries of woe echoed throughout the village, torrential rains blotted out the midday sun and drenched everyone in attendance. To the Japanese, this phenomenon indicated that even their gods did not approve of the massacre; thus, called off the firing squad, saving the men from certain death.

The people of Bibiclat erupted into jubilation, thanking St. John for causing the rain and saving the men.

And so began the “Taong Putik” tradition.

The Phoenix of Palo

Palo Cathedral, or the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration, was built in 1596 by the Jesuits and served as their home, until 1768, after being ordered to leave the Philippines, as an aftermath of political wranglings in Europe. They were replaced in Leyte by the Augustinians who in 1834 eventually ceded the northeastern parishes to the Franciscans.

Repairs–after it was hit by a fire and typhoon which caused its roof to be ripped off, and its convent to be destroyed–and construction of its two symmetrical towers began in 1850.

The cathedral was converted into an evacuation hospital from October 1944 to March 1945 by the American Liberation Forces. -- photo from

The cathedral was converted into an evacuation hospital from October 1944 to March 1945 by the American Liberation Forces. — photo from

The church became a cathedral on March 25, 1938, with Monsignor Manuel Mascariñas serving as its first bishop. During World War II, the cathedral was converted into an evacuation hospital by American Liberation Forces, and was used as refuge of civilians.

-- photo from inquirer.newsinfo

— photo from inquirer.newsinfo

Palo Cathedral was badly damaged by supertyphoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan) in November 2013. DSC_0308Hurricane-like winds stripped this beautiful infrastructure of its roofs and windows. Yolanda left it almost wiped out. After Yolanda’s devastation, a memorial service for the typhoon’s casualties was held in the cathedral. Bodies were then buried in the cathedral’s grave site.

But like the mythological Phoenix, the Palo Metropolitan Cathedral rose from the “ashes”, signifying renewal and rebirth. In 17 January 2015, Pope Francis held mass here and met with families of survivors of superyyphoon Yolanda.

Today, through the major efforts of private institutions and the people of Palo, the cathedral has been fully restored and once again stand, in all its glory and grandeur.

Post Script

Red Beach in Brgy. Candahug brought Palo to the pages of world history. It is where Gen. Douglas McArthur first landed to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese occupation on October 20, 1944.

Red Beach immortalized Palo in the pages of world history. It was where Gen. Douglas McArthur first landed to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese occupation.

The celebrated town of Palo, Leyte has also played vital roles in our country’s history and religiosity.

Red Beach in Brgy. Candahug was where Gen. Douglas McArthur fulfilled his promise: I shall return, in 20 October 1944. Bringing with him the full might of the Allied forces, the massive landing in Palo signaled the end of Japanese occupation in the country during World War II.


A Reflection

Photo taken at "Nanay" Rock Masungi Georeserve and Nature Park Tanay, Rizal

Photo taken at
“Nanay” Rock
Masungi Georeserve and Nature Park
Tanay, Rizal

Bastion of Faith

Let’s just pretend that we don’t see that communication tower in the far background…

Chapel of the Most Holy Rosary in Tabgon, Caramoan, Camarines Sur

Chapel of the Most Holy Rosary in Tabgon, Caramoan, Camarines Sur

The Colors of Ati-Atihan

Hala Bira!The Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo is just one of many similar feasts* in the province of Aklan honoring the Santo Niño.

“Ati-Atihan” means “to be like the Atis” — the original settlers of Panay Island — and is characterized by a town-wide merrymaking and revelry, led by various “tribes” in colorful costumes and weapons and dancing to the beat of loud drums.

The Barter of Panay

Participants smear their bodies with soot.

Participants smear their bodies with soot.

Popular lore tells of a group of 10 Malay “datus” or chieftains fleeing from their homeland of Borneo and seeking refuge in the island of Panay. The group’s leader, Datu Puti, appointed Datu Makatunaw to negotiate a trade with the Ati chieftain: a golden salakot or kudong (native hat) for the Ati chief Marikudo, a long pearl necklace for Maniwantiwan, his wife; and brass basins and bales of cloth,in exchange for a parcel of land by the seashore for the 10 datus and their families to settle in.  Thus, the Barter of Panay was struck — a pact that transcended cultures and skin color.

Grateful for the Atis hospitality, the Borneans smeared their bodies with soot and ash from their cooking utensils to mimic the Atis complexion and to show their appreciation for their kindness.

The Infant Jesus and Ati-Atihan

The Ati and the Sto NiñoThe Ati-Atihan was originally a purely pagan festival practiced by the Atis and neighboring tribes.

When the Spaniards came, they began colonizing Panay and converted the natives to Roman Catholicism. The new faith was embraced enthusiastically by the Atis, where thousands came to be baptized — hence the town’s name, “KALIBO”, meaning: isa ka libo or one thousand, referring to the number of Atis baptized.

The event was celebrated with dances and loud banging of drums, with the Sto. Niño as the central figure.


The Ati-Atihan Today

Currently celebrated in honor of the Sto. Nino, the Ati-atihan has become a very lively and colorful fiesta!
* The towns of Ibajay and Makato also have their own Ati-Atihan Festival.

A Lenten Reflection

“Vanity of vanities,” lamented Solomon, “all is vanity!” Solomon used the word “vanity” 38 times in Ecclesiastes as he wrote about life “under the sun.” The word means “emptiness,” “futility,” “vapor”; “that which vanishes quickly and leaves nothing behind.” From the human point of view, life (under the sun) does often appear futile; and it is easy for us to get pessimistic. We should not, however, mistake brutal honesty with pessimism.

Ecclesiastes is the kind of book a person would write near the end of life, reflecting on life’s experiences and the painful lessons learned. Solomon wrote Proverbs from the viewpoint of a wise teacher, and Song of Songs from the viewpoint of a royal lover, but when he wrote Ecclesiastes, he called himself “the Preacher.” It is unlike any other Old Testament book and has no parallel in other literature of the Biblical world. It is a philosophical discourse, and yet it is more. Ecclesiastes makes no claim to bring man a word from God. Instead, the writer specifically states that he includes only what he can determine by his own reason and limits himself to data that is available “under the sun.”

The absence of presence.

The book does not dwell on the covenant, the election of Israel, redemption, prophecy, sacred history, or the temple. Its focus is on man the creature, his life on earth, and the inscrutability of God and His ways. Ecclesiastes goes beyond the other wisdom literature to emphasize the fact that human life and human goals, as ends in themselves and apart from God, are futile and meaningless.

Among other things, Solomon saw injustice to the poor, crooked politics, incompetent leaders, guilty people allowed to commit more crimes, materialism and a desire for “the good old days.” It sounds relevant for us, too, doesn’t it? Solomon has put the key to Ecclesiastes right at the front door: Vanity of vanities saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labor, which he taketh under the sun? -Ecclesiastes 1:2-3.

Let us, for an instance ignore Solomon’s perceived cynicism or pessimism, lest we miss his real point. Whether he considers his wealth, his works, his wisdom, or his world, Solomon comes to a sad appraisal: all is “vanity and vexation of spirit.” However, this is not his conclusion, nor is it the only message that he has for his audience.

By the way, Ecclesiastes in Hebrew is Koheleth, the title given to an official speaker who calls an assembly. The Greek word for “assembly” is ekklhsia, ekklesia, and thus the Septuagint version gives us the English title of the book, Ecclesiastes.

Anyway, as common belief has it, Solomon, as a speaker or preacher, addresses a specific assembly, but he did more than call an assembly and gave an oration. The word Koheleth also carries with it the concept of debating, not so much with the listeners as with himself. He would present a topic, discuss it from many viewpoints, and then come to a practical conclusion. We will discover much more as we delve into the depth of the book.

In spite of his painful encounters with the world and its problems, Solomon does not recommend either pessimism or cynicism. Rather, he admonishes us to be realistic about life, accept God’s gifts and enjoy them. After all, God gives to us “richly all things to enjoy.”

Solomon did not say, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die.” Instead, he advises us to trust God and enjoy what we do have rather than complain about what we don’t have. Life is short and life is difficult, so make the most of it while you can.

Solomon initially opens with three bleak observations: nothing is really changed, nothing is new and nothing is understood.

After experimenting and investigating “life under the sun,” he initially concluded, “No, life is not worth living,” and he gave four arguments to support his conclusion: the monotony of life, the vanity of wisdom, the futility of wealth and the certainty of death.

Being a wise man, however, Solomon, in Chapters 3 to 10, reviewed his arguments and this time brought God into the picture. What a difference it made! By reexamining each of these impressions more carefully, he realized that life was not monotonous but filled with challenging situations from God, each in its own time and each for its own purpose.

He also learned that wealth could be enjoyed and employed to the glory of God. Though man’s wisdom couldn’t explain everything, Solomon concluded that it was better to follow God’s wisdom than to practice man’s folly.

As for the certainty of death, there is no way to escape it; it ought to motivate us to enjoy life now and make the most of the opportunities God gives us.

So he asks his listeners to look up, look within, look ahead and look around, and to take into consideration time, eternity, death, and suffering: these four factors God uses to keep our lives from becoming monotonous and meaningless.

In his conclusion and personal application, Solomon then presents four pictures of life and attaches to each picture a practical admonition for his readers to heed:

* Life is an ADVENTURE — live by faith, Eccl 4:1-5:9
* Life is a GIFT — enjoy it, Eccl 11:1-6
* Life is a SCHOOL — learn your lessons, Eccl 11:7-12:8
* Life is a STEWARDSHIP — fear God, Eccl 12:9-12

These four pictures parallel the four arguments that Solomon had wrestled with throughout the book: Life is not monotonous; rather, it is an adventure of faith that is anything but predictable or tedious. Yes, death is certain, but life is a gift from God and He wants us to enjoy it. Are there questions we can’t answer and problems we can’t solve? Don’t despair. God teaches us His truth as we advance in “the school of life,” and He will give us wisdom enough to make sensible decisions. Finally, as far as wealth is concerned, all of life is a stewardship from God; and one day He will call us to give an account. Therefore, “fear God, and keep His commandments.”

Here we have practical advice about life from one of the wisest, richest, most powerful men to have ever lived. His insights about life, money, values, and ordering one’s personal priorities are priceless: this is a rewarding guidebook to the reader who looks behind the initial impressions to find the wisdom this remarkable man gleaned from his unique career.

In conclusion, we need to purpose within ourselves that with God’s help we are going to cross the finish line. We may have started well, but we still need to finish. We may have fallen, but we need to get up and back into the race. Life is a school, let us learn our lessons, so that in the end, we would be able to join the apostle Paul in saying: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.”

Have a Blessed Week, everyone!

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