FIS Province, the Philippines, 12 February 2020 -- Although separated by the seas, the different communities of the Philippine South Province sitting on five big islands expressed their devotion and love to St. John Bosco in an array of festivities and colors.
The schools and parishes held their novena masses in honor of the Father and Teacher of Youth. Days were punctuated with cultural programs, games and fun, and formation. For pastoral reasons, some settings had to move their celebrations to the weekends to facilitate the attendance of more people. Despite the differing schedules and geographical distance, what came out of the Feast of Don Bosco was a montage of culture, smiles, and great devotion.
A Filipino fiesta could not be a real feast without an abundance of food. Many among the FIS houses held dinners and common meal to bring together the sons of daughters of Don Bosco at table. From Pasil's budol fight (a meal shared on banana leaves filled with rice and different dishes, and eaten by hand) to the refined tables of the formation house in Lawaan, the fellowship of a warm meal sprinkled with camaraderie continues.
Most of the houses paraded the image of the saint together with other Salesian saints, along the streets accompanied by the rosary and Salesian hymns. Don Bosco Lawaan and Don Bosco Mambucal had theirs as early as four in the morning, while Pasil Training Center did it in the midmorning. Don Bosco Liloan chose to do it in the late afternoon. Residents and communities around Salesian houses honored the saint with their lighted candles and salute of the sign of the cross.
Don Bosco Mambucal used the novena days to launch the Association of Mary Help of Christians (ADMA) in the highlands, effectively bringing the Blessed Mother closer to the people of the mountains as St. John Bosco would have wished. With the help of an alumnus, several devotional statues were enthroned among different chapels that not even the monsoon rain and mud could stop.
Guided by a common theme prepared by the Commission on Youth Ministry, the Salesians in their homilies expounded on the merits and virtues of Don Bosco, as students, lay mission partners, friends, and guests listened. Students from the three Don Bosco schools and many training centers engaged in healthy sports, games, and competition bringing to life the holy joy that Don Bosco nurtured in his oratory.
School gyms, chapels, halls, and parishes, from Visayas to Mindanao, rang with the voices of young people and devotees who sing of St. John Bosco at mass. Songs composed by Salesians permeate the air as the festive atmosphere kept the spirit of the oratory alive in Don Bosco Technical Institute - Victorias. Students there prepared short films showcasing the aptitude of young people towards media and technology. Dances from traditional to hip-hop grooved to the Salesian beat in Don Bosco Technical College - Cebu. Even Kindergarten students had their share of the spotlight, as young kids in St. John Bosco Parish and Shrine in Murcia sang and danced on stage.
All these happened in different dialects but always in one language: a language that educative pastoral communities touched by the person of St. John Bosco could speak - that of love, devotion, and gratitude to a saintly giant in the Church who chose to let go of everything for the sake of souls. Viva Don Bosco!