Majayjay, Laguna’s cradle of Christianization five centuries henceBy: Saul E. Pa-a

October 17, 2012 11:07 pm 

MAJAYJAY, Laguna, Oct. 17 –- Besides the observance of October as Holy Rosary Month, Laguna’s Catholic devotees, parishioners, religious and the laity converged in Majayjay beginning this week for a series of Eucharistic celebration and procession.

These religious and devotional rites kicked off for the nine-year preparatory celebration to mark the 500 years of Roman Catholicism in the country.

The Spanish conquest brought the Cross to the country’s Limasawa shores on March 16, 1521.

And one of Laguna’s oldest settlements in Majayjay also played a significant role in the country’s history.

In its pastoral letter issued in July this year, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has described “the year 2021 will be a year of great jubilee for the Church in the Philippines.”

In the CBCP statement, Archbishop of Cebu and CBCP President Jose Palma has urged the Catholic faithfuls to “embark on a nine-year spiritual journey that will culminate with the great jubilee of 2021.”

The Catholic hierarchy described this “grace-filled event of blessings for the Church starting October 21, 2012 until March 16, 2021 as the nine-year journey for the New Evangelization has already been charted climaxing with the Jubilee Year 2021.”

In the town of Majayjay, some 120 kilometers southeast of Manila, lies the country’s religious heritage and Laguna’s cradle of Catholicism.

The early years of the Spanish colonization, Christianization and administration of Laguna province started 1571 in this town.

Some 10 to 15 clergy, devotees and pilgrims from each church in the province “revisited the past” and gathered at the Majayjay’s centuries-old Saint Gregory Parish Church, one of the oldest Roman Catholic structures in the Philippines.

The Reverend Father Christian Edward Abao, master of the liturgical celebration of the Roman Catholic Bishopric of San Pablo City, said “this year kicks off the celebration of faith as the whole church embarks on a new journey of understanding itself.”

Built in 1575 after years of forced labor imposed on the Majayjay natives and town folks, the Saint Gregory Church is a marvel of colonial architecture and houses the antique images and religious icons brought by the Spaniards in the early era of propagating Christianity.

The church was razed to the ground three times allegedly by arson in 1576, 1606 and 1660. It underwent subsequent reconstructions and rehabilitations. Atop the church roof deck, one finds a breathtaking view of Laguna de Bay.

Parish Priest Abao said “we pass through the door of faith as we respond to the letter of Pope Benedict XVI for his papal declaration this special year as the Year of Faith from October 11, 2012 until November 24, 2013.”

Father Abao explained that the Diocese of San Pablo addresses the challenge of the proclamation of faith by journeying back to time, tracing the historical roots and linking this rich Christian heritage” in the bastion of Majayjay.

The Catholic hierarchy here has chosen Majayjay as the proper venue for the week’s launching of the first among four major events to jumpstart this “Year of Faith.”

They claimed that Majayjay served as the first site of contacts with the natives who were baptized by the Spanish colonizers.

The man of faith described that the universal church’s preparatory observance coincides with the three-year preparation of the San Pablo City’s Diocesan Golden Jubilee year.

According to the Diocesan clergy, the colorful elements on the liturgical celebrations and various ecclesiastical programs are designed to foster this rich heritage.

He also cited the four major Basilicas where at the instance of the Bishop’s ad limina apostolorum, parishioners can make their professions of faith at the basilica’s confession.

The priest also retraced the religious history of the diocese in Laguna, citing “four important places where the faith was first introduced by our forebears until it radiated to the province and later forged a new path for the next 50 years.”

Religious organizers said they planned to take the cue at the opening celebrations in the Vatican, Rome for similar observance at the diocesan’s opening of the Year of Faith.”

Church preparations highlight the liturgical celebrations according to Roman tradition of the statio, or one that starts the liturgy from one church to another accompanied by chants during the litany of saints and the processions.

Father Abao also expressed optimism for the Diocesan celebration with the participation of the laity, the religious and the local clergy in union with the Diocesan Bishop to comprise like a full horde of pilgrims “eager to be instruments of new evangelization and the strengthening of faith.”

According to historical accounts, Laguneño indigenous residents and natives used to call the town Malay Barangay, one of the most populated settlements during that time and competed with Bay and Pagsanjan as the provincial capital.

Town folks claimed the Spaniards found it difficult to pronounce Malay Barangay and shortened it to Malay-ay. Yet in some folklore, the town’s name is attributed to experiencing each difficult journey to Majayjay.

It is a contraction of “Ma” which means very, and “jay” (variant of “hay”) as an expression of sigh after hurdling difficulties like scaling a cliff, ascending a hill, trekking a forest trail or crossing a raging river. (PNA)

LAP/SAUL E. PA-A/JCF

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