Bells, sirens, alarms fill Bohol air ‘to celebrate God’s love’
TAGBILARAN CITY, Philippines—Sounds of bells pealing, sirens and alarms filled the air at 8:12 a.m. on Wednesday to commemorate the exact time when a 7.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Bohol and a portion of Cebu, causing deaths and massive destruction.
“I was reminded of last year’s tremor and how fleeting life is. In one instant, everything could be taken from you,” said Janet Villarojo, who was among the 3,000 people attending Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral here. Her house was among those damaged by the tremor in Barangay (village) Mansasa.
Villarojo was teary-eyed when she heard the bells peal before the Mass celebrated by Bishop Leonardo Medroso of the Diocese of Tagbilaran.
In Cebu City, at least 1,000 devotees stood in silence for about a minute at 8:12 a.m. while in the middle of Mass at the pilgrim center of Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño. They later lit candles and offered prayers for the 223 people who died in Bohol and Cebu.
A Eucharistic celebration was also held at Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral to remember those who died.
Celebrating God’s love
In his homily, Medroso said God had always been with the Boholanos during the time of tragedy. “We have to see behind all of our calamities and tragedies. There is the love of God. We celebrate the love of God,” he said.
Bohol lost three heritage churches—Our Lady of Light Parish Church in Loon town, Holy Cross Parish Church in Maribojoc town, and St. Michael Parish Church in Clarin town—during the quake, but Medroso said what mattered most was the firmer faith of the people.
“Our God has to destroy our material church to see the importance of the living Church—you and me,” he said.
Despite the tragedy, Medroso said the Boholanos showed their generosity when they donated to the victims of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” a month later though they were still reeling from the devastation caused by the temblor.
“These are the people who know how suffering is. Yet, they have given their own food to them (typhoon victims in Leyte),” he added.
Fr. Jonas Mejares, rector of Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, celebrated the Mass with a dozen other priests. He urged the faithful in his homily to find meaning in the tragedy.
“Of all places in the world, why did the earthquake hit Cebu or Bohol? Why us? Why did God allow this to happen?” asked Mejares, whose uncle died when Our Lady of Light Church in Loon collapsed.
God is capable of bringing good out of bad instances in life, he said.
“Last year’s earthquake was a wake-up call for us. It has opened our eyes to the many realities of life. It has reminded us of death, that everything in this world is passing, and that there is nobody more significant than God,” he said.
God’s ways not our ways
“The earthquake … was a test of faith. Let us be reminded that God’s ways are not our ways, and that His plans are not our plans. We cannot fully understand God. Our brain cells are not enough to understand Him. But we know that He’s one with us in our sufferings,” he said.
Although the basilica lost its centuries-old belfry during the quake, Mejares found it a miracle that no one was hurt when it crumbled. “You know how many people gather in front of the basilica every day. Until the rubble was removed, I could not believe that no one was badly hurt,” he said.
In Bohol, the names of those who died were flashed on a television screen inside St. Joseph Cathedral during the prayer for the dead that followed after the Mass offerings.
Best in Boholanos
Gov. Edgar Chatto said the quake brought the best in the Boholanos out. “As a united people, together with the religious faithful of Bohol and other religious groups, we are one in praying that this will not happen again. Our faith has been strengthened after the event,” he said.
“We thank the people who helped us. Humana ta ug bangon (We have risen). We have already moved on. Padayon, Bohol (Move forward, Bohol),” Chatto said.
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