The Holy week, also known as semana santa, is definitely an event Filipinos look forward to. Even weeks ahead, many Filipinos take time to plan activities for it. Some take advantage of the holy week to go on a well-deserved vacation while others go for reflection and prayer. As majority of the country’s population comprises of Roman Catholics, visiting different churches to pray is definitely part of the tradition. Our team members took part in visiting a church last week. We went to Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Sta.Maria- Tungkong-Mangga Road, San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan. As expected, legions of devotees and followers were at the site; so many that you will have to stay under the scorching heat of the sun for a long time of queuing at the gate. Once in, you will be able to see even more people in the front grounds and along the pavement as you come closer to the church. While there, we devoted a few prayers and went on to quickly join a procession that celebrated the Stations of the Cross. We thanked God for all the blessings and challenges he has brought to us in the past year.
The church ground was far from the celebrated serene landmark we were expecting. Sure there were still people praying. A mass was also being held when we arrived, but the crowd was definitely noisy. Outside the church, children were running around; horse-playing on sacred grounds. There were a lot of vendors parading logos of the products they were selling in different colors: Mineral water, beverages, candles, food, toys, religious items, oils, and many others; name it and it is there. Of course, with all these comes all the rubbish. Without any intent of generalizing, Filipinos are not well-known for their discipline in managing trash. This made the team very sad. With the lack, or maybe only lack of visibility, of garbage cans in the area, people littered all over the place. Our team members had some trash, too, but we kept it in our bags until we found a bin to throw it into.
As students, most Filipinos have had their share of repetitive values education lessons emphasizing the importance of a clean environment. I am sure that our teachers, to the point of being redundant, has told us that we need to avoid littering, even when no one is looking. But how has this affected us as we grew older? Was there any fault in our educational system that we seem to not have retained this important piece of information?
I could not tell what goes wrong in this scenario. People go to a place of worship to give thanks and praise their God for the sacrifices He has made for them. In return, these same people trash his sacred grounds. In a sermon by John Wesley, an English cleric and theologian, in 1778, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” While the bible never really directly or literally said this, it does make sense. How can we expect to have our soul cleansed when we cannot even keep our physical surroundings clean? Even the Israelites and other religions were all concerned with the concept of “clean” or “unclean.”
So maybe let us take it out of the context of religious reasoning and be a bit more practical. When you visit your friend’s house, would you throw your food’s plastic packaging in their yard? Would you do the same when you visit an old teacher’s house? Not normally, right? It is but a common practice of courtesy to keep the place as clean as possible when you visit the place of someone you care for or respect. It makes you wonder why these devotees cannot do the same when they are visiting the place of God.
A friend of ours commented that Filipinos may not have remembered this lesson in school because we are taught by our teachers to pass the exams, not to keep the lessons in mind. This truly is very sad. I could not even tell if our friend is right; he might as well be. One thing is true: education was only there to help us make a living; but our decision become educated throughout our lifetime defines whether we do what is right rather than just what everyone else is doing.
We may not be able to change everyone, but we hope we can reach out and impact the few who are able to read this. Our hope is that more Filipinos can decide to become educated in the next Holy week, or maybe more regularly, so that cleanliness would be something they can consider to always keep in mind. If you agree, please share this article and together, let us reach out to more Filipinos.