A Sea Procession of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Kalandagan, Philippines

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From the Diary of the Redemptorist Popular Mission

Our journey commenced early in the morning, at 5:30 a.m. on May 8, 2023, as our boat set sail from Araceli port. The sight of the fishing village at daybreak was a picturesque scene of tranquility. The sea was calm, with a gentle breeze, indicating a serene voyage. With each passing moment, we moved further away from the island.

During our journey, I noticed numerous small fishing boats dotting the expansive ocean. In comparison to the vastness of the sea, these vessels seemed tiny. Undoubtedly, it was a beautiful day with favorable weather and a tranquil sea. Our boat glided smoothly over the water. After approximately an hour, we encountered another boat positioned in the midst of the open sea. The crew signaled to one another, recognizing it as the boat from the fishing village of Kalandagan, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Redemptorist mission team. This first boat promptly followed closely behind ours until we reached our destination.

One boat, then two, three, and the numbers continued to grow as we approached the island of Kalandagan. From the initial encounter with the first boat to reaching our destination, it took approximately an hour. The parish priest informed me that this was a local gathering known as “karakon” or “salubong” in Tagalog, signifying a meeting at sea. Thus, I had the privilege of participating in a procession unlike any other, where hundreds of fishing boats formed a line, extending a warm welcome to the Mother of Perpetual Help and the Redemptorist mission team. Deep emotions filled my heart as I silently expressed my gratitude to God.

Organizing such a grand procession undoubtedly required the fishermen of the village to sacrifice a day’s work and bear the expenses of fuel, time, and long-distance travel. Many boats were adorned beautifully, reflecting their love and hospitality. A few months prior, the bishop had also visited this secluded village, but our group experienced a unique privilege. I believe it was solely through the intercession of the Mother of Perpetual Help that we received this divine grace.

Amidst the closely crowded boats, I could not help but feel a tinge of anxiety regarding the possibility of accidents. What if some boats collided? Fortunately, thanks to the skilled boatmen, no mishaps occurred. We offered our gratitude to God. Some boats accommodated only one, two, or three individuals, while others had entire families on board, all eagerly awaiting our arrival.

At the forefront of our boat stood Father Mark, holding up the missionary icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help towards the faithful in the boats, bestowing a blessing upon them. The newly joined faithful continuously waved their hands in greeting, expressing their joy in welcoming the mission team.

As we approached the port, the procession decelerated. Given the numerous boats and limited access to the pier, our boat was granted priority for docking. Though referred to as a pier, boarding, and disembarking from the boat posed a challenge, especially for those unaccustomed to waterways like ourselves. With the support of four individuals, we cautiously climbed from the swaying boat’s edge onto the pier.

A crowd eagerly awaited our procession on the pier. The air resonated with the sounds of drums, musical instruments, and the vibrant performance of the Drum and Lyre Corps. Young girls adorned in colorful costumes displayed their captivating dances, twirling their Twinkler batons.

The icon was placed on an improvised trailer, embellished with flowers and leaves sourced from the island. The procession made its way through the narrow lanes of the fishing village, culminating at the revered House of Prayer of St. Joseph.

On this island, another chapel, the Annunciation Chapel, also exists. However, the chapel of St. Joseph, constructed with wood, appeared simpler compared to the other place of worship.

Our procession, accompanied by fellow parishioners, prepared for the ritual to welcome the picture and commenced the Holy Mass.

Duc Trung Vu, CSsR

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