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Filipinos Celebrating Palm Sunday in Seoul

Yesterday was the celebration of Palm Sunday, a major event for Catholics who remember the sufferings of Jesus Christ. That He gave his life for the love of His people (keep reading to the end, there's a reason why i mentioned this evangelical statement).

My wife and i decided to spend the day in this church in Seoul that we have been hearing has become the de facto weekend sanctuary of Filipinos in Korea. A 1:30 PM mass is heard in Tagalog and street stalls near the church selling everything Philippines makes a Pinoy think that he is somewhere in any part of the Philippines. A welcome respite and a chance to reconnect (and even just see!) familiar co-pinoy faces.

It's interesting to hear people talk. Strangers speak like they've been talking to longtime friends. And you hear where many of them come from - one, two hours away by train or bus.

Yeah, this blog is not about the Philippines but of the Filipinos attached to their motherland and families. And of course, the religion of 80%- 90% of the country's population.

But what made the event so special that day (and made me and my wife felt so lucky to experience) was that the parishioners made plans to make the Palm Sunday mass very memorable. The Passion of Christ was made into an event. The shouts, pleadings lines and expressions of  characters were made very alive. Who would imagine that a church (and a mass!) would become a performance venue?
Jesus Christ was nailed and His cross was "raised" rather very ingeniously by using ropes.
At first, i was actually more bemused by something i was half-expecting ---- people started taking out their phones, taking pictures and recording videos. And who am i to say that i have not sinned? I also took out my phone and took a photo of them taking photos. 

But i could not turn off my phone camera. This unfolding event was too memorable, too different. So i kept taking photos.
The church's aisles became the path to the calvary. Try to take a close look at the costumes, ingenuity definitely works here.
Before the mass, we thought that there was going to be an interfaith event. It turned out that the custumed folks will be part of the passion play. And they also served as the choir members.

The event was indeed moving. But what i saw next which cannot be shown by any photo was the sense of community as everybody sang glory songs, held hands and sincerely wished peace for everybody. 

Then the parish priest said something that unerved me a bit. He said that he was not expecting a good crowd (the church was actually overfilled) because of the ongoing crackdown to arrest and deport illegal workers (yeah, a lot of Filipino workers have that sad status). And yet, inspite of the fear and clear danger of losing their jobs and getting deported, they made it a point to get here for the love of their faith and to be part of this community... even for just an hour.

The church is located near the subway stop in Hyewa. To get there, take the subway line 4 and proceed to exit #1.


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