Celebrating Cagayan de Oro City's feast of St. Augustine in New York

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By Susan Palmes-Dennis

Straight from Carolinas

Saturday, August 30, 2014

“WHAT does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” - St. Augustine


I OPEN my article, a continuation of the St. Augustine fiesta stories of Cagayan de Oro City that I’ve started, with that quote because love is a universal subject, spanning time, space and borders.


The fiesta would be over by the time this sees print but since I'm on the far side of the pond; I join the other Kagay-anons in other parts of the pond in celebrating the fiesta of Cagayan de Oro City's patron saint, St. Augustine.

In New York City, Kagay-anons at Queens celebrated the fiesta of St. Augustine a week earlier than the city schedule of Aug. 28. At the Church of Ascension at Queens, a mass was held to celebrate the fiesta last Aug. 23.

They celebrated the fiesta the same way Kagay-anons celebrate the city fiesta: with buntings, good food, dancing, fellowship and picture taking (selfies and groupies). But they kick it off with a Mass and the prayer petition.

In the New York celebration, the mass was officiated by Filipino priest Rev. Jovy Carongay, who is from Cebu City. In his homily, Fr. Carongay elaborated on the life and virtues of St. Augustine, who inspired his followers to follow his example.

Christian Coloso said there were 130 people who attended the 6 p.m. mass. A former native of Ilaya, Barangay Carmen in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental in northern Mindanao, Philippines, Coloso is a devotee of St. Augustine.

His devotion to the city's patron saint didn't waver when he transplanted to New York 14 years ago. In a phone conversation I had with him, Coloso said he and the others New York based Kagay-anons started the fiesta celebration in the Big Apple four years ago.

“It was born out from a longing of the city we left behind and the faith we have for Señor San Agustin as intercessory prayers for us. We miss the fiesta,” he said.

He recalled that the New York Church had fiesta celebrations for the devotees of St. Nino, San Lorenzo Ruiz and other patron saints.

Then, he told others from Cagayan de Oro and other devotees about celebrating the fiesta in honor of their favorite saint.

Four years ago they started with the fiesta with the theme “loose change for change.” Those who attended brought dimes, pennies and quarters and sent them to fund little projects back home with the help of their friends and family.

Among those who responded in the call for “loose change for change” were Joe & Terry Parantar, Jun & Annette Emata, Boy & Daday Lantoria,”Coloso added.

From then on, the fiesta started usually after the mass. This year the mass was held at the basement of the church.

This year the devotees and the Coloso, Oco and Marte (COM Offices or Christian Coloso, Vangie Nagac-Oco, Jerome N Marte, spouses Joel Oco and Lasylee Marte) partnered to have a joint fiesta celebration.

On its Facebook page, COM Offices said it is a private group whose vision and mission is to serve, promote goodwill socially, academically and economically, undertake charitable works and participate in religious events.

It says it is a non-political entity which share the same values of what is right and just for the common good or betterment to the service of the people. It partners with other groups that hold the same principles they adhere to.

Their motto is “Charity sees the need, not the cause.” As mentioned, the St. Augustine fiesta celebration is joined by other Fil-Americans born outside Cagayan de Oro who still have strong ties in the Philippines.

It is also providential that the COM anniversary also falls on the feast day of St. Augustine and the group's theme this year is “literacy in every school.”

Lasylee Marte, who emceed the event, said they served Filipino food like adobo (chicken/meat stew), pancit (native or Chinese noodles), humba (pork stew), sapin-sapin (custard) and biko (sweetened rice).

Marte said there was also lots of dancing and raffle prizes, with 50 percent going to the attendees and the other half to projects they want to fund in Cagayan de Oro.

Many consider St. Augustine as their favorite saint for answered prayers. The faithful, especially Filipino Catholic mothers and their sons, count St. Augustine and his mother St. Monica as their patron saints.

I read a few of his confessions and remain fascinated with his great love and passion for the Lord. It was through the long-sufferings and persistent prayers of his mother Monica that changed the life of Augustine.

So again, I greet those in Cagayan de Oro a happy fiesta. Viva Senor San Agustin!

(Susan Palmes-Dennis is a veteran journalist from Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, Northern Mindanao in the Philippines who now resides in Charlotte, North Carolina.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 31, 2014.


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