A priest, whose photos celebrating Mass in a flooded chapel became viral on social media, has evoked reactions from netizens who said they were inspired to keep the faith.
People were amazed by the photographs of Father Ramon Garcia of the Nuestra Señora De Salambao Mission Parish in the province of Bulacan saying Mass in waist-deep waters.
When asked why he did it, the priest said the people insisted. “I could have celebrated Mass without them,” he told LiCAS.news in an interview.
On May 9, the people of the settlement of Pariahan in the village of Taliptip requested the priest to say Mass to celebrate the village’s annual Feast of the Holy Cross.
Father Garcia told residents that he would celebrate Mass but people should not attend because of the prevailing quarantine restrictions.
The faithful, however, persisted, boarded their boats, and congregated in their flooded chapel.
For almost a year now, Father Garcia has been celebrating Mass in the flooded chapel. He said people always attend Mass despite the high water.
People in the coastal village are used to the floods that come from the headwaters in the Sierra Madre mountains and from rainfall falling on Bulacan province’s river basin.
Continuing land subsidence, aggravated by groundwater extraction, is also worsening the flood vulnerabilities not only of Taliptip but the whole province.
Environmental experts has attributed the flooding to “rising sea waters and sinking lands” due to excessive water extraction.” The area sinks at a rate of four to six centimeters every year.
The village no longer has a school after it was claimed by the sea together with other public structures like the basketball court and pathways.
Father Garcia said fiesta celebrations before the floods were really festive. Marching bands would go around the village while dancers perform in the streets.
Then the waters crept into the houses, slowly destroying its foundations, but the villagers did not leave because they have nowhere to go.
Father Garcia said the community has inspired and strengthened his 15-year old ministry.
“They keep the faith and the morale is high because they see me not abandoning them,” he said.
The priest said the May 9 celebration of the Holy Mass will be his last in the village. He might be assigned to another parish after quarantine restrictions are lifted, he said.
It might also be the last Mass for the community because of the scheduled relocation of the village to give way to the building of a multi-billion international airport in the area.