BALANGIGA, Eastern Samar- In a rare occasion, the St. Lawrence The Martyr Church of this town was brimming with faithful on Sunday (December 16), the start of the ‘Misa de Gallo.’
After all, it’s not just an ordinary mass ushering the first of the nine early Masses before the Christmas Day celebration on December 25.
In the words of the town parish priest, Fr. Serafin Tybaco, Jr., it’s a “very special mass.’
The Church used the just returned Balangiga Bells signaling the start of the dawn masses which was clearly heard, at least within the town center.
At 4:15 am, the smallest of the three historic bells, which were mounted in a movable platform made of gold-painted steel and specially built by the Department of National Defense, was pealed five times to signal the start of the mass.
About 900 faithful attended the two- hour mass which was marred by a power failure. The church used its power generator all throughout the proceeding.
“This is a very special mass because the bells are now with us. The pealing of the bells is so distinctive that could not be described in words,” Fr. Tybaco said during an interview after he presided the mass.
He hopes that with the returned of the bells, the already religious Balangiga-ons will “further deepen their faith.”
Severa Duran, 80, said that she was heartened to see that the church was filled with the faithful.
“While there were times that the church is filled up with people, today’s number of Churchgoers is bigger. Perhaps, it’s because we have the bells already,” she said.
Duran said that what made her doubly excited to see the bells is that it happened ‘in my lifetime.’
“There were efforts before for the bells be returned to us but all failed until now. At least it happened in my lifetime,” the retired school teacher said.
The three bells, which was officially turned over to the parish Saturday by town Mayor Randy Graza after a ceremony held at the town’s gymnasium or covered court and witnessed by President Rodrigo Duterte and US officials led by John Law, chief of mission of the US Embassy, and Defense Assistant Secretary Joseph Filter.
Just after the mass ended, the bells were immediately surrounded by those who attended mass.
And as expected, they took photos with the bells as their backdrop.
Several children were seen touching the bells.
Melody Lumagbas, 13, said that she, just like the rest of the people of Balangiga, is happy to see the bells up close and personal.
“I just saw the bells on television and now, the bells are in our Church. I am happy to see them myself,” she said, giggling.
The bells are temporarily placed inside the Church due to ‘security concern,’ Fr. Tybaco said.
He could not say when these bells are to be place back to the church’s belfry or at the church’s grounds where three concrete stands were earlier constructed.
(JOEY A. GABIETA)