By Fr. Roy Cimagala
THANKS to God, we still have and are blessed with a strong and deep tradition of celebrating fiestas in our country. Fiestas are a great occasion of joy and thanksgiving, an experience of sublimity that satisfies a primal yearning of the heart.
In practically all places and corners of our country, fiestas are celebrated due to a religious reason. And this is very understandable, because more than any human accomplishment, it is the truths and mysteries of our faith, the triumphs achieved by the saints that offer the ultimate reason for joy and thanksgiving.
These religious spiritual reasons of fiestas stand not only for a time. They stand for all eternity. If handled properly, they can foster and reinforce the religious and spiritual dimension of our life that we often fail to properly take care of and develop.
If we have the right understanding, attitude and practices relevant to fiestas, we will realize that we are actually already sharing in some way the indescribable joy we can expect in heaven, our definite home and ultimate state of life.
There is a certain sense of gloriousness that we can feel during fiestas. It’s a gloriousness that is compatible with humility, not pride, vanity and frivolity. It’s a gloriousness that fills us with peace and a great desire to give ourselves more to God and to others, all done in a quiet, natural way, without acting strangely or weirdly.
We need to see to it that this sense of gloriousness is kept pure and uncontaminated by unwelcome worldly values that have the penchant to spoil the true nature and purpose of fiestas.
We just have to make sure then that the celebration of fiestas is driven first of all by the religious and spiritual motive that is their basis and raison d’etre. We should strengthen that motive in a deliberate way especially when it has to contend with new and very seducing manifestations of these unwelcome worldly values as flow in time.
There is, first of all, commercialism that while having some valid reasons can also undermine this religious and spiritual motive. Then there’s the tendency to splurge and to wallow in gluttony, frivolity, showing off and flaunting, throwing to the wind the requirements of temperance and self-discipline that are always necessary to us.
Other ulterior motives can come—political, social, economic, etc., that can go beyond their valid reasons during fiestas. We should be quick to recognize them and quicker still to avoid, undo or make up for whatever damage these motives can cause.
There should be an effort to connect these motives to the religious and spiritual character of the fiestas. Thus, certain organized activities can already be disqualified a priori, like illegal gambling, wild parties, games, beauty contests, and other fun activities that would be hard if not impossible to relate to the religious motive.
Fiestas, of course, should not be deprived of festivities and the fun connected to them. But they should be so organized as to boost rather than weaken the religious and spiritual motive.
This will require a keen sense of discernment and judgment. Competent officials should take care of supervising the whole affair. Obviously, this will involve the cooperation and coordination of both civil and church authorities, and other figures
that may have some say on these matters.
More important is to promote the proper understanding, attitude and practices relevant to fiestas. Thus, fiestas should be the best occasion to study the cause of the celebration. With our new technologies, this practice can easily be done in a more widespread way.
We have to go beyond the level of slogans and the use of catchwords. While they can serve a purpose, they should not be left alone, but should always be linked to a deeper explanation and description of the celebration. These explanations should include the practical implications of the fiestas.
The practice of holding novena Masses before the fiesta is one way of educating the people about the true significance of the fiesta. This should be maintained and improved. They should be adapted to current developments, both good and bad, so people can be enlightened and helped to celebrate the fiestas accordingly.
We should also remember that the best way to prepare for the fiestas, celebrate them and purify and rectify whatever needs to be rectified after the celebration is to offer a lot of prayers and sacrifices. Fiestas are no mere social events. They are first of all religious and spiritual means that require the appropriate spiritual means also.
We need to tap some people to lead in this.