Welcome to Sambayanihan

We are a community of Filipino American families conscious of its own socio-cultural identity, growing intellectually and spiritually together thru the reception of the sacraments rooted in the scripture and devotion especially to Mother Mary but integrated in the community life of St Mary Parish (Alpha NJ).

Sambayanihan is a composite word. SAMBA refers to the worshipping and prayerful nature of this Christian Community. SAMBAYANAN is the Filipino word for community. BAYANIHAN refers to the spirit of solidarity, cooperation and service among the members of the community.

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A Prayer for the New Year

Dear Lord,

We pray that this New Year will bring us closer to You.
May we take the time to get to know You.
Help us to truly celebrate the gifts You have graciously given us
and use them to serve You and spread Your word.

May we also see and love You in all the people we meet,
so that in turn, they can see You in us.

We know that all human relations take time
if they are to grow and deepen.
This is also true of our relations with You,
the Father and the Holy Spirit,
which must group over the course of our lives.

In this new year,
let us realize that every action of ours
no matter how great or small
enables us to be in touch with You.

Let us accept You in our lives,
in the way it pleases You,
as Truth, to be spoken,
as Life, to be lived,
as Light, to be lighted,
as Love, to be followed,
as Joy, to be given,
as Peace, to be spread about,
as Sacrifice, to be offered among our relatives,
friends, neighbors and all people.


St. Mary Parish Organizations

  • The following are just some of the different ministries in St Mary Church. Everyone is invited and encouraged to participate. Please refer to the Weekly Bulletin for contact names and additional information.

    • Altar Rosary Society
      Meets every 4th Tuesday of each month at 7PM Mass followed by meeting in the Church Hall.

    • Adult Choir
      Thursdays at 7PM in Church. New members welcome - HS age and up.

    • Footprints Ministry (Cancer Support)
      2nd Monday of each month at 7PM in the Parish Center.

    • Martha's Table
      Assist parishioners with dinners after surgery, accident, death or when dealing with a long-term illness.

    • Mary's Helpers
      A group of parishioners available to help families with refreshments after a Funeral Mass.

    • Sanctuary Guild
      Each Thursday following the 8AM Mass.

    • Meals on Wheels
      Provides home delivered meals services to people in need. Refer to Bulletin for contact name.

    • Youth Choir
      Thursdays at 6 PM in the Church Hall.

    Contact Us

    If you would like to be added to our email list, or have any questions about "Sambayanihan ni Maria", please email us at SambayanihanniMaria@gmail.com.

    Sunday, January 17, 2010

    Holy Week in the Philippines

    Domingo de Ramos
    Domingo de Ramos or Palm Sunday, is one of the significant days of the Semana Santa wherein it marks the start of the Holy Week when Christians commemorate the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    At Mass on Palm Sunday, Catholics carry "palaspas" or palm leaves to be blessed by the priest. Many Filipinos bring home the palm leaves after the Mass and place these above their front door their windows, believing at doing so can ward off evil spirits. The real symbolism of the palaspas is that we welcome Christ to enter into the will of God. That is the meaning of the palm branches, not the superstitious part.
    While the celebration of Palm Sunday or Domingo de Ramos was brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards among other Catholic beliefs and traditions, the Filipino art of making decorative palaspas seems to have preceded this. Fray Juan De Plasencia noted in 1589 that when the early Filipinos wished to celebrate a festival, which they called pandot or worship, at the house of their chief, “in the center of the house they place one large lamp, adorned with leaves of the white palm, wrought into many designs.” The designs of the Philippine palaspas are similar to those found in Bali, Indonesia, suggesting the traditional handicraft dates back to the common ancestors of these neighboring countries.

    Holy Monday marks the beginning of the Pabasa (literally, reading) or Pasyon, the marathon chanting of the story of Jesus' life, passion, and death, which continues day and night, for as long as two straight days.

    The Pabasa is one of the must do activities during Semana Santa or in Lent. This poetic rendition of the life, passion and resurrection of Christ is done by many Catholic communities around the country and can start as early as the first few days of Lent. In some places like in Lucban, it commences on Palm Sunday. Still, others do this on Maundy Thursday and marathon readings are done until noon of Friday, non-stop.

    The first Tagalog version of the Pasyon ni Kristo came out in 1704 by Gaspar Aquino de Belen. It proved to be so popular that a fifth edition was done. Around 1840, anonymous and illicit versions came out that became a headache with the Spanish clergy as these contained “heresies” but was later corrected. It should be noted that during the Spanish colonization, the Pabasa became so popular that these were even read during festivals, courtship and death, even outside that of the usual holy season that is Lent. One of the possible reasons put forward by scholars was that, the ancient Filipinos have local epics depicting the exploits of their heroes. It also tells of their deaths and eventual coming back to life. When the Spaniards introduced Christianity, these old epics were abolished but the introduction of the Pasyon became a replacement as it also tells the story of Christ’s life, his death and resurrection.

    Visita Iglesia
    Every Holy Thursday during Lent, it has been the tradition of the Filipino Catholic faithful to do the visita iglesia, literally, church visit. This practice, introduced by the Spanish colonizers, goes back to the time of the early church where Christians would visit the seven great basilicas in Rome for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during Maundy Thursday. These churches are: The Saint John Lateran, St. Peter, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, Holy Cross in Jerusalem and St. Sebastian Outside the Walls. The last was replaced by Pope John Paul II with the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Divine Love in 2000. The last Mass before Easter is also celebrated on Holy Thursday, usually including a reenactment of the Washing of the Feet of the Apostles; this Mass is followed by the procession of the Blessed Sacrament before it is taken to the Altar of Repose.
    For Filipinos, it’s not only the Blessed Sacrament but a contemplation of the fourteen stations of the cross. Traditionally, seven churches are visited with two stations per visit. While others, with more time and effort, visit fourteen.

    Good Friday

    Good Friday in the Philippines is commemorated with street processions, the Way of the Cross, the commemoration of Jesus' Seven last words (Siete Palabras) and a Passion play called the Sinakulo.
    In some communities (most famously in the province of Pampanga), the processions include devotees who self-flagellate and sometimes even have themselves nailed to crosses as expressions of penance. After three o'clock in the afternoon of Good Friday (the time at which Jesus is traditionally believed to have died), noise is discouraged, bathing is proscribed and the faithful are urged to keep a solemn and prayerful disposition through Black Saturday.

    Sto. Sepulcro; Senior Sto. Entierro
    In the foothills of the Sierra Madre by the coast of Laguna de Bay, you can find the aptly named town of Paete, renowned for woodcarving and named after the paet (chisel).  Paete's most spectacular celebration takes place during Holy Week. It begins on Palm Sunday with the re-enactment of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalam. The short procession starts at the Ermita Chapel where the priest blesses the palaspas (palm branch) of the faithful. The participants then slowly move to the church as manangs (religious women) put their balabal (shawl) on the street for the priest to walk through. This custom is called payapak. A mass is held and afterwards the 16th-century statue of the Dead Body of Christ, or Señor Sepulkro to Paeteños, is brought home to its recamadero (owner and keeper of said image). The images are owned by individual families and are passed down to succeeding generations. For five days leading to Good Friday, the faithful kiss the exposed hands and feet of the Señor Sepulkro. On Holy Wednesday, a procession is held with Paete's 53 images of Christ's Passion and Ministry on display. The procession goes through the town's narrow streets en route to the church. It stops three times to give way to the Salubong (meeting) which depicts three scenes of Jesus' passion and in which Paete's "moving saints" take part. These are: the meeting of Christ and Mary, held at the church patio; the wiping of Jesus' face by Veronica, which takes place at Plaza Edesan; and finally, the encounter between Mary and Veronica where the latter shows the miraculous imprints of Christ's face on her cloth. This is held at the town plaza.

    Easter morning is marked with joyous celebration, the first being the dawn Salubong, wherein large statues of Jesus and Mary are brought in procession together to meet, imagining the first reunion of Jesus and his mother Mary after Jesus' Resurrection. This is followed by the joyous Easter Mass.
    The “Salubong” or “Encuentro” usually takes place before the first morning Easter Sunday Mass. The priest greets the people at the plaza or door of the church, while the images of the Risen Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, are born on procession from different points towards the church. The participants in the procession are segregated by gender. The men and boys follow the image of Jesus Christ, while women and girls follow the image of Mary. The procession ends with the two groups meeting in the church, where Mass is said. In some places more elaborate rites are held involving little children who act as angels.

    Above are the just some examples of the Filipino’s religiousity and rich religous and cultural traditions.
    The one gift for which the Filipinos are eternally grateful to Spain was the latter''s introduction to the Philippines of the Christian Religion. The first attempt to colonize and evangelize the Philippines happened with the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, in 1521. But the effort was cut short by his death in the hands of the native warriors of Mactan, Cebu. It was only in 1565 and through the endeavors of the Spanish adelantado, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi that Christianization and colonization in the islands formally began. The first missionaries who launched a modest but daring attempt to convert the natives were the Augustinians who came with the Legazpi expedition. Much-needed assistance was supplied with the arrival of the Franciscans in 1578. The Jesuits followed suit in 1581. The Dominicans and Augustinian Recollects arrived in 1587 and 1606 respectively. The missionaries played a major role in the Filipino’s “encounter” with Christianity and the Christian God. This in a way became the ground of Filipino Spirituality. But it was not a one-sided process in which the Spanish missionaries shaped the Filipino spirituality. Much of the native pre-Christian cultural expressions survived in the process. Given the geographical, political (social fragmentation and political decentralization), demographical (personnel vis-á-vis the native population), and linguistic limitations within which the Spaniards had to operate in the colony, the Filipinos were provided a chance to choose from among the various religio-cultural elements being laid down by the Europeans. At the end of the process, the resultant spirituality is a syncretic blend of Hispanic imposition and the natives’ Filipinization of Christianity.