Local leaders become ‘three kings’ in Pili Parish
By Victor Dennis T. Nierva
On January 7, Mayor Tomas Bongalonta, Vice Mayor Francis Belen, and Kgd. Roger Regondola, representatives of LGU Pili, participated in the Mass of the Epiphany at St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Pili, Camarines Sur. They paid homage to the baby Jesus at the Filipino version of the Belen, having been invited by Fr. Wilmer Tria, the Parish Priest. The three leaders led the offertory procession during the 6:30 am Mass, presenting their gifts of grocery items at the Belen.
During his homily, Fr. Tria conveyed that Jesus assumed human form not to establish a religion but to bring forth revelation. He distinguished religion as humanity seeking God, while revelation is God communicating with humans. Fr. Tria emphasized that the incarnated heart of Jesus pulsates for all of humanity, irrespective of race, language, religion, or politics. Quoting Pope Francis’s encyclical Fratelli Tutti, he stressed that we are all God’s creatures and should embrace one another as brothers and sisters. Fr. Tria clarified his invitation to the political leaders, stating, “The Parish community prays that all political leaders must imitate Jesus by serving all — for the common good.”
Notably, the nativity set (Belen) at the church’s altar is distinctive. Crafted from papier-mâché, the figures exude a more Filipino appearance than Caucasian. Joseph is depicted with a hammer at his waist, and Mary wears the attire of Maria Clara. Instead of kings, three priests are portrayed. Fr. Tria explained that the localized Belen enables the images to ‘speak with and listen to’ the parishioners. The three priests symbolize GomBurZa, the three heroes and martyrs in Philippine history, who were the magi or illuminados fighting for the equality of all humans, akin to the principles of Fratelli Tutti. The papier-mâché figures were crafted by Francisco Hernandez from Naga City, who also sculpted the 12-foot Resurrection image at the new Easter tower. Lolita Folloso, a member of the Mother Butlers Guild, tailored the black cassocks worn by the three priests. Following the Mass, the three political leaders joined Fr. Tria for a photo opportunity at the Belen.
“Local officials portraying ‘three kings’ serve as a reminder of their duty to serve. Governance is service. Including our local officials in this annual celebration may serve as a poignant reminder of their primary responsibility to the community,” shared Merly Jean Plaza, the Parish Pastoral Council coordinator.