Residents of Barangay Colawin, Argao and its six neighboring mountain villages got their wish last Thursday.
A new parish.
Presided over by Archbishop of Cebu Jose Palma and co-celebrated by 27 priests, a mass marked the canonical erection of the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception church in Colawin as a new parish, covering the seven mountain barangays.
“Pasalamat gyud ko og dako sa Ginoo na duol na among simbahan,” said Catalina Minoza, a resident of Colawin for 77 years. (I’m thankful to God that our church is now closer to us).
The other barangays under the new parish include Lingigon, Apo, Anajao, Tulang, Gutlang and Mompeller.
“Congratulations kanatong tanan. Nanghinaut ko na molambo ang atong parokya. Ma munga og buhat sa gugma ug buhat sa serbisyo para sa katilingban ug simbahan,” Palma said in his homily.
According to retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., his family in Colawin could trace their lineage to his great grandfather Esteban whose surname was derived from the Biblical figure King David.
Hilario Jr. was joined by his agricultural scientist brother Dr. Romulo and some relatives in witnessing the historic moment.
Also present in the event were Gov. Hilario Davide III and his wife Jobel.
Government officials in the second district, including outgoing Argao Mayor Edsel Galeos and reelected Congressman Wilfredo Caminero attended the affair. Former Ambassador Francisco Benedicto and outgoing Cordova Mayor Adelino Sitoy were also sighted.
The Our Lady of Immaculate Conception started as a chapel in the 1990s established by Jose, the older brother of Hilario Jr.
To continue the pastoral work that he has started, Fr. Villacastin was named by Archbishop Palma as its first parish priest.
“The event that we are witnessing today is neither destiny nor luck of Colawin but a part of a divine plan,” said Hilario Jr., who helped his brother Jose pursue his dream of transforming the chapel into a parish.
Before it became a quasi-parish, residents from Colawin would travel about 14 kilometers to the nearest church in Barangay Simala, Sibonga to hear Mass, hold wedding and seek baptism.
Simala, which has the Our Lady of the Divine Grace church, is a boundary village between Sibonga and Argao.
While most residents chose Simala because it is nearer to Colawin, other churchgoers opted to go farther to Argao’s town center to feed their spiritual needs.
Once a month, the chapel would hold a Mass. But after it became a quasi-parish, the Eucharistic celebration had increased to four which were held every Sunday of the entire month.
“Natuman gyud intawon among dugay na nga pangandoy. Kada adlaw puwede na mi mosimba,” 73-year-old Virgilia Fernandez said. (Our longtime desire is finally fulfilled. Every day, we can go to church).
Maricel Tanduyan of Barangay Anajao, the farthest among the seven villages under the new parish, recalled the hardships of traveling to Simala just to avail of church services.
“Paet kaayo sa una kay layo mi og adtoan para maka simba lang og kompesal,” she said. (It’s very difficult in the past since we have to travel far just to hear mass and seek confession.