THE CONVERSION TO CHRISTIANITY

One of the earliest picture of the flour­ishing Christian community of Milaor was made by Fray Juan Pobre de Zamora, a Franciscan missionary assigned to Ca­ marines in 1595 until about 1596 when he was assigned to Japan. Fray Pobre wrote an extensive account of the growing exu­ berant Christian life of the newly convert­ ed natives of Milaor. Overwhelmed by the enormous transformation in the native' s religious and social life, Fray Pobre' s account was virtually a laudatory epic of Milaor's budding Christian community. One of the more curious aspects of this transformation was the remarkable swiftness of the native' s acceptance of the sacrament of penance, which was given a more rigorous interpretation and implementation. this moved Fray Pobre to believe that although /1 one has done too little yet but the Lord has already infused some souls with such great desire to do penance.

" He noted that some wished to know all their fastings that they might also perform them. Some even ex­ ceeded the religious in their zeal for penance. He cited some groups of male and female elite who allowed themselves to be bound and flogged by their slaves. Some were bound from sunrise to sundown. Other carried heavy objects in their outstretched arms. But he was struck by the long pro­ cession where more than a hundred men carried heavy mas­ sive crosses with some of these penitents bleeding profusely. The edifying effects of conversion were not only seen among the elder but even among the young. He wrote: "There are too many things that one can say about the chil­ dren of those who are in our houses and those who come to our schools but I will only say very little." Although new to the faith, the children manifested deep appreciations of the rituals: "they participate in the mass, both those who assist and those who merely listen, with great solemnity. During vespers and matins, to which hour they come and pray, they
perform this ritual with great devotion."

The performance of these rituals was not the only show­ case of their conversion. A deeper inward absorption of Christian values was visible in their austers disciplined life:

"These children are very temperate in food than the more pampered children of the Spaniards. They neither attend classes without breakfast nor carry one. They remain until ten or eleven without eating and I have seen them stayfrom morning until night many times without breakfast, which was because of the neglect of the religious or the teacher who was in charge. Without the blessings and the permission of the one in charge of them, either in school or in the church, both the young and tlze teens, they endure hunger without complaints. When they reached their homes, neither do they shout nor cry."

These children not only impressed Fray Pobre for their piety and virtuous character but they also amused him by their talents and natural wit. He noted: "The children of these good Christians have much to glorify the Lord to see them learn with great affection and swiftness the lessons taught them. They learn to read the romance and the Latin languages and some even pronounced the words as if they were ministers, Juan added, and for this reason "there were among these natives good writers, musicians and singers."

 

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