Holy Family Parish, Parang, Marikina City
HOLY FAMILY PARISH AT 25, A JOURNEY OF FAITH
The Holy Family Parish had very humble beginnings. It is an oft-forgotten but beautiful story of "bayanihan" that merits being revisited and retold. There were notable personalities and, for sure, a lot of unnamed parishioners who, from the start, preferred to be unsung heroes.
From the many colorful stories handed down to us parishioners of today, we might say that the forerunners of our parish were men and women of faith: they saw something that others did not necessarily see and believe was possible.
In the 1950s, Parang was also referred to as "Mari-Korea", because the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK) used Parang as training ground prior to their deployment to the Korean War in 1950-51. (Note: Former president Fidel V. Ramos, then a junior officer, served inPEFTOK.) Parang residents who travelled to "Marikina-Bayan" earned the moniker "may putik ang paa" because of the rich red clay-type soil.
The 1960s saw the areas of Parang, Nangka, Concepcion and Marikina Heights all under the jurisdiction of the Immaculate Conception Parish Church. At the time, Aglipayan was the predominant religion in Marikina, operating actively from three churches located in Bayan and Concepcion.
The Parang "sitio" consisted of a small barrio hall with a library and puericulture center. Parang Elementary School began with primary grades 1-4. Through natural progression, grades 5, then 6 were added.
With economic progress came the migrants (or "dayo"), and consequently, more Catholics. There were only 2 factories in Parang then, the Edwardson Shoe Factory and later, the BF Goodrich Tire Company. In 1961, St. Scholastica’s Academy (an all-girl Catholic school) was opened by the Benedictine Sisters in Marikina Heights, followed by the Marist Brothers’ Marist School for Boys (an all-boys Catholic school).
Soon the Catholics of Parang and Nangka wanted to have a chapel where Catholic masses could be celebrated. A multi-faceted group of residents banded together and committed themselves to the project of building a chapel. It was not without setbacks – or bumps as deep as the "craters" on the Philstress road (now A. de Guzman) connecting Parang to Concepcion church which the Christ the King procession used to traverse. But the group persevered and through sheer determination and creative solicitations, they were able to build the Holy Family Lapu-Lapu chapel in the area adjacent to the barrio hall. On the 22nd day of December, 1969 shortly before Christmas, the first Catholic mass was celebrated at the Holy Family Lapu-Lapu chapel in Parang.
The next challenge was to find a priest who would be shepherd to the flock. A group went to the Ateneo University and publicly posted a request for a priest to celebrate mass in Parang.
Fr. Richard Croghan, S. J. heeded the request and eventually became the priest who regularly celebrated Holy Mass on Sundays. There was never talk of a fixed stipend, only that arrangements be made to pick him up and return him to Ateneo after the mass. Soon, he was also responding to the calls for anointing of the sick, confessions, communion, and other services that the faithful needed. He serviced Parang for seven long years until he had to leave the university. He left a flock he had come to love with a heavy heart, and the people bade him Godspeed filled with gratitude.
In 1978, a small group consisting of Sally Marañon, Daisy Cruz, Ernie Casareo and Jake Isaac sought audience with Cardinal Sin (because we were still part of the Archdiocese of Manila) with the request that we be made a parish. Cardinal Sin’s response was, to become a parish you need a piece of real estate. So the group went home rather crestfallen, but prayerfully kept their dream in the back burner.
Many other guest priests came from the Ateneo after Fr. Croghan. Fr. Candido Lim, Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, Fr. Archie Entengan, Fr. Bill Schmidt all said Sunday masses, with Fr. Lim as group coordinator. Then came Fr. Angel Hidalgo, who started the Wednesday masses. Fr. Hidalgo stayed in Parang for two years until he went home to his native Spain (where he died in October 1991).
Later Fr. Pedro Balagtas, a diocesan priest, came to celebrate Friday and Saturday masses. He was assigned to Parang for two years and would come as guest priest for three more years after that.
As the Lapu-Lapu chapel became the center of all Catholic events and activities, more and more residents became actively involved in helping the priests. Not long afterwards, mini chapels sprang to life in Twin River (1980), St. Mary (1983), and Tierra Vista (1983).
On June 25, 1983, the Diocese of Antipolo was formed and we became part of the diocese. The dream to be a parish resurfaced and soon, another group went to Bishop Protacio Gungon with the same request. This time, the answer was positive, and Fr. Roberto "Tito" Ignacio was assigned as the priest-in-charge of preparing the community to become the Holy Family Parish. He came with three assistants who eventually became priests themselves – Fr. Daryl, Fr. Ali and Fr. Noel. But unfortunately, Fr. Tito could only stay for a short while.
Inspite of his brief tenure at Parang, he was able to sow seeds of spirituality among the faithful. There were daily masses were held in the early evening, Mother of Perpetual Help Wednesday novenas, October devotion to Mother Mary, Simbang Gabi, Kumpisalang Bayan, and the start of the Catechistas. Fr. Tito left for abroad in June 1984 for a study grant from Cardinal Sin.
On July 7, 1984, Bishop Gungon assigned Fr. Marcel Prudente as the next priest-in-charge. At that time there was still no residence for the priest in Parang, so Fr. Marcel had to stay in the Immaculate Conception Convent in Concepcion. This proved to be an inconvenient arrangement, so an apartment was rented for him across the Lapu-Lapu chapel. Ten families took care of the monthly rental.
Fr. Marcel started preparing the community as soon as he arrived. He organized the Parish Pastoral Council and the different church organizations. The Adoracion Nocturna Filipina and Munting Kristo Sunday School was formed at this time. Having set the stage, Fr. Marcel sat down with the organizations and together, they chose the program that would evangelize the parishioners most effectively. Fr. Marcel also sought to know his parishioners personally, so he would walk around the community, and would regularly take his supper with the less privileged families of Parang. Some of the other activities started during Fr. Marcel’s term were the Passion Play, Panuluyan, Landas ng Krus, and the Fire Dance on the eve of Easter Sunday.
All this time, Fr. Marcel and the Parish Pastoral Council members were quietly scouting for a lot on which to build the permanent parish church of Parang-Nangka. They inspected one or two sites before arriving at one where an abandoned pots-and-pans factory used to be situated. The area consisted of 8 lots of 700 square meters each (6,400 sqm total). The price was a formidable 7-figure amount which the parish did not have at its disposal. A loan was thereby applied for from a bank, followed by a series of fund-raising projects, until enough money was accumulated to purchase two more lots. More fund raising projects were done to buy the next two lots. Meanwhile, the price of the land kept increasing. Families were also asked to pay for one-square-meter-lot for the church. This raised funds to pay for a sizeable portion of the property.
When the parish was ready to purchase the last two lots, the owner told the parish council that these were no longer available. Apparently, somebody else had purchased them at a much higher price. So the parish had to scale down its plans to suit the 5,600 square meter area.
More funds were required to build the temporary church and residence for the parish priest. The plan was to get another loan from the bank, but Bishop Gungon did not approve. He was afraid that this would be too heavy a burden for the parish. Instead, the Diocese offered a loan.
The offer was speedily and joyously accepted, so that the temporary church and the convent was built. The blueprint for the big church was prepared next, and when it was approved by the Bishop, the cornerstone was laid on June 2, 1985.
In the next few years after the cornerstone was laid, there was no physical construction to speak of. Rather, fund raising projects continued, each one more creative than the next. There was a concert called Himig Pasko which featured the church choir members both onstage and on the production side. Fr. James Reuter’s play "The Lady" was staged at Marist School. All the proceeds from that performance were given to the parish. Another concert dubbed "Concert of the Superstars" was held. Famous radio, television and movie stars, including the producer and director, donated their talent fees to the parish. Fr. Marcel also approached his family, personal friends and former parishioners to seek help in building the Holy Family Parish church. All of them extended their assistance generously.
As soon as the site of the main church was permanently established, and the temporary church and convent built, Bishop Gungon formally created the Holy Family Parish. So it was on December 30, 1985, Fr. Marcel Prudente celebrated the Holy Mass as the first parish priest of the newly created Holy Family Parish … truly a day of great jubilation!
Now came the daunting project of building a permanent church. The estimated cost was even larger than that of the real estate. But the parishioners were inspired to work even harder, certain that Our Father would guide us as to how we would build His home.
Fr. Marcel was transferred to the Parish of Our Lady of Aranzazu in San Mateo, Rizal, on June 1, 1988. He did not see the start of construction of the big church. Fr. Marcel would later reminisce that "Serving the Holy Family Parish was really a journey of love and total dedication of self … expecting nothing in return." The parishioners said farewell to their beloved parish priest.
Our next parish priest, Fr. Jose P. Matan, came on the same day of Fr. Marcel’s departure. He was installed with the same solemn rites that are used in all Catholic parishes when a new priest takes over the responsibility of shepherding his flock. Fr. Matan maintained a "father and child" relationship with his parishioners. He had a warm concern for his flock, patiently explaining the difficult passages of the Scriptures in terms which were easy to comprehend. He revived the Basic Bible Seminar I and allowed the formation of the Parish Renewal Experience and Couples for Christ (now FAMILIA). People remember his homilies to be well-prepared, flowing from his spiritual life as a preacher and making real connections with issues of the day.
In 1989, physical construction of the big church had begun, as various projects continued to bring in the necessary funds. Some of these projects included the Pledge Card, the Lagda Ko, Alay Ko signature card, and Piso-Piso Para Kay Kristo. Fr. Matan led by example and would often be seen working as a common laborer, hauling pails of cement and doing odd construction jobs.
Sometime in 1990, Fr. Matan and the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) approached a gentleman parishioner named Mr. Luis Young, at the time Vice-President of the Fortune Tobacco Corporation. The group sought his help in their appeal to the company president to give financial support towards the construction of the parish church. Mr. Young agreed to help, but asked for a reasonable space of time. Meanwhile, in his personal capacity, he pledged a monthly donation to the construction fund.
While waiting for the answer from Mr. Young’s company, the PPC officers learned that Mr. Young was taken ill and had to be hospitalized. His doctors diagnosed his condition as an advance stage of respiratory dysfunction which was no longer curable. Nothing, it seemed, would help him now except prayers. His family was greatly saddened by the prognosis and, as Mr. Young hovered between consciousness and unconsciousness, prepared themselves for the worst.
To the family’s utter amazement, Mr. Young opened his eyes one day and began to show signs of recovery. He soon related the most incredible story …
God had saved him from death, Mr. Young avowed. He told of a place where the people were all dressed in brightest white and exuded an air of complete serenity and joy, that he too was filled with an indescribable sense of happiness. He had wanted to stay there, but God had sent him back to earth with the mission to help the community of the Holy Family Parish finish their church. Mr. Young was also told that the company president and owner of the company would visit him soon. And sure enough, the visitor came to the hospital and offered to help Mr. Young’s children in whatever way he could. Mr. Young replied with "Thank you, Mr. President, for your concern for my children. Please do not worry about them. They can manage. But please help our parish finish the construction of our church."
On his discharge from the hospital, Mr. Young sent word to the parish that his company’s president, Mr. Lucio Tan, granted his request and that the company’s executive team would coordinate with the parish priest and the parish pastoral council officers on all details pertinent to the completion of the church construction.
The glad news about the miracles to Mr. Young and the Holy Family Parish spread quickly.
It is said that Mr. Young’s devotion to God grew stronger even as his physical body remained weak and in constant pain. Before he eventually passed on from mortal life, he converted from Buddhism into Catholicism.
On November 1991, Fr. Roy Limquiaco joined Fr. Matan as guest priest. He was a tremendous asset to the parish and many renewal programs flourished under his care. He stayed with the parish until August 1993.
The period 1991-93 was a flurry of activity for the parish. Fund-raising projects continued unabatedly. There was the 1991 Balikatan project and Christmas raffle draw, bingo socials and the Kakaibang Awitan in 1992, Munting Prinsesa and another Christmas draw in 1993.
The first Parish Eucharistic Adoration chapel was also constructed during this time. A pinnacle of Fr. Matan’s focus on faith, the chapel was opened on Mother Mary’s feastday, September 8, 1993. Fr. Roger Cortez, coordinator for PEA, officiated at the blessing of the chapel.
The First Diocesan Synod of the Diocese of Antipolo was held in February 1993, with all the parish priests and the heads of the parish pastoral councils in attendance. Bishop Gungon exhorted all his parish priests to proceed with their individual Parish Pastoral Planning Workshop so that the approved resolutions could be implemented. The Holy Family Parish did so from September 12-October 3, 1993.
Not long afterwards, Fr. Matan was re-assigned to another parish. Albeit saddened by the news, the parishioners bade Godspeed to yet another beloved priest who had endeared himself with the community during his five-year-five-and-a-half month stay. Fr. Matan left for his new assignment on November 15, 1993, but would return as guest priest in the early 2000’s.
The third parish priest, Fr. Rolando "Dong" de Guzman, arrived on the same day that Fr. Matan left. He was warmly welcomed by a large crowd of enthusiastic parishioners. His installation as the new parish priest came a few days later.
Bishop Gungon had hand-picked Fr. Dong with the task of finishing the main church at the soonest possible time and motivating the parishioners to support the construction. So in all his homilies, he tirelessly appealed to their generous nature so that the church would be completed. In addition to being pastoral head, he also simplified procedures to improve efficiency in the parish office and streamlined the mini chapel pastoral councils and the church organizations to avoid overlaps in their schedules of activities. The parishioners remember that it was during Fr. Dong’s tenure that the "Salu-Salo sa Patio" was introduced, where various organizations would contribute food to be served to the community during special occasions. He also instituted the centralized mass at the parish church at least one Sunday a month, so that the faithful from different chapels would be able to bond and observe how the parish church was developing.
Fr. Dong was very sensitive to the church workers’ personal needs and provided support for the youth. He urged the faithful to pour their hearts to God in prayer at the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel.
Fr. Rene Selgas also served the parish as guest priest from 1993-96, celebrating mass in the satellite chapels and in depressed areas (such as ‘Labas Bakod’) of Parang and Nangka. He was also a frequent speaker at many of the parish programs and seminars. Fr. Selgas fondly recalls a hive of activity at that time: the PPC (then headed by Gildo Jimenez), PREX, Charismatic Movement, Legion of Mary, Familia, prayer warriors in the PEA, the rich, poor and the youth were all enthusiastic in helping to complete the church.
From August 7, 1994, the construction of the main building went full blast through to December 30, 1995, when the church was finally completed -- in time for the 10th anniversary of the Canonical Creation of the Holy Family Parish. Fr. Dong could very well say that he left the parish with "mission accomplished". He stayed with the parish for nearly six years before moving to his next assignment. He would later recollect about his stay at the Holy Family Parish: "It was a mixture of joy and challenges expected of a priest who is serving. I serve because I obey."
In 1999, Fr. Lopito "Bembol" Hiteroza became our fourth parish priest. He had exceptional concern for the seniors, the underprivileged, and particularly the youth. He was an educator who could sum up the Scriptures in the least number of points. During children’s mass at 4 P.M. on Sundays, kids looked forward to his homilies, as Fr. Bembol used to ask them questions with prize in hand. The Parish Youth Ministry flourished during that time, having taken an active role in the XV Youth Day observance at Marist School and the Youth Walk at the Boys’ Town Complex.
Fr. Bembol focused on spiritual formation and evangelization during his term. It was a period of bloom and team-building for our parish organizations particularly as Year 2000 was the Jubilee Year for the entire Roman Catholic Church. He developed workshops to enhance the skills of the lay leaders in the parish. His time saw the publication of Kasambahay, our first parish newsletter. A wave of activities also filled this period, from the street masses in depressed areas, mini-concerts, the Gawarasal (aimed at a deeper understanding of the Good News), depictions of the Last Supper, the Passion Play, and the Way of the Cross, to the giant Christmas tree on the church patio. There were fund-raising events such as the Santacruzan, Mutya ng Parokya, AUV raffles, Bingo Social and Dinner for a Cause. The funds went to the improvement of the Parish Eucharistic Adoration chapel, multi-purpose center and the Sacristy.
We also saw in this period the service of Fr. Francis Sarmiento, a softspoken and mild-mannered guest priest dedicated to celebrating mass in and outside of the main church. Fr. Francis was oftentimes on the road on his motorcycle, tirelessly serving the faithful in the ten satellite chapels of the parish.
This period was also a time of connection with other parishes. Our parish participated in Marian celebrations held at nearby Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish Marikina-Bayan. An inter-parish Way of the Cross was also organized, with Fr. Bembol and our PPC coordinating with other priests and councils of other parishes.
Fr. Bembol was re-assigned to another parish on April 24, 2006. He left after a thanksgiving mass and another emotional send-off by the community.
Our fifth and current parish priest, Fr. Lawrence "Larry" Paz arrived at the Holy Family Parish right after the parish send-off for his predecessor. He literally kissed the ground by the parish gates as he entered his new parish.
A proponent of spirituality and evangelization, Fr. Larry immediately met with the pastoral council and the different parish organizations, outlining to them his broad stroke principles in pastoring the church. Many changes have since been introduced in the parish. The infusion of Latin terms in masses indicated a return to solemnity and tradition. He introduced Shrove Tuesday rites and the "Paglalatag ng Telang Itim at Pagsasabog ng Bulaklak" during Palm Sunday, depicting Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as King. Vigil candles, flowers and portraits of deceased loved ones are placed in the sanctuary prior to All Saints’/All Souls Day, and masses throughout the entire month of November are dedicated to those who have passed on.
Fr. Larry also exhibits strength in liturgical planning. During masses and novenas for the parish fiesta, representatives from various sectors are invited to participate, e.g., tricycle boys, vendors, bankers, military men, medical workers, etc. This heightens the community’s awareness of its own role in a liturgical celebration, fostering spirituality in the workplace and calling on them all to live their faith in the world. It is also during this time that the parish has seen the full activation of the Lay Ministers of the Word (LMW).
His homilies are always fresh, down-to-earth and punctuated with humor. At the end of every homily is a reflective prayer set to contemplative music. He has a special place in his heart for the souls in purgatory, and always enjoins the community to pray for their deliverance. He is regarded as the most "showbiz" of all the parish priests, having served as chaplain of Manila Broadcasting Company for more than twelve years now.
The use of LCD TVs and improvement of the sound system helps improve public participation during mass.
Being tech-savvy, he also uses the internet and social networking sites to reach a wider parish audience. Fr. Larry concurrently serves as Vicar Forane, as well as Director of Communication and Mass Media for the Vicariate of the Immaculate Conception of the Diocese of Antipolo.
Soon, the parish welcomed Fr. Alan Oresca, our first parochial vicar. Fr. Alan has been tirelessly helping Fr. Larry in various parish works and holds masses in the satellite chapels of the parish. Fr. Alan is known to be very vocal and delivers clear, instructive and challenging homilies.
On January 30, 2009, the Holy Family Parish implemented a program of communal spiritual activities in preparation for its Jubilee Year or silver anniversary as a parish and to develop community awareness and foster deeper spirituality among the faithful. The Jubilee Cross, Jubilee Light and the Image of the Holy Family toured the various communities one week at a time. At each station, activities included worshipful talks, sharing, songs and dances, and celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
A year later on January 11, 2010, the Jubilee Year was formally launched. The season of Lent was observed with a solemn recollection of the suffering of Jesus Christ, culminating in the joy of His resurrection on Easter Sunday. Three Marian pilgrimages then ensued. The Northern journey in May 2010 brought the faithful to Our Lady of Lourdes church in Central Azucarera de Tarlac, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary church in Manaoag (Pangasinan), and Immaculate Conception church in Balibago (Angeles, Pampanga). The second pilgrimage, also in May 2010, went to visit Our Lady of Good Voyage in Antipolo, Rizal. And the Southern pilgrimage in September 2010 travelled to the churches of Our Lady of Sorrows de Turumba church in Pakil (Laguna), Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Pagsanjan (Laguna), Kamay ni Hesus in Lucban (Quezon) and Our Lady of the Holy Rosary church in Loisiana (Laguna). Fr. Larry also led a group of pilgrims on a spiritual journey to the Holy Land in mid-October 2010. They visited places of religious significance in Jordan, Egypt and Israel.
The silver jubilee celebration itself had the overall theme "Paglingon sa Nakaraan … Paghahanda sa Kinabukasan". It began with a motorcade and the opening of the silver jubilee exhibit at the multi-purpose center. Nine days of novena masses, processions and "Alay Talento" by the various chapels and pastoral communities were offered in gratitude to God. The "Kumpisalang Bayan" was held on the eighth day of the celebration. And on the eve of the jubilee, an entertainment-filled "Gabi ng Hubileyo" followed the ninth day novena mass.
On December 12, 2010, His Excellency + Most Reverend Gabriel V. Reyes, D.D., bishop of Antipolo came to the Holy Family Parish to preside over the Holy Eucharist and bless our new Retablo – the highlight of our parish Jubilee celebration. Twenty-five parishioners were given recognition for their unwavering service to the parish and the community. A "Palaro sa Patio" for street children and simple repast "Salu-salo" followed. The momentous event was capped with the silver jubilee procession and "Misa ng Pasasalamat at Pagsasara ng Pagdiriwang".
The Holy Family Parish church was built on faith. Of that, there is no doubt.
We appreciate the things we have today as fruits of the struggles of our elders, parents, predecessors – a legacy for us to cherish and care for. Even if we now have a grand parish church, it is poignant to look back at our humble beginnings, count our blessings and be grateful to the Lord … for He has indeed truly blessed us abundantly!
And although we can point to it as a testament to our oneness as a parish, it is not so much the physical structure that we have built, but the living, breathing community of worship to the Lord that we should nurture; quite honestly a church of living stones of service to Our Lord, Our Redeemer!!