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Buongon and Kamunggay

Fr. Carmelo O. Diola, SSL

Spaces of Hope


I GAVE people buongon (pomelo) last Christmas. They were generously given to me by a dear friend from Kidapawan. I gave them out in clusters of threes or fives inside green-colored eco-bags.

I was pleasantly surprised at the unanimously positive responses of the recipients. They really liked the fruit and were effusive in their thanks. One man, who has everything money can buy, peered inside the bag and exclaimed, “This is my favorite,” as he clutched his regalo.

This got me thinking. What is in the fruit that makes it a run-away favorite for many people? Is it perhaps its refreshing citrusy aroma, a waft of which is guaranteed to perk up the senses? Or is it its sweet-sour taste that lingers on the palate? Or perhaps its combination with salt that triggers the salivary glands? Or was my friend keenly aware of the health and healing benefits of pomelo?

It takes some skill to peel the buongon correctly. One begins by slicing the ends of both sides of the fruit to allow the fingers to peel from side to side. One has to be extra careful here since cutting too close into the flesh might injure it, resulting,

I’ve been told, in bitter taste. The fruit then combines toughness with a delicate nature. Opposite poles attract.

Perhaps it is all these and something more basic. The juicy flesh of the pomelo is pulled out of the cross section of the fruit and shared with others. There is a communitarian dimension to it. It is more fun eating from the same buongon with others.


The IEC seeks to “promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church.” What better way to highlight this centrality than by the opening and closing Masses, the daily liturgies, and the first communion of 5,000 children and some teenagers? Of course, a Eucharistic congress is not complete without a Eucharistic procession.

On Friday Jan. 29, a grand procession at 5:30 p.m. will course through the streets of Cebu City. This is after a 4:00 p.m. Mass at the Cebu Capitol building with Plaza Independencia as end points. Who says Church and State need to keep each other at arms length while being separate?

A four-foot, 45 kg. monstrance, custom-made in Manila, is the sole object of worship of the procession. This is “to show” (Lat. monstrare) to the world that the Eucharistic Lord is worthy of latria or the worship shown to God alone. This will also be used by the CBCP in its plenary vigil, Jan 22 to 24 and the Youth vigil Jan. 28.

The base and the cross of the monstrance are made of silver chrome. There are five studs of pearls inlaid in sampaguita form in the receptacle symbolizing five centuries of Christianity in the Pearl of the Orient. The rays and the round receptacle for the consecrated host are gold plated. In the beams of the cross, as part of the rays and not very distinguishable from the latter, are four needles of the compass that are shaped like daggers. They remind us of our missionary mandate to the four corners of the world.

The use of silver kamunggay (malunggay) as accent adjacent to the rays speaks of the Eucharistic-like traits of this poor man’s vegetable. Very highly nutritious, it is also highly available if only people make use of it. It also grows where other plants fear to tread.


The Solidarity and Communion Committee (SCC) set up a monitoring board for the 500 street and other very poor kids who are making their first communion on Saturday, Jan. 30. Cardinal Vidal, a first communicant himself during the 1937 IEC in Manila, is main presider for the first communion of 5,000 individuals.

On the monitoring board are names of 19 Cebu-based groups involved in reaching out to and preparing the materially-disadvantaged children, most of whom are outside the radar screen of school-based catechesis. There are eight parishes, four religious houses, four non-profit organizations, a public school, and two government offices involved. There are also five other local churches: Tacloban, Tagbilaran, Calbayog, Digos, and Dumaguete.

The youngest first communicants are seven-years old while the oldest is 36. As of this writing, 375 have profiles. Of these, 222 have baptismal certificates. 140 are baptized but do not have baptismal certificates while 13 do not have birth certificates. They do not fit into the usual profile of children in schools. They will receive not only the Eucharist but also a first communicant attire, a pair of shoes, a t-shirt with an IEC patch, plus a bag of food, and other gifts. They will find companions on the journey.

The IEC prayer includes the lines: “Send us your Holy Spirit, that He may lead us to walk humbly with the poor and the marginalized, in the company of Mary…” The IEC is an event as well as a journey. We have to start somewhere.

Buongon and kamunggay for the road, anyone?

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