We usually celebrate Easter in the Philippines by waking up before dawn to attend the very early morning mass and witness the Salubong (restaging of the scene where Jesus Christ first saw Mother Mary after His Resurrection; little girls dressed as angels lift the black veil as symbol of mourning from the image of the Blessed Virgin in caroza). Then it’s usually followed by religious procession led by the image in caroza of the Risen Christ, His apostles and saints. I miss those events. I miss eating lechon and lechon paksiw as brunch during Easter Sunday with our entire family. Things are totally different now that we’re trying
our luck to live a better life here in Penang.
As Tina, Gabby and I tried to make the best out of our very first Easter here in Penang, we woke up early at 4:45AM, freshen up and hit the roads to the bus stop before 6AM. We ate and sipped our purchases from the ever reliable convenience store, 7-11 while waiting (for almost an hour because we were too early!) for the Rapid Penang bus that would take us from our place in Butterworth to Jetty.
At Penang Sentral bus station, I personally asked the bus drivers of the specific bus and bus number that we have to ride going to St. Anne Church in Bukit Mertajam. Two of them told me the bus will leave at 8 in the morning, which I knew would be too late for the mass. So Tina agreed to take the cab for RM 25 (PhP 350) which I haggled from RM 30 (PhP 420), hehe!
There are other few Catholic churches in predominantly Muslim state like Penang, but I wanted my family to experience St. Anne. Its mountainous backdrop with lush greens and fresh air blends beautifully with its vast interiors and exteriors.
First built in 1888, St. Anne then was only a chapel. That original small church remains to stand still on top of the hill beside the newly established parish for everyone to visit.
The interiors of the original chapel…
The image of the Resurrection perfectly overlooks from the top of the hill beside the chapel…
They built a new parish in honor of St. Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin,with bell tower that reaches the heavens…
The massive parking lot…
And the church itself…
As faithfuls started flocking inside the church, I signaled Tina to walk toward the right side first for us to go to tandas (read : malaysian word for toilet).
I led my family to sit in the pew at the church’s right side and started praying just before the mass. I knew that English Mass is always scheduled at 8AM at St. Anne but apparently, almost half of all of the church-goers at that time were dressed in Sari and mostly Indians. My hint that the mass would be in Tamil was confirmed only when it began.
We looked at each other cluelessly. Gabby was puzzled. The boy was surprised to hear hymns and biblical readings in foreign tongue. Tina and I explained to him that regardless of language, color or race, our Lord understands and appreciates the voice of our hearts. Then he started saying his very own daily prayer, also uttered one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be.
We didn’t finish the mass and walked few meters away from the church to the same Chinese eatery we used to go to.
After almost a weeklong abstinence from pork, I suggested this simple meal to be our breakfast; we ordered two (Tina had hers mixed with Peking Duck, mine was purely roasted pork cutlets both affordably delicious at RM 4 each = PhP 56 served with rice) with iced and hot coffee, while Gabby had seafood noodle soup and Milo-iced (pronounced here as Mee-lo ais).
It may not be my personal Easter favorite, lechon or at least, lechon kawali, but we savored our simple breakfast because we certainly enjoyed it TOGETHER.
God bless, everyone!