Each year, during the first full moon in March, the Higaonons– the Indigenous People of Cagayan de Oro – perform a solemn ceremony of thanksgiving and petition to Magbabaya (Creator God) and to the Holy Spirits that dwell in the Cagayan River. They believe that it is only when we show gratitude and respect for the gift of water that the balance of nature is maintained and we are protected from calamities such as severe flooding and typhoons. This solemn ceremony, which is known as ‘Pamulalakaw’,takes place at the bank of the Cagayan River, near its source. It involves the ritual slaughter and offering of chickens and goats to Magbabaya and the Spirits who protect the watershed, as a sign of respect and gratitude for the gift of water and as a prayer for the restoration of a right balance in nature and a respectful relationship between humanity and the watersheds.
In a city that in 2011 suffered the frightening effects of a massive flash flooding of that same Cagayan River – a calamity that killed more than 1,000 and rendered over 10,000 families homeless – the importance of this annual ceremony of thanksgiving and prayers for respect between the river and its inhabitants takes on much added significance.
No one is spared the merciless onslaught wrought by calamities of this scale. Such death and destruction traverses all bounds of religion and ethnicity. The 2011 flash-flood in Cagayan de Oro killed, Christians, Muslims and Higaonons alike. For that reason the annual ‘Pamulalakaw’, while still performed by the Higaonons, with faithful adherence to their beliefs and traditions, has become an interfaith event. Christian and Muslim religious leaders, including our Catholic archbishop and the Imam of the city’s Central Mosque, join the ceremony each year and bring their chickens and goats to be offered by the HigaononBaylans (priests) as a gesture of support and solidarity with the people who have been tasked by Our Creator (Magbabaya) with preserving the Cagayan River Watershed and its environs.
This watershed is the sole source of water for the 900,000 inhabitants of Cagayan de Oro City. Yet it is constantly under threat from both logging and mining companies. Therefore the Muslim and Christian religious leaders in our local Interfaith Forum have vowed to remain in solidarity with the Higaonons and to support them in whatever way necessary in order to ensure that they acquire legal recognition of their ownership of this watershed, which is their ancestral domain, entrusted to them by Magbabaya, to protect and preserve for generations to come. The Higaonons have taught us Christians and Muslims an important lesson about the need to show our daily gratitude to God for the gift of water and about the importance of praying for the restoration of a right relationship between us humans and the sources of water.
Paul Glynn SSC
Prayers for the gift of Water
Prayer of Gratitude
We give you thanks for your creation and everything in it.
Teach us to love and care for communities near and far.
Inspire us to always remember you and your precious gift of water.
May we recognize the blessedness in all the earth’s water and strive to care for and protect it.
In your name we pray, Amen.
Prayer of Confession
Forgive our neglect of what you have entrusted to us as stewards.
We confess that we take your gift of water for granted
And acknowledge the need for repentance and action.
We are reminded of your power and love with every nourishing drink,
And every cleansing shower.
Empower us to speak for those who are without, and to work to ensure justice
And peace for all.Amen.
Prayer of Petition
God and Lord, Giver of Life, give us the waters of new life.
In the deserts of our lives, in the wilderness within:
Give us the waters of life.
To give us hope when our lives run dry, to give us strength when our world seems barren:
Give us waters of new life.
To let peace flow like a river and love spring forth like a fountain:
Give us the waters of new life.
To make justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a living stream:
Give us the waters of new life.
To give us- and our world- a second chance and a new beginning:
God, give us the waters of new life.