Philippine Daily Inquirer

Keeper of Chinese tradition

- Maurice Malanes

MEMBERS of the Chinese-Filipino community in Baguio City may have adopted Western corporate management and outlook, but they cannot shed a rich cultural heritage borne out of 5,000 years of Chinese civilizati­on.

Many of them may have also converted to Christiani­ty, but they still observe major traditiona­l Chinese holidays and events.

Thanks to the Bell Church which has become a keeper of Chinese tradition, religion and philosophy.

One cannot miss it at the border of Baguio and neighborin­g La Trinidad in Benguet. Built at a foothill surrounded by pine trees, the Bell Church has a temple and other structures with pagoda-type architectu­ral designs and has become one of the city’s most popular landmarks.

Church administra­tors help remind the Chinese-Filipino community in Baguio about major traditiona­l Chinese festivitie­s and holidays. These include the Lunar New Year, the Moon Festival in Septem- ber, the hungry ghost month sometime between July and August, and others.

“The Bell Church is a religion in itself,” says Francis Brito, personal assistant to the Bell Church head known as the “supreme administra­tor.”

It has five patron saints, which, according to Brito, represent the five major religions in China—Taoism, Buddhism, Confuciani­sm, the Roman Catholic Church and Islam.

“So the Bell Church is actually ecumenical and interfaith in its orientatio­n,” he says.

Law of karma

As one of its basic principles, the Bell Church teaches about the law of karma. This is the law of action and reaction, which is similar to Christ’s “as you sow, so shall you reap” teaching, says Brito.

As part of their obligation, members and devotees strive hard to “live morally upright, always help others in need, attend Mass and practice other virtues—which all bring good karma,” says Brito, who is in charge of the church’s propagatio­n department.

The department helps spread the Bell Church’s tenets and philosophy which, Brito says, “we can share even through casual conversati­on if given the opportunit­y.”

The Bell Church stresses the developmen­t of a humanitari­an heart and spirit. This explains why it has a team of volunteer fire fighters, complete with a fire truck and medical personnel, which responds to fires, accidents and disasters, such as Typhoon “Pepeng” in October last year.

Establishe­d in Baguio on Aug. 14, 1960, the Bell Church has since expanded in other parts of the Philippine­s. It now has nine branches in Metro Manila and the cities of Dumaguete, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Zamboanga and Cotabato.

Chapters were also establishe­d in Hong Kong and in San Francisco, California.

 ?? EV ESPIRITU ?? GOLDEN YEAR The Bell Church at the border of Baguio City and La Trinidad, Benguet, turned 50 years old in August, representi­ng half a century of ChineseFil­ipino legacy.
EV ESPIRITU GOLDEN YEAR The Bell Church at the border of Baguio City and La Trinidad, Benguet, turned 50 years old in August, representi­ng half a century of ChineseFil­ipino legacy.

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