The Harvest Festival at the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM) Penang

You don’t have to be a Sarawakian or a Sabahan to celebrate the Harvest Festival. Thus, for the first time in CDM’s relatively new but exciting history, the Bahasa Malaysia (BM) Apostolate Ministry organised a Pesta Gawai, Kaamatan and Kesyukuran celebration at 12 noon on the 22nd May 2016, in conjunction with the Harvest Festival 2016. It was inspired and initiated by the Parish Priest, Fr. Martin Arlando together with the BM Apostolate Coordinator, Mr. Albert Johnny Ngalai, who is also this year’s Pesta Chairman at Church of Divine Mercy Sg. Ara Penang.

The heart of the celebration was mainly towards uniting the many colorful ethnic groups nationwide together with our neighboring country, Indonesia, and most importantly, for it to be a joyous and fun-filled celebration with loved ones.

Traditionally, this festival symbolizes the continuity of the ethnic groups forefathers’ cultural heritage and inherited values. It is, in essence, a thanksgiving celebration upon a successful harvest as well as to show appreciation to God for a fruitful and bountiful harvest. This year’s celebration at CDM brought together the colorful and vibrant ethnic groups from Sarawak, Sabah and Indonesia.

The Mass began with the congregation gathered at the church entrance. Fr. Martin recited a prayer and used a blowpipe to shoot the balloons which were hung to the “Ranyai” (a place where the presents and gifts were located). The guests together with the Parish Priest then danced around the “Ranyai”. This marked the beginning of the celebration.
The BM Mass was attended by approximately 450 people of various working groups from churches in Penang and as far as Perak, Kedah and Kuala Lumpur. Joining in the celebration were also CDM parishioners as well as students from the local university, USM. They came in throngs by buses, taxis, their own transport and rented vehicles. This surprising and unexpected large number of turnout was way beyond the earlier prediction of about 350. Due credit for this high attendance must be given to the continuous promotion by the Promotion Team.

During the Mass three cultural dances were performed. The Ngajat (Iban) was performed by an ethnic group from Sarawak, Sumazau (KadazanDusun) from Sabah’s ethnic group and also a dance by the Indonesian ethnic group, Batak. For the Offertory, various gifts were brought to the altar with the accompaniment of live music played by the traditional instrument called the SAPE which originates from the Orang Ulu group in Sarawak.

At the end of the Mass, Pesta Chairman Mr. Albert Johnny Ngalai delivered his speech, welcoming and thanking the guests and parishioners for their presence and interest in this celebration.

After the Mass, there was fellowship with food and drinks done in the traditional way. Staying as true as possible to the actual celebration. The guests and parishioners were also entertained by the live cultural performances of song and dance by the Pesta Working Committee.

Some comments received from various people who came to this festival showed how significant this celebration was in fostering racial harmony and understanding among Catholics of all races and ethnic origins.

“Amazed! I had never had seen a blowpipe performance live before and it is very exciting that Fr.Martin had managed to blow and hit in one shot those balloons hanging at the “Ranyai”.” – Simon

“We could feel the warrior spirit alive from each and every performance. Witnessing such beautiful and graceful performance from various culture truly portrays the harmony we are living in.” – MOH

“All this while for the Harvest Festival I had only celebrated my own culture that is the Kadazan Dusun in Sabah. However this year, for the first time ever I experienced other various cultures that celebrate this Harvest Festival as well. The Bahasa Malaysia Mass which encompasses 3 Ethnics from different backgrounds truly amazed me and my family. We were lucky to have been given opportunity to see how the blowpipe works. Our ancestral tradition grows hand in hand with our faith through such events in Churches where just as mentioned in –“2 Tes.2: 15 , ‘Dimana Paulus menasihati umatnya; sebab Itu, Berdirilah Teguh dan berpeganglah pada ajaran-ajaran yang kamu terima dari kami, baik secara lisan mahupun secara tertulis. Ajaran-Ajaran yang tidak tertulis semacam itulah yang kita sebut Tradisi” –Jovita

“The celebration of Harvest festival at CDM truly touches me and my family who are far away from our origin/village for nearly 20 years. We felt so much as if we were at our hometown with the cultural performance, food and drinks, and the fellowship after the Mass where we all gathered and danced together just like how we used to celebrate back in our hometown. Such a lively, creative and amazing experience!”

“Celebrating Harvest Festival Mass in CDM Sg. Ara brings us back to our hometown which we missed the most as we are far away from Indonesia. The warmness of the parishioners who welcomed us, the dances which reminds us of our ancestors, the performances which portrays our culture, hospitality and the joy on each and every faces during the celebration was indeed unforgettable. The feeling of being accepted and being together with our fellow Malaysian friends through such celebration in Church of Divine Mercy, how blessed we are! We witnessed and experienced other cultures in Malaysia and we are proud to be part of it”- Melanie, Ayu and fellow Indonesians.

The spirit of unity was truly felt and it was such a blessing that after months of preparation, the first Harvest Festival Mass in CDM was enjoyed by all who came. Thank you Fr.Martin Arlando for such supporting encouragement in our preparation and to the organizers especially Bahasa Malaysia (BM) Apostolate as well as to each and every individual who had contributed to make the Harvest Festival Mass a successful one.

Selamat Hari Gawai, gayu guru gerai nyamai, lantang senang nguan menua! Oohaa!

Written by,
Dr Ivan Filmer
29th May, 2016

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