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Finding my own flame

Exchanging thoughts and ideas about how we partake in different traditions helped me realize the importance of finding yourself but still being open to one’s differences.

Growing up, I always dreaded hearing the homily when I would attend Mass—sitting and listening to the priest go on and on for minutes which felt like hours. It made me question my understanding of my religion and the meaning of faith. I was amazed to see how people could be so God-fearing with these traditions that I felt were forced upon me. Especially coming from a Catholic family and school, I couldn’t grasp how religion could be so important. 

In high school, I was intrigued by the different extracurricular organizations being offered—most especially religious organizations. “How could a bunch of high schoolers be so dedicated to God?” I asked myself. I took the chance by joining these groups and finding a sense of what my faith could be like. To my surprise, many people shared the same sentiments regarding these obligations we were taught to fulfill as Catholics. I was able to find a family in these communities as we would come to share our own journeys and have deep conversations about our beliefs. I soon became curious about other religions as I felt that I had been surrounded by the Catechism my whole life. 

Coming into college, I had this preconceived notion of what students would be like in a Catholic institution. In the second term of my freshman year, my professor in GEETHIC asked us to rate our faith and explain why we believed in God. It came as a culture shock to me that only two of us held this belief. As we were put into breakout rooms, many of my classmates related religion to the idea of manifestation. I was drawn to the conversation as we shared different stories and why we believe in what we do. 

Given our country’s history, it is no surprise that the Philippines is predominantly Catholic—but many other religions form part of our country’s diversity. Protestantism, Iglesia ni Cristo, Islam, and many other religions or religious sects are present yet lack recognition and representation in different sectors of our society. 

In my few years of college, I have been able to meet more people from different backgrounds. We exchanged thoughts and ideas about how we partake in different traditions, and this helped me realize the importance of finding yourself but still being open to one’s differences. 

Learning more about different traditions and ways of looking up to a higher being made me find a flaw that many Filipinos still share: the lack of awareness of others’ beliefs. Living in my own echo chamber made me realize how I had only scratched the surface of the different ways people molded their faith. 

With Christmas around the corner, I’ve begun to wonder if this overshadows other traditions that are celebrated around the world. Just like the Jews have Hanukkah or the Muslims have Ramadan, other religions have their own highly-anticipated observances. However,  since not many Filipinos would know about these holidays, it’s easy to overlook these. What I find intriguing most about these different observances around the world are the discipline and teachings these religions bring. During Ramadan, Muslims fast for a month every year which is a big commitment in itself. I have always wondered what it would be like to fast—even just for a day—and to experience what many people observe every year. Though it may not be the full experience, it gives me an idea of different views and teachings around the world. What also makes this tradition captivating is the sense of a community going through this journey together. Especially in this day and age where we fight for more representation, learning about the under-represented would help everyone hone a mutual understanding of our diverse society. 

Now, I understand the deeper meaning behind my religious obligations, and now the homilies aren’t as “boring” as they were when I was younger. Each person explores their own values and beliefs—this is why I find religion unique. Being brought up in different households with different levels of religiousness shapes us and helps us explore to become our own person. Having gone through my own journey showed me that I should not be pressured into becoming what people expect me to be. Though this is not the end of my own journey to self-discovery, I found myself wanting to explore more of the world and the society we live in. 

By Bettina Uriarte

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