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Lessons from Palis-Lasa

I am very grateful for the kind invitation of Father Markjill Manalili, the pastor of Saint Antonine of Florence parish at Mabatang in Abucay, where he informed me of the efforts in his parish to revive an inspiring and imaginative tradition called is called “Palis- Lasa.” The old custom, he enthusiastically told me, is “culturally entertaining and religiously uplifting.” His words made me curious and I decided to do research on this old custom.

“Palis-Lasa” is Kapampangan word for broom. “Palis” is Tagalog for walis. “Lasa” is kind of grass called tiger lass which in Tagalog, is referred to as tambo. Technically, therefore “Palis-Lasa” is walis tambo. The brooms that have made Baguio known are actually prepared in this little barrio. The hardworking people of Mabatang are considered experts in making handicraft. Even if they don’t grow the strong yet slender native grass called “lasa” or tiger lass they patiently weave them into the most durable and beautiful brooms that are brought to the markets of Baguio.

Palis-Lasa”is an agricultural-religious festival in honor of Saint Antonine of Florence. Processions are held after the 8,00 a.m. and 5,00 p.m. concelebrated Holy Masses. These processions are participated in by devotees from the Barangays, some of whom are garbed with colorful and attractive attire made of palis-lasa or walis tambo. They dance as they walk with the “reyna” or queens of the different Barangays holding up and swaying the little statues or pictures of Saint Antonine, to the rhythmic tune of the theme song of the patron saint.

Life of Saint Antonine of Florence

While his name may connote smallness, Antonino was nevertheless great in gentleness and grace. As Archbishop of Florence he had the undiminished loving reverence and respect of all Florentines. In his tender years, the little Antonino already shown praiseworthy attraction to prayers and retentive attention to the sermons of Blessed Giovanni Dominici, a prior of Santa Maria Novella. At the age of fifteen he asked the holy prior for admission to the Dominican Order. But in order to dissuade for a time the young Antonino, the saintly prior advised him to study and learn the voluminous Decretum Gratianum. But only after a year he returned to him, having memorized to the letter the monumental Decretum Gratianum. Thus Antonino was accepted to the Order.

Antonino took the habit at the priory of Fiesole with Fra Angelico the future great artist as one of his companions. During his stay and later as superior, Antonino showed outstanding gifts as a scholar, preacher and leader. He diligently applied himself to reforming and restoring the Dominican priories, especially in Naples, to its primitive Rule. With his sanctity and scholarly intellectual talents Roman popes consulted him, especially regarding cases in Canon Law. Highest court officials in Florentine government relied on his fair and just counsel. They even commissioned him with intrinsic matters on their behalf. With his moral and saintly reputation, Antonino was called as ‘counsellor.’

Despite his coming from a well-off family and his high ecclesiastical position, Antonino remained rigidly simple and truly humble. He had only six staff members in his household. He did not possess silver plates or horses, but only had one mule for his errand services. And the mule was often sold to help the poor with the rich families usually who bought the animal usually returning the mule to the good Archbishop. He opened his granaries and purses for the needy. He acknowledged himself as the ‘protector of the poor’. Even as he was surrounded and assisted by the palace higher–ups, Antonino was unbending when it came to faith and morals. He was firm, decisive and dedicated against gambling, usury and material abuses. He was a staunch defender of Church’s law and teachings.

Untiring in his efforts to help his flock and to inspire his clergy to live a virtuous life, Antonino garnered the lasting esteemed and affection of the whole city of Florence. It’s been said and recognized that the preservation of Florence from frequent earthquakes, violent storms and feudal wars was because of the prayerful and holy life of the Archbishop of Florence, Saint Antonine.

Lessons from Palis-Lasa

Thus it was my privilege to celebrate the Holy Mass on the feast of Saint Antonine at eight on a clear and bright Sunday morning. The church was full. The excited and well adorned participants of palis-lasa were in full attendance. In my homily I shared with them three lessons we can gleam from the brooms.

One. A broom is made of many ‘lasa’ (tambo). It is only when collected together and bound to each other that palis lasa becomes stronger and durable. Yet a single lasa is easy to break and cannot sweep any dirt. Tied to one another they become useful. United to one another, they can remove dirt from object, even though it is heavy or big, into a dust pan. But single palis lasa strand cannot do anything.

We need one another and united with one another, our work will be easy and we can produce better results. When we unite ourselves with Jesus, our journey in this life will be safe and we will surely be saved. But when we separate ourselves from Jesus we become vulnerable to temptations and to sin. When we detach ourselves from Jesus we are helpless and even hopeless. Likewise, united with our community we are stronger amidst the storms in life. Like a broom we have to attach ourselves to Jesus so that we achieve our goals. Like a broom we have to stick with one another through thick and thin so that we can accomplish our given tasks. Jesus reminds us, “he who live in me and I in him, will produce abundantly, for apart from me you can do nothing”(John 15,5).

Two. A broom is clean and beautiful. But a broom is not meant to be admired or to be displayed. The broom is made to be used. It has to touch the floor, to sweep the dirt. A broom must be dirtied, and lose some of its lasa so that it can fulfill its function. And only when it is dirtied and its lasa wasted that a broom proves it worth. Only when the broom is used until its beauty has faded and its lasa shortened and consumed, that a broom reveals its true value.

We are given skills and talents and we have to use them for others. We should not keep them for ourselves. It is only when we share them with others that they can be useful and we become of service to others. Our talents and treasure are meant to be used and spent for others. Like a broom we should not be afraid to be dirtied, to be tired or worn out in serving and sharing. Like a broom we are created to be used for God’s glory and to be of help to others. Jesus describes it best when He proclaims “unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit”(John 10,58).

Three. A broom goes together with the hands which handles it. A broom functions in tandem with the hand. Without a hand to hold it, a broom is useless. It is the hand which takes it and puts it to use.

We need direction. We need someone to guide us and lead us to the right and moral path of life. Someone, who is very willing to hold us. Someone, who really cares and loves us. Jesus tells us in John 14,6 that He is “the way , and the truth , and the life.” We should let ourselves be guided and directed by Jesus. Let Jesus take hold of us and control us. Like a broom let us cooperate with Jesus who always takes us to the Father. Like a broom let us submit ourselves to Jesus who is holds our life in His hands. We are meant for Jesus. And we should be for Jesus. He assures us, “and know that I am with you always, until the end of the world” (Matthew 28,20).

After the celebration of the Holy Mass we went out of the Church, and watched the street dancing processions in honor of Saint Antonine of Florence. “This is truly a culturally educational and religiously enlightening custom worth remembering and repeating,” I silently said to myself.

 

+Ruperto Cruz Santos

Bishop of Balanga

 

Appeared in LIFE TODAY, February 2011 issue, pages 4-6.

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Diocese of Balanga
(Bataan, Philippines)