Celebrating Our Cultural Heritage…
We celebrate everything that comes to us from God.
The Rev. John A.H. Tomoso †
The Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) is a great place to look to when you want to include the concept, the idea of our “Heritage of Faith” in your prayer-life. To start with, Isaiah 38:19 reminds us that “It is the living who gives thanks to you, as I do today.” As we prepare to celebrate the Maui Fil-Am Heritage Festival on October 20th, I know that we will give thanks for who we are as an ethnic community. Isaiah goes on to remind us that parents tell their children about God’s faithfulness. With this Festival, we are faithful to passing on our cultural heritage to the younger generations living among us.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 tells us that we “shall love the Lord (our) God with all (our) heart and with all (our) soul and with all (our) might… these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on (our) heart(s).” With this Festival, we ask ourselves the question: What is on our hearts that we should so diligently and with passion and conviction, work to put it on? As with all cultures; with values, customs and traditions, we feel it so very important, as we love God, to also love who we are as Filipinos, as Kababayan. As Deuteronomy admonishes “You shall teach them diligently to your (children) and shall talk to them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Whether in waking or sleeping, walking or running, sitting or standing; in living out who we are here on Maui, we must teach our children what it is that makes one a Filipino; even a Filipino who lives in a multi-cultural and pluralistic society that is this island we call home.
Psalm 127:3 prays “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” This Festival will include children, who are learning and living their culture. They will dance, and sing and relate to many folk and perhaps dressed in traditional costume. It is good to be with children, our children, because they will continue our culture; a way of life passed on to us by our parents and grandparents. Psalm 135:12 prays that God gave us land, this land is a heritage”. Let’s think of this Festival as a way to fertilize our community, with the fruits of our cultural way of life. I think, through the eyes of faith, we then become “His people” who know and love a cultural heritage, as we know and love Him. God asks that we not keep children from Him. So, let the children come and celebrate this heritage with us.
Certainly, a heritage from God is good thing. In Psalm 119:111, we pray that whatever we inherit from God is “forever (a) joy of (the) heart.” Psalm 136 reminds us that God’s heritage comes to us because of His “… everlasting (and) loving kindness.” At this Festival, we will see how kind, generous and truly timeless is the heritage we Kababayan have and must nurture, for all generations. We will also see, as Psalm 16:6 prays, that our heritage is “pleasant and… beautiful.” This reminds me that we are a pleasant and beautiful, even kind people.
So, let us celebrate our Filipino Heritage. You know, 1 Peter 5:3 asks that we not see our heritage, our culture, as one to be “lorded over” others, but “proving to be an example” with others to learn from, so that we might learn from them. Indeed, our cultural heritage is one that is to be laid out in our community; spread out like the finely sewn and colorful quilt that it is, to be admired, touched, even used. It is right next to the other cultural quilts; all the other cultural heritages being admired, touched, even used by our neighbors and friends. And, if your family is like mine, the next time you go to a dinner party with family, you will see and enjoy food from, perhaps, Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and Filipino cultures. Remember Hebrew 12:1, that cites “we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us.” So too are we surrounded by the lives of many who, like these witnesses, are a reflection of the values, customs, traditions and cultures to be lived and celebrated. As we celebrate our cultural heritage, we celebrate everything that comes to us from God; that surrounds us, and it is all good!
Rev. John A. Hau’oli Tomoso † is a Social Worker and Episcopal Priest. He is a Priest Associate at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Wailuku and an on-call Chaplain at Maui Memorial Medical Center. Tomoso was graduated from St. Anthony Jr./Sr. High School, the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota (Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology) and Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (Masters of Social Work). In 2008, he retired from the civil service as the Maui County Executive on Aging. Tomoso is currently the Executive Director of the non-profit Tri-Isle Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc. His wife Susan is a 7th grade Language Arts Teacher at Maui Waena Intermediate School.