Ating Kabuhayan

Barrio Fiesta: Beyond Ourselves and Into Each Other

The Rev. John A.H. Tomoso †

We are about to celebrate the Barrio Fiesta. I’ve always loved to participate in this annual festival of culture, art, music and food; a sensual explosion of colors, textures, smells, tastes, physical and spiritual connection.

All around, it is a beautiful event, where beauty is expressed in many different ways and has become, over the years, a very meaningful event. In his book The Second Mountain, The Quest for a Moral Life, New York Times writer and commentator David Brooks shares a rather inspiring exploration of what it means to live a meaningful life.

I think that the Barrio Fiesta helps us to live meaningful lives, both in the months leading up to it and in the months that follow it.

To have “meaning” means, to a great extent, to make a commitment to living a life that is filled with culture, art, music and food; the things that fill in and color our relationships.

The Barrio Fiesta allows us the opportunity to make and nurture our relationships, our commitments to each other. In his book, Brooks posits that people like you and me, will make four big commitments: to a spouse and family, to a vocation, to a philosophy or faith and to community. In each of these four big commitments, it can be understood that personal fulfillment is achieved; that personal fulfillment can be “fused into one coherent whole.”

I see the Barrio Fiesta as a coherent whole event, that wraps itself around these four big commitments discussed by Brooks.

Painting: Fernando Armosolo

First of all, the Barrio Fiesta is a family event. There is something for everyone; for every generation. Each family member gets to share something; personal or social, to be in the festive moment and to enjoy seeing others having a good time. Over the years, I’ve seen spouses enjoying each other, especially if one or the other is in a contest or pageant. Together, the family is a coherent whole and is committed to make sure that the Barrio Fiesta is something that is an expression of who they are in the community they live.

Second, the Barrio Fiesta takes work and, as with all community events, many talents and skills come together to make it a success.

Third, the Barrio Fiesta is a collective expression of what Filipinos believe; about themselves, about others, about things that are not necessarily seen but felt in one’s heart and mind. I believe that as Filipinos, we adhere to a philosophy that life is a gift and must be built and shared by all. The Barrio Fiesta is actually built and shared by more than just Filipinos.

Fourth, the Barrio Fiesta is, bottom line, about community. It is about all of us. It is about our commitment to each other, especially to the younger generations.

So, let’s say that the Barrio Fiesta is commitment and fulfillment “fused into one coherent whole.” It has certainly endured as an event for 50 years. Thus, it has entered a moral dimension; of what is right and wrong and how we, as a people and a community behave for and with each other.

In The Second Mountain, The Quest for a Moral Life, Brooks explores how our commitments to each other help define meaning and purpose in, with and around each other. There is, I believe, a wisdom and understanding that allows the Barrio Fiesta to become meaningful and even moral for each of us.

Simply, this wisdom is how the Barrio Fiesta takes each of us, beyond ourselves, and into each other. This helps, in no small way, to make our four big commitments to each other purposeful, intentional and true to ourselves.

So, together, let’s celebrate the Barrio Fiesta, which is commitment, and beauty, and culture and truth. The truth is about how we, as a community, make a commitment to each other, so that as our community fulfills itself, we fulfill and make each other a coherent whole.

See you at the Barrio Fiesta, with your family, with what you enjoy, with what you have faith in, with those you live with, every day. By the way, for Brooks, the first mountain is a self-centered life. Thus, the Barrio Fiesta is definitely on the second mountain as it is an “other-centered… interdependent” event. Kababayan, we need each other to make the Barrio Fiesta a success. We need to stay on the second mountain!

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. In March 2019, Tomoso retired as the Executive Director of the non-profit Tri-Isle Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc., after a social work career that spanned 43 years of practice. His wife Susan is a 7th grade Language Arts Teacher at Maui Waena Intermediate School.