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Priest: Carrying the cross to Mt. Tapochao a symbol of unity

MORE than 20 men took turns carrying a heavy wooden cross as they walked toward the summit of Mt. Tapochao on Good Friday.

“This symbolizes unity — helping to carry each other’s burden,” Father James Balajadia of St. Jude Parish said as he explained the meaning of the island’s most famous Lenten tradition.

The men started carrying the wooden cross at 5:30 a.m. Thomas Palacios, who has helped carry the cross for more than 37 years, said it was his way of thanking God.

“It strengthens my faith whenever I do this. I am also grateful to the other men who help us do this,” he said.

Angelray T. Guerrero, a cancer survivor, said he has been helping carry the cross for two years now.

“It is my way of giving thanks to God for what he has done for me. This year will be my 10th year in remission. I was diagnosed with a brain tumor when I was 12 years old. I had to undergo six surgeries in Hawaii and chemotherapy,” he said, adding that carrying a heavy burden to the island’s highest peak is a small inconvenience compared to the gift of life that God has given him.

Guerrero is encouraging other young people to take part in the event.

“I think everyone should experience it. It encourages unity in faith among the people.”

Although there was a 10-minute drizzle, the devotees continued their trek and finally mounted the cross at about 7 a.m.

According to Father Balajadia, the cross was erected a day before Ash Wednesday — the beginning of Lent — outside Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Susupe which is over 12 kilometers away from Mt. Tapochao. At around 4:30 a.m., on Friday, the cross was transported by pick-up truck to the base of Mt. Tapochao from where the devotees carried it all the way to the summit.

Other devotees started climbing Mt. Tapochao as early as 11 p.m. on Maundy Thursday as community groups, including the United Filipino Organization, put up canopies along the way from which they handed out water, food, fruit and refreshments to the other devotes.

Saipan Mayor David Apatang was among those who gave out fruit and bottled water to the devotees.

“I climb up here every year, and I began long before I came into office,” he said. “I am here to help make sure that people are safe and that we’ll clean up the place once they start to leave.”

He added, “We put trash bins along the way, but some still throw their trash anywhere, so we will clean up after the event.”

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/94539-priest-carrying-the-cross-to-mt-tapochao-a-symbol-of-unity

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