An ecumenical church group in the Philippines staged a pre-Valentine’s Day concert to rally support for the poor and missionaries who will be sent to remote communities. At least 15 performers including a group of tribal students from the southern Philippines performed to an audience of about 400 people at St. Paul's College in Manila's Quezon City on Feb. 8. Carmelite priest Rico Palaca Ponce
of the Anawim Mission
said the event was "an expression of solidarity and support" for those who aspire for "just and humane life conditions." The Anawim Mission is a network of Catholic and Protestant organizations and individuals who try to "reinforce the mission of God for the liberation of the poor" through social projects. Redemptorist priest Teodulo Holgado said church institutions have a responsibility to raise awareness about the poor and the conditions they live in. Father Ponce said people look at Valentine’s Day as "personal, or time between lovers." "But it could also be a day to express our love to our fellow human beings," said the priest. Father Rico said his group wanted to encourage Filipinos to celebrate Valentine’s Day "outside the ordinary way." "We should include others in our expression of love," he said. Apart from Christmas, Valentine’s Day
is considered one of the most "commercialized holidays" in the Philippines where people shop for gifts and decorations for their homes. It is also a day for lovers and couples to go out on dates and for weddings and marriage proposals. Protestant pastor Nestor Ravillas told the concert's audience "not to fall into a culture of commercialism" associated with celebrations like Valentine’s Day. "We are placed in a false concept of love or the false expression of love," he said, adding Valentine's Day should be "the right time to express mercy and compassion in a non-selfish way." In his message for the concert, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro
commended church organizations that have "resolute commitment and steadfast love for the poor." "We must work together for our mutual well-being and we should especially work to uplift the conditions of our brothers and sisters with the least," said the prelate.
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Organizers of the event said the concert proceeds will be used to send more missionaries to poor communities.