In 1999, I had the opportunity to live with the Hanonoo Mangyans of Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro, as part of my course in Theology.
Together with two interns, we stayed in the Mangyan village from April 19 to May 4. My previous post, “Learning with the Mangyans,” details that internship.
On April 29, Amâ Anghel invited us to his farm up the mountains. He guided us to Sitio Lumboy, an hour’s walk from Sitio Amaga.
He wanted us to witness the worship gathering of born-again Mangyans held in that place.
There I saw a unique experience in celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
Their church building is made of bamboo and cogon grass thatched roof. The congregation sat on the bamboo floor.
We were very quizzical when two Mangyans deacons walked around the congregation with a branch full of leaves. It was a branch from a Mango tree.
As the Mangyan pastor read 1 Corinthians 11:1-13 in the native language, each worshipper plucked a leaf from the branch.
Then I saw them distribute pieces of” “Marie“ biscuits.
In the Mangyan language, I gathered that the pastor instructed the members to get one and wait until each one had a biscuit to eat together. The pastor read a Bible passage, and together they ate the biscuit.
The pastor bade everyone to be silent while he prayed. Then the two deacons went around again, each carrying a water pitcher.
For a moment, I thought the people would eat the Mango leaves to represent the cup. I was naively wrong.
Each member scooped water from the pitcher using the leaves they formed into a cone as they went around. After everyone drank, they sang the hymn” “Break Thou the Bread” in the Mangyan dialect.
As they sang, the deacons gathered the used leaves and placed them on the altar.
I was touched, and I admire the ingenuity, sincerity and reverence of the Mangyan worshippers.
I learned that in celebrating the Lord’s Supper, the essence always precedes the form. The Mangyans might not have the convenience of communion cups or a shiny brass chalice, but their faith and simplicity in commemorating Jesus Christ are much appreciated.
For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.2 Corinthians 1:12 (ESV)