While the world celebrates Easter Sunday with eggs and bunnies, the Catholic community in rural Sungai Asap of Borneo took a spiritual turn of the celebration.
Like all Christians throughout the world, Easter Sunday for Sungai Asap folks was celebrated to mark the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Their celebration focused on the Easter Triduum – the period of three days beginning with the evening of Holy Thursday till Easter Sunday.
2018 marked the third year where Catholic devotees in the area came together at one longhouse for the weekend-long celebration.
This year, Uma Lahanan hosted the event, providing lodging and food for up to 1,000 participants. It had been held in Uma Sambop and Uma Apan back in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
To accommodate the high number of parishioners, a makeshift altar was built in the middle of the longhouse.
Some of them gathered there since Wednesday night (Apr 28) participating in activities throughout the weekend such as talks, prayers, a choir contest and bible quiz.
On Holy Thursday, the service included the ritual Washing of the Feet inspired by Jesus who washed the feet of His 12 apostles during the Last Supper.
Then the service concluded with a procession of the Blessed Sacrament to St. Ambrose Church which is just a stone’s throw away from the longhouse.
The next day, Good Friday was celebrated in solemnity with fasting and prayers.
Easter vigil celebration
The highlight of the celebration was none other the Easter Vigil on Saturday night.
It consisted of four parts; including The Service of Light, The Liturgy of the Word, Christian Initiation and the Renewal of Baptismal Vows as well as the Eucharist.
During the vigil, a huge Easter fire was kindled right in the middle of Uma Lahanan’s open space.
Then, the celebrants Rev. Fr John Chia and Rev. Fr. Sylvester Ngau Juk blessed the Paschal candle before lighting it.
The candle will be used throughout the season of Easter. It is a period of fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday.
Once the candle was lit, it was carried in complete darkness from the open space to the makeshift altar.
While the candle was proceeding, all the candles held by the parishioners were slowly lit from the Paschal candle.
Rev. Fr. Sylvester, then proceeded to chant the Easter Proclamation before the vigil continued with the Liturgy of the Word.
The vigil was also the time all the attendees renewed their baptismal promises. While newly recruited members or catechumens were baptised.
Finally, the four-day long Easter jubilation ended on Easter Sunday with a mass and a luncheon at the ruai.
Next year, the Easter celebration in Sungai Asap is expected to be held at the 101-door Kenyah longhouse of Long Bangan, Belaga.
The Roman Catholic Community during the Easter Celebration
The congregation is mostly made of the Kayan, Kenyah, Lahanan, Ukit, Penan, Seping, Kejaman and other Orang Ulu tribes.
Some of the participating longhouses were Uma Balui Liko, Uma Bawang, Uma Badeng, Uma Sambop from different areas such as Long Urun, Sungai Seping, Tubau and Sungai Asap itself.
Most of the residents in Belaga are from the Borneo Evangelical Church (SIB) denomination.
At some of the longhouses like Uma Bawang, the residents were even divided into different blocks of longhouse according to their denominations.