Buddhist monks help heal PH-HK ties
MANILA, Philippines–They are here to help “wandering souls” find peace and complete the healing of strained relations between two governments.
A group of Buddhist monks from Hong Kong is in Manila to commemorate the August 2010 Quirino Grandstand hostage crisis that killed eight Hong Kong tourists, by offering prayers for the victims and also for Filipinos who had perished in other major tragedies.
The 27 monks from the Gig Lok Monastery were formally welcomed Wednesday by Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, whose apology to the Hong Kong government on behalf of the city in April went around the diplomatic nuances that for over three years prevented the national government from formally mending relations with the Chinese administration region.
City Hall said the monks, led by Master Shi Fu, will preside over a “Day of Prayer” on Saturday, Aug. 9, one of the two dates set by the local government to mark the hostage drama, which was triggered by a disgruntled former policeman before ending in a bungled rescue operation.
“At 9:30 a.m., we will start with the first morning prayer for the god of the earth,” Shi said in a press conference. “The next prayer, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., will be for bodhisattva [enlightenment].”
“The Chinese believe that when the death is tragic, as what happened in this incident, the souls linger and are constantly wandering, as if they are in denial that they are already dead,” said Manila Councilor Bernie Ang, who authored the resolution conveying Manila’s apology. “They will just be here roaming, without any direction. We have to do these prayers— and it takes one full day—to let their spirits move on.”
Shi added that the final part of the prayers on Aug. 9 will be for all Filipinos who died in crimes, accidents and calamities.
“From 4:30 to 9 p.m., we will pray for all the souls not only of the victims but for all those who died in all kinds of accidents. Hopefully the Philippines’ peace and order situation will improve,” he said through an interpreter.
Aug. 9 was chosen as one of the two days of prayer based on the Chinese lunar calendar. It corresponds to Aug. 23—the day of the 2010 hostage crisis— in the Gregorian calendar.
The second day of prayer, Aug. 23, will be marked with Christian rites.
Estrada said he invited the monks “to show the Hong Kong people that our apology is sincere. It’s part of our hope to fully restore the friendship between Hong Kong and Manila.
“When I went to Hong Kong, I thanked the government officials there for accepting our apology, and because of that everything is back to normal. No more visas needed for our diplomats to go there, no more restrictions on tour groups,” he said, referring to the sanctions earlier imposed on Filipinos by Hong Kong as a result of diplomatic tensions.
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