Vilvoorde Filipino Festival ‘O4

A personal account and reflection

By Sister Mary Carmela OCD

Sister Mary Carmela last wrote here in May-June 2004. The website of her monastery

‘Oh, how good and wonderful it is when brothers and sisters live as one…’ (Ps 132)

18 September 2004 was a date worth remembering with joy and gratitude for another marvel done by God in our midst. The Filipino Fiesta celebration drew around 500 people from all walks of life. It was held at the Zaal Star, ‘Star Lounge,’ a parish-owned multi-purpose hall in the heart of Vilvoorde, a few blocks from the Carmelite monastery. Though initiated by the Filipino community here, under the able leadership of Lilibeth Villareal from Davao, it was strongly supported by Filipinos from other parts ofBelgium, with their families and friends.

The ‘dinner and dance for a cause,’ for the benefit of the Carmelite monastery church, was a great success. Because it was perfectly done and pleased everyone and because of the number who came? No! Success is not measured by quantity but by quality, not by how perfectly something is done but by the love with which it is done. To please everyone? We know that’s impossible! But the success of our fiesta lies in something more than that. We can only point to the unity, team-work, coordination, reconciliation, joyful and selfless giving of time, talents and resources by the different communities, Filipino and Belgian, without asking who would get the credit. This created the proper ambience and warm fellowship that led to a very enthusiastic response from the contented guests, something captured beautifully on their videos and by their cameras. There were many other hidden things seen only by the Lord that will surely be revealed on judgment day.

Each guest on arrival received lumpia rolls and a drink. The formal dinner began at 7:30 with an opening prayer by our parish priest, Pastor Geert Aelbrecht. The dinner for 500 reminded us of the multiplication of loaves when Our Lord fed 5,000. It was unbelievable how, with a modest sum of money for food, there was more than enough - except for rice and dessert! Fortunately, one Filipina had an extra sack of rice. But all were content with the delicious Asian dishes. The minor hitches were nothing compared to the generous, free labor of the kitchen staff, which normally costs much in Europe.. The preparation took several days before the feast itself.

The formal program started after 9. ilibeth Villareal was the main emcee, while Iny Goyvaerts-Driessen introduced the dances in Nederlands, Dutch (Flemish), one of Belgium’s two major languages, the other being French. There were nine dances. These included the Dugso, a ritual fire dance from Malaybalay, Bukidnon, done by two young Belgian-Filipina mestizas. Then two Ifugao boys, in the country for only two years, presented an Ifugao hunters’ dance, dressed in Ifugao costume. Seven dalagitas, wearingmalongs made from curtains, like the children’s dresses in The Sound of Music, did two dances of Filipino Muslims.Next were some dances by the Belga Cultura Filipina, all professionals.

Then came the finale. After Iny’s short introduction, a beautiful Belgian teenager in Maria Clara attire took over the microphone as narrator for a re-enactment of the Christianization of the Philippines. The participants were all misdienaars, Mass servers, of Carmel or Troostkerk, six of them children of Jan and Iny Goyvaerts, a Belgian couple. Their eldest son played Ferdinand Magellan, their second Rajah Humabon, their third the Spanish Augustinian missionary, their fourth child Queen Juana, their two youngest and another Mass server the children of the royal family.

This number culminated in the Sinulog, ending with Queen Juana raising the image of the Santo Niño. There were also two hand-painted images of the Sto Niño’s face,courtesy of the Sandiego Dance Troupe in Cebu,, raised by Magellan and the Augustinian friar.

The whole program was moving and awe-inspiring, and culturally enriching and informative, as there was an explanation before each dance. And there were many children and young people present, the dancers alone numbering around 20. The Sisters were happy and felt privileged to get to know some of them because they came to Carmel to practice and to pray the rosary with us on two Saturdays. The Sisters also watched the general rehearsal. May God and His Blessed Mother draw all these young people to Him. Who would ever think that Filipino dances could be a bridge to young people in modernEurope?

The affair ended with a dance for all. The organizing group, despite their tiredness, still had the generosity and thoughtfulness to come back the following day to clean up the place.

During the next few days everyone we met had nothing but praise for the Filipinos and their supportive Belgian spouses, children and friends. A few kind people gave constructive feedback to make the fiesta better next time.

The Sisters couldn’t find words to express their gratitude for the generous voluntary assistance of the Filipino community for the ongoing restoration of the church of this precious Carmel, the oldest existing community of Carmelite nuns in the world. Their help wasn’t only for this monastery nor for the valuable heritage of Vilvoorde City, but, above all, for the universal Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, in Whom we are all one.

Of course, the Vilvoorde Filipino community deserves not just a ‘big hand’ but a ‘grand salute’! We also owe our thanks to our parish priest, Pastor Geert Aelbrecht and Meneer (Mrs) Lucien Rummens, thezaal administrator, for allowing us the free use of the spacious hall and for being present at the affair.

We can only attribute everything to a power beyond us, Who made such a remarkable thing to happen in the midst of the spiritual crisis in Europe. As to its lasting fruits in the lives of people, we leave it all to God. We can only give Him all praise, glory and honor with Our Blessed Mother, Onze Lieve Vrouw van Troost,, Our Lady of Consolation, the Queen and Beauty of Carmel.

You may contact Sr Mary Carmela at or at Karmelklooster, Trootstraat 2, 1800 VILVOORDE, BELGIUM.