Celebrating Muslim-Christian friendship | Inquirer Business
First Class

Celebrating Muslim-Christian friendship

/ 02:10 AM February 11, 2024

Archbishop Charles John Brown, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, and Bishop Charlie Inzon (left), Apostolic Vicar of Jolo, celebrate mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral for the 27th death anniversary of Bishop Ben de Jesus.

MASS FOR PEACE Archbishop Charles John Brown, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, and Bishop Charlie Inzon (left), Apostolic Vicar of Jolo, celebrate mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral for the 27th death anniversary of Bishop Ben de Jesus. —PHOTOS BY MARGAUX SALCEDO

Kung Hei Fat Choi to all our Chinese friends as we begin the Year of the Dragon! Happy Isra Miraj to our Muslim friends, which was celebrated on Feb. 8 and today, Happy Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes to our Catholic brothers and sisters!!

We are so blessed to live in a world today where we can cross cultures and celebrate while respecting each other’s faith! I personally just witnessed a thriving community with strong interreligious friendship in Sulu, Mindanao.


It’s not everyday that you get an opportunity to go to Jolo. You would ordinarily need to travel another few hours by ferry after flying to Zamboanga. So I was grateful to be able to join His Excellency Archbishop Charles John Brown—Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, who presided for the Holy Mass for the 27th death anniversary of Bishop Benjamin de Jesus, former Apostolic Vicar of Jolo—at the Jolo Cathedral on Feb. 4. This was upon the invitation of Bishop Charlie Inzon, Apostolic Vicar of Jolo,

Flavors of Jolo

Flavors of Jolo


Jolo is an island in the province of Sulu, which is in the southernmost part of the Philippines. The Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo, however, includes not only the province of Sulu but also the provinces of Basilan and Tawi-Tawi. The assignment of territories for the Vicariate of Jolo must have been inspired by the Sultanate of Sulu, from which the Tausug, the ethnic Muslim group in Jolo, originated. The Sultanate of Sulu once exercised sovereignty over the present-day provinces of Basilan, Palawan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga City, as well as North Kalimantan and Eastern Sabah.

Tausug means people of Suug, the old name of the island of Jolo; although some say it also means “people of the current.” I had the pleasure of being seated beside Gov. Abdusakur “Sakur” Mahai, a proud Tausug, at the luncheon for the death anniversary of Bishop Ben. This was meaningful for me as my paternal grandmother, whose father hailed from Siasi in Sulu, was Tausug. As someone with Tausug blood, I was delighted to finally make it to my paternal great grandfather’s home province, and be seated beside no less than the governor, who explained to me the flavors of real Tausug food!

Tausug cuisine

Most memorable on the menu was a black soup that was similar to sinigang called tiyula itum. The broth is clear but with a hint of black, which apparently comes from charred coconut meat. It looks mysterious, if not suspicious, because of its color. But it is delicious! The broth, which is sour like a strong version of sinigang, is filled with spice-laden chunks of beef. It is said to be ‘food for royalty’ and usually served for special occasions like weddings. It was indeed a special occasion, with no less than the Papal Nuncio honoring Bishop Ben as a martyr with the people gathered at the Notre Dame campus celebrating peace in Mindanao.

We were also served pyanggang chicken, another Tausug dish. The chicken is traditionally stewed in spices, then grilled. It uses palapa itum, an aromatic spice paste that uses burnt coconut meat extracted from the coconut shell, which has a deep and nutty flavor.

Later, we also got to try bang bang sug, a collection of native cakes and other local treats, thanks to the 11th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army led by Maj. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio, whom we also had the pleasure of dining with before flying back to Manila.

Bishop Ben

Over lunch, a tribute video to Bishop Ben was played. It was really beautiful, heartwarming and inspiring to see Muslims and Christians from all walks of life coming together to honor the life of a bishop who was a hero for the people of Jolo, regardless of faith. In the Catholic Church today, the buzzword is synodality or journeying together, and Jolo opened our eyes to the real friendship, the real journeying together, of Muslims and Christians in this area. Bishop Charlie Inzon, fondly called Bishop Cha, even explained that at the Notre Dame schools in the vicariate, the Muslims outnumber the Catholic students. And we were so happy to see Muslims at the bishop’s residence, alongside the Catholics there.


The people of Jolo, however, went through the painful experience of wars and terrorism before seeing the peace they have today.

Bishop Ben was shot six times and died just outside the Jolo Cathedral in 1997. But the painful experience of war in Jolo did not end there. Bishop Cha recalls that in the 30 years of violence in Mindanao, there was even a time when bombings came practically monthly; and in the morning of Jan. 27, 2019, two bombs exploded at the same Cathedral, killing 20 and injuring over 100 people.

Holy ground

Archbishop Brown, in his homily, honored not only Bishop Ben but all who lost their lives and were hurt in these bombings. He noted, “When a Cathedral is dedicated, it is dedicated by the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ on the altar … [the Jolo Cathedral] is in some way doubly consecrated: with the blood of Christ on the altar and the blood of believers on the floor of this Cathedral.” He added, “So when you come into this Cathedral, you come into holy ground.”

The mass ended with the congregation, led by the choir, singing Let There Be Peace on Earth a capella. It was incredibly moving.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Indeed, what a privilege it was to witness the unwavering faith of the people of Sulu and the unbelievably dear friendship between the Muslims and the Christians in Jolo. I loved the bang bang sug, but truly, there is nothing sweeter than peace!

TAGS: Christian, first class, Muslim

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.