Catholic Sentinel photos by Clarice Keating
Sophia Maghinay and father, Mark, greet Father Francisco Bringuela.
Catholic Sentinel photos by Clarice Keating
Sophia Maghinay and father, Mark, greet Father Francisco Bringuela.
The Philippines includes 7,000 islands and about 700 dialects. Despite their numbers, the Filipino Catholic community still feels small and tight-knit, members say.

More than 15,000 Filipinos reside in the state of Oregon, and many of the people from this predominantly Catholic country are spread out in Archdiocese of Portland’s parishes.  

Only two parishes, however, have dedicated Tagalog-English Masses for members of the Filipino Catholic community. The Masses are both in Salem — at Queen of Peace on second Sundays at 5 p.m., and St. Vincent de Paul on the last Sundays at 5 p.m. The Salem Filipino Heritage Choir sings at both services. Primarily Salem and Keizer residents, choir members range in age from 7 to 85.

Visiting Filipino priests, often Service Father Alvin Cabacang, celebrate the Masses. Afterward, the congregation always gathers for a potluck with Filipino cuisine.

Recently, the Filipino community gathered to celebrate the ordination of Father Francisco Bringuela in June. Father Bringuela was quickly welcomed into the “family,” when he arrived at Mount Angel Seminary for his priestly formation. Members of the Filipino community call him, “Father Kiko.”  

“I felt loved and supported,” Father Bringuela said, at the Mass at Queen of Peace.

Afterward the Mass, even after three nights of parties to mark Father Kiko’s ordination, the Filipinos gathered with boisterous conversation over roast pig, chicken adobo, a noodle dish pancit, and maja blanca, a coconut pudding with sweet corn.

Maryann and Gilbert Gaviola, parishioners at Queen of Peace since 1999, said they have always felt welcomed and supported at their parish, but they also longed to offer an opportunity for young Filipinos like their daughter Faith to experience more fully their Catholic cultural heritage.

“We want them to continue to learn the culture,” said Ramon Ramillosa, who also helps organize the Tagalog-English Masses at Queen of Peace. “We want the young people to see the best of both worlds.”

Choir director Luzerna Cowan started the Salem Filipino Heritage Choir in 2009.

“I wanted it to draw people closer to God,” she said.

Judy Hall said Catholics who come from the Philippines are often actively involved in their parishes, as well as within the Filipino Catholic community.