As far back as I can remember, my family has been responsible for one of the three Lånchon Kotpus in our parish of Saint Jude in Sinajaña.
A Lånchon Kotpus (Corpus Ranch) is the outdoor temporary altar, or station, set up to receive the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament during the Corpus Christi procession. Corpus Christi is an annual feast commemorating our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The Latin phrase means "The Body of Christ." The bread and wine at Mass are substantially changed into the Lord's true Body and Blood, though the appearance of bread and wine remain.
We process with the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of the village, not only to publicly express our faith, but also as a kind of symbolism of our pilgrim journey on earth, like the wandering Hebrews in the Old Testament, freed from Egyptian slavery but still a ways off from the Promised Land. The followers of Christ have also been set free from sin and death, but must still travel through life till we reach heaven's doors.
As the Hebrews received bread (manna) from heaven and water from the rock, the Lord feeds us with His Body and Blood. We remember this as we carry Him with us in our procession.
Låncho at the home of Ruperto Aguon Villagomez in Sinajaña
CORPUS IN THE 60s
Chamorro custom, molded by the Spanish missionaries for three centuries, is to have no less than three outdoor stations or Låncho. When the procession arrives at a Låncho, the priest sets the monstrance - the golden metallic and highly ornamented container in which the Sacred Host is placed - on the altar inside the Låncho for adoration lasting a few minutes.
These Låncho were almost always, according to tradition, in one of the homes of the village. Although my auntie Chong (Asuncion Perez Torres), my grandmother's sister, was chief of operations for one of these Låncho, the Låncho was not at our home. Our home in the 1960s did not have a suitable place for the Låncho. Usually, one wanted a home with a carport or a nice entrance to serve as a Låncho.
There was a house on the far end of the baseball field in the middle of Sinajaña. A road circled the whole community complex in those days. Urban Renewal in the early 1970s did away with that road and the house was also demolished and the land became uninhabitable with the new configuration. This house, pictured above, was owned by Ruperto Aguon Villagomez and family.
But all the fabric and other things needed for the Låncho were stored at our house. When Corpus Christi neared, everything came out of storage to be ironed and aired out. The statue of the Sacred Heart we used for our Låncho belonged to the Capuchin Friary and we would retrieve it just a day or two before the feast to dust off.
CORPUS IN THE 70s AND 80s
While Urban Renewal necessitated the demolition of many homes, it also required the building of new ones. My grand aunt built a new home in a new location, across the street from the public elementary school and very close to the church.
Our new home had a nice one-car carport which could easily be converted into a Låncho. My uncle Ning (my mom's brother) would build the frames and then the ladies would take over.
Our theme never changed : the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We continued to borrow the same statue from the Friary.
My Auntie Chong continued with her usual retinue of helpers : from the Bonño and Kaila clans especially.
This is the house, built in the early 70s, where my grandmother lived (and died) with her single sisters Asuncion and Rita. I also grew up in this house. The carport was converted into the Lånchon Kotpus every year till the late 80s, early 90s. This became the second home for the Låncho since the demolition of the old house by the baseball field.
CORPUS IN THE 90s
When my auntie Chong died in 1984, my mother stepped up and more or less kept the tradition going, but the artistic side of things fell on some others. Danny Toves, I remember, was very involved for some years. Terry Sablan (Akangkang), too. My Uncle Ning continued to be on the team. Members of the Kaila family, too. At times, Tan Kai Balentin donated flowers.
At some point, I don't remember when, it was decided to move our Låncho to yet a third location. But it was just next door, at the home built in the late 40s by Uncle Ben Reyes and Auntie Ana, my grandmother's sister. After both had died, it became Uncle Ning's house. It had a carport, too, with a nice driveway.
That house was destroyed in 1997 by Typhoon Paka, so Uncle Ning built the new one you can see in the pic above. He didn't build a carport but decided to put a canopy up for his car instead. The Låncho continued in this area, but under a similar canopy.
When my mother died in 2005, Terry Sablan filled the spot. Of course, many hands helped as well. The Låncho continued in the same spot at Uncle Ning's house.
Then Uncle Ning passed away last year. The future of the house lay in mystery. Recently, it was bought by people we don't know. So, Sinajaña Mayor Robert Hofmann, a good friend and relative, offered to transfer the Låncho to yet a fourth location - the Veterans Park right in front of the church.
It was and still is, though, a continuation of the Kitå'an Lånchon Kotpus of Auntie Chong. The theme is the same, the Sacred Heart. The old Friary statue has been lost, and the design changes a little year by year. But it is still the same Låncho, even after four locations.
The Wandering Jesus, I call it. "Foxes have lairs and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head," Jesus said once. It is almost a parable of the way the world treats Jesus.
But there will always be a group, no matter how small, of dedicated believers who will always assure that the Lord has His place, even if it changes four times in sixty years.
DEDICATED TO MY GRAND AUNT
ASUNCIÓN PÉREZ TORRES
Tan Chong Kitå'an
who for around thirty years, year after year, dedicated her time, talent and money to giving Jesus a suitable place for adoration at Corpus Christi. I pray she is now adoring Him in heaven.