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Battambang, Cambodia: Bon Phoum – A Village Blessing

We witnessed another unique Khmer-Christian Festival today (Feb. 5) in Chomnaom (ចំណោម). The Bon Phoum which literally means Village feast or Village blessing in Chomnaom started when Fr. Totet SJ was the parish priest of the place in 2002-2005. The idea actually originates from the Cambodian tradition of thanksgiving after the harvest season. The Christianised tradition was warmly accepted by the villagers making it a big annual celebration. So far, in the entire prefecture, only the Chomnaom community celebrates this festivity.

The program commenced with the blessing of the new library building followed by the Eucharistic celebration presided by Msgr. Enrique Figaredo SJ- the prefect apostolic of Battambang concelebrated by priests from different parishes. Fr. Francesco MEP (Society of Foreign Missions of Paris)-the present parish priest in Chomnaom read the gospel in Khmer (the Local language). The homily was given by Fr. Totet SJ.

In his homily, Fr. Totet stressed that our life continues whether the harvest is bountiful or scarce because there are many things that we should thank the Lord for: the gift of our life is one of those. He reminded us that thanksgiving comes from a life of faith because only a person who realizes that his/her life depends on God knows how to thank God. To live this out, he admonished us means to pray unceasingly, to share and pass on the faith to our young ones (children and grandchildren) and to encourage people by our own life’s example of good deeds to our family, neighbours, community, and the environment.

Mass was followed by a community meal where varieties of local delicacies were served. The food was good enough to keep us fit to endure the long walk around the village for the blessing at 2 o’clock. The bishop with the priests blessed the water in front of the church  and then moved around with it to the different houses and families. It was really inspiring to see hundreds of people (locals and foreign visitors) waiting along the road outside their houses with so much excitement and faith waiting to be blessed. Nobody went home dry and sad as everybody received what they asked for: blessing through water.

There may be so many reasons to mention how successful the festivity was and its great impact in the life and faith of the community but for me one thing stands out very clearly: it unites and strengthens the faith of the community.

We continue to pray for the community in Chomnaom.

Glenn Diaz mhm

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