Connecting the Nativity story to the Subanen people

Columban missionary Fr Vincent Busch works with the indigenous Subanen people of the Philippines. He explains how the Subanen crafters project with connects the Nativity story with the story of the Subanen people.

The Subanens face eviction from their homes by logging and mining companies. With assistance from the Columbans, they use their traditional crafting skills to make jewellery, mandalas, children’s books and cards to sell.

The income generated provides food, education, housing and healthcare for their families.

Subanen children are born in simple shelters with farm animals nearby and so their cards show the birth of Jesus in a lowly stable.

Every day Subanen families cook, clean, gather firewood, fetch water, and feed their farm animals and so their cards show Mary and Joseph doing similar activities. Joseph prepares food for Mary while their donkey eats from the manger.

Many Subanen families have had to quickly abandon their homes and flee during times of armed conflict and so their cards show how the Holy Family had to quickly gather up their belongings and flee from Herod’s soldiers.

Each card requires hours of cooperative work. Some crafters colour the background. Others carefully cut out images of Joseph, Mary and the Donkey. Still others neatly fold in pieces of coloured paper into the cut-out images.

The images in our Christmas cards draw attention to those joys, fears, and activities which the Holy Family have in common with Subanen families.

Subanens have to hike daily over mountainous trails, and so our Christmas cards show Joseph and Mary trekking over rugged terrain to reach Bethlehem.

Subanen families do their best to feed, clothe, shelter, nurture, and protect their children and so our cards highlight how Mary and Joseph cared for Jesus and each other.

As the Subanen crafters colour and shape their Christmas cards they become aware that the Holy Family is like their families.

If you would like to support Fr Vincent Bush’s work and the Subanen crafters, please send your donations to the Far East Office, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co Meath C15 AY2Y. Mark it for Fr Vincent Bush. Alternatively, you can donate online at or call 00353 46 909 8275.

You can also order Subanen Christmas cards by emailing [email protected] or calling 00353 46 909 8275 or write to: Subanen Christmas Cards, Columban Missionaries, Dalgan Park, Co Meath, C15 AY2Y.