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A new way of worship

Traslacion in Roblox and Minecraft: Faith in the digital realm

The global pandemic and the digital movement did not stop people from expressing their faith in the Almighty.

In the modern age, gone are the days of strictly sticking solely to traditional means of devotion. The world has since created copies of itself on digital platforms. As the world shut down due to the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020, the world turned to the internet and all sorts of digital platforms to allow them to live their lives.

When the Quiapo Church declared that the Black Nazarene Traslacion in 2021 was put on hold, communities in open-world platforms gathered as a flock and found a way to practice their belief.

Roblox Virtual Traslacion

One of those groups was Roblox Filipino Catholics (RFC), a community on open-world gaming
system Roblox. Its members consist of Filipino Roman Catholics who wished to be a part of different churches and celebrations within the platform.

As early as 2014, founders David Torres and Martin Alix had been playing the game with the rest of their team and strengthening their faith, one game at a time on Roblox.

“When we heard that there would be no Traslacion for 2021, we gathered the ideas of how we
would be able to retain or retain at least a semblance of normalcy during the pandemic because
it was taking a toll. Not only for the people, but especially for the kids, for teens, [and] for those
who are very fervent in their faith,” said David.

“The idea of having Traslacion in 2021 was actually a product of an ongoing [project], kasi
matagal na din kami nagpro-processions and other religious events sa Roblox early as 2014.

Nung simula pa lang meron na kaming mini Traslacion, pero on a parang fake game lang na
parang inilalabas namin [ang] Nazareno tapos iikot lang namin on one street, tapos babalik na din
sa simbahan,” Martin added.

Following a successful Grand Marian Procession in Intramuros, the RFC decided to continue mounting the Traslacion 2024 on Roblox in a grander scale.

“Yung naging snap [idea is] parang sinabi natin bakit di natin gawin Traslacion for 2021…. The idea was there tapos sinimulan namin gawin ang Church, tapos naisip rin namin ‘let’s enlarge the map’,” Martin said.

The group decided to create a dedicated Facebook page to promote their Roblox Traslacion. It immediately went viral and the event became a part of some memes. This led to the group to gather more than 100,000 viewers on their Facebook livestream and up to 2,000 unique players on their servers when it went live for  six hours from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

“At first, [we] were rattled when it was [part of] memes. But when the memes came out, it was sort of a blessing na rin. Still good, it’s still publicity, and it ended up being viral posts,” said David.

The RFC, which now has 4,000 members, became a tight-knit group of All-Filipino Catholics of different ages from different parts of the world.

Using Discord and Roblox Servers, players gather to simulate mass and celebrate holy ceremonies as it occurs in reality. Even children, who may have joined willingly or through the recommendations of their parents, are welcomed to join and participate in the Catholic events led by the team of administrators.

“There are simulated masses, which have no sacramental value, just letting the kids do… yung normal. ‘Di ba nakakapanood tayo ng mga batang nag mimisa-misahan on social media? So they do it on a more formal scale on Roblox [and] on our group,” David pointed out.

“So we are divided into dioceses [and] they also have their bishops, so they are also taught basic catechesis [and] basic theology, basic things about the faith. Then more than that, we also have game nights. So, it’s not all about Catholicism all the time,” he added.


Another group of gamers turned to open-world server Minecraft to express their devotion for the Black Nazarene.

Minecraft Catholic Filipinos (MCF), founded by Lucas Bucalig and headed by William (who wishes to remain anonymous), began as a group effort inspired by the same efforts in other open-world platforms.

“We really pushed to make this, to make it possible yung CrafTraslacion itself in Minecraft. The group itself was also a group effort. Some gave an idea to… Baka pwede tayo mag-Traslacion dito kasi yung ibang grupo nga nagagawa like in other platforms also nagagawa nila. How about try natin gawin dito?” said Lucas.

The first CrafTraslacion was a small effort that still gathered 600 viewers online and was able to reach other groups. The group also launched CrafTraslacion for 2022 and 2023 on Facebook livestreams.

“If you watch the live video itself is parang tatlo lang kami tao doon [sa server], and then we really pushed it through na kahit even though hindi maka-join yung ibang members. Even though we want them to really join the server, the problem is the internet connection during that time. Ni-livestream na lang namin which is also not just only involve the Minecraft players but also to the public itself,” Lucas explained.

Their efforts soon attracted other people, which led to the creation of a growing community of Minecraft Players, who also started building their own dioceses and Church-based worlds in the game.

“We can also see rin sa enthusiasm ng mga bata na ito na they really want us na magkaroon ng ganitong events [at] magkaroon tayo ng ganitong mga ibang simbahan… na kahit laro laro lang naman, just for fun, at the same time ma-evangelize din yung ating pananampalataya in a unique platform to which they make,” said William.

“Mostly the members have religious background ay mga nag-serve sa Church, so doon sila nagkaroon ng idea din na gumawa sila ng mga sariling Minecraft churches based on their idea and based on their architecture style itself,” added Lucas.

Within their small community, the budding group created Church-centered worlds where they held simulation masses, celebrations and often partnered with multiple priests who helped deliver seminars or lectures for group members.

“We occasionally have fun on our servers. We establish cities where the center is a parish. And we give an exchange land for those who want to build their own residence within our world. We participate in games which brings the community together as one and play other survival activities, and also we invite yung mga real-life na mga pari to give us talks, especially during sa Lenten season and other events,” William shared.

“Hindi siya masyadong na-publicize but Church officials do also notice this. Natutuwa sila na kami mga kabataan ngayon… Even though those youth are captivated inside their homes na hindi sila makalabas dahil sa pandemic, is they are being a part of the Church mission to evangelize itself, not just online but also to influence others,” Lucas said.

Traslacion 2024

For 2024, both groups had their own way of virtual celebration.

RFC officially partnered with the Quiapo Church to promote the annual event and is hosting the virtual 2024 Traslacion by taking the 2020 Traslacion’s Ayala route through Roblox.

“We will still use the former things that we have like the Andas. We won’t go to the new one yet, but we’ll retain the old version and then the plan was to still go from the former routes of Traslacion. Our development team is currently working almost round the clock,” said David.

They plan to host the virtual Traslacion starting from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.on January 9.

While they are anticipating a lower turn-out of attendees due to the return of the physical Traslacion, RFC continues the tradition for a younger audience who are interested in the faith.

“There remains to be a lot of these children, a lot of the youth who are interested in the Catholic faith in the Philippines. You won’t find it elsewhere. The Americans, the Canadians, people from Europe, other places in Europe, haven’t really replicated such a scale of gathering of Catholic youth,” David pointed out.

“Mahalaga na patuloy na magkaroon ng mga ganitong digitization kasi nakita namin na there was a thirst for this during the pandemic. Also because it continues to immortalize, and it also gives an avenue for other people from other countries to be able to see the beauty of Catholicism in the Philippines. It’s beyond novelty but it is an important aspect now of Catholicism to have that digital reminder as always,” he added.

Meanwhile, Minecraft Catholic Filipinos opted to keep their celebrations within their specific churches for a smaller Traslacion 2024, but assured that CrafTraslacion would be back in the future.

“Some kids are really asking us na kailan yung next CrafTraslacion, so syempre, like my friend here William, gusto ko rin sa kanila ipasa yung paano ginagawa so they would have their knowledge also to do it [at] iba naman yung mag-handle. Leaving them this kind of tradition is a good way also… Not just to William, but to the other kids itself who wants to imitate what we do,” said Lucas.

For the two organizations, keeping the tradition of Traslacion alive and their genuine hope of spreading the faith to a younger generation on the gaming platforms are what drive them to keep their organizations going.

“We believe that through these things we do we will be able to reach out to our younger audiences and to bring them closer to the faith which Christ established, and especially with the current problems in Christianity that’s happening in general, especially on the topic of morality.

We must influence these kids in order that they may not stray away from the path of virtue,” said William.

“That’s why we bring it to Roblox, so that we could reach those who are not really ‘churched’. Pope Francis encourages the youth to go towards the peripheries, and one of the peripheries that we identified is social media [and] the internet, where the digital natives are no longer that religious,” David said.

“Siguro the reason why we do this it is our way of expressing and sharing our devotion to other people out of our love to Mama Mary, to the Black Nazarene and the other saints. We do it in Roblox para we also want the others to experience how we do things and how we express our love to them,” Martin added.

The two groups intend to continue spreading Catholicism even further and take their groups to even bigger heights past 2024.

Following the success of their previous projects such as the Grand Marian Procession, La Naval and the incoming Traslacion, RFC will enter a transition phase with a new set of leaders who will be preparing for several partnerships regarding multiple virtual celebrations.

“We have partnered with the municipality of Pateros to do the Santa Marta Fiesta in Pateros, and then with the help of many Bulaceños we have, [we] will be going with the Santo Niño de Malolos. We will have different Holy Week celebrations or Lenten Rites, Lenten traditions that we will promote as well on Roblox,” David said.

MCF is planning to focus more on their summer events, intending to invite priests to deliver talks and lectures for the Lenten Season.

“Our plans for 2024… hindi pa clear masyado. Ang grupo is nagiging active talaga siya pag bakasyon or whatnot, so doon talaga namin ibinubuhos yung mga bagay-bagay. Incoming event namin is yung sa Lenten Season, we would invite priests again to give a talk to the youth itself…to know more about the church itself and also like role play masses as such,” David said.

What’s clear on both of their ends, Nazareno symbolized a symbol of hope that they both shared in their own ways.

“We Filipinos… They identified themselves with the struggle of Jesus Incarnate God who became man, who suffered the sufferings of man as well. Nakikita nila na yung Diyos kaya tumayo sa pagpapakasakit, Kaya ko rin… kaya sa kanya ako kumakapit… dahil yung Diyos na nagpakasakit kayang tumayo… I look towards the Nazareno and I tell myself kaya ko to babangon ako muli kahit mahirap, kahit masakit,” shared David.—RF, GMA Integrated News