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By Agnes James

A group of talented Filipinos in Penang who had wanted to sing to the Lord has in turn charmed the City Parish (Our Lady of Seven Sorrows) congregation with their vibrant Tagalog hymns. The choir, which now has a popular following among even the locals, sing twice a month at the church during the 10am Sunday mass.

The group of Filipinos had come to Penang to seek their fortune - leaving behind their loved ones and an uncertain future. Their feelings of loneliness were, however, lessened with the friendship and camaraderie they forged at the Church of the Seven Sorrows in Penang.

One of the choir leaders Francis Salviego, 30, said the choir usually has an average of seven members and at some masses can go up to 15 members. There is also an organist and guitarist.

He said as migrants, most of their activities are mostly church-based and the mass and the choir allows the Filipinos here to keep touch with each other.

He said since they do not have an embassy here, the church allows them to help those in their community who are in need.

The most recent celebration where the choir was called upon to perform was the Corpus Christi Mass which co-incided with their Independence Day celebration. About 200 people, mainly Filipinos, attended the mass.

They also gave solace to about 200 crew members of the ill-fated Sun Vista cruise line which sank off the Pangkor coast on May 21.

Meanwhile, Salviego said that the parish has helped the Filipino community here feel right at home.

"They are open to us and encourage us to participate with them in helping to improve the community. We feel part of the parish and the locals have accepted us and have helped us to adapt,'' he said.