EYE OPENING EXPERIENCES.
At the beginning of September, we the aspirants of the Redemptorist Congregation were sent to Tabunok, Talisay City to be part of the Cebu Redemptorist Urban Mission Team (CRUMT). The team, originally composed of two Redemptorist priests, Frs. Ryan and Fons, and Alex a lay missionary, was invited by the parish priest of St. Joseph the Worker Parish to assist in the formation of BEC formators and Basic Ecclesial Communities in four zones which were considered to be the largest and most populated zones of the parish.
As an aspirant to the congregation, I am in the stage of formation where formands are gradually introduced to the Redemptorist missionary life by engaging in the congregation’s ministries. Through this, we are also helped in our discernment hoping that in the process we will know even more deeply this path of life we have chosen. For someone like me who used to work 8 to 9 hours a day in an air-conditioned and well-organized workplace based in a mall, this experience in the area takes a lot of adjustment and provides a venue of growth necessary for me aspiring to be a future missionary. Here, we worked under the heat of the sun, moving from one house to another, visiting families situated in highly depressed populated areas. some accepted us with warmth while others did not seem to care at all. We can’t please everyone, I told myself. Mingling with people in the area and listening to their plight, are opportunities for me to not just develop my listening skills and love for the poor. After all even if I can’t play the role of a “savior” to them, every experience is testing my motivation in joining this congregation.
Joining the CRUMT is also an eye-opener to me to the realities of life especially to the spiritual and material poverty of peoples’ lives. Some people could hardly afford to have even the most basic of needs imaginable. But, one thing that surprised me most was that even in the midst of inadequacies, the people accepted us warmly, allowed us to sleep in their houses, provided us with food and accommodation. Alongside this experience, was an insight which echoes a line from PCP II “No one is so rich that he has nothing to receive and no one is so poor that he has nothing to give.”
Mission exposure is a two-way street evangelization. I remember when I was about to go to an unfamiliar place for my mission exposure many years ago, a missionary priest once told me, “God is already there, waiting for you.” If there is a relevant lesson that I learned from my experience in the area it is listening with a sincere heart and through that listening these people evangelize me. They have taught me things that books and sessions could never have done. I have encountered real people with real human suffering. Their hopes and struggles, their joys and sorrows, their appalling state of poverty, their sentiments towards God tell me one thing that there is so much to be done in building the Kingdom of God here on earth and that the church needs more missionaries who will continue to serve with zeal and compassion in bringing God’s plentiful redemption to the ends of the earth.
URBAN MISSION TEAM GOES TRULY RURAL
Never in my wildest imagination have I dreamed of reaching this part of the country. On November 10, 2013, the Cebu Redemptorist Urban Mission Team, of which I am part of, began the trip to Dimataling, Zamboanga Del Sur for the RIMT General Mission on November 11 – December 1, 2013. We were fetched at the Pagadian Airport by Fr. Geo Quibol, C.Ss.R, and then we immediately proceeded to the bishop’s house in Pagadian City. We headed to Dimataling the following day and arrived in the area around 12:30 in the afternoon. On our way there, I could not help it but be disturbed by questions which at that moment, seemed to have no answers at all. Having created a negative impression due to the not-so-pleasant history of the area, I just could not deny that at times I was afraid. Am I going to finish the general mission successfully? Are we secured in the area or is our security at stake? These are just some of those questions which greatly bothered me before and even during the mission. A meeting with the RIMT was conducted in the afternoon. It was followed with an opening mass. The group, composed of the RIMT, CRUMT, Catechists and Youth Mission Volunteers of the parish, was divided into sub-teams which were assigned in the different barangays. The day that sub-teams were sent to their assigned barangays was also the day when Typhoon Zoraida came. It was not as strong as typhoon Yolanda however considering the distance and the mud-spattered condition of the roads leading to the barangays which certainly are not passable especially during rainy seasons, most of us encountered difficulty in reaching our destination. This caused delay in some of our schedules for the first day. We were expected to arrive in the morning but unfortunately due to the typhoon, we arrived in the afternoon. To protect us from rain, some of us had to make raincoats made of large plastic bags which are used for fishing. However, what was very rewarding and consoling amidst the difficulties we have encountered was the overwhelming presence of people in the area who waited patiently to welcome us.
The first week was spent in the high lands while the second week on the lowlands. During these weeks, there were family visits, house blessings, a leaders’ recollection and Youth activities. “Misa-Pamalandong” were celebrated too, each mass with a specific theme to be expounded. The sacraments of Baptism and Marriage were administered on the last day of each week followed with a blessing of vehicles. To culminate the weeklong activities, we held a short program which we called GSK (Gagmayng Simbahanong Katilingban) day. To give a break from a very busy week, the missionaries and mission partners had a rest and recreation at Lakewood, Zamboanga Del Sur on November 25, 2013. A Medical and Dental Mission headed by Fr. Fons Suico, C.Ss.R. also arrived on November 29, 2013 and they served almost 400 patients including Muslims, Subanens and Christians alike. On November 30, 2013, a good number of children received the sacrament of confirmation in the Poblacion and in Kagawasan. On the third week, Peace symposiums were conducted in three areas namely Poblacion, Baluno and Buburay. “Diyalogo sa Paglaum: Yawe sa Kalinaw” (Dialogue of Hope: Key to Peace), the theme for the said symposium was expanded on by Ate Portia who came all the way from Davao City with three others to join the general mission. On December 1, 2013, the first ever weeklong celebration of the Mindanao Week of Peace in Dimataling was culminated with the celebration of the Eucharist. A parade within the poblacion followed which was participated in by the Subanen, Muslim and Christian inhabitants of the area. An IRD (Interreligious Dialogue) was successfully conducted after the parade. This was joined by the Barangay officials, Ustadz, Imams, Timu-ays and priests. The guest speaker for this event was Bro. Karl Gaspar, CSsR. The Mindanao week of Peace was spearheaded by the RIMT. On December 2, 2013, the Cebu Redemptorist Urban Mission Team returned to Cebu City.
by Bonn S. Barretto
MORE ON DIMATALING!
According to a certain Bishop, experiencing is different from undergoing, because experiencing entails reflecting. The Dimataling experience for me was very memorable because of the values I had learned from the people of the deprived community. When people hear about the Town of Dimataling, Zamboanga del Sur. immediately comes to mind peril and havoc. But for me, this notion is wrong because their personal biases should no longer exist.
On November 10, 2013, together with the Cebu Redemptorist Urban Mission Team, that we went to Pagadian City, and on the following day we proceeded to Dimataling. This town is composed of Tribal people, Muslims, Lumads or Subanens and Christians. When we arrived in the Town together with Fr. Geovanne Quibol,C.Ss.R, the RIMT Coordinator and two missionary volunteers, I could sense the simplicity of lifestyle of the people and their warm welcome. It was also the first time I had been in a Muslim dominated community, During the briefing in the Parish Formation Center with Fr. Geo, I learned that 82% living in Barangay Poblacion were our Muslim Brethren. It was during that briefing we were assigned to our respective areas. I was assigned to Barangay Saloagan on the first week and Barangay Bacayawan on the second week, and it was then my wonderful experience began.
November 12, 2013 during the height of the storm Zoraida, we went to the area with the team led by Fr. Richie Cuaton, C.Ss.R. It was challenging because I rode on a motorcycle enduring the heavy rains and the muddy road, after which we boarded a motorized banca going to Brgy. Saloagan. When we disembarked we saw the people from different chapels waiting for us exhausted because we came late. But nevertheless they welcomed us with their precious smiles. After we finished our lunch, we had a meeting and followed with an opening Mass presided by Fr. Richie.
The events I had experienced especially the Inter Religious Dialogue inspired me to continue to spread the good news to the poor and to be an advocate of peace. I believe that the Peace Symposia initiated by the RIMT has awakened the tribes in the Town and hopefully the long awaited Peace will start to flourish in the hearts of these Tri-People whose ultimate goal is to create an atmosphere of love where Alah, Megbabaya or God reigns in the center of their lives.
Finally, the whole three weeks stay in Dimataling was full of inspiring memories for life! The hopeful people of this Municipality have touched not only my heart but the hearts of all those who volunteered for the General Mission in this oppressed area. Their smiles, hospitality, generosity and faith has delighted me. If given the opportunity, I will come back to this Town without fear because I know; the seed of love planted by the Redemptorist Itinerant Mission Team will grow in the hearts of the Muslims, Subanens and Christians. And I can proudly say to myself that I was in this place, experiencing the love of God through these humble people of Zamboanga del Sur.
by Marley Ranger L. Recla