I am on the boat together with the whole Seminary community going back to Manila after a short missionary exposure in Mindanao. My eyes are following the waves of the sea hurling against the boat and my mind is already thinking of the future, once reached the port and later on Tagaytay City, looking forward to the next school assignments yet to be submitted.
It would be wrong to run faster than the “SuperFerry” and it might be better for me to postpone my anxieties and future plans to a more suitable time.
So, playing with time, I will try to go backward revisiting these 15 days spent between Roxas (Dipolog) and Zamboanga City. I will attempt to describe some pictures still clearly present in my eyes and much more alive than the two films I bring along with me yet to be developed. It is the easiest way for me to share with you my impressions after this first missionary exposure.
“The most waited moment”: the departure from Manila port. To leave is always exciting! Joy, hopes, doubts, expectations, fears crowd together in our hearts. The departure is an important event of a missionary life. It entails a spiritual attitude of trust and confidence in God’s Providence and the assurance that wherever we go He is already there waiting for us.
“The selection”: we were gathered together in the mission center of the Redemptorist Missionaries in Roxas waiting for the selection of the place assigned to each one of us. L often dreamed of my ideal mission, maybe the farthest, the poorest, the right for me! I discovered the beauty of being chosen to be sent to that “dream mission,” which is the place where God would like us to be. ..this is the right mission also for me!
“The most unexpected episode”: visiting some families in the barrio (Upper Irasan) I could eat for three times in the same day some Italian Spaghetti cooked and served right for me. This is just an example to show the generosity and hospitality of the people I met.
“The funniest picture”: the faces of Bamba and of the kids when they gaze at the “uncle” (as they use to call me) shaving the beard. Fortunately we were approaching Christmas and Santa Claus with the white foam was not really an E. T .! ! !
“The most tiring experience”: the climbing of the 3003 steps in Dipolog with 3 apples (kindly given for free by Father Rolando) to be shared in 4.
“The most enjoyable experiences”: the view on the top of the mountain after the famous 3003 steps and the trip to Pinyahon Island.
“The most arduous task”: attempt to avoid drinking “tuba” every day without showing any boredom or disgust. Ravi (my companion) really supported me in this effort.
“The most dreamed picture”: to see a person climbing a coconut tree.
The most interesting tour: visiting the different projects of the SNOF with Father Rolando. His concern for providing livelihood through sustainable development is concretized by the “Food Processing Unit” (sardines, mangoes and pineapple jam) and scholarship grants for sexually abused young girls.
The most creative person: Bishop Manguiran of the Diocese of Dipolog. He warmly welcomed us in his residence and spontaneously shared with us his thoughts on theology and ecological concerns. We could appreciate his ability in creating new “theological” plants.
The most “delicious” event: the picnic by night on Dapitan beach with crabs and shrimps together with the foster family on Christmas day.
The most inspiring picture: I met many children during my stay in Upper Irasan and Roxas. I would have immediately embraced them all but they demanded me to be patient and wait for the proper time. At the beginning they would look at me with suspicion, maybe afraid, disturbed by the presence of a strange face, tall guy, with a long nose. Then, once used to my strangeness they would change attitude and become curious, more spontaneous in approaching me to the point of preventing me to stay alone for a whole minute! !
It is like the faith we would like to share with others: it requires patience, respect. We are facing the mystery of human freedom. Nonetheless we have the duty to witness to others and share with them our beliefs.
The most touching event: the Mass celebrated in the Cathedral of Zamboanga City in memory of Fr. Benji Inocencio, O.M.I. priest killed in Jolo on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The Church is still the Church of the Martyrs, still faithful to the crazy logic of the Gospel: “The one who loses his life for my sake and for the Gospel’s will preserve it.” (Mk. 9:35) Even Martyrdom should be part of my missionary spirituality.
A missionary exposure is just a first taste of the reality of the mission but that was what I needed the most. It enkindled in me the wish to taste it again. I will try to treasure all the teachings I have learned and once reached Manila and Tagaytay to live according to them.
In these days I repeated many times SALAMAT. We should be always grateful for the people we encounter, especially for the support they have extended, since ultimately, they are instruments of God’s care for us. So, SALAMAT SADIOS!!!