THE EXPERIENCE OF THE EXPOSURE TO BASILAN

by Vijayachandar Chigurupatipict0523

My neighbor knocking my door: “Chandar wake up it’s time!” begins the day! In fact, I had set my alarm at 5 AM; he just woke me up one minute ahead.  I could recall the times when my family members used to wake me up to be on time for Mass, since our house is near the parish church. 

We had an early morning breakfast, and I was reminded also of the many daily workers in India who take their breakfast before sun rise and get ready for their daily work and go to the haired working palace waiting and hoping to be hired. I felt I am the worker of Christ’s vineyard. The difference is that my work is always ready since the Master is ever ready to welcome me like we read in the parable of workers in the vineyard. 

We, the twenty-six participants of the Euntes summer course got ready to go to the island of Basilan, South of Zamboanga City. Two jeepneys took us to the seaport. We had fun during our 15-minute journey to the port; our jeep horn is so different than those of other jeeps so every time the horn blows, we all laugh in different tunes. On the first day of our course itself we got the title as the laughing group from the director of the center. Perhaps while Jesus travelling in different places he might also have been laughing with his disciples.001_14742

  As we reach the seaport, I could see small boats waiting for passengers. The image of boat or ship reminds me of the early missionary travel. In PIME the boat symbol is very much linked with the missionary journey. I often read in PIME’s journals about the struggle of our missionaries taking months to reach their mission place. The Euntes Center also uses this symbol of boat in its logo. As the Latin word ‘Euntes’ implies, today it calls us to go out and witness the reality in the island of Basilan. Present day means of travel are much more comfortable than they were for the early missionaries. It challenges us on how much more we need to make an effort to reach God’s children. As we all know, Jesus traveled in boats reaching the people to proclaim the kingdom of God.dscn2813

We landed safely in Lamitan. A bus was arranged for us to travel in the island. The marines accompanied us to insure our safety. In fact, we knew that in this Island many foreigners had been kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf (a local fundamentalist Muslim group). Through my daily newspaper reading I know that some kidnapped people were killed and others were freed after payment of a huge ransom. While we were traveling my seatmate told me that the last priest kidnapped was Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, PIME who apparently was also brought to this island. I had heard and read about this island but now I was on it. We reached safely St. Peter parish. The parish priest, Fr. Bong Agoo, warmly welcomed us. He gave the history of the parish and its struggles that it had undergone. 

All throughout the trip, Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF was our guide, as he wanted us to deepen the understanding of our first Euntes topic: “Experiencing God in the Margins”. pict0999

He drew the map of the Basilan and showed where we were at the moment. He also shared on the year 2001 incident in which a young Filipino Claretian missionary was kidnapped and killed. The parish priest continued this topic explaining the recent attacks to his community. In the midst of these struggles people never lost their faith in God. They gathered together and had Mass ending with a meal together.

   We continued our journey to Maluso municipality. I could see that the land is blessed with abundant vegetation and green pastures. Regarding the land, socio political cultural issues are involved. Traditionally this Island belongs to the Yakan tribe. As the days passed most of the land was taken over by the Christians coming from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. At present around 5000 hectares are under the University of the Philippines and thousands of hectares are owned by politicians, foreigners (Chinese business people) and other private business people. We passed by the cooperative of local lands which are much smaller than private business people. It reminds me of the land issue of Naboth’s vineyard (1Kings 21:1-15).

We reached safely Maluso where we had our lunch in the parish hall. According to our schedule we were late to reach this place. While we were having lunch the Samal-Bajaus tribe children performed their cultural dance. I too joined with them and tried to follow their steps. We immediately went to see the parish project of the Bajaus tribe families. Basically they are nomads. Their houses are built on water. They don’t have much connection with the landside world. The Claretian fathers have been working trying to improve their life; as a result they now have a wood bridge connecting to the land enabling the Bajaus to communicate with others. The parish also built a small house for them, where all gatherings and prayer services take places. 100_1989

When we reached the place people were waiting for us. We had interaction with the Bhajaus in the house built by the parish. I asked the Bajaus a question how they could experience God in the midst of their daily life struggles. One of the men responded to my question saying that they have hope in God that one day God will wipe away all their struggles. God is seen as a protector. The parish priest spoke about the Bajaus present condition. They are trying to educate them. They want to preserve the Bajaus spoken language so they are in the process of making a dictionary. dscn2868

These realities are educating me how to be an authentic missionary in mission lands.

 

 

 

 

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Journal of April 23-25 with Reflections

dscn29191Thursday, April 23

 Our module which is focused on “Mission: Reign of God, the Basileia”  from April 23-25,   is facilitated by Fr. Christopher O’leary, OMI. 

            He started his module with a General Objective which is “To recognize more clearly and to appreciate more deeply the central place of the proclamation of the Kingdom/Reign of God/Basileia in the Mission of Jesus and the consequences of this for our mission in the Cosmos/the World/Asia/Mindanao. We will seek to achieve this in the following specific objectives…!

            Today, being the first meeting we had this Specific Objective “To check out our own understanding of the kingdom of God in order to become aware of the ‘place,’ or the ‘kingdom’ that holds in our personal lives and missionary activity.

            The participants had given ample of time to discuss about the notion of kingdom of God in their groups. Later on they had come up with the following answers like: Kingdom of God is experienced in peace, justice, reconciliation, compassion, mission contextualized with the poor, life in abundance, experience with self and community, happiness, serenity, equality, the already and not yet and etc.dscn2976

            Since the group had a positive experience of the kingdom of God, the speaker elucidated a brief account of Salvation History: the story of our faith from the book of Genesis Chapter 1 to 11. At this discussion the day is concluded.

 

Friday, April 24

 

This day was geared towards two specific objectives in order to discover the meaning and message of the ‘kingdom’ in the New Testament. Fr. Chris presented to the participants one page outline of his talk that covers:

1. The kingdom/Basileia of God proclaimed in Deeds. This covered the Miracles and Table-Fellowship account in Matthew and Luke respectively. He further encouraged the group saying “we cannot understand the Eucharist if we don’t understand table fellowship from which Jesus transformed it into union with God. dscn29171

2. The kingdom/Basilea proclaimed in Word. This refers to the Kingdom parables which Matthew presented: six in chapter 13 and four in other chapters. He stressed that the kingdom is for the transformation of the world. The more we are working with the Lord and the transformation within us, the more we are called to serve. The challenge is to let God be God!

The other topic covers the Magna Carta of the Basileia. This is from Mt. 5: 1-7: 29 which is commonly known Beatitudes. He highlights the ways and values of the kingdom stressing on forgiveness which reaches its power when we share it. Lastly, he says, “let the Word of God be to you what he desires to be.”dscn2930

The rest of the afternoon allotted for the individual meditation and group sharing.

 

SOME REFLECTIONS ON THIS DAY

The opening liturgy which reminded us of our relationship with God through the song “The Mission.” Fr. Chris continued the topic he started yesterday by situating the Reign of God in the salvation history. This long history of faith, starting from the creation of the world (described in Genesis) to the self-offering of Jesus on the cross, from his death to the rising up to (new) life is the core of the our mission as we proclaim Jesus and His message to those entrusted to us.dscn2973-2

He discussed further the history of salvation by using the text in the New Testament. He discussed the preaching of the Kingdom done by Jesus through His WORDS and DEEDS. Through Jesus’ words; the parables and values shared and His deeds; i.e. the miracles and fellowship at table, the Reign of God was proclaimed to the poor and the marginalized.

As a result, this proclamation of the Reign of God, the Basileia, breaks barriers and creates bridges that link the irreconcilable elements of Jesus’ contemporary society. Recalling our experiences of our own mission, the challenge for us is: Have we been barrier breakers and bridge builders between the privileged few and the oppressed majority, between the extremes of our own society and mission?pict1192

After the discussion, further reflection was employed so that each participant could allow the message learned and the challenge received sink in. Remembering and praying about the past mission that each of them has underwent, each one was able to gather the broken pieces of their experience of the reign of God. The experience of the Basileia is an experience of the will of God in our lives. The Will of God that will truly make us to experience the joy that brought to us by the Spirit.

The day was concluded with the celebration of the holy Eucharist presided by Fr. Chris which wrapped the message of today in the sacred meal expressing our deep gratitude to God who is the source of all the values of kingdom.pict1194

 

Saturday, April 25

This day’s objective was to surface the consequences of the ‘kingdom-message’ for our missionary life and activity. The following thoughts were presented to be the consequences of the ‘kingdom-message’:

 

  • Kingdom is reaching out to the untouchables.
  • The church is always with “marginalized”
  • The church is only church when it proclaims the word.
  • The laws of the church should be expressive of the kingdom values.
  • The church does not change from top but much more down from below

 The rest of the morning was spent on the individual sharing at the plenary session in order to listen to each others’ learning from the perspective of this module. We concluded the session with a word of thanks and songs led by the various groups like solidarity, hospitality, creativity, serenity and fidelity. As a memory we had a group picture with Fr. Chris.dscn2993

The Beginning of Our Journey in Euntes…

Yesterday, April 22, 2009

 

100_3847

The day started with the sharing of insights captured in the following lines: “God never abandons us in the midst of daily realities even if this will disturb us. We see the face of God in different situations, like children convey God’s loving embrace as we go beyond borders that make us realize the good can come out of them as others share by doing service to others and dialogue with people. They can become happy and contented. Altogether, our experience of God was of the privilege one facilitated by the people of the margins.

dscn2809An input was given to us elaborating the role of the church which calls for every faithful to be pro-active rather than reactive.

As Vatican II opened its doors, Christians are challenged to respect the poor and behave justly towards them for the poor are the “heirs of the kingdom.” In the Scholastic period, aid became institutionalized and being poor was an indignity especially for the clergy.

dscn2864Furthermore, it articulated that the issue of poverty is justice. Action on behalf of justice and transformation marked a big thing in the understanding of the mission of the church.

The New Era was also discussed. This refers to the experience of accumulation of changes brought about by globalization. However, a more missionary church was gleaned through dialogue. It is the encounter between persons, mediated by the word, dealing with others not as “objects” but as “subjects” to name in order to write their history. It is the process of partnership towards the pursuits of communion and fullness of life.

dsc06652The morning session was ended by giving us the three reflection questions to share:

  1. What is your missionary experience?
  2. What are the social concerns in your area and how the church is responding?
  3. What is your favorite mission text? Why?

The integration groups met in the afternoon to share something about the about questions. The plenary session highlighted the output of the sharing from each group articulating their mission experiences, the response of the church and their favorite scriptural texts.dscn28972

The day was ended with the Eucharistic celebration presided by Fr. Angel Calvo, which was animated by the Creativity Group. This Eucharistic celebration is significantly celebrated with the ritual of ablution of hands and going bare footed inside the chapel. The homily was shared by each of the members of the group based experience that we had in Basilan Island. One of the groups expressed through the symbolic prayer… Loving God, make us become bridges from the margins to the center and from the center to the margins. Help us recognize you wherever we are situated- whatever perspective we are in. this we ask through Christ- the bridge, our bridge to you…Amen100_3866

The creativity group member Enrique S. Oliveros, Jr., shared… A lot of people are so blessed materially compared with others and yet simply they don’t recognize the blessings they enjoy and still keep on complaining. Moreover, they refuse to share. Our experience in Basilan God is inviting us to go out from our box, to go beyond our borders, remove our shoes and follow him.dsc066622

We concluded the memorable day with the simple token of love given to Fr. Calvo along with picture taking.100_3898

Continuation of Responses from the Exposure…

 AMAZING EXPERIENCE WITH THE BAJAUS

Sr. Conception  Cimacio, MSHFdscn28071

As we went to Basilan we visited the place of Badjau’s community, I felt deep within me that there was something happening which disturbs me a lot. Being with them for a short time seeing the place, having spoken a few words with them that are known to me, observing their situation and their way of life is “AMAZING”. I felt at that moment that God is truly present in them and among them. I could not just imagine being able to live only through the catch of fish as their major means of livelihood. What I could not imagine is to live on the water and the kind of shelter they own (so on and so forth) for me is terrible. Though they are marginalized by the society and the government leaders these people still live with joy that reminds me God is truly with them. Amidst their situation they can still smile to greet us “wow”!100_1968

 dscn2863This situation is a big “bang” for me in viewing myself in those difficult situations from the perspective of past that sometimes it loosened my missionary terror. It teaches me a lot!!! I’m very much appreciative to those people who help them and alleviate their condition holistically. YES! This is really a call of today’s evangelization. Bring love, justice and salvation to the poor, to the marginalized and those who live in the periphery which is my mission too.

 

 

 

Encountering God in the Margins

Marjeo Delfin 21042009074

One way of describing our human existence is by the quality of our relationships. These relationships are established by the encounters we make, are captured in the instances we call “situations.” Human relationship can be described in our everyday encounter with one another. This is also true in our relationship with God. We encounter Him in our daily tasks, habits, and consciousness.

The reflection on the topic “Experiencing God in the Margins,” opens up another way of encountering and experiencing the divine in the context of margins. Bearing in mind the context of mission, we pattern this encounter with that of Jesus, his encounter with the marginalized. Thinking back of our experiences in the past especially our experience of the margin, we bring to our consciousness that the people who have been marginalized in various ways depending on specific context, cultures, time and situation. This reminds us of Jesus’ command which has been entrusted to us through history as missionaries and bearers of the Good News.

dscn2862Moreover, just like the message of God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, this situation regarding the poor disturbs us and shakes us to do something. We cannot afford to neglect but respond to this call of the Spirit who is truly alive in our midst. We have done the first step of listening to this call by naming our subjects, the poor people similar to those whom Jesus ministered, people who are in great need of salvation.

We take this realization as our perspective in doing the mission set before us. While we behold of the faces of today’s mission in their respective context, we also take hold of the object of our faith, the message who is Jesus Christ himself. The daily Eucharist is the model of these poor people who are united in Christ through sacrificial act of love offering and suffering in the form of sacrifice. We center our lives as religious and missionaries, working in the ministry to where we are called and to accompany the pilgrim people whom God has entrusted to our care. This is a refreshed perspective of mission and vision in our lives. Euntes!100_38591

 

Moment of God’s Experience in the Margins

Sr. Emma Dublan, PMdscn2909

 

 

 Our visit to Basilan especially Maluso where we encountered with the community of Badjaus brought back beautiful memories of my experience with the tribal mission station for the Bilaan Tribe.

My experience of God with these people is the turning point of my religious life because I never experienced this kind of encounter. With this incident I felt deep within me a tremendous enthusiasm developed and deepened to care for the margins wherever I am sent to work and live.What I realize is that the tribes should be considered as ‘subjects’ not objects. Visiting, meeting and empowering these people is being done with the social concerns which are gradually answered just like what the fathers and other voluntary group of people have been doing now in Maluso project.

100_19944There are difficulties, trials and conflicts everywhere present but we have to remember that God is present there where joy is radiated by those involved in the mission and so it is also with the people whom we have seen and encountered.Truly I believe in what Mt. 10:16-20 say “See I am sending you; do not worry for it is not you who will speak but the Spirit of your Father…” Where God is; the joy is present.

Experience provokes & challenges…

dsc06475Yesterday Tuesday, April 21, we, the participants, went to the Island of Basilan for our exposure in order to experience and to open up ourselves to the reality which is in the perspective of “Experience of God in the Margins.” Each one of us felt differently and provoked by the situation that was before us and expressed it differently. The immediate reaction was some of us have no word to express except to remain restless on the ground, some of us felt uneasy, angry, etc., further more tried to blame and analytically see the situation, some by challenging themselves how could I respond to this situation in the context of mission here and now etc. Some of the participants wrote their own personal reflections about their experience in the margins which is viewed in the context of mission.

MY RESPONSE BEING IN THE YAKAN SHOES…

dscn2883– Fr. Emerardo Maningo, CSsR

Trying to step into the shoes of our fellow-Filipino Yakan tribe, (and daring to “be” a Yakan as I write) I could not help asking the following questions. Whatever happened to our ancestral lands? Thousands of hectares are taken over by our fellow-Filipinos from the dominant tribes of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. And, they happen to be Christians. The educational system, (e.g. UP), takes over 5,000 hectares. Politicians (e.g. Senator Enrile), Chinese business people, foreigners, and other private business people now own thousands and thousands of hectares. There is a cooperative of locals. But, it only covers 140 hectares; definitely just a showcase, and does not make any considerable dent into the bigger land problem. The above-mentioned big landowners happen to be Christians, or are identified with Christians because they hired Christians to work the land for them. But, I cannot allow religion to be made the primary cause of the unrest on our Filipino Basilan Island. Without denying this religious factor, we have to look at ownership of land as, perhaps, THE primary factor. Are the existing laws fair to us, and to all?

dsc064811 I understand the impassioned pleas of Fr. Bong Agoo. He shared that he was born here on this island. He cannot just be booted out. I agree. But, there must be a way to divide the land A-FRESH, NOW, between the Yakans, other tribes and other Filipino settlers. This will not happen if the politicians continue to craft so-called Land Reform Laws that will exempt their huge landholdings (e.g. Enrile’s), and the other agribusinesses. This is another factor, namely, “agribusiness versus smaller landholdings.” Which would be, in reality, more productive and beneficial for the majority, and not just for a few?

dsc06583 I do not have the solution. All I am proposing is an honest-to-goodness dialogue on the land factor, without denying the other factors. Talking with a retired marine Filipino soldier in the boat going to Lamitan, I heard about other factors, e.g. military, political, economic and international factors. These complicate the issue all the more. But, is it fair for me to insist that the primary factor, namely land, must be faced by all concerned? Furthermore, that the solutions must be truly democratic, based on justice and other equitable and truly human principles?

dsc06589Another difficult question must be asked. Since, in reality, the Christians (e.g. the Roman Catholic Church) now seem to belong to the DOMINANT sector (or, are certainly identified with them), how can they step into the shoes of the Yakans and other non-Christians, and the other marginalized sectors? After all, the EUNTES participants went there precisely to continue their reflection on the topic “Experiencing God in the Margins.” Will the EUNTES participants, the Christians of Basilan, and the rest of the Philippines limit themselves to work towards peaceful co-existence only on religious matters? Or, will they also take a hard look at the land factor, and the other factors (e.g. military, political, economic, international, etc.) which are obviously all inter-related?

dsc06487Finally, it is good that our fellow-Filipinos who are Samal-Bajaus finally have a secure place they can call their own. May this “reservation” and the nurturing of their own cultural identity not isolate them, but ALSO help them to gradually become integrated into the positively human aspects of the bigger society. One among many “models” is that of the risen Jesus of Nazareth who was so perfectly human that he had to be divine.

The session begins…

Monday, April 20, ’09

dscn2780In the morning we had Eucharistic celebration animated by the solidarity group. It’s really enriching experience to present ourselves in our native culture. Our culture is most important for the perspective of evangelization. it’s our duty to live in it, with it and for it wherever we are at the same time we should recognize the importance of the local culture being as a person sent to evangelize and live the values of reign of God.

pict0969Today’s main speaker is Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF who focused on the topic “Experiencing God in the Margins.” He briefly explained about what mission is all about being at the center means which is not just a proclamation of the Good News. He elucidated that what was important and what makes it dynamic are the subjects, the community and the situation of society.

Likewise, he stressed that mission today is viewed as DIALOGUE with the poor, with the cultures and religious traditions — precisely the need to articulate who are the poor, the blind, the oppressed— those in the margins of society. It is also equally important to recognize our point of view, that from which point of view we put ourselves so that like the little Prince of St. John Exupery’s book, we can say “It is only with the eye that one sees rightly. What is important is the invisible to the eye…”

pict0981A small group sharing was done in seven groups namely: Myanmar, India, Brazil, OMI Group, Campus ministry Group, and Pastoral Ministry Group which is divided into two, a) Cotabato and b) Northwest Group the BasIliCa (Basilan, Iligan and Cagayan).

 

The group sharing was focused on three questions:

a)      Who are the Marginalized Sectors?

b)      Why are they poor?

c)      The experience of God or dominant image of God.

 

It was noted that the groups had a working snack time until they came back to the follow up session. There was not enough time for open forum tapered to time constraint.pict0971

The session tapered into the information regarding the exposure to Lamitan, Isabela and Maluso for Tuesday. On the 21st of April 2009, departure will be at 6:00 am. Today our session ended up together with a word of thanks to the participants by Fr. Calvo, CMF.

Familiarity Begins with a Small Group

 Yesterday afternoon (April 19) we, the participants, are divided into different groups. It’s the part of Orientation Day which is the first day. As God said after each day of creation, “It is good.” so it is!   

 

ohhhh...smile please!

ohhhh...smile please!

Life in a community necessitates familiarity between its members. Our community in Euntes started with the formation of integration groups which aided each member to familiarize each other in a small group. These groups are named as Solidarity, Fidelity, Hospitality, Creativity and Serenity. pict09183

 By sharing our ideas with one another and cooperating in group activities such as preparation of liturgy for Eucharistic Celebration, prayer services and other activities foster each one of us slow by slowly to disclose ourselves to our companions. 

 

pict09172It’s our great joy that we gathered together as a group in our refectory for mirienda (Tea & snacks). The groups chose their respective leaders who will serve as animators for the whole duration of the program. While sharing at table, taking snacks, and relating stories, laughter burst in the four corners of the dining room. pict09152

 pict09142This is a positive manifestation of getting to know each other deeper and becoming comfortable with each others’ presence. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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