For the first time from April 10-May 16, 2010, I was able to participate in the Vocation Fund Campaign organized by the Seminarians of Ozamis Archdiocese (SOAR). The purpose of the said campaign is to raise fund for the theologians of the archdiocese studying in St. Mary’s Theologate, as well as to provide venue for our exposure to different BECs.
I was assigned in St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Tangub City. Based on the original assignment, I’m the only seminarian assigned in a parish as big as this which has 37 chapels. That means I will have to visit all of these chapels from the lowlands to the mountains. Well, that could be a very big task ahead given the estimated tenure of the campaign. That was the original plan before they changed it and assigned another seminarian to help me.
Confounding to that concern is my inherent shyness. Shy? For those who don’t know, I am. I can’t help it; I think we all have that except if our face is one mile thick. What’s more? It’s just my first year of being a seminarian and almost all of the priests don’t know me yet. In a situation of shyness, I am a reserved and quiet person.
One experience I couldn’t forget was when the parish priest refused to extend his hand for me to “bless” it (Kana bang mo-amin ta.) I was watching TV when he arrived and as a sign of respect I stood up and reached for his hand. He ignored it but seeing that I’m still extending my hand, he just slightly touched it and then looked the other way. Know what I mean about priests not knowing me? But I didn’t take it against the very reverend father; I know he has reasons of his own for doing so.
But that embarrassing experience could simply be erased given the warm reception accorded to us in the barrios. We were treated as if we were really priests sometimes even addressing us Father. And who couldn’t when we were wearing our cassock while roaming around distributing envelopes. Even the children at play would stop for awhile to “bless” (Kanang mo-amin ba) “Father’s” hand. What a nice and touching sight to see, not because these children had given me attention but because they still had a sense of the spiritual. According to studies and as widely observed, many people are becoming secular and most grown ups are apathetic to religion. Well that could be true in Western countries but in the Philippines, it is simply false.
Our presence in the barrios didn’t always bring peace; we also brought trouble and menace especially for the chickens who have reached maturity. We mean disaster to their carefree lives. More and more of them had become casualties as we visited one barrio after another. Barrio townsfolk reserved them for special occasions and a “priest’s” visit is one of them. Usually at breakfast or dinner, we always had a good hot soup with fatty sheen floating on the surface.
I started my campaign at barangay Isidro D. Tan where I was received by Nanay Leoncia Ganiolon, the chapel alagad. She’s in her early 70’s but when it comes to accompanying me in my long walks going from house to house, she showed no sign of wearing out. The next day I was in Minsubong where Nanay Maling received me. I slept in their air conditioned room with a flat-screen television more than 21 inches wide. That was a superb television and a superb airconditioning; I had difficulty falling asleep because of the extreme coldness in my room. I don’t know how to operate it and I’m afraid to do so lest I could damage it. But for all the warm and the best accommodation, I am truly thankful.
For one month and six days, we were literally walking non-stop everyday. Well, except when we serve during Sunday Masses. But even that is a little bit of a sacrifice since we serve in all the four Masses in the parish. We would wake up at 4:00 a.m to prepare for the 5:00 a.m mass and then to the third mass at 10:00 in the morning. Little by little, I was now aware of the even bigger challenges that would await me if truly God is calling me.
Back to our non-stop walking; there were times I felt so exhausted especially when we had our treks in the mountain barangays. The houses were in a considerable distance with each other. Adding to that challenge is the hilly terrain. One house is on the plain and the next house is on top of the hill. Whew! If God wasn’t with us all throughout our sojourn we could not have come that far. But He’s with us, I know He is.
The last two barangays in my schedule were Kimat and Baluc. These barangays were already at the foot of Mount Malindang. They were overlooking the city of Ozamis and Tangub. It was a beautiful scenery, something which really opened to me the truth of God’s existence.
I went in these places a little bit worried. But now, after seeing the place and meeting the hospitable Tangubanons, I’m now more than certain that it was an event that was meant to be.
I thank God for being with me all throughout the campaign, for keeping me safe, for entrusting me in the hands of Godly people and for making me aware that He’s always there.
To Him be the glory!