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From City Jungle to Island Jungle




Being a missionary, I always have the privilege to travel from one place to another. This wholesome experience further made me more open to life's surprises. However, there are simply great experiences that stood out in my mind as constitutive to my growth as a person and as a priest.


When I was ordained, I was at first assigned in St. Arnold Janssen Parish Shrine in Cainta, Rizal. Every Friday, I travel from Tagaytay City to Cainta to reach my mission area. The parish was surrounded by subdivisions, concrete roads and big-time factories.

One time, I was invited by one of our parishioners to preside the anniversary of their company. Little did I know that I will be celebrating mass in a cosmetic factory. You should imagine how awkward I feel celebrating mass surrounded by statues wearing briefs, bras and panties. LOL.

Whenever I also go from one chapel to another, I was always fetched by a driver. I was always conscious of the time since moving from one place to another meant braving the traffic at the Ortigas Extension. I was always on the go.

Everything changed when I was transferred to Olutanga Island, a 3-town island in Zamboanga Sibugay of Mindanao. From the "city jungle lifestyle", I was introduced to the "island jungle lifestyle" which required me to change my frame of mind. It was not an overnight magic, though. It was a step by step process of learning and re-learning.

I highly appreciate our celebrations of the Holy Eucharist here. We always have our agape (fellowship) meals every after masses. Aside from partaking the best sea foods, it was a great avenue for me to brush elbows with my parishioners, rich and poor alike. At the same time, it was also an opportunity to share experiences and get to know each other intimately.

There were many a good stuff I brought with me from the city but as soon as I stepped on the island, I realized I did not need them at all. The environment was also different: No subdivisions -- only nipa huts, stilt houses and some concrete ones; No concrete roads -- only muddy trails and bad, bad roads; No big-time factories -- only small fishing boats and some small-time sari-sari stores. Thus, the missionary approach must also be different.

I remembered my first day in Olutanga Island. My companion priest asked me to preside a wedding in Villarosario. Hmmm, Villarosario! It sounded like a big subdivision. I prepared well and groomed myself well in black and white. After all, it was a wedding. The convent boys, the parish kusineras and my driver were all eyes on me as I went out of my room. They were all smiles. There smiles meant something.

On the way, I was very surprised. My driver suddenly detoured under the mango tree and we were already passing through grassy areas where only carabaos and cows would love to tread. So, this is Villarosario -- far from the subdivision chapel I imagined.

When I arrived at the chapel, the groom was wearing slippers. The bride was wearing worn out sandals. The sponsors were wearing t-shirts. I was the only one in black and white. I was ashamed. I looked more like a best man than a priest. Their simplicity moved me deeply.

Indeed, my day to day experience with the people of Olutanga Island was a kind of re-birth. It made me learn from the simple experiences of the people I ministered with. I learn and re-learn new things. It was a conversion experience. In an altogether different way, I felt God's real presence and I was simply left in awe of God's love and goodness.

Today, I am no longer the same. I become the better me.


► About the Author:
Fr. Felmar Fiel, is a missionary assigned in a very small island in the Southern part of the Philippines. He started blogging in 2006. His blog Felmar's Missionary Journey won the PEBA OFW Supporter Award. Visit his new website: www.TheLittlePriest.com.
► Read Fr. Felmar's previous articles here.


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