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First Letter of a Redemptorist Foreign Missionary in Dalat

 

             This is the first update from Dalat. Tito, myself and Brendan left Cebu on September 23. We stayed in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah that night. We stayed at the Daughters of St. Paul. The two sisters who were home had their formation in Lipa. The next day, we left for Sibu. The bishop, Msgr. Dominic Su was very welcoming. We got to Dalat by 6:00 p.m. on Sept. 24.

                       

            We had community meetings for two days with Brendan. It was clarified that, although the Dalat mission was started by the Mill Hills and taken over by the Redemptorist Vice-Province of Ipoh, it is now a joint mission of three units: The Vice-Province of Ipoh, the Province of Weetebula and the Province of Cebu. Furthermore, our mission is not just the parish of Dalat. It is a luxury to have three priests and a brother serving just one parish when the Diocese of Sibu has only 12 priests for 11 parishes, with over 560 out stations spread out over a huge forested area. So, our community is expected to give missions and retreats, whatever form they might take in this culture and context. Last week, the parish priest of Mukah, 45 kilometers away, expressed the desire to have a mission to prepare for the centennial of the foundation of the parish next year. We are excited about this. However, we would like to missionize our parish first before reaching out to other parishes. The last part of our meeting was the sharing from Fr. Willy (Indonesian) and Fr. Pat (Malaysian) on the programs of the parish.

 

            After one week since our arrival, we got down to some serious study of Melanau. We decided to study it first because it is the language of our parish. When we have a grasp of this, we will move on to Bahasa Malaysia, which is the national language. After nine lessons, Tito and myself are able to carry on some form of conversation with the locals. They are more than willing to help, and laugh with us as we make the inevitable mistakes. I have preached in Melanau for the past two Sundays. This Sunday, Tito and the youth conducted in Melanau the Sunday school for children before the parish Mass. We still find it difficult to understand the people at meetings and group Mass sharings. But, that too will come in God’s time. We are trying our best, willing to speak and make mistakes, and to learn from the people.

 

            We are not far from the equator. Dalat is still surrounded by thick forests and big/small rivers. The whole place in one big swamp. So, the humidity is very high. The bishop offered us air conditioners. But, we decided as a community not to receive the offer. We told the bishop that the majority of the people in the kempungs (villages) have no air conditioning. We are getting used to the heat and the humidity. There is a respite at night, it can get quite cool. I wake up early to do my karate and Shibasi in the cool of the morning. There is a symphony of beautiful birds just beside our church where I do my morning exercises. I saw two big lizards (“halo” in Cebuano) jumping from one tree to the next. Tito was entertained by two monkeys playing on a rambutan tree just outside our Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Some of the people still go hunting in the forest. We have tasted wild pig meat — “dao nyem” Melanau for very tasty! We have had sago worms twice. At the first try, Tito got allergy rashes. So he is keeping away from it. He got consoled when one of the altar boys told him that he and other Melanau people are also allergic to sago worms. They are cultured. A sago trunk is skinned and allowed to rot. The worms grow. They are gathered and fried straight, without adding water, spices, cooking oil or anything. It fries in its own oil. It is very fatty, high in cholesterol. It is a delicacy, so it is expensive. The first one we tried was bought for RM 25 (25 ringgits) per kilo. A Malaysian ringgit is more or less P15.00. So, it would come to about P325 Philippine pesos per kilo. The first time I took it, I found it hard to get rid of the fatty feeling in my mouth even after brushing my teeth, and the fatty, queasy feeling in my stomach. At the second time, I did better. I guess it is a question of getting used to it. Otherwise, the rest of the food is similar to ours, more spicy, and influenced heavily by the Chinese. Chinese and Malay/Melanau style, morning breakfast is usually noodles.

 

            Our Internet is not working properly, so for e-mail, we have to walk to one of the two Internet cafes in Dalat. The situation got worse two days ago when lightning hit our telephone line. We do not have cable TV. There is no movie house. We take these conveniences for granted. But Dalat is an oversized village, with 10 outlying villages to comprise our parish. The facilities are limited. There is a floating store that excited Tito — the only SM mall available here! We are happy with what we have, part of God’s will and His/Her Mission. There is a lot of work to be done. We will tell you more after our sessions with Msgr. Ramon. At the sessions with him, we hope to come up with a united vision of the kind of Redemptorist community we want to live here in Dalat, and a unified vision of our apostolic thrust.

 

            Gerry, I was hoping to update you on our sessions with Ramon, which just ended one hour ago (time of writing now is 2:30 p.m., Oct. 22). I will leave this update to the next month. We are now returning to Dalat because meetings with the people are waiting for us. Let me just say that our four days with Ramon were great. We are ready to build our C.Ss.R. community and the B.E.C. of the Melanau people.

 

            Regards and God bless.

 

                                                                                                                       

                                                                                                                                    Emy, C.Ss.R.  

 

 

 

2nd Letter of a Foreign Missionary in Dalat

 

 

 

             I’ll pick up this update from the time Ramon finished facilitating our community building process last October 18-23. The sharing was rather deep. We got off to a good start. About a month later, we had our first regular monthly recollection and meeting as a new international community. One of the major decisions we made is the following. We will make the vocations ministry as one of the priorities of the community. All of us will be actively involved.  As openers, Patrick has agreed to make a short video, some posters and brochures about our mission in Dalat/Sarawak. He will start working on it by January 2005, and target to have the materials ready by Easter. Then, we will start campaigning all over Sarawak, that is, from the Archdiocese of Kutching on one end, to the Dioceses of Sibu, Miri, Brunei, and the two dioceses of Sabah on the other end of Sarawak. We will recruit from all of Sarawak so that there will be native Sarawakans to take care of the C.Ss.R. mission in the whole of Sarawak. It is a dream, one of the best legacies we can leave behind.

 

            A week after the sessions with Ramon, Patrick and I joined the bishops and clergy of the Dioceses of Kutching, Sibu and Miri for a five-day retreat. It was a great opportunity for me to get to know the bishops and clergy of this region of Sarawak. Unfortunately, Tito was not allowed by the organizers to join the clergy retreat. So he was literally left alone in Dalat because Willy left for the meeting in Rome of the General Secretariat on Redemptorist Youth and Vocations Ministry. It was an unforgettable experience for Tito to hold the fort alone!

 

            In the middle of November, Tito and I had to get out of Malaysia. Our ordinary visitor’s visa, which was good for one month, could be renewed only once. The renewal said “For the purpose of making preparations to leave the country.” The Immigration Office of Sibu advised us to go to Brunei, the nearest country outside of Malaysia. We were told to go to the Malaysian Embassy in Brunei to ask for a special visitor’s visa! This could be renewed every month until the bishop’s application for a working permit for us is approved, and, God only knows how long that will take. Anyway, with the help of the Philippine Embassy and our Filipino friends in Brunei — Glory Halleluiah - we got our special visa. However, this visa allows us to enter Malaysia only once. If we leave Malaysia before our working permit is approved, there is no guarantee that we would be allowed to get back to Malaysia while waiting for the approval of our working visa. So, we are here to stay in Malaysia, unable to get out — irony of ironies! And, loving it! Seriously though, please continue to pray for Tito and myself. We have decided to go on with our mission one day at a time, and not allow the uncertainty of our immigration papers to dampen our spirits. The bishop, our friends and ourselves are doing what can be done. The rest are in the hands of God.

 

Meanwhile, we continue with our study of the Melanau language and culture. I was invited to a cultural Melanau wedding, a traditional and non-Christian ceremony. My interest was to observe what symbols might be integrated into a Christian-Melanau wedding. Towards the end of January 2005, Fr. Edmund, C.Ss.R. of Indonesia, who holds a doctorate in missiology, will guide us in our efforts to integrate the local culture into the expressions of our faith, and help us look at different approaches to mission. Meanwhile, our little efforts at inculturation continues. For instance, the Litany of the Saints on All Saints Day chanted to the rhythm of local gongs and drums, with the tune of the response “Pray for us” based on a native, high-pitched chanting was very moving.

 

The parish church will be having the nine-day Advent reflection and Mass before Christmas. This is in place of our Misa de Gallo, and is celebrated at 7:00 p.m. Meanwhile, Tito and myself are going to hold more or less the same Advent reflection and Mass in the five out-stations/kempungs whose distance prevents the people from attending the novena in the parish church. We will do a triduum per Kempung. We will live with the people for at least nine full days, without getting back to the parish center. Four of these distant kempungs still have no electricity and running water. This nine-day outreach will give us a chance to get to know the language and local culture better. In some places Tito and I will be together, in others, we will be separate. The youth of the parish church will also be involved, as a kind of mission outreach for them. We are both excited bout this first “missionary venture.” We will tell you more about it at the next update. We will also share with you our first experience of Christmas in Dalat, in the Church by the River. A BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO ALL from Tito, Willy Pat and myself.

 

— Fr. Emy Maningo, C.Ss.R.