By Sister Melchora Acoba
The story that I want to tell you about my ministry is about my involvement with the Indigenous people (Subanens, people living near the river) in the Diocese of Ipil, Alicia, Zamboanga, Sibugay Province, the Philippines. We have a monthly catechism, feeding and visitation of the sick for each barangay (village) that is included in the program. As of now, there are six barangays that are already organized.
One encounter that had a great impact on me was when I met Timoay Marcelino Dangay, one of the leaders of the Indigenous people, when he shared with me about his faith and belief in God, whom their tribe call “Magbabaya.” They believe that Magbabaya is anywhere but most likely they believe that Magbabaya is present in creation, especially in the mountains, waters and trees. His faith strengthened me in my own faith and my own belief in my own God. I deeply appreciate their simplicity and how they value and stand for their faith, even if they are now converted to Christianity; still, their belief and respect to their unseen God remains.
As I did my ministry, I learned to live more simply, to be persistent, more accepting and more understanding, especially with the different personalities, both in religious community and in the bigger community. I learned that Mercy is always ready to respond to those in need at any time. If someone is in need, we don’t wait for tomorrow because the need is now. Mercy and compassion dominate in the ministry. It is made clear to me that the vow of service means an enthusiasm and a deep commitment to be of service regardless of time, rain or shine, and most of all regardless of race, tribe and gender.
I want the sisters of the whole Institute to know about my world: that I am with the Indigenous people, trying to understand their different personalities, learning to adapt to their culture and learning to accept their different perspectives. They have taught me how to ride a motorcycle in a mountainous terrain. This is difficult, but I learned to treasure it as I treasure the creation that I encounter on my way, as well as the people that I met each day. Despite their limited educational attainment, they taught me how to live happily in the midst of life’s struggles and challenges.
God’s mission is not easy, but I have learned to be more trustful and dependent on God’s grace.