Last year I was dispatched to a mission area in Mindanao for one month as a Jesuit novice. The Jesuit Filipino Province has two mission areas in Mindanao. They are Zamboanga and Bukidnon regions. Missionaries work to evangelize indigenous people in these areas, who are isolated from civilization. I was sent to Cabanglasan village, which is in Bukidnon. Cabanglasan is two hours away, by car, from Malaybalay, the state capital of Bukidnon. The road to the village is not paved. Fr. Mat, a Jesuit assigned to Guadalupe Parish of the village, goes around the villages of indigenous people by motorcycle and foot. He lives and works in Cablangasan. The indigenous people of this area belong to the Umayam tribe. I could visit the villages of Umayam with Fr. Mat. Here I want to introduce a mission trip to a remote village in the mountains and my experiences in Mindanao.
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Cabanglasan, the village where I stayed, stands on the border between areas
of immigrant people and indigenous people. At the East Side of the village
runs a large river called Pulangi; there is a hanging bridge across the
river. Only human beings and motorcycles can cross it. Crossing the bridge
we enter the world of indigenous people. There is no electricity. Riding
on the rear seat of the motorcycle I arrived at Calacapan, a small village
composed by about 15 houses.
In Calacapan we organized a party of 12, composed of Fr. Mat's staff and
porters whom he employed at this time. The first day we walked for 2 hours
and arrived at Catablalan village. We spent one night there. In the night
I saw a very mysterious view. A big tree was shining like a Christmas tree
with thousands of fireflies surrounding it.
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I noticed my mistake right after we began to walk in the river. There are
a lot of big slippery rocks on the bottom of the river. I could walk only
by being supported by porters, but there were many falls and deep parts
in the river. Of course, we couldn't walk in such places. So we, often,
had to climb up the cliffs beside the river to avoid danger. The river
ran at the bottom of a valley. Climbing rocks and walking on the very narrow
and slippery paths on the cliff were really dangerous. If we had slipped
down from the narrow path on the cliff, we would have fallen down on jaggy
rocks or into the torrent. Before the trip, I heard about an accident a
missionary had recently. He had slipped from a rock and injured his spine
terribly. So I walked cautiously. But once I slipped down from the rock
and got a light concussion. If I had broken my leg that time, I would not
be writing this report now..
Take it easy!" But later on, it turned out that he had said so just
to encourage me. The same dangerous situation continued 3 hours more. I
was very relieved when we, finally, found a dry riverbed.
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You might think that it is out of date to do this kind of "Mission"
in today's world. Of course, we should look for the meaning of the evangelization
of the indigenou people, who worship the spirits. But as far as I saw,
Fr. Mat was doing his mission in very natural ways answering the requests
of indigenous people, who want to become modernized. Many, among them,
accept Christianity as a religion that explains their God of animism.
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