Because We are Students for Life

by Richelle H. Verdeprado

Teakare Betero, from Raba, Fiji, is undergoing his Spiritual Formation Year in Quezon City. Richelle H. Verdeprado is the Editorial Assistant of

Teakare (far right) with Fr Taaremon Matauea on the latter’s ordination day, 11 August 2013

Every time he attended Mass during his teenage years, Teakare Betero or ‘Tex’ would recite with the priest instead of responding to him. For reasons he could not really tell at the time, he just got used to doing that. He grew up that way and his friends would even jokingly say to him that he might become a priest someday. Never did he think too that he would decide to take a journey towards priesthood and that a day would come when he would feel so hungry to learn more about God.

Back from Fiji, Part II

The first part of this interview by Anne B. Gubuan, assistant editor, of Kurt Zion Pala appeared in the September-October issue of Misyon. Kurt is a Columban seminarian from Iligan City who last year completed his two-year First Mission Assignment in Fiji. He resumed his studies in theology last June.

From what you’re saying, Fiji seems peaceful, with ‘unity in diversity’ and no conflict.

On the surface it’s peaceful.  But you can feel the tension between the two cultures.  You hear people’s biases, for example, ethnic Fijians saying that Indo-Fijians are ‘too frugal’. It’s like what I have experienced in Mindanao, between Christians and Muslims. But in Mindanao, everything is expressed, people fight. In Fiji, it’s a bit more repressed as people won’t discuss the situation among themselves. 

So it’s a latent conflict?

Yes, and it bothers me.  Sometimes if I behaved like an ethnic Fijian my Indo-Fijian friends would say, ‘You’re not Fijian, you’re Indian’. It was similar when I was with the ethnic Fijian community. So I had to balance everything and try not to take sides.

Some Reflections on the Community at Mass

By Rowena D. Cuanico

The author, from Samar, is a former Columban Lay Missionary who served in Fiji and the Philippines. She is a frequent contributor to Misyon and other Columban magazines.

Weng with her Fijian friends

I often go to Mass at a chapel located in a shopping mall in an affluent part of town.

People are dressed nicely in fashionable clothes and shoes, carrying fashionable bags. They come mostly with their families. Some also come with their well-uniformed nannies and caregivers in tow.

Sometimes I would wonder why nannies and caregivers have to wear their uniforms. Is this to set their employers apart and bestow on them some status or prestige? Or is this to distinguish these nannies and caregivers from the rest of the congregation and assign them their place in society? I feel sad that even in a faith community where there should be ‘no more Gentile or Jew, servant or free, woman or man’, you can still identify their positions in society simply because of the uniforms some have to wear. I can't help but wonder,  is this how far we still are from the Kingdom of God whose dawning we have come to celebrate?

Back from Fiji

Kurt Zion Pala is a Columban seminarian from Iligan City. Earlier this year he returned from his two-year First Mission Assignment (FMA) in Fiji. Here he is interviewed by Anne B.Gubuan, assistant editor of Misyon and Columban Mission.

What happens now after your FMA in Fiji?

I will continue my studies in theology another two years. (Editor’s note: these began last June.)Then I’ll be ordained deacon. Less than three years more. I’m getting nervous. I’m almost there. It’s more of an excitement, can’t wait to reach that stage already. Living in Fiji, I’ve seen my life as a missionary priest. That’s where my choices were affirmed.
It was tough but I was happy. Life on the missions is full of challenges that you will not really experience if you are in your own place.

Members of the traditional Indian Mandali Catholic prayer group  of which Kurt is also a member.

At first I thought I was ready for the missions. I had my spiritual year, then philosophy, then theology,not to mention all the exposure trips and the experience of being immersed in different pastoral situations. I tried ‘nibbling’ at it all in to nourish me and prepare me for the journey ahead. But right now, I can really say that nothing will prepare you for missionary life.

Living in an Indo-Fijian Village

By Kurt Zion V. Pala

Fiji is a multicultural country. The Indians who arrived in the country were brought by the British about 100 years ago to work in the sugarcane plantations across the country. Now they have settled in the country and are considered Fijians. They still have their distinct Indian culture and traditions but have well established themselves in Fiji. I have from the beginning been assigned to live and work with them and so learned their language and lived in the village with one Indo-Fijian family for a period of five months.

Riding on the tamtam with Nana (‘Lolo’) Barabhabu

It was already about five in the afternoon but I had told my host father that I would be home by around one so I told them I have to leave because it was getting dark. I often get scolded for coming home late. But I always have my good reasons. ‘Khub ghar ghar ghume?’ my host mother exclaimed. She told me that I’d been roaming around the village the whole day. So I just put on my best smile and greeted them. I lived with an Indo-Fijian family, Uncle Bhola and Auntie Mary, for almost five months.

Right after my Hindi class with Master Gyan, I would walk back home from the Mission House. I had to climb a hill and on the way passed by about 10 houses. On any given day people would call out for me to have some tea or yangona or on some special days even get free lunch of goat curry, rice and dhal. This is what I enjoyed most when I was living in Paharkhaala, up in Naleba in Labasa, not just the food but also the people.

Together with Fr. Frank Hoare, Auntie Mary and Uncle Bhola

Aja, aji , salaam walaikum!’ I greeted the Muslim couple that I never miss seeing on my way home. Aji never fails to greet me when she sees me and says everytime, ‘Go my child and take care’. She’s fond of children. That includes me because none of her children are with them anymore.

From the top of the hill, I could see the girls waiting for me. I sometimes help them out with their homework. ‘Namaskaram brother!’ I heard them greeting. Auntie asked me to have lunch first. Sitting on the veranda I saw old man Barabhabu riding on something driven by two big bullocks. I knew what it was so I exclaimed, ‘Nana, aapke tonton? ‘Is this your tonton?’ Nana just laughed and told me that it is called tamtam, not tonton. After revising their homework I told them I had to go.

Just a few steps further on is Almilu attha’s place. I saw her sitting under the tree and so I called out, ‘Attha, kaise hai?’ Almilu attha is my host father’s older sister. Before I could say no, she had already set a cup of tea and pudding cake before me. I told her I would be celebrating my birthday with the children the following Sunday. I finished my tea and left.

First Taste Of Mission

By Tavite Tukutukubau

The first journey in one’s missionary life is exciting and wonderful.

As a young boy growing up in a Fijian village I used to admire big planes flying over us especially at night. Every night I used to look forward to admiring the level of technology we’ve reached.

Tavite  Tukutukubau
Tavite at Luneta, Manila

But on 9 May 2011 my dream was fulfilled by getting into a Korean Air Airbus on my way to the Philippines for my Spiritual Formation Year. My companion, Pat Visanti, and I were to spend three days at the Formation House in Seoul, Korea, before flying to Manila.

Fiji Day In Manila

By Pat Visanti

On 7 October we had an anticipated celebration for Fiji Day at our formation house in Cubao.  For me, celebrating Fiji Day away from home for the first time in my life was a touching and memorable experience.

fiji day

We began with a Mass celebrated by Fr Arthur Ledger SJ, Fiji’s only Jesuit priest, who is the current director of the East Asia Pacific Institute at Ateneo de Manila. Then followed the Fijian kava ceremony. We also had a brief slide-show of the history of Fiji. The spiritual year students performed the meke, a traditional Fijian dance, and this was followed by the meal. The night was simply the Pacific at its best here in Manila, and there was more than enough for everyone who came to join us in our celebration.

When we sang a Fijian hymn, Sa kau cake mai oqo, at the offertory of the Mass, my memory drifted back home where people wake up early in the morning to prepare the lovo, an earth oven, for the traditional way of cooking. The aroma of cooked pork, chicken and palusami filled my mind.  I could also picture families along the beach at Nasese enjoying the day with kava, Fiji’s number one tropical root drink.

Providence and Google

By Fr Charles Duster


Fr Duster, from the USA, has worked in Japan and Fiji. During a visit to the Philippines in 1967 he and another Columban were to have traveled on a flight from Bacolod to Cebu on 6 July. Although slightly delayed because they had visited another Columban in hospital, they were still on time for checking in but they weren't allowed on board. The plane left early and crashed, all 21 on board being killed.

The ways of Providence are unusual and wonderful.

It started with a simple question over the dinner table at the Columban House on the north side of Chicago, ‘Rafa, what was your first contact with the Columban Fathers?’

Rafael (Rafa) Ramirez is a Columban seminarian from Chile who was completing a ten-month English language study program at De Paul University and returned to Chile in January 2010. He is continuing his theological studies at Catholic University, Santiago, in preparation for his first missionary assignment next year as a Columban missionary.

A Royal Indian Wedding

By Kurt Zion V. Pala

The author, from Iligan City, is a Columban seminarian and recently went to Fiji for his two-year First Mission Assignment.

I had only been two weeks into my first missionary assignment here in Fiji when I witnessed an Indian wedding for the first time. Fiji is multicultural society – the population is composed of ethnic Fijians, Indo-Fijians, Chinese and others. Most of the Indo-Fijians are descendants of the girmitiyas, indentured laborers from India who came to work in the sugar fields of Fiji more than a hundred years ago. Within the Indian population here in Fiji, one can also find diversity in ethnicity and religion. Their ancestors came from different parts of India. There are three major religions practiced by the Indo-Fijians namely Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. Christians in Fiji comprise many groups, mainly Methodist, Catholic and Pentecostal.

‘I’m here because of him’

By Fr Michael Mohally

The author, from Cork city, Ireland, has spent many years working with Columban seminarians in both Ireland and the Philippines. He continues to do that in Quezon City.

The King’s Speech won four Oscars this year. It tells the true story of how Lionel Logue, an Australian, helped the future King George VI of England overcome a bad stammer. Fr Mohally here tells a story about an Irish priest who helped many, none of them kings and many of them very poor, overcome speech difficulties. In the incident reported here, nobody could have foreseen the consequences, not only in Ireland but in Fiji and the Philippines.