Philippines

My First Fiat To God's Call

By Jude M. Garceniego

The author is now studying in St Joseph Regional Seminary, Jaro. His sister Cherryl is a novice with the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of the Holy Family in Talisay City, Negros Occidental.It was during a high school retreat in Sacred Heart Formation Center, Bacolod, that I made my first ‘fiat’ to God in His calling me to priestly formation.

Our adviser, Ms Alicia Calexterio, now Mrs Alicia Dalanangbayan, the faculty and staff of Our Lady of Lourdes High School, Candoni, Negros Occidental, decided to have the retreat of the graduating class on 6-7 December 2000, with our outing the following day.

Dialogue of Life in Lanao del Norte

Elbert Balbastro and Jerry Lohera are two Columban seminarians, Elbert from Oton, Iloilo, Panay, and Jerry from La Victoria, Kauswagan, Magsaysay, Misamis Oriental. Later this year they will be going to Pakistan for their two-year First Mission Assignment. Both entered the Columban seminary formation in June 2012. Both are now in their second year of Theology in Pastoral Ministry at Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City.

In June 2016 they spent two weeks with the Maruhom Family, who are Muslims, in Sigayan, Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte. Here they share their experience.


Dialogue of Life – Experiencing What Enhances One’s Understanding

By Elbert Balbastro


Elbert Balbastro with the Imam in the Mosque in Vamenta Subdivision, Barra, Opol, Misamis Oriental

‘Unity in the midst of diversity’ is a commonly used expression in regard to engagement in dialogue. Living for two weeks in Sigayan, Sultan Naga Dimaporo, formerly Karomatan, Lanao del Norte, in Mindanao, Philippines, with my fellow Columban seminarian Jerry Lohera, I encountered two distinct ethno-religious groups living in the same house. The first was the Meranao tribe, to which our host family, that of Ali Maruhom, belonged and the other was the Talaandigto which the woman of the house, Daya Maruhom, and her cousins who happened to be spending their vacation in the house when we arrived belonged. The Talaandig people live mostly in the Province of Bukidnon.

Hangop Kabataan

By Jocelyn Ocariza-Efhan

The author, known to her friends as ‘Jojo’, is from Dumalinao, Zamboanga del Sur. St Isidore Parish, Dumalinao, was founded by the Columbans in 1957.  


The Author

‘Paduola kanako ang mga bata . . . kay ang gingharian sa langit ila sa mga tawo nga sama kanila’ – ‘Let the children come to me . . . for the kingdom of heaven belong to such as these' (Mt 19:14). Fr Michael Sinnott shared this, his favorite verse from the Bible, with me and it continues to inspire me, to ‘fuel me up’, every day as I attend to children with special needs.

‘Why me? Why me?’

By Anne B. Gubuan

This is the vocation story of Fr Finbar Maxwell from Ballyfermot, Dublin, Ireland, who was ordained as a Columban priest in 1988. The author is Assistant Editor of MISYONonline.com.


Anne, far left, Father Finbar, far right, Pililla, Rizal, 28 September 2016

I am always spellbound listening to vocation stories.  They are almost always stories of faith and courage, the pain of letting go and braving the oceans of a missionary journey. What makes these stories extra fascinating for me is the fact that these missionaries leave their families without the promise of going back to be with them again.  I don’t think I have or will ever have that kind of courage.

The Joy of Encountering God’s Presence in the Andes

By Erl Dylan J. Tabaco

The author is a Columban seminarian who spent two years, 2014 – 2016, in Peru on his First Mission Assignment (FMA), part of his preparation to be a Columban missionary priest. He is from Holy Rosary Parish, Agusan, Cagayan de Oro City. He is a regular contributor to MISYONonline.com.


Erl with the Peruvian flag at Machu Picchu

Since childhood I have been fascinated by geography. As a child I loved to build ‘islands’ and ‘mountains’ of sand on the seashore and imagine myself at their summits. It was a lifelong dream to travel but being in Peru was far beyond my imagination.

Columban Pilgrimage 2016

On 28 September, a large group of those involved in the mission of the Columbans in the Philippines and elsewhere, and four very special visitors from New Zealand, went on a pilgrimage to two places particularly associated with Columban Fr Francis Vernon Douglas: Pililla, Rizal, with his life, and Paete, Laguna, with his torture and death at the hands of the Japanese in 1943. Like the original Columban priests, Fr Douglas was already a diocesan priest, of the Archdiocese of Wellington, when he joined the Society in 1938. Like many other Columbans he met a violent end, in the service of Jesus Christ and his people. Like Jesus, he was scourged at a pillar and was 33 when he died.

Below are the featured articles written about the Pilgrimage:

Columban Pilgrimage to Pililla and Paete by Fr Rex Rocamora

The stirring within my soul began shortly after praying at the post, more so when I witnessed others praying solemly there as well. ‘Do you feel something within you?’, I had to ask, Verne, one of the New Zealanders, as my emotions were welling up. Had I been foolish in asking her? But she quickly replied, ‘I’m his niece’...

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Homily at Memorial Mass of Fr Francis Vernon Douglas, Church of St James the Apostle, Paete, Laguna, Philippines by Fr John Keenan

Let us imagine the scene in this very church: ‘ECCE HOMO’, ‘BEHOLD THE MAN’, put before all the frightened prisoners as to what might happen to them also. Then he was dragged to the baptistery and tied to the font and further tortured...

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Prayer for the Promotion of the Cause of Fr Francis Vernon Douglas

Heavenly Father we join together with the people of New Zealand and of the Philippines who are praying for the promotion of the Cause of Fr Francis Vernon Douglas SSC. We are inspired by his example of heroic faith, courage and commitment to the Gospel...

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United with Father Vernon, a Pilgrimage to Remember by Mary Joy Rile

The thought of his excruciating pain evoked in us deep sorrow, wishing to console him, yet we also recognized that sense of gratitude and awe for his courage in facing such a death. Holding the pillar as if reaching out to Fr Vernon felt like we were united with him...

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What the Pilgrims Say

The experience was surreal. I felt sad yet honored, privileged, and blessed to have walked the floors that Fr Francis Vernon Douglas walked, touched the pillar where he was tied up and tortured, entered through the doors where he welcomed my fellow Filipinos...

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Sabbatical for Future Commitment

By John B. Din

The author is from San Miguel, Zamboanga del Sur. In 1993 he went as a Columban Lay Missionary to Brazil where he spent seven years before being assigned to Peru. In 2011 he was appointed Coordinator of the Columban Lay Missionaries in the Philippines. Last year, after his sabbatical year, he was appointed Regional JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) Coordinator and is based in Quezon City.


John Din (left) and friends at graduation, University of Edinburgh 2015

In his book The Light Which Deems the Stars the late Columban Fr Colm McKeating, who worked in the Philippines for many years, argues that the sabbatical is the climax of creation and includes the care and protection of every creature because they all belong to God. Thus a sabbatical year is a not about rest and idleness but is rather meant to be an active and intense experience of God who is the ground of our existence. Indeed, it is about breaking with routine and the familiar and uncovering the extraordinary behind the veil of everyday experience. It is amazing how a different kind of work can reinvigorate when it fits the desire of the spirit.

Parenting Parents

By Mary Joy Rile

This article first appeared earlier this year in issue 25 of Columban Mission, the 12-page newsletter published three times a year by the Columbans in the Philippines. Necita’s Tatay, Nieto, has since died, on 20 October. The light of heaven upon him.


Necita Fetalvero with her parents Nieto and Lucita

I was privileged in November 2015 to join a group of Columban lay missionaries (CLMs) and the Columban vocation team in visiting former CLM Necita Fetalvero and her parents Nieto and Lucita in Tubod, Lanao del Norte. Seeing the family for the first time tugged at my heart, not just because both parents are aging – with Tatay paralyzed for 25 years from a stroke and bedridden since last year and Nanay with diabetes and due to have a cataract removed – but because they are a symbol of a resilient family. As we listened to their love story Nanay’s humor was noticeable. We enjoyed it when she responded with jokes. We recognized that that’s one of the ways she copes with all the challenges she’s been facing over the years. Tatay is her first and last love. Despite the hardships, Nanay is not giving up on Tatay till death do them part.  

Columban Pilgrimage to Pililla and Paete

By Fr Rex Rocamora

The author is a Columban priest from Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay. He was ordained in 2000 and until this year was based in China. He is now in Our Lady of Remedies Parish, Malate, Manila. His brother, Fr Joseph Joy Rocamora, is a priest in their home Diocese of Ipil.


Miss Dominga Bayocot sharing her memories of Fr Douglas

‘No wonder he was always looking towards the altar’,  said Miss Dominga Bayocot who had witnessed as an eight-year-old the man tied to one of the pillars in St James the Apostle Church, Paete, Laguna, after realizing that he was a priest. She was speaking in Tagalog but I noticed the interpreter missed this line and didn’t translate it for the pilgrims who were listening intently to the accounts of two witnesses – the other was Mrs Aurelia Cadapan – to events in the church in July 1943. It was an important line, I thought. They spoke to us after a lunch hosted by the parishioners at Lunal Paradiso Resort in an off-road garden setting.

The Philippine War On Drugs

By Fr John Keenan

The author is from Ireland and first came to the Philippines in 1966. He is based in Manila.


Pope Francis with a recovering drug addict
St Francis of Assisi of the Providence of God Hospital, Rio de Janeiro, 24 July 2013 [Wikipedia]

‘To all of you, I repeat: Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! And not only that, but I say to us all: let us not rob others of hope, let us become bearers of hope!’ (Pope Francis, 24 July 2013, Rio de Janeiro).

The war on drugs initiated by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on 1 July 2016 has made headlines around the world.  The Fifth Commandment, ‘You shall not kill’, is ignored. Most of the extra judicial killings take place among the poor. Even women are killed. Children also are caught in cross-fire. 

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