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|Missionary Sisters of St Columban|
By Etuate Tubuka
A Columban seminarian from Fiji tells us about his first missionary journey to the Philippines. He accompanied Kurt Pala on part of the Road to Agoo in this issue.
I arrived at Manila International Airport on 25 June 2008 at 11:30 pm after a
ten-hour flight from my home country, Fiji. I had completed a year and a half of
seminary studies in Fiji and I had come to the Philippines to continue them.
Fr Dominic Nolan and my new formator, Fr Michael Cuddigan, were waiting to greet me. We headed for the Columban Regional House in Manila where I spent my first night away from home.
Lying in bed that night was one of the hardest moments in my life. I was in a country where everything was different from my own. I didn’t know what to expect and how to react. I was homesick, afraid and lonely.
Culture shock began the moment I walked out of the airport terminal. I found the noise, the people and the lights different from those at home. There were so many new things to see and marvel at in Manila: jeepneys, tricycles, the busy traffic, big malls and pollution. I remember my first ride on a tricycle. I had to get on behind the driver because I could not fit with another inside the cab. Never in my life had I seen so many people. I’m told the population is about 96 million. Back in Fiji we have just passed the 900,000 mark.
Father Cuddigan and I left for the Columban House of Studies in Quezon City the next day. Depending on traffic, it can take up to an hour to get there. I was introduced to our cook Yoli and our cleaner Minda.
The rest of the students were not around for they were still on holidays.
My Columban brothers arrived four days after me. I was thankful and happy to see them. It didn’t take us long to blend in together. We had so many things in common and we were friends from the day we met. This friendship was strengthened when we went camping during our first week together.
The aim of the camp was to build bonds between us students and also to be a time of reflection. The campsite was a historic site, Biak na Bato, Bulacan, north of Manila, and I was honored to be part of it. It was quite a peaceful place and it reminded me of home and soon enough I was homesick again.
At the moment we are attending different institutions depending on our different years of studies but most of our lectures are in-house. I am enjoying the food and have come to try new delicacies like balut (hard boiled duck eggs which are about to hatch) and bats, ‘paniki’ in Tagalog. The trick is – eat with an open mind.
Each day I learn new things. I don’t know what the future holds for me but I am enjoying the present moment. This is an experience that I will never forget.
You may email Etuate, or ‘Etu’ as he is known, at firstname.lastname@example.org or write him at: Columban House of Studies, PO Box 4454, 1099 MANILA.