I am Rosita Carvalho da Costa, a postulant of San Luis Beltran Province, Philippines. I would like to share my immersion experience in the area of “Dumagat Real Quezon.” This exposure was organized by Sojourn, an institute in Cubao Diocese, Philippines. All the surrounding postulants from different congregations come together for modular classes for their initial formation.
Our exposures were in four different areas, Baseco the urban poor, Batan Aetas, Dumagat Real Quezon and Fisher flock. My two companions Sara and Rosalina got Baseco and Aetas, I feel fortunate that I got the wonderful opportunity to encounter God in Dumagat. In this region, people are very poor and they are considered as dirty people because they live in utter poverty and they have scarcity of water.
The “Immersion experience” was the most awaited part for me. Even while we were yet attending the modular classes, I was excited for this to come. But when time came to go for immersion my excitement was turn into worries and challenges, specially my concern about the language. Being a Timorese, it was really a challenge to go out from my comfort zone because I do not know Tagalog. In my mind, I had many questions, doubts and expectations but the orientation given by Sojourn has calmed my fears. I was also prepared and was then encouraged by my sisters to go to the unknown place and to be sensitive to the culture of the people.
It took five hours to reach from Manila to my immersion place and as soon as we arrived, we were assigned by the facilitator each one to a certain family. My foster family was very happy to welcome me. On the first night we gathered on the table, that table made from bamboos and was a typical multiple-purpose facility. When we began to eat, I saw the food was very little and it was enough just for three persons, we were eight! We had very little, so the following morning we woke up at three o’clock with empty stomach and went up the mountain to which my foster mother used to work every day. It takes three hours to reach and the mountain was so steep, and the road was very dangerous. I found it difficult to go there, but when I look into the eyes of those women who walked with me, I gathered strength to move on.
We worked every day at six o’clock in the morning till five o’clock in the afternoon and it wasn’t an easy work at all. The salary which they receive is not at all enough to sustain their daily needs. For me, it is unjust to poor people and at the same time they are slaves in their own place. These people are rejected by the society and their children have no access to education. At the same time, they are victim of their own resources because the higher authorities have stolen their land.
During my ten days of stay, we had only eaten three times as a full meal and rest of the time we just drunk water. It happened many times, we worked whole day very hard and by evening, we came travelling three hours from the mountain, and we just drink water and go to sleep. For me, it was both a surprising and inspiring experience because we come to the table, we pray and my foster mother pour water into each of our cups to drink water, pray and go to sleep. Next day again back to the work.
I enjoyed conversing with them but because of the language I missed the details of their history. Nonetheless, I witnessed their struggle, their situation, I experienced what they must have felt.
By then, when I encounter difficulties in my immersion, I remember how M. Ascension Nicol and Msgr. Ramon Zubieta encounter in their prelature, must have been more difficult then. But due to their fidelity to Jesus’ project, they accepted whatever life was presented to them, though things might be totally against their desires.
I was very happy that I had experienced little like our founders, even not much as theirs. In my immersion, I learned to value each time, to be faithful to Jesus even the things in life will go against my desire and I have learned how to appreciate every moment of difficulties as a process for my growth.
I am grateful to my province, the sisters of the community and institute of Sojourn for giving me this beautiful opportunity in strengthening my vocation to follow Christ.
Thank you, may God be praised everywhere!
Rosita Carvalho da Costa