In the training I attended, I was given a chance to introduce myself through an object which is significant for me. With this object brought me to realize a significant change in my life’s perspective. Here it is.
From the moment we have been given a reminder to bring with us a significant object to be used in our presentation, I found it unnecessary to be reminded for, since it is significant then for sure I will bring it no matter what, when and where.
I was brought out by my parents very close to God. In every endeavour I take, they keep on reminding me to always ask for God’s providence and guidance. This is how influential they were that even now I am still on accord with what they taught me on faith and my religion. That is why I bring with me a rosary bead.
It is more than a thing or object that other may perceive. It is more than a reflection of me but it is me within. It is beyond compare. It signifies my faith; it carries my passion to serve and upholds perseverance to live all throughout the years and still counting. I can testify many journeys I have with that tiny amulet. Many ups and downs, stumbled in many stones, trials and life vicissitudes have been witnessed how hard I hold on to that. In every success, in every failure, with that proves how vulnerable I am.
I was connected to Kadtuntaya Foundation Inc. (KFI), a local non-government organization serving the people in some parts of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato provinces. It was quite unusual at first on my part to be with that organization wherein majority or almost of the staff are Moro or Muslim. I was one of those you can count in your fingers belonged to the minority. Actually, it is not a big deal for that fact. Though I am a devoted Catholic, it does not matter. We do understand our differences, our beliefs, our religion. Respect to one another is the key of that mutual understanding which the name itself of the organization speaks about “kadtuntaya”, a local term used by Maguindanaoan. I work there without hesitation. I committed myself to do the task as expected me to be. They did not ask me to renounce my religion or belief. I am just holding on the faith that I have and share it to them the goodness it offers. I was thankful that I overcome those predispositions against Moro believing that if I think wrong against them they will do the same.
There was a time I need to monitor one of the project sites, a far flung community that I need to travel with a car for two hours, a motorcycle for an hour and a water boat for another half. That was the time where peace talk was not yet on track and the escalation of conflicts and skirmishes between government and MILF was on the hot seat. Along the way, fears really overwhelmed all throughout my veins as I approached the venue because at the back of my mind, the area that I would visit was the place where most MILF and other lawless groups located.
To my surprised, it was confirmed, that they were real and participants of our community orientation – men in uniformed completely armed. With no other choice, I have to go on. At that time I could not say that I fully overcome my biases against them from the fact that I was afraid of what might happen then. It was just like in the state of agony, a state between life and death, a sort of that.
You know what I did? I just held my rosary bead, closed my eyes and said my very sincere prayer,”Lord I am all yours. Please guide me. Keep me safe and let me go back home alive . It is for you. I am all yours. ” Every now and then, I just pressed it on my pocket. When I opened my mouth to start a conversation, I held it tightly. Truly, God moves in mysterious way. It turned that everything seemed to be normal to my senses. I asked them something and they responded an answer. Most of the times, they spoke in vernacular which I felt like an alien but with their facial expressions and body languages I did understand what they mean. Language barriers did not hinder us to communicate. I nodded. I smiled. I shook hands with them which they did the same.
At the end of the day, feeling tired and relieved that “I’m alive.” What else I could ask for, I overcome it. This must be a story to tell. This must be an experience to treasure and a learning to reflect on.
To know them, you should live with them. To understand them, you should be open-minded to all the possibilities. Taking risks is not a sin. It’s a matter of attitude on how to carry such consequences. As of now, I am happy not because I am still alive but most especially, I am carrying the task to serve my Muslim brothers and sisters without renouncing my faith as Roman Catholic. With the life and stories shared, they were comforted. I am touched. I am moved. In most tangible way, this mission of my life is indeed a gift from God.