The 2-week social immersion, which is part of our 10-month formation program in the Institute of Formation, Fondacio (IFFAsia) was held from October 20, 2011 to November 02, 2011 in Legaspi, the regional centre of Bicol Region in the Southeastern end of Luzon Island,
|Participants and local community with Fr Manny, 2nd from right, last row|
I was eager yet nervous looking forward to the immersion. This would be an occasion for me to put into practice the knowledge I have learnt in the classroom for the past six months. It would provide me the opportunity to build good relationship with my foster family and at the same time, build my confidence and be open in receiving with a willing heart, anything that God has in store for me.
|Students, Interns and Formators of IFFAsia and local youth with Bishop Baylon after the Eucharistic celebration|
During our orientation in IFFAsia, we were asked to share our thoughts on what we wanted to achieve during our stay in Sto. Domingo. I shared with my group that I was nervous because it would be my first time staying with “strangers”and to call them 'my family'. However I am open to receiving the surprises that God has for me and am convinced that the Lord will provide as in 2 Cor 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come.”
|A sharing session with Fr Marlon (in black t-shirt and with spectacles)|
|A pose in action with Mount Mayon Volcano in the background|
I must admit that initially I had negative feelings. However, when I arrived and events unfolded, I was simply touched by their warmth and hospitality. I was assigned to the Lozada’s family. My foster father and mother are no longer working. My foster mother is a Barangay (village) Pastoral Council Chairperson and my sister Divine Grace is a student in one of the local university and she is one of the local youth leaders.
God has a plan for everyone. I was meant to be with them. The short stint had drawn me close to my foster family. They took good care of me, showering me with their love. They made me feel at home and accepted me as part of the family. On one occasion, while we were singing together as a family in the veranda, there was a black-out and we lighted some candles to continue our singing. I simply felt that God was in the midst of us. We were bonded together and felt close to one another.
|The tricycle, our mode of transport in the barangay|
My most significant experience during the immersion was during the Youth Congress which was held in Sto. Domingo and I was picked spontaneously to do a testimony in front of 600 youths. That was my first time where I had to stand in front of such a large audience to share my story. Within a short span, I struggled hard to reflect on what I had to share. I was really nervous at that time. When I stood in front, I just believed that God will guide me and I let the Holy Spirit speaks for me. I am glad and thankful that Ate Mary chose me to share my story to others. Even though my life story was not beautiful, but I knew, through my sharing, the youth would be able to see how wonderful is the gift of life and to appreciate on what they have at the moment.
The third significant experience for me during the two weeks immersion was the interview we had with the Barangay Lidong people. Despite of potential volcano eruptions, and sited on the “way of the typhoon”, the people never complain or blame God for the natural disaster that they had experienced. Instead, they said, it was a blessing from God and they are very thankful for everything that they had. I questioned myself, 'Why do these people never complain? For us, we complain over little things such as when the sun shines and the rain falls'.
|Together with the Parish Youth Council|
From their sharing, I realised that I need to be more faithful and grateful to God for everything because He has given the greatest gift of all and that is LIFE. The suffering, the pain and the obstacles we encounter in life are but little tests that God has put us through. He will be there by our side at all time, be it good or bad. God is good and He will never leave us for He has said in Matt 28:20 "And remember that I am always with you until the end of time"
From the immersion experience, I had received many blessings and am enriched about God and life and the community I stayed with. The relationship among the group members has grown stronger, closer and more colorful.
Sharon Tan, Batch 6 Student of IFFA
from the Diocese of Sandakan, Sabah