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Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Compiled by SOCCOM, St Mary's Cathedral, Sandakan
During the just concluded Diocesan level World Day of Migrants 2015, themed 'World without frontiers, mother to all' on 27th September 2015 at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre, a few stepped forth to share their life journey as a migrant. They shared on their grief and anguish, the joy and hope. Among them, Roferda, popularly known as Ferdee has this to share, cherishing the gift of joy which is always the gift of hope.
Roferda Coloma Mariano @ Ferdee was born on 6th November, 1942 in Nueva Vizcaya Philippines. She migrated in 1964, to Sabah, popularly known as North Borneo then. The nation of Malaysia was just formed a year ago when she arrived at Kota Kinabalu, known then as Jesselton at that time, from Manila with a 3 months social visit visa. She came to Sandakan on October that year, aged 21 and freshly graduated from the University in Manila with Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. 
Her main purpose to Sandakan was to visit her uncle then, and at the same time looking for a temporary job to earn enough money to go to Yokohama to visit her grandfather in Japan. Her planning was, from Japan, she will proceed to further her studies in the USA. Little did she know that this small transit town of Sandakan will become her hometown for the next 51 years. She is married to Joe Mariano, a local gentleman of Sandakan and has 3 children.

She shared, “At first I felt strange in Sandakan, because I grew up in the city of Manila. I was so used to the busy and fast moving life. However as days went by, I felt at home as it suit me the quiet and slow moving life back then. Slowly I made many friends, mostly Filipinos, and then eventually I befriended other races, Chinese, Kadazan, Malay and some Indians. I said to myself, wow…what a diverse races of Sabah and very interesting to know their background and culture. I mastered the Bahasa Melayu fast because the language has a lot of similarities with my mother tongue.”
Her interest was to become a social worker with the welfare department but God saw her better off with the teaching profession in an established school in Sandakan and retired as a teacher here in 1997. Her involvement in Girl Guides Movements for more than two decades and in the Lions Club has earned her a Special Award Winner in the State-Level Women’s Day Celebration in 2003. Not only had she excelled in the secular life but also in the spiritual life, through an active involvement in the Church.
Her hobby
Her involvement started with her association with fellow Filipinos in the church and it had strengthened through the setting up of the Filipino Pastoral Community in the church. Somehow the involvement became intense by her joining in other ministries such as the Catholic Women's League (CWL). Her scope of involvement not only in prayers and church activities but her involvement expanded to assisting in socio-economic aspect. When asked if she had any unforgettable encountered of migrants, she shared the most memorable experience was when thousands of Filipinos were forced to leave Sabah in 2007, it was so disheartening to see them leaving in a pathetic condition. With the help of, Rev. Fr. Francis Tsen, the rector of St. Mary Church then, Mama Anne of an NGO, social workers and some volunteers organised a concerted effort to supply them the basic necessities such as baby milks, pampers towels, sanitary napkins for their journey back to the Philippines.
Another unforgettable experience in 2008 was with human trafficking, a tragedy involving 5 young lady migrants where she helped and temporarily housed them.  They managed to escape from the clutch of illegal recruiters which conned them of lucrative job in Sabah but ended up in the red street work. She managed to get help from a Good Samaritan who assisted her to secure air passages and proper documentations for them to return  to the Philippines
She said “being a migrant myself, and a lucky one to make it as a citizen in this country, would like to encourage you to reach out and help the migrants in whatever way you can for they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. My involvement in church with all these wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ has helped me to encounter Jesus in my heart. I became a reborn Christian, and with the Holy Spirit guiding me and giving me energy, I will continue to serve as long as the Lord allows. ”.
Celebrating her 50th marriage anniversary
Ferdee is an active member of the Church. She is never tired of serving, giving to her friends and community and reaching out to those in need. She joined the Catholic Women's League way back in 1978 and served as president / chairlady for several terms. She held the post as the East Coast 1 CWL Coordinator for a 2-year term (1987-1989).  She is currently the chairlady of the Catholic Women's Apostolate of St Mary's Cathedral.
In 1980, she volunteered as a RCIA animator and served till today. The following year, 1981, she enlisted in the Word Ministry, serving as commentator and reader. Together with her husband, the couple were appointed as marriage counselor in 1990. She has served as a volunteer catechist, teaching the preschool children in the Sunday School in the mid 90s.


  1. Rest in Peace ROFERDO COLOMA MARIANO @ FERDEE . God bless you.

  2. Auntie's jovial, caring & generous persona will always remain in my wonderful childhood memories growing up in Sandakan & as a Brownie. May her soul rest in peace and eternal rest grant unto her.

  3. You are deeply missed by all of us. A legend to the Catholic Women's League. We will always remember the Auntie Purple of Sandakan. Rest in peace Auntie Ferdee.



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