Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Claretian Novitiate, Philippines

Fr. Marcelino Fonts, CMF, the superior of the East Asian Delegation, and I went to the novitiate house of the Philippine Province in Ormoc, Leyte, one of the central islands in the Philippines. We arrived late Sunday afternoon, 22 February 2009. Fr. Marcelino was scheduled to facilitate a seminar on prayer for two weeks, so I went with him to see the place for the first time.

Fr. Leo Dalmao, CMF, the director of novices, picked us up at Ormoc airport, and told us that we were lucky, since the flight of the incoming novices were diverted to Tacloban City instead of their flying direct to Ormoc due to the strong wind the previous day. There are five incoming novices – all Filipinos – who will be formally accepted into the novitiate on March 2, and three senior novices – two Vietnamese and a Filipino – who will make their first profession sometime in May.

The novitiate is situated, or rather, nestled in the midst of lush green rolling hills in Barangay Milagro, some kilometers away from the city proper. At the foot of the hill is the Claretian Mission Center, with two Claretians: a priest and a brother. The people speak Bisaya (Cebuano), so the novices, including the Vietnamese, who are involved in pastoral ministry, have to learn the language of the people.

The place is really conducive to prayer and rest. The air is fresh and cool, the surrounding green and budding with life, and the people are friendly and warmhearted. The place offers a pollution-free space for relaxation and reflection, as the novitiate house also welcomes guests for retreats and recollections.

Habal Habal is a single motorcycle without sidecar carrying two, three, sometimes four passengers on its pillion seat used as a form of public transportation especially in places that jeepneys or tricycles cannot reach and where roads are mostly narrow and unpaved.

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