The Redemptorist Itinerant Mission
Team (RIMT) began their mission in Kulaman, Sultan Kudarat in April 2002.
The Sto. Nino Parish in Kulaman is located up in the Cotabato Cordillera,
roughly 3,500 feet above sea level. It takes about four hours to reach
Kulaman from both the cities of General Santos and Cotabato. It is 75 kilometers
from Isulan, the capital town of Sultan Kudarat. From Isulan, it is a two-hour
on very rough roads. There are jeeps going up but with a lot of stops,
the trip takes about four hours.
The landscape of Kulaman is very different
from the rest of the Cotabato and Lanao provinces where one is always reminded
of MIndanao's conflict situation; one does not encounter tanks, army trucks,
and checkpoints along the road.
There are close to 40,000 people in Kulaman.
Three-fourths are Christian settlers, with the Ilongos making up roughly
90 percent. The majority among the Christian settlers are Catholics; the
rest belong to other denominations. One-fourth (roughly 10,000) are Manobo.
It is difficult to know exactly what percentage among them have been baptized
Christians (most are Protestants) and those who continue to hold on to
their indigenous faith tradition.
The big majority of the people in Kulaman
are truly the most abandoned. Except for a few families who have secured
vast tracts of fertile land, accumulated business establishments, and got
themselves elected as top government officials, the rest -- both Bisaya
and Manobo -- are poor and powerless. The sad reality of a number of the
land disputes is that it is the poor fighting the poor, namely, the landless
Bisaya who dreamt of owning a piece of land to till and the disenfranchised
Manobo who had been pressured to give up their ancestral land.
It is this backdrop that provides the setting
of the Kulaman mission. After the entry Mass, officiated by Archbishop
Orlando Quevedo OMI, archbishop of Cotabato, the RIMT members had conversation
with him. This session was also attended by Fr. Tom Tancinco CSsR (representing
the OPC), Fr. Peding Labaglay OMI (the OMI provincial), the OMIs assigned
in Kulaman (Fr. Dodoy Daquipil and Fr. Ecloi Andamon), and Fr. Tekoy Florida
(the pastoral formation director of St. Mary's theologate, whose six seminarians
are doing BEC practicum for six months in Kulaman.
When asked what was his expectation of
the mission, Archbishop Quevedo said that he wanted us to provide solid
formation among the BECs so that the BEC members would become actively
involved in peacemaking, conflict resolution, and interfaith dialogue.
These, he indicated, were some of the priority pastoral programs of the
archdiocesan plan. He also wanted us to be involved in the parish lumad
program assisting the Manobos in their quest to have ownership and control
over their remaining ancestral domain. He also pointed out the need to
bring the Catholics into a greater consciousness regarding their responsibilities
to the Manobo. His other expectations included the following: that we help
evolve BEC structures appropriate to the situation of the archdiocese and
to make ourselves available for training of lay BEC facilitators in the
In an earlier general assembly with close
to 200 BEC leaders of the parish, they had similar expectations as those
articulated by Archbishop Quevedo. They wanted us to help them establish
family groupings under the chapel GKK, thereby strengthening the BEC structure
of 34 village chapels and seven zones in the poblacion; provide formation
to the BEC members and leadership training; help them set up ecological,
justice and peace, and income-generating programs; encourage more men and
young people to be active in the BECs; and to promote dialogue with the
From April to June 2002, the mission team
went through the integration and immersion phase. By June we hope to begin
setting up the family groupings after the BEC orientations in the chapel
and zones. A sub-team is helping out with teh lumad program.
At present, the RIMT is composed of three
Redemptorists (Bro. Karl Gaspar, Fr. Bebot Gaspe, and Fr. Jimmy Narisma),
9 lay missioners (Joy Santos, Inday Reconalla, Ebie Malon, Marites Calago,
Grace Candillada, Malou Caminade, Roy Benitez, Renren Duran and Atong Caturza).
There are also six seminarians of the St. Mary's Theologate who are working
with the team for 5 months.
Kulaman's terrain is constituted by mountainous
areas and undulating hills. There is very limited flat land. Most of the
villages are quite far from one another and a number cannot be reached
by the skylab; the members of the team do a lot of hiking. It is
a tough place for conducting a mission but it has its rewards. The landscapes
are fantastic (there are waterfalls, caves, and a replica of the chocolate
hills of Bohol, morning fog covering mountain tops), the weather is like
that of Baguio-Tagaytay and the people are warm and hospitable. But most
of all, it is a place where one is confronted with the spirit of St. Alphonsus
calling us to be faithful to the call to serve the most abandoned.
Karl Gaspar, CSsR