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When North Meets South... in the Novitiate!


Alah eh... dine na kami sa Lipa!


            It was four o’clock in the morning of April 12, 2004 (Easter Monday), when we arrived at Eva Macapagal International Port, Manila on board Superferry 15 from Cagayan de Oro City. We were all excited although anxious about what may take place in the days to come.  We were all ready for embarking when we smelled the polluted of Manila Bay. We braced ourselves and said, “Well, this is it. Welcome novitiate!” Upon reaching the arrival/waiting area of the port, with our huge backpacks on, we were warmly welcomed by our novice master, Fr. Tom Tancinco, C.Ss.R. and Kristofferson Alea, a novice from VP-Manila (We have learned since that they left Lipa City at two o’clock dawn just to fetch us). After fixing our things, we went right away to Pansol, Calamba City, Laguna for the Redemptorist Vice-Province of Manila annual Easter gathering.


            After two hours of travel, we finally reached our destination. Fr. Ernie Garcia, C.Ss.R. greeted us. Before lunch was served, everybody was there, including our novices, Dax and Roger, and our very own Bishop I AM, C.Ss.R. It was a pleasant welcome for us. All of the VP Manila communities were there for the celebration. The whole day was spent in swimming, fun games, eating and chatting. We had a nice time though everything around us was new— from the people’s faces to the people’s dialect. Fortunately we still managed in getting along with them. In the afternoon, after the merrymaking, we hit the road leading to Lipa City, Batangas. It was a long, nevertheless memorable day for us “new comers.” We arrived at the novitiate house with hearts full of enthusiasm, courage and hope. We knew the days ahead of us would be quite tough as we faced once again new challenges in our vocation.


            On April 13, 2004, Tuesday, we started our novitiate canonical year with a celebration of the Holy Eucharist officiated by acting Lipa community rector, Fr. Ernie Garcia, C.Ss.R. with Frs. Tom Tancinco, C.Ss.R. and Vince Doherty, C.Ss.R. The senior novices were also with us: Bros. Eugene, Dax, Roger and Jay. Also present was Bro. Epi Bama, C.Ss.R. (who happens to be the younger brother of my uncle). All in all, there are four new novices for the novitiate year 2004-2005, namely, Hernando Perez of Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte; Shaun Silagan of Maco, Compostela Valley Province-Davao; Leomel Puerto of Kapalong, Davao del Norte— Cebu Province, and Kristofferson Alea of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro — Manila Vice Province.  We are the second batch of novices since the joint novitiate program of the Province of Cebu and the Vice-Province of Manila was revived last year.


            April 15, 2004. Before plunging into the serious stuff of the novitiate, Fr. Tom, with senior novices, took us around the city to familiarize us with the city of Lipa. We visited the La Salle Brothers novitiate house. We went to the San Sebastian Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Lipa after paying a courtesy visit at the Lipa City Hall. Unfortunately Ate Vi Santos was not around then. We dropped by the Carmelites church before going to the historical landmark of Lipa, the Casa Segunda, the ancestral house of Doña Segunda Katigbak who was the first love of Jose Rizal. (Kindly check your history books please) For a moment we experienced what it was to be like a “Redemp-tourist.”


            On April 27, 2004 we went to the Missionaries of the Perpetual Succour (MPS) novitiate house in Biñan, Laguna for recreation and interaction with other Alphonsian communities. We had Mass with the sisters celebrated by Fr. Tom, C.Ss.R. This was followed by a mini-Olympics — volleyball and some parlor games right after a scrumptious lunch prepared by the sisters. We had a fun-filled and sweat-draining day with the sisters. It was also a timely break for us junior novices before going into a retreat.


            We recently had our orientation on the Ratio Formationis and the Lipa novitiate program, followed by our eight-day initial retreat last April 28, 2004 — May 5, 2004 facilitated by Fr. Tom, C.Ss.R. We dubbed it “desert week,” a weeklong grand silence, reflection and meditation. It was indeed a fruitful and successful week, journeying with our inner child, journeying with God. Thanks be to God, we survived in the “desert.” Then came the formal acceptance of the novitiate year 2004-2005, the day after our retreat, on May 6, 2004, Thursday. We made our commitment to God and to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer as novices.


            After seeing our weekly timetable, we were overwhelmed by its structure.  We said to each other, “Mao na jud ni!” (This is it!) with a smile on our faces and a slight anxiety in our hearts. Providentially, after a week or two, we were able to fine-tune the new structure of the novitiate program and place everything in God’s hands. As the prayer goes, “Lord give me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” We are all hopeful and optimistic in God’s grace in this novitiate year.


            Lastly, we would like to earnestly congratulate our new Redemptorist priests on their ordination — Frs. Bert Cepe, C.Ss.R. and Bing Simacio, C.Ss.R. Good luck on your ministry. We also extend our heartfelt congratulations to the newly professed Redemptorist brothers, Bros. Eugene Espeña, C.Ss.R. and Samuel Joseph de Guzman, C.Ss.R. of the Vice-Province of Manila, and Bro. Roger Labañero, C.Ss.R. of the Province of Cebu. Good luck!


            Until next time. Hanggang dine na la-ang muna!


— Leomel “Jong” Puerto