By Sarah Noonan
THIS past May, I was blessed and honored to be able to travel to South Korea with the Oikos Sisters to have an immersion/retreat with a Catholic congregation called Kkottongnae through the generosity and support of the Diocese of Borongan. There we attended the “Love in Action” school that taught the importance of loving and caring for everyone, especially those who could never repay the generosity shown them, namely the poor, disabled and elderly. We participated in a festival in honor of the poor and homeless of Seoul called the Pumba Festival.
The Holy Spirit struck straight to the hearts of the Oikos Sisters and, almost immediately upon returning home, they began planning their own festival for the poorest of the poor here in Borongan, a barrio fiesta called “Adlaw Han Mga Kablas.”
The Oikos Sisters were founded out of a need they saw to help the poor. In 2018 they will celebrate their 20th anniversary! Since their inception, they have been caring for the poor in countless ways. What we participated in with Kkottongnae was a celebration of and for the poor people. A festival where they can laugh and dance and sing and eat their fill…a day of joy for them. That is the spark that ignited within the Oikos Sisters and fueled the “Adlaw Han Mga Kablas” fiesta.
A few weeks before the event took place, the Oikos Mission was in high gear preparing for the fiesta. The Oikos Sisters called upon their co-workers to assemble gift packages for each adult, child and family who would come, to build “houses” where the food would be served; and to help on the fiesta day. They also requested help from the Borongan community for donations of food and drinks for the poor. Invitations were made and given to poor families and Oikos scholars together with Caritas and Diocesan scholars helped to decorate the venue, the Don Bosco Youth Center. They also helped to pack up the gifts and were an enormous help the day of the event.
On Saturday, September 30th, the Adlaw Han Mga Kablas, the sun was shining outside and Christ the Son, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, was beaming through the faces of each Sister and volunteer. It was an early day for all of us, and yet we were all blessed with energy and joyful spirits throughout the entire day. We were expecting around 250 fiesta guests, but the count nearly tripled as more than 600 people came! We were astounded and worked quickly to make more gift and rice packs for our guests as they were singing, dancing and having such a fun time thanks to our talented MC’s and house band. But God, our Abba Father, shed His light and His miraculous mercy on us as each child who came received a party bag and each adult received a grocery pack with rice. We had just enough! And the food? It was like being on the mountainside near the Sea of Galilee 2,000 years ago…not only did we have enough food to feed everyone, but there was more leftover, even after all of the volunteers ate after the event! We were all praising God for His kindness to us!
We were so blessed with the presence of Father Roneil Canillas, Father Joberto Picardal and Most Reverend Bishop Crispin Varquez who celebrated a beautiful mass for us with the assistance of Deacon Jonathan Pading. We were aided by many of the mothers whose children are sponsored through the Oikos Sisters, the CRLJ Charismatic Community, Sister Bing of the Living the Gospel Sisters and many past and present sponsored scholars. Truly, each person was a gift to us and not only helped to make the day run smoothly, but made it fun too!
One of the high points for me was when everyone gathered in a circle and sang “Hawak Kamay” together, which means holding hands together. Being a foreigner, I was unfamiliar with this song, however, with a friend’s help, I learned its sweet meaning…You are never alone, no matter what happens. Not only can you look to God in Heaven, but you can always depend on me to be there for you, to hold your hand, to help you in this uncertain world. You are never alone. As the words were translated to me and I looked around at all of the people standing and holding hands, singing with everything they had in them, it really moved me. To me, that is what Oikos is all about…being there for anyone who God sends their way, bringing God’s love to the poor and giving others the opportunity to do the same.
It seems that for the Oikos Sisters, and for me, it was the very fruitful trip to Kkottongnae in South Korea that led to what we hope will be the first annual Adlaw Han Mga Kablas! TO GOD BE THE GLORY!