Shortly after we posted the article about Fraters Jonathan Schneiders and Sergio Matumoto, Jonathan wrote with an update from Davao (click hereto go to the original story):
“After traveling around Mindanao to see our missions, parishes, and seminaries, and to meet more of our confreres, we settled in Davao. We (Fr. Guido from Germany, Sergio and I) are living in an international Redemptorist community. This is also their theologate. There are students from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. Ten deacons were ordained here last weekend.
“Usually this is the place where new Dehonian missionaries come to study the local languages. As I said when I was at Sacred Heart, what I found most exciting in the ESL program was living among many nationalities. Here again I have this kind of context.
“Davao is a big city, the second largest in the country. It is relatively safe and full of medical students, especially from India. One of the attractions here is Mount Apo, the highest point in the country (more than 10,000 feet). I have classes every day, so I can’t climb it… ha, ha, ha!
“Davao has 1 million habitants and the large majority are Christians. There are many festivals here and religious traditions. People are very devoted. The malls have Sunday Masses — can you believe it? Next Sunday I’m going to Mass in the mall. I would never imagine something like that. But here they do it.
“Is Tagalog harder than learning English? Well, there is no verb that means “to be,” and there are no C, V, F or Z letters. Every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. I work intensely just to learn the structure of the non-verb sentences. Next Monday we will see verbs for the first time. Tagalog must be spoken from the end to the beginning, so, instead of “the house is yellow,” I have to say “yellow is the house” – and, without a verb.
“And then there are the sounds! Some are so foreign to me that they make me laugh. We study in a school run by the Maryknoll Fathers; it’s the Institute of Language and Culture. Fascinating! The system and the method are the most impressive I’ve seen in a language school. I have five teachers each day and they change the subjects between them each week. We have a personalized schedule.
“There are three North Americans, some from Europe, some from Asia, and then Sergio and I from Brazil. The school teaches Visayas and Tagalog, but only Sergio and I are taking Tagalog. Once a week we have a social hour. It is a time to learn something of the local culture. Last time we learned a dance: Tiniklik. It was very unusual, but decent and pure. Enchanting.
“We travel to school each day in a Jeepney. This deserves another chapter of our conversation. Jeepney is the main, actually, the sole urban public transportation here. You get it wherever you want without waiting more than two minutes and you are dropped wherever you want, usually right in front of the place you need to go. Efficient, isn’t? Yes, but often full of adventure too!
“Everything is very early here. I’ve gone to bed between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. to wake up around 4:00 a.m. And I’m not a morning person! That has been my spiritual exercise.
“There are many things to be discovered, understood and shared. I feel like it will take me a few decades to really learn about this place where I want to serve as a missionary.”