The author, Reginald Reyes, is one of the youth leaders of the Salesian Youth Movement (SYM) in the Northern Province of the Salesians in the Philippines (FIN). He is an alumnus of Don Bosco College in Canlubang.
I just came home from a 13-hour ride from Albay in the Bicol Region, home of the world famous Mayon Volcano. I went there not for leisure as most people do these days, but to immerse myself in the lives of ordinary people, of farmers and fisher folk, of those who are in the rural peripheries in this week-long process we call bABBAd.
Babad is a Filipino word that literally means “to soak,” or “to immerse.” Yet, the variation of the spelling gives a deeper meaning and perspective in order to see ABBA (Aramic of the word Father) at work in the ordinary daily life of His creation.
Long before Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si and called Christians to go to the peripheries, the Salesian Lay Volunteers of the Philippine North Province has already started stirring the hearts and minds of the young to “go out of their comfort zones” and open their hearts and minds to life’s many lessons and realities.
The bABBAd process involves five key areas.
bABBAd sa Sarili (immersion in oneself) allows the immersionist to look within one’s self and see his /her feelings and realizations before, during, and after the immersion process.
bABBAd sa Kapwa (immersion in others) allows the immersionist to relate with his /her fellow immersionists during the preparation and processing stages, and especially his / her foster family during the weeklong stay.
bABBAd sa Lipunan (immersion in the society) allows one to see the realities of the foster community (parish or barangay) not to impose abrupt solutions to problems but to merely observe and grasp how the people feel about the issues; and if given the chance give appropriate feedback to the authorities.
bABBAd sa Kalikasan (immersion in nature) allows one to marvel at the beauty of nature as one bathes day by day by the stream, goes fishing with the family or harvests crops in the field; and in turn realize the source of one’s daily physical nourishment and the value of caring for nature in view of the future generation.
Encompassing the above mentioned aspects is the most important, bABBAd sa Diyos (immersion in God), to see the Creator working in all creation day by day, realizing His hand and His will in everything and everyone completes the immersion process and hopefully makes the immersionist gradually change for the better.
I was assigned in a vast parish by the sea dedicated to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Badian, Oas where I stayed for almost four days and helped out in basic chores like washing the dishes or sweeping the floor. In such a short time I saw the dedication of the parish priest, who despite his illness, still ministers to the many chapels under his care. At times when his health does not allow him to celebrate Mass in faraway chapels, he requests neighboring priests or sends Eucharistic lay ministers to bring the sacrament to the people.
The people in turn support the parish’s needs according to their means. Some give crops or fish, others give wood for construction and repair, and some who are well off offer cash.
I also witnessed the “bayanihan spirit” (this refers to the spirit of communal unity, work and cooperation) of the fisher folk as both adult and young men tie the ropes of the nets to their waists and help pull the day’s catch to shore while the women wait with containers and scales either to sell the fish their husbands and brothers caught.
The fish sanctuaries, cemented roads, new bridges, and new school buildings are also signs of development and local government support. The people hope that these improvements will also raise their family’s income and living condition.
As I rode the bus coming back to my own reality, I bring with me the hopes and prayers of the people whom I encountered. I have also realized that God indeed dwells within and among the simple people. He indeed “fills the hungry with good things” (Luke 1:53) not just food for physical hunger, but the spirit of community for those who yearn to uplift the lives of one another, and faith that despite the literal and figurative storms that come their way they will not lose hope for a better tomorrow.