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Bro. Carlos Ferrada Montero is a Chilean currently working in Loreto, Agusan del Sur on the island of Mindanao. The following are Bro. Carlos’ thoughts and reflections on his missionary experience.

A delegation of Latin American SVDs met me at the airport. The first four months I lived in the SVD community of San Rafael located at the headquarters of the University of San Carlos in Cebu, a city of great contrasts. For me it was a novelty to live in such a large community of more than thirty confreres, most of whom work at the University.

My basic English allowed me to communicate with them and with the people. It is notable that a high percentage of the Philippine population speaks English. To improve my English skills I took intensive classes.

Discovering cultural differences

I moved to the city of Davao to start my formal learning of Visayan dialect. These were four months of intensive classes that provided me with a base to be able to  communicate and interact with the people in rural parishes in Agusan del Sur. My presence and insertion in Loreto, Agusan del Sur opened my eyes to observe and to notice the cultural difference between my country of origin and the Philippines. Whoa, it is great! Here are some noteworthy observations.

Physical contact

The first thing that caught my attention was an absence of physical contact between the people. Eye movement and lifting eyebrows are considered greetings for them.  Needless to say, I’ve never been hugged or kissed on the cheek, a standard and a common way of greeting in my country. The lack of physical contact is complemented by the peoples’ smiles and sudden outbursts of laughter and giggles.

The food

The food is also very different, and the base is rice. In Chile certainly we eat rice, but not every day, and never at breakfast. Also, Filipinos eat white rice, no onions, pepper, or garlic. I enjoyed the variety of fish and tropical fruits, including durian with its peculiar aroma. I observed that Filipinos like to eat, and at all times. They always find some reason to celebrate. But when Filipinos invite you to their homes they do not share the table with their guests. They stay busy serving visitors in the best way they can.

Conflict resolutions

If there is a problem with another person, the mechanism used by common and simple people to settle the dispute is to exclude the possibility of a confrontation between those involved. There is a need for a third party to serve as a mediator. Maintaining harmony in interpersonal relationships is essential for Filipinos.

The experience of leaving everything and starting from scratch

The experience of leaving everything and starting from scratch in another cultural context has been very enriching for me. First, I consider this time as a school of humility. I must confess I did not feel so useless for a long time.

However, I always remember the words of Father Superior General Heinz Kulüke, “Carlos you have to survive the first three years, which are the most chaotic; then you start to enjoy.” I am about to complete two years in the Philippines, and although I have advanced in learning the local language and culture, I feel that I still have a long way to go to be able to feel at home and make a real contribution to the PHS.

My spiritual life has been greatly enriched, and prayer has been the great pillar that has supported me. There have been great challenges, difficult and even painful situations. Finally, I have known the Asian face of the SVD, with its lights and shadows. My mission experience, in a different cultural context, allowed me to value and cherish the Latin American face of the SVD. I thank the confreres of PHS for their continued support and understanding.

Bro. Carlos Ferrada Montero, SVD

Published in the newsletter “Arnoldus Nota” – May 2016