KG TERIAN – It was a historic day for the Catholic communities of the remote villages of Terian and Buayan, located about 36km from St Michael Church, Penampang, when Archbishop John Wong made his first pastoral visit there on 2-3 July 2014. It was a visit that was met with great excitement and anticipation by the villagers as well as the visiting group.
The pastoral visit was coordinated by St Michael’s Parish Human Development Committee with support from the 4WD Club. A convoy of 18 4WD vehicles provided transport to the entourage of the Archbishop. The heavy rain made the journey extra challenging because of its slippery road condition, which took more than 2 hours to reach the destination, the last leg being the most challenging as the entourage had to cross the flooded Terian River.
The first event of the visit was the blessing of the Terian Microhydro’s new site. At the site, villagers and technician Nousi Giun gave a briefing of the microhydro project which was commissioned in 2004, but due to a landslide in 2007 the electricity supply had stalled. In conjunction with the pastoral visit, the community, headed by the youth group of the village worked very hard to repair the damage and restore the microhydro system to enable the Archbishop to have an idea how and where the villagers derived their electricity from. The Archbishop was invited to bless the new site. As he flipped the switch to turn on the turbine at the powerhouse, the lights came on, to the joy of the youth who worked very hard on the restoration project.
Moving on the program, we journeyed through slippery paths to the Community Learning Centre (CLC) of Kg Terian, where we were welcomed by the children. Once more the Archbishop was to bless their new building. A briefing was given by a representative of Pacos Trust on the CLC objectives. We were told that there are altogether 6 CLCs located in the archdiocese that are managed by Catholic communities.
By 4 pm we gathered at Kg Terian’s new St Bernard Church for its blessing and official opening. The new church was packed with the neighbouring villagers who have come to witness the opening and also to meet the archbishop whom they have never met before. The Mass was presided by Archbishop Wong and concelebrated by Fr Isidore, Fr Florian and Fr Jack.
After the dinner, with the help of a short video clip “The Sunken Graves”, which showed the effects of the Babagon Dam to the villagers of Kg.Babagon who had to be relocated due to the dam construction, Mary Giun, representing the villagers of Ulu Papar River explained to us their efforts in the Stop Kaiduan Dam campaign.
In response to the first day program and sharing, Sr Dariah on behalf of Catechetical Commission, Sr Rita on behalf of the Education Commission, and Dominic Lim on behalf of the Human Development Commission shared their views. They affirmed the efforts of the community to provide education to their young and to source for alternative power supply. By speaking up against the construction of the Kaiduan dam, the community is expressing their rights to their ancestral land. They have rightfully expressed their fear for the destruction of the environment of Ulu Papar river which could never be replaced again. The displacement of the villagers due to the proposed project too would uproot them from their customary and traditional way of life. The relocation would be likened to forcing them to adopt a life which is alien to them. The effort of the community to campaign against such mega project therefore is a concrete way of how they are living out their faith to protect their milieu.
Archbishop John Wong too affirmed their efforts as part of living out their faith through concrete action. He was glad to have the chance to go on ground and to see for himself the situation faced by his flocks.
The next day we had to move on to Kg Buayan, another hour of rough journeying. St Patrick’s church was located at the edge of the village, which was about 20 minutes walk from our landing point, and could only be reached by crossing a long hanging bridge across Ulu Papar River. The people lined up in front of the church to welcome the Archbishop and his entourage. The Mass was attended by the neighbouring villagers of Timpayasa, Pongobonon and Longkogungan who walked all the way to join the community of Kg Buayan to welcome the Archbishop.
After the Mass, Archbishop Wong stopped by to bless the new house of a villager, Ginus Sylvester Sabatan. While in Buayan we were brought to the Community Biocultural Centre where, with the help of a 3-dimensional map of the Upper Papar Area made by the villagers, the centre coordinator, Thresia explained the location of the villages along the river and the historic Salt Trail.
Lunch was served after a brief visit to the Buayan CLC and the Telecenter, whereby the Archbishop was informed how thrilled the villagers were with his pastoral visit, the first ever made by a prelate since their church was first established in 1983, and hoped that more would be forthcoming. All the villagers who came to Terian and Buayan were delighted to receive a rosary and a picture of the Archbishop to commemorate his visit.
Archbishop Wong then bid farewell and expressed his gratefulness to the hosts for their warm welcome, the 4WD club and all those involved in the preparation of his pastoral visit.
For the youths in the entourage, this trip was made meaningful as it was part of the follow-up of the PBK. For those from Penampang, this pastoral visit would become part of their preparation for the Parish Day celebration. As for the rest of the entourage, it is hoped that the visit would offer an experience towards living out our faith in action, getting our hands and feet dirty, and a small step towards understanding the Social Teachings of the Church. – Anne Lasimbang