Healing our brokenness… (Remembering Fr. Dong and his dreams for Dapit-Alim)

The email is dated September 16, 2020 and the simple message read: “Maayong gabei. Si FR. DONG Galenzoga ni (Good evening, this is Father Dong Galenzoga).” Attached to the email is a recording of his voice discussing the concepts, the spirit, and the desire for healing our broken souls that saw the creation of the Dapit-Alim Shrine on the boundary of Kolambugan and Tubod, Lanao del Sur. It was a recorded reply to all my questions about the Shrine and the sculptures there, the priest’s way to make sure he gets his answers to my set of questions through because signal out there was just very bad.

Yesterday, March 14, 2021, we learned that Father Dong (Rodulfo Galenzoga) passed away. Another most beloved one who didn’t make it past this pandemic that continues to ground us. He was infected a few weeks back but was said to have recovered. But his body failed to make it past recovery. I’m posting major excerpts of the recording he made in memoriam.

“(And) hope that one of these days you can come over and visit us and experience the call to be just a friend and companion in this journey of healing to be one people of God again,” he said at the end of the recording. We never got to meet each other in person.

Hi Stella, kumusta, sorry for the late response in terms of sending over a recording. My eyes have been quite bothering me the last few days and the pressures of what’s really happening in the community in terms of … we have across the place is a relocation of the settlers that also kept us busy. Anyway trying to respond to your questions. Here are my answers to your questions.

The Cosmic Christ at Dapit-Alim. Photo by Kublai Millan.

But to start with, a bit of introduction of the history of our community.

Actually on February 11, 1996 at the MSU in Marawi, I posted a sign at our bulletin board of our chaplaincy, Come Share Our Dreams, that was on a Sunday after our Eucharist. Some of the students came and just tried to be attentive to my sharing of our dream, our dream of having a community with a dialogue in mind. Dialogue with God and God’s creations, dialogue with the Muslims and Christians and the lumads  of Mindanao, dialogue with ourselves and of course dialogue with Mother Earth. There were around 30 who responded, and since then from that day we started to pray everyday, then to start sharing our dreams, what it means to be in a community, and so we were able to articulate our vision-mission of what it means to be a community as instrument of building God’s reign here on earth with a task of healing first our relation to God, then healing Mother Nature, healing our relations among Christians, Muslims, and Lumads, healing our families ,and of course healing ourselves.

That mainly was our specific catechism of healing. And then we called ourselves Kahigalaan ni Hesus or Friends of Jesus because we feel that this is the kind of posture that will help us in our work. Just being a friend. We won’t be dominating, we won’t be servants, but just friends or companions in life’s journey. Friend with Mother Earth, friends with each other, friends with Muslims, Lumads, and Christians of all denominations, and of course friend to ourselves. So that’s … why we call this Dapit-Alim. Dapit is actually has a tribal meaning, dapit as a place, dapit as an invitation, and dapit as near. And of course Alim is actually very Cebuano word of healing, to heal all our relations with God in the context of Mindanao, heal our relations among Moslems, Christians, and lumads, and of course to heal ourselves, our families etc. etc.

Photo by Kublai Millan

So my brother-in-law gave us a three piece… a three-hectare piece of land. It’s on a hilltop actually between Kolambugan and Tubod, it’s facing Panguil Bay. You can see the bay, you can see the majestic mountain of Mount Malindang, and then he told me just tell me how many hectares you like to have. So of course, I hesitated in having more than three, so I told him and of course he gave us three hectares. And the area we chose was actually a bit of barren land and bit of having cogon grass, less coconuts. It was in fact just pasture land of carabaos and horses and cows and goats, and then it was also a way for people down below to go up to the higher parts of the mountain so they would make this as a passage through the other destinations of their work.

So that was it, we started with this pasture grazing land. Then we decided to have a some sort of a spiritual home for the people around us with this vision-mission in mind, so we started staying here in 1999. Our first mass was held up on a place where there’s a big stone and the family that donated the land were there. And of course the first members of the community who signed up our vision-mission and it was the first time we read our vision-mission to the whole world in that sense by proclaiming it and we chose the Gospel of the Beatitudes and of course the Gospel of God calling us no longer servants but friends that’s why we’re called Friends of Jesus or Kahigalaan ni Jesus.

And we built actually our first house but was torn down by a whirlwind actually so I decided to take more time to reflect what is God’s will and so I took a year off. And then I went to (KZ?) and then I went to Rome for further studies for a year and then I was told by our my spiritual director in (KZ?) that if it’s God’s will, it will flourish, so with that in mind I feel that it’s God’s will for us to do and work for this community of friends, friends with a wider scope of relating to the universe to mother earth and of course to the people of god here in Mindanao.

So, in 1993 or we started to construct the shrine, we had in mind the shrine of the Cosmic Christ. The Cosmic Christ with the whole body reaching down the depth of the earth and with arms outstretched to welcome everybody and to be able to welcome everybody you have to have the heart of a child. I shared that to Kublai when he first came up.

I happen to know Kublai* because of a friend Ros**, Ros is actually a dancer, choreographer and she used to manage a resort in Camiguin in Camiguin island in Mambajao and then she came over here with a friend from Cagayan de Oro and she did some dancing during our blessing … I mean our groundbreaking of the shrine and then she mentioned about Kublai. I said, I’d be interested to meet him and to have him work out our small monuments here especially the shrine. So actually the Shrine of the Cosmic Christ is our idea, our image, but Kublai chiseled his way out to give life to this concept of this Cosmic Christ. A cosmic Christ embracing everybody and calling everybody to come up as you are but to be able to welcome everybody you have to have the heart of a child and the child with a big heart, heart of embracing everyone.

As I said, the body is, you don’t see the feet because they are deep down the bowels of the earth, but the head or the face of Christ was sculpted by Kublai and then put stars around the head and of course, the ramp going up to the heart or the main shrine was turned into a welcoming arms with hands. So that was it. It’s simple but the lines are very strong and imaginative. Especially the idea of being embraced by the welcoming arms of Christ, come as you are. Whoever you are, come, come. And of course the healing of our souls, that we are just broken pieces of each other, so it’s being its allowing us to be embraced by God so we become one, one with Mother Earth, one with people of god all over the world, with all cultures because they are just facets, all cultures are just facets of the beauty and sanctity and the richness of God’s creations.

So it’s our way of expressing that we are one, and it’s also our invitation to be one and our brokenness is that because we have not connected our souls with each and every one of God’s creatures, they be plants, fauna or flora or the seas and rivers the stars and the planets and the animals and everything in this vast universe. So the concept of being one embraced that would be the healing factor of us. Our brokenness is actually we’re longing to be one again as God has made us to be one.

And then we requested Kublai to also sculpt for us the entrance. An architect friend of mine actually designed the entrance, but Kublai added the image of Mother Earth welcoming everybody coming from the steps below. And also that as we approach the shrine I told Kublai that we would like to have family as the center of the healing process and of course we have the hands as symbols of healing, and in fact at the highway there’s a signage where there is a hand with the wound of Christ or the wound of the hand but there’s a vine going through the wounds and then climbing up and blossoming. Meaning to say that our woundedness can be our source of life again. And then as we go up we are embraced by Mother Nature, welcomed by Mother Nature and then as we approach the shrine, going to a few steps going to the ground we have the three hands of the father, the mother and the child. The child with a water flowing meaning to say that actually the healing should start with the family in the hands of the mother and the father and of course the children. So that’s it.

And beyond a few meters away from the main shrine of the Cosmic Healing Christ with the heart of the child we have the so-called Daub-Alim because during our retreats we have this ritual of burning our sins as a way of purifying ourselves and then we have the symbol of fire again with the people sitting around the fire and then there’s the ritual we have… so we have it also the work of Kublai in terms of the fires of healing. And the lower part of the shrine there’s a so called Panaw-Alim, I mean to say, I told Kublai of the eight stages in life where we move up or we go back and at the very heart of the … the very center of the eight stages of life is the very core of who we are. So there’s a big stone buried there, flat where we can meditate for a while. There is that round structure where you go inside and above it again the imagery of a new leaf sprouting… meaning to say that as you’d like to reach our center we must learn to leave behind all the hurts, we get hurt in every stage of our lives to become mature but then to be able to heal ourselves back to anoint ourselves back to who we are, core of ourselves, then we have to let go of our woundedness our hurts our disappointments and allow the inner person, the very core of a person to be healed by God.

Another monument made by Kublai is the Mother of Healing, the Virgin Mary, of course I feel that had in mind I think the face of Maan, and it suits very well because Maan is also a beautiful woman and gentle with her music and they really complement each other. So that’s it.

So right now we added the Rosary of Healing where we built actually the beads of the rosary with stones and those who like to do the rosary will do it barefooted they step on each bead while the stones would start healing the soles of the feet and we call it Rosari-alim. So those are the features of Kublai’s work here. The fountain of life, the family, welcome arc, the signage, then the journey of healing, the fires of healing, the Mother of Jesus statue calling us to heal ourselves thru the mysteries of the rosary in terms of going through the stages of life and of course too we have as the main structure the Cosmic Healing Christ. So it means that our idea that life is deeply interrelated wherever you are whoever you are, we are connected to each other. We are connected to Mother Earth we are connected to our cultures and more than ever today we are called to be one earth, one universe, one life. Of course in our .. to work, we also do a lot of emphasis on social justice because we cannot be connected, really really connected unless righteousness and justice and love are present. And so more than ever today we’re asked to be more faithful to that, that God has created for us one world, one family.

Photo by Kublai Millan.

So I feel that the once pastureland has become a place where people can come and be themselves and be connected to Mother Earth, connected to every culture and connected to oneself with God. I feel the healing process is a process of being connected to who we are as one big family of God, whoever we are, wherever we are, whatever culture we have, whatever religion we have.

So here in Dapit-Alim we are open to everybody who would like to come and be quiet. We are slowly finding a way in terms of being a community. It takes a long, long time to become a community but we’re trying our best despite all the constraints of poverty, insecurity.

And we feel that Muslims are being at home here in fact that being in the Interfaith Council some Muslims confided that they would feel at home to have a meeting here in Dapit-Alim because they feel free with Mother Nature. It’s true that there’s a big cosmic Christ, at the same time we also realized the symbolism of being one together, of being God’s eternal, fraternal, paternal embrace because all are brothers and sisters. It’s the deep wounds that has to be healed to be one again.

Photo by Kublai Millan.

So in this pandemic times we heal as one, as government’s motto is saying and it’s also an invitation for us to work together to build one world, one universe, one earth, one people of God.

So yun lang siguro at maraming Salamat. Sorry for the late reply, my eyes have been bothering me in the last few days and also with the activities around here in the community, we’re trying to help people who have been dislocated from their area and of course we are taking our time just to be in communion with God so I think our greatest which we can offer is the place. Mother nature, the hills, and the sea and the wind and the birds and the animals you kinda feel that this is our home, we are one big family and this is the task of healing to be one together. So daghan kaayong Salamat. Give my love to Kublai and to Maan and hope that one of these days you can come over and visit us and experience the call to be just a friend and companion in this journey of healing to be one people of God again. Amen, thank you.

-o0o-

*Rey Mudjahid “Kublai” Ponce Millan, a Mindanao artist who built the sculptures in Dapit-Alim.

**Prof. Rosalie Zerrudo, Academic Head of the University of San Agustin – Fine Arts Program, who used to do non-government work in Mindanao before going home to Iloilo.

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