October 25, 2016 – Sister Jolyn “Jules” Dungo, OP, a junior professed Sister, is in the fifth year of a mission she deeply loves: living with and serving the Aetas, indigenous people of the Philippines, in the remote, mountainous areas of Villa Maria and Barangai Diaz in the region of Porac.
Sister Jules’ ministry involves a great many facets of service, as well as hardship, as she struggles to meet the needs of the Aeta people who were displaced from their homes 20 years ago after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. She currently shares her ministry with Sister Antonette Lumbang, who joined her more than a year ago.
The Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies – once a separate Dominican Congregation but now a Mission Chapter of the Adrian Dominican Sisters – have opened a school in Villa Maria and a satellite school on Barangai Diaz. The schools serve elementary, high school, and college students.
Sister Jules said the ministry involves a feeding program for the students, who had previously attended school without the benefit of breakfast. Currently, the program runs three days each week, serving 500 students from Villa Maria and about 75 from Barangai Diaz.
Sisters Jules and Antonette are also involved in the spiritual lives of the people. “As missionaries, we’re not only feeding them,” Sister Jules said. “We’re not only giving them food but we also feed their spiritual lives. That’s our duty.”
Sister Antonette offers catechism, teaching grades four, five, and six, and preparing students for Communion. The Sisters also work in the Maria Villa and Barangai Diaz communities, offering weekly prayer sessions on Sundays and weekly Bible studies. Mass is offered in the communities only about once every year.
The Aetas are deeply spiritual people, Sister Jules said. “They respect Mother Earth. Their name for God means ‘Everything is possible.’”
One of her challenges is finding donors to sustain the mission, and in particular to fund scholarships to ensure students can continue their education. “We depend on local sponsors,” Sister Jules said. They also sell T-shirts and local products to raise needed funds.
Sisters Jules and Antonette also endure physical hardships. While Villa Maria is equipped with electricity, water, and a system of roads, Barangay Diaz does not have electricity – and the only source of water is a spring.
“We have to go down a 10-minute walk just to get the water and a 10-minute walk to go up,” she said. To get to their ministries, the Sisters might be able to take a motorcycle – but are often forced to walk two hours in mountainous terrain or three hours taking a longer route.
“One of the things I love most about the indigenous people is that they give the best for you,” Sister Jules said of her ministry. “They don’t give excess. For us, we give what is excess for us. But they will give you their first fruit.”
She said she also learned the meaning of prayer and the value of trust from the Aeta. “You trust and depend on God’s providence, because everything is providence.”
Sister Jules deeply loves her mission with the Aetas, but is looking to the time when another Sister will be assigned to minister with them.
“I am hoping that the Sister who will replace me will have a heart for the mission, will work beyond the hours of 8 to 5 and will be not only feeding them but always giving what is true to them, because the mission is not about us,” Sister Jules said. “The mission is about them and about God.”