Zambales religious witnesses to ‘God’s love for Aetas’

Zambales religious witnesses to ‘God’s love for Aetas’

Sr. Junetta Jimenez, SFIC and the Aeta students of St. Francis Learning Center entertaining delegates of the Diocese of Iba’s Christ the King celebration at Carmel Academy, Palauig, Zambales,Nov. 25, 2017 RAYMOND SEBASTIAN

PALAUIG, Zambales—Notwithstanding the many challenges of her vocation, a religious sister based in Subic carries on in her mission of being Christ’s presence among the Aetas of Zambales by restoring their dignity through education.

“This is all the work of God. We are but a means with which He sends His unending love to the world, especially to the indigenous peoples of Zambales … We are all God’s children,” shared Sr. Junetta Jimenez of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Mother of God (SFIC), in a vocation talk during the Diocese of Iba’s diocesan celebration of Christ the King on Saturday, Nov. 25, at the Carmel Academy in Palauig, Zambales.

According to her, for over 12 years now, her congregation’s St. Francis Learning Center (SFLC) in Nibangon, Mangan-Vaca, Subic has been teaching Aeta children reading, writing, and other skills that willbuild up their confidence and enable them to compete in mainstream society.

Ignorant no more

“When I first came to SFLC, I had no experience [working with indgenous peoples] to speak of, so I felt the hardship at once. But this is where I’ve eventually found fulfillment, among Aetas,” she said.

To date, it has as many as 136 boarders from 33 Aeta communities all over Zambales, many of whom had to travel up to 10 hours on foot, crossing rivers and mountains, to reach the school.

“They’ve had enough of the discrimination. They want to learn. They no longer want to be looked down on as ignorant … to have their lands stolen from them. They also have dreams for the future,” she explained.

God’s hand at work

Nevertheless, Jimenez stressed that since SFLC is a boarding school, part of the challenge is of homesick children who try to escape to return to their villages, or truancy, but this is something she and her fellow sisters handle with patience and charity.

Another is the need to feed all of their wards, which translates to at least one cavan of rice daily.

But Jimenez, who was assigned to Subic in 2009, is grateful that SFLC never runs out of benefactors who support the school.

“I have seen His hand at work here … God keeps sending here people willing to help us continue helping the Aetas,” she added. CBCPNews