A big thank you from the Subanen Crafters!

Below is an extract from a letter sent by Fr. Vincent Busch to the Columbans in Britain. Fr. Vincent works with the Subanen community in the Philippines and supports the Subanen Crafts ministry which he has done now for 20 years.

The Subanen crafters celebrate at their Christmas party
The Subanen crafters celebrate at their Christmas party

The crafters and I are safe. We have survived a province-wide flood event that began on Christmas day.  All the 15 towns and cities on our 100 kilometer coastline are under mud and water due to incessant monsoon rains that cascaded down Mt Malindang from 25th – 28th December 2022. Farm animals, bridges, roads, and houses have been washed away and electricity was out in many places. We had electricity here in Ozamiz although there are frequent outages. I even managed to watch the TV where the international news stations were simultaneously showing a paralyzing blizzard in my home locale near Buffalo, New York, USA. There have been many deaths in both these places. I hope 2023 is more kind to them in the USA and us here in the Philippines.

Along with the Subanen crafters I will begin the New Year as always, hoping to find better ways to build mutually enhancing relationships with the Subanen People, our Earthly habitat, our Columban Mission offices and staff as well as with our Columban donors. We do this in concert with the Subanen Ministry of Columban Sisters.

After a two-year pause because of the Covid epidemic, the Subanen Crafters resumed our yearly Christmas reunion. We met on 21st December in a local high school gym. We had the usual good food and lots of games. One of the activities was a spoof on the beauty pageant craze that possesses the Filipino psyche.  In our spoof five crafters dressed themselves in pageant ‘gowns’ using toilet paper! There was no winner or loser but the whole mock contest provoked gales of laughter!

39 year-old Marcelita attended the reunion with her daughter Helen. Marcelita has been a Subanen crafter for many years but recently has had serious family problems and has become depressed and disoriented. We recently arranged for her to have a medical check-up which found that she now has Tuberculosis. The crafters are making sure that she takes her pills and vitamins, and that she has healthy food. We will do our best to make her troubled life more livable.

The Subanen crafters are already making cards for Christmas 2024! As usual we have put a lot of thought into our designs. The cards will highlight how Mary and Joseph took care of each other during their desert journey to escape Herod’s soldiers.

In this particular design, they are seen hiking to that green oasis in the distance where they will shelter for the night. Joseph is carrying their belongings in a Subanen-style basket while Mary carries Jesus in a sling, just like a Subanen mother would. We clothed them in stars, and placed them within our Solar System so as to see them, and ourselves, as fellow travellers on the Earthly oasis we all share. In a gently way, the cards point to the Mission of Jesus, which is the whole meaning of Christmas, whose life, death and resurrection is the way the Spirit guides us all to care for each other and for the community of all Creation.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank all those who have supported the Subanen crafters ministry by purchasing Christmas cards. We look forward to sharing with you more of our card designs for Christmas 2024.

Be well and be safe,

Fr. Vinnie

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