Weekly Reflections: Living in a foreign land


By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN

“Esther, do not imagine that you are safer than any of the other Jews in the Empire. If you keep quiet at a time like this, help will come to the Jews in some other way and they will be saved, but you will die and your father’s family will come to an end. Yet who knows? Maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!” – Esther 4:14

Filipinos in Adelaide

It was a delightful opportunity for Pearl and I to be invited to a Filipino celebration of Christmas Eve in Adelaide, South Australia. Our kind and gracious host, Lyn Leane, made this thing possible. A former UCCP Bradford Church member, David Cho, now a Filipino Australian and member of the Uniting Church, warmly welcomed us with his Filipino group of about three hundred people.

We immediately felt a festive mode as we entered the social hall of the St. John the Baptist Parish where the gathering was held. The group was a good mixture of adults, young people, and children. Some of them have big name tags wherein names of big politicians and film stars at home were written. Obviously, this was just part of the fun.

The program already started when we arrived. It was some sort of a variety show with indoor games, dancing, singing, and role playing. We were introduced to the group together with other Filipino couples who also joined the celebration for the first time. We participated in the activities, especially in the indoor games. A Filipino Baptist preacher, Edwin del Pilar, who hails from La Union but now serving a small Filipino congregation in Adelaide, led the Christmas prayer.

Few minutes before midnight, the whole group joined in the countdown. At exactly midnight, they shouted “Merry Christmas!” and everyone started greeting each other with a hug, handshake, and lots of smile and laughter. Then, the feasting began. There were varieties of Filipino and Australian food set on the table. Tropical fruits, like mangoes and watermelons, were even available. We were told they came from Queensland with a climate similar to the Philippines.

Obviously, the adults in the group still spoke with a strongly accented Filipino English, but the young people and children already spoke with an Australian accent. We were able to speak to some of the adults and had come to know which part in our country they originated from. Most of them, we were told, had come from the Lahar Region. Perhaps, the Pinatubo tragedy in 1991 had driven people out of the country.

On our way home to Lynn’s house where we were staying, we had a chance to talk more deeply with David on the situation of Filipinos in Adelaide. According to him, one of the biggest problems they face as a Filipino community in Australia is the fact that they are hopelessly divided; each one would like to put up his or her own group. It used to be that there was only one Filipino organization in Adelaide, which was put up by David and his group, but as soon as new members were adjusted to the Australian society, they started splitting up. Now, an important question comes to mind: How should Filipinos live in a foreign land?

Israelites in Persia

Perhaps, we could learn from the experiences of the Israelites in Persia. Israel became a colony of the Persian Empire when Babylon fell into the hands of the Persians in 538 BC under the leadership of Cyrus the Great. Although the Persian Emperor issued a decree allowing those in Exile to return to their homeland, a lot of Israelites decided to stay in Babylon, now part of the Persian Empire.

This was the historical context of the fascinating story of Queen Esther as recorded in the Scriptures. She was a Jewish orphan brought up by her own cousin and (foster father) Mordecai. Because of her beauty, she was chosen to become the Queen of Persia. In the story, Mordecai refused to kneel down before Haman, a close aide of the Emperor. Thus, Haman made the Emperor issue a decree punishing by execution all those following different customs and not obeying the laws of the Empire. According to the decree, all Jews were to be killed, destroyed and annihilated (Esther 3:13).

And so, Mordecai asked the help of Queen Esther. He said to her, “Esther, do not imagine that you are safer than any of the other Jews in the Empire. If you keep quiet at a time like this, help will come to the Jews in some other way and they will be saved, but you will die and your father’s family will come to an end. Yet who knows? Maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!” (Esther 4:14). When Queen Esther heard this, she followed a careful and clever plan to save her own people together with Mordecai. She risked her own life and future for the sake of her fellow Israelites, including herself. Finally, she was successful in saving her own people, and Haman, the man who planned evil against the Israelites, was the one who was hanged instead (Esther 7).

To live in a foreign land victoriously would mean to stick together, to help each other, to “bear one another’s burden.” This is an enduring lesson Filipinos living abroad should learn from the painful experiences of Israelites who in many times in their history were also living in a foreign land. #

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2 Responses to “Weekly Reflections: Living in a foreign land”

  1. myra Says:

    hi rev. luna pede po bang magtanong kung paano ko malalaman ang detalye ng pinoy christian churches sa adelaide. magbabakasyon po kami don at gusto ko sanang magsimba. salamat po ng marami 🙂 God bless your work at hand.

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