Niknik and Makedypat
By Peter Robb C.Ss.R.
The most enriching period of my life was the 15 years spent in the mountains with tribal Filipinos. It all began when I was recovering from typhoid fever in hospital. The bishop visited and told me of the mountain folk, and when I was well, I set out to be with them. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always life-giving.
I remember sleeping around the fire with the people. Sometimes the ground was damp after heavy rains but it was always warm. After a couple of years I developed kidney trouble. The solution: cut a few branches with my machete (itak) and sleep in them. We all bedded down together; men on one side, women on the other, and children all over the place. The dogs were also with us. If the ground was a bit dusty there was the possibility of a wee mite or insect called a niknik. When it nicked you it was very painful. In the early hours of one morning I was nicked in the groin area – once, then twice. It was painful so I headed to the mountain river about 100 metres away and sat in waste-deep water to cool off.
I learnt much from the tribal mountain people. I learnt from them how to face life, poverty and oppression without bitterness, but with hope. There’s no quenching of the flickering life in their lives. They celebrate God, Makedypat, in their life experience, his experience of his presence in themselves, their family gatherings, in the whole of life. The privilege was mine to be with them.