\n\n\n<center><img src="http:\/\/images.gmanews.tv\/webpics\/2008\/081202_tabawan1.jpg"><\/center>\n\n<br rn\/><br rn\/>The much older Tabawan settlement now belongs to the new municipality of South Ubian. There is no North or Central Ubian. Why the municipality is called South Ubian when it is actually located in the easternmost portion of the province of Tawi-Tawi is a mystery to many. Speaking of mystery, the island of Tabawan holds the key to the understanding of the <em>mysterium <\/em>and the <em>fascinans <\/em>of the Sama peoples. In this island rest their ancestors and the spirits that guide their destiny. The indigenous rituals widely practiced are known as \u201c<em>pagomboh<\/em>\u201d and \u201c<em>pagdiwata<\/em>\u201d. The former is a ritual related to their ancestors \u2013 a devotion to their origin, and the latter refers to the spirits or jinns \u2013 rituals of offering to please the jinns. These two rituals have become keys to the very soul of the Sama peoples who are the inhabitants of all the islands that form the Municipality of South Ubian. <br rn\/><br rn\/>The more famous landmark of Tabawan is the ancient well called <em>Boheh Dea<\/em>. <em>Boheh <\/em>is the Sama word for water and <em>Dea <\/em>is the word for forest. <em>Boheh Dea<\/em>, then would mean water in the forest. There are legends around the well. The more obvious one is the fact that it is the \u201csource of life for the Sama people. As long as the well does not run dry, the Sama peoples live! And popular belief among the old says that at the other end of the <em>Boheh Dea<\/em> is the Zamzam Well in Makka. The people remember well that by tradition and by belief, the great Zamzam Well is a gift from Allah, precisely to save the lives of Hagar and her child \u2018Ismael. <em>Bohed Dea<\/em>, definitely, is one of the great wonders in the region. It is considered a real miracle to have continued supply of fresh water in a very deep well in a coral reef island. <br rn\/><br rn\/>Tabawan is also the center of the mystical rituals for the Sama <em>omboh <\/em>(ancestors). They celebrate the <em>omboh <\/em>devotion twice a year. The first ritual is to appease the ancestors for the \u201cdisturbances\u201d created in the community and family. They call this ritual as <em>omboh jabo<\/em>. The families prepare a <em>ligu <\/em>(a tray made of bamboo) containing seven plates filled with yellow rice. The local Imam (religious leader) leads the families in prayers that accompany the offering of the <em>ligu<\/em>. The other <em>omboh <\/em>rituals mark the Sama peoples\u2019 departure and arrival \u2013 asking for the ancestors\u2019 blessing before departure and thanksgiving on safe arrival. <br rn\/><br rn\/>The other famous ritual in Tabawan is <em>pagdiwata<\/em>. Here the people play their <em>gongs <\/em>and <em>kulintang <\/em>accompanied by local dances (<em>igal<\/em>) to appease the jinns or the <em>diwatas<\/em>. This ritual is important, because of the popular belief that jinns and <em>diwatas <\/em>have powers both to guide and misguide peoples. The performance of rituals, in many ways, \u201cguarantees\u201d that good jinns continue to help them and guide their path to righteousness and ward off the evil jinns. <br rn\/><br rn\/>A more contemporary landmark in the island is the Notre Dame of Tabawan or NDT. From the early 60\u2019s to the present, NDT stands as the anchor of hope for the Sama for a better future. The founder of the school, Fr. Leopold Gregoire, OMI, had become a legend to the Sama peoples. Fr. Gregoire devoted almost his entire life in the islands and their inhabitants. He was their first teacher, the medicine man and a <em>fac totum<\/em> (a do all man) in the islands. The high academic standard and the strict discipline in the school and through the tireless efforts of Fr. Gregoire, the children of the Sama peoples are able to access higher education. He was a compassionate and fair man. The first trait is a path to the hearts as symbolized by the peoples\u2019 <em>omboh <\/em>(ancestors) and the second is the path to open the mind \u2013 their capabilities symbolized by the jinns. He became the local \u201cdoctor\u2019 \u2013 a real \u201cmedicine man\u201d in indigenous cultures. <br rn\/><br rn\/><img align="right" hspace="5" vspace="5" src="http:\/\/images.gmanews.tv\/webpics\/2008\/081202_tabawan2.jpg">The Sama peoples recognize this great contribution of Fr. Gregoire. In fact, he has <strong>NOT <\/strong>left Tabawan in death but simply has become an <em>omboh <\/em>among their ancestors. Perhaps this is the reason why even today, the peoples of Tabawan continue to celebrate the annual festival of his birth that has become a sort of \u201ctown fiesta\u201d - an offering to their \u201cwhite <em>omboh<\/em>\u201d who came from a very distant land (Canada) and lived his life with them. <br rn\/><br rn\/>In a small island like Tabawan in the middle of nowhere and among one of the most abandoned peoples of the earth, NDT stands proud to have contributed to the province of Tawi-Tawi, Sama professionals that include among others teachers, civil servants, nurses, and accountants. The legend of Fr. Gregoire lives on in the dedication and lives of newer Oblate generation of priests and brothers assigned to the place. <br rn\/><br rn\/>Another Oblate Missionary who has become an <em>omboh <\/em>to the Sama people is Fr. Jesus Rey Roda, OMI. Almost ten years of his active missionary life was spent in Tabawan. He took the life and deeds of Fr. Gregoire as the pastoral paradigm in his work with the Sama peoples of Tabawan and neighboring islands. NDT is known for English and mathematics in the whole province of Tawi-Tawi. The NDT students are known throughout the region as \u201cEnglish speakers\u201d. The parents and the students since the early 60\u2019s have made the commitment to speak English in the campus at all times. Then in 1998, Fr. Rey introduced computer literacy to the high school students thereby introducing the kids to the digital era. <br rn\/><br rn\/>In 2003, NDT began to undertake community extension services. Through the help of Tabang Mindanao under the Assisi Foundation, The school\u2019s Community Extension Service provided 60 houses to the <em>Halaws <\/em>(\u201cdeportees\u201d from Sabah). The next target was the supplemental feeding for 140 grade one pupils of Lawm (inside) Tabawan Central Elementary School. After six months, the supplemental feeding expanded to Likud (back) Tabawan Elementary and Bintawlan Elementary School. Then NDT partnered with Christian Children Foundation or CCF in the feeding program for undernourished pre-school kids. Again in 2005, Fr. Rey took the Sama youth of the island to task by encouraging them in enterprise development. They were divided into five groups and with the assistance from the Consuelo Foundation, they gained access to a micro-finance facility to begin small business enterprises. <br rn\/><br rn\/>In January 2006, the GMA Kapuso Foundation came to the island through NDT Community Extension Service. The Foundation distributed 4,000 bags containing books, can goods, biscuits & cookies, candies and \u201cpancit\u201d that brought much joy to elementary pupils of Tabawan. <br rn\/><br rn\/>\n\n<center><img src="http:\/\/images.gmanews.tv\/webpics\/2008\/081202_tabawan3.jpg"><\/center>\n\n<br rn\/><br rn\/>In this peaceful and very idyllic place, came one day the <em>jahannam <\/em>(evil people) from the \u201coutside\u201d. They brutally murdered Fr. Rey in the early evening of January 15th, 2008. The Sama people were shocked and felt helpless in front of the <em>jahannam <\/em>who came heavily armed. They were not from the place and wore no masks flaunting their brute power and arrogance. When their evil mission was accomplished they left as they came with their high speed pump boats. And the whole community felt they lost a \u2018<em>mmah <\/em>(father). <br rn\/><br rn\/>The real surprise in this tragedy was the fact that the local police force was nowhere to be found yet the police station was only about 30 meters away from the convent. When the <em>jahannam <\/em>left the island, the PNP like ghosts had miraculously re-appeared in the scene! To date, the Police investigation has NOT produced any results neither the Local Police Force has submitted any official reports on the murder of Fr. Rey. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the congregation to whom Fr. Rey belonged, continues to hope for a day to come when justice would be done to all the victims of senseless killings perpetrated in the place. The OMIs, in the last ten years, have buried three of their missionaries murdered in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi - Bishop Benjamin de Jesus, OMI executed in public in front of the Jolo Cathedral on February 4, 1997, Fr. Benjamin Inocencio, OMI again executed in public at the back of the Jolo Cathedral on December 28th, and Fr. Jesus Reynaldo Roda, OMI violently taken from his convent and executed at the Notre Dame School ground on January 15th, 2008. <br rn\/><br rn\/>The local folks believe that the murder of Fr. Rey has disturbed the <em>omboh<\/em>. They continue to mourn and grieve Fr. Rey\u2019s death. After performing the proper rituals of cleansing and offerings to the <em>omboh<\/em>, the community with their new pastor, Fr. Rito Daquipil OMI and his companion Bro. Ryan, have begun to turn a new page. With pain in their hearts, yet full of trust in the goodwill and hospitality of the Sama peoples, they pick of the pieces and begin anew.