I had just arrived in the Philippines shortly after ordination. It was 1973 and something unprecedented was happening back home in Ireland. Limerick had made it to the all Ireland hurling final! Desperate to find out news of how the match went I got my shortwave transistor radio all set up in the presbytery. For the younger generation this might not mean much, but for those of us who existed before the internet and mobile phones, we’ve experienced the radio (particularly when in a remote location overseas) as an absolute lifeline.
Because of the climate we had a Mass at 6:00 a.m. The sports round-up was due on the BBC World Service at what was 6:45 a.m. Philippines time. After Mass, I rushed to the radio and got a reception just as the announcer was saying: “In this edition we’ll be hearing all the latest from golf, athletics, etc., as well as a report from Dublin on the all Ireland final between Limerick and Kilkenny.” Waiting with baited breath, it felt like the sports roundup was the longest one in history! Then the announcer said: “We’re crossing live to Dublin”…at which point the crackly transmission become ever cracklier and quickly faded into oblivion. No amount of twiddling the dial and eventually hammering the wretched transistor would bring back the voice that was telling me what I was desperately waiting to find out. My heart truly sank and I could only resort to the serenity prayer: Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other.
The difficulty of communicating in those days was something we took for granted.
It was TEN days before I heard the result of the match! And yes Limerick won the final – for the first time in over 30 years! The local Philippines people looked slightly bemused that day at my whoops of delight!
In the first fourteen years that I was missioned in the Philippines, I was able to go to Manila once a year to make a phone call home. The difficulty of communicating in those days was something we took for granted. Laughable now, in the era of immediate communications!
After a few years in Ireland, I returned to the Philippines in 2000 for another eighteen years. At that point I hadn’t acquired a mobile phone and what really surprised me on my return there was that everyone had one. I nearly fell over with shock at seeing one of the street sellers outside the Cathedral, struggling to make a living by selling candles – and then pulling out his phone after the crowds had gone inside. The revolution in communication has happened in such a short space of time. How life has changed!
After many years on mission, Columban Fr. Daniel O’Malley now lives and works in Ireland.