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Captivated by ‘Cumac’

by Vernon Khelawan

It began with a small advertisement in the Catholic News titled ‘Captivating Cumaca’. As a little boy I was always fascinated by the name Cumaca and always curious to know more about this village situated in the foothills of the Northern Range off Valencia, but it didn’t happen until last weekend. I have been to far-flung countries in Asia, Europe and the Americas, including inside the White House but never to ‘Cumac’ in my own backyard.

Enthusiastically, I called up friends Ralph and Donna, offered the suggestion, which they roundly endorsed because they too, had never been to Cumaca. So, last Sunday this brave but awesome foursome (Vernon and my wife Joan, Ralph and Donna) took off on our adventure into the unknown. And an adventure it was.

Fulfilling my boyhood ambition of finally seeing Cumaca excited me and gave me great joy as we observed lovingly God’s gift to us, the beautiful fauna and flora of our countryside.

The morning had started off sunny and bright. The journey up to St Albans Limestone Quarry was relatively good – very wide unpaved roads – and then the excitement began. There were three vehicles ahead of us as we made our way through the hilly terrain, when the road suddenly became almost a bushy track with lots of overhanging shrubbery on the mountainside and precipitous valleys on the other together with cut fallen trees.

The ten-mile stretch was potholed and treacherous. It took our SUV more than an hour to get to the Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel, located in the well-built, but no longer used, Catholic school. Rows of various maxis and cars filled the already narrow ‘roadway’. Up until this point we had not seen any signs of the village of ‘Cumac’.

With people from as far away as Gasparillo and Diego Martin, Fr Steve Duncan of the Arima/Malabar Cluster (Cumaca is one of the communities) began Holy Mass at 11.30 a.m. and had his congregation mesmerised with his interesting homily. At the Sign of Peace everyone was hugging, kissing and exchanging firm handshakes. Cumaca seemed to be behind God’s back, but His spirit filled all who were present and He was in ‘Cumac’ too.

Everything was going well: lunch for all included tasty wildmeat, chicken and pork accompanied with callaloo and a variety of ground provisions. With entertaining DJ music, parang music and songs from the Pebbles C&V Serenaders and lively presentations from Los Musicos and Los Chiquitos del Aripo, the entertainment was good.

Then the rains came accompanied by lightning and thunder. The heavy showers continued for more than an hour causing everybody to huddle together in a very small space. But the inclement weather did not stop the merriment, live entertainment and even dancing.

Talking with Fr Duncan after Mass, he told me of plans by the archdiocese to resuscitate the now-abandoned school building and convert it into a real eco-resort and retreat house where groups can come and enjoy the quietness of the area and be at peace with nature. Already he has had requests from two parishes.

Where it is, tucked away in the middle of nowhere, retreatants or even holiday makers, looking for peace and tranquillity, will find it in Cumaca. Graced with solitude, and the sounds of nature, this venue is ideal for those who seek time alone with God away from the distractions of the world.