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By Sister Maria May Cano, OP
Executive Secretary, Caritas Kalookan
May 26, 2020, Caloocan City, the Philippines – The formal experience of the Diocese of Kalookan – one of 10 Suffragan Dioceses in Metro Manila – began on March 14, 2020, when Bishop Pablo Virgilio David called a meeting of the women and men religious and diocesan priests. He announced our need to follow the advice of the Department of Health: to practice social distancing to avoid the spreading of the coronavirus. All Masses and other gatherings were canceled. Bishop David further asked the priests to respond to the various needs of the people, especially for confession.
The Diocese of Kalookan – made up of 29 parishes, two quasi-parishes, and 13 mission stations – is the poorest diocese in Metro Manila. About 90% of the people are the “poorest of the poor.” This is where we can find the peripheries, as Pope Francis mentioned during his 2015 visit to our country.
Many people lost their jobs because of the pandemic and do not have money to provide the basic needs of their family. We cater to people of all walks of life: people with special needs, senior citizens, the sick, and families of those who were victims of extra-judicial killings in the war against drugs.
By the grace of God, two days after our meeting, we started receiving donations in cash and kind. The staff of Caritas Kalookan, Inc., was in charge of accepting those donations, as well as purchasing and disbursing goods needed by the people in the diocese. We received more than 1,500 cavans of rice and purchased 800 cavans of rice. In the Philippines, a cavan is a unit of dry measurement, equal to about 44 kilograms (97 pounds).We also received canned goods from individuals, religious organizations, and private companies like San Miguel Corp. We in the Diocese of Kalookan collected around 7 million pesos, in addition to the donations in kind.
The business sectors in Greater Manila donated around 1.7 billion pesos worth of gift certificates to Caritas Manila. Bishop David distributed the Kalookan Diocese’s share of gift certificates – about 230 million pesos worth – to the priests and chaplains of mission stations, who gave them to families in need in our diocese. The gift certificates enable the families to purchase their basic needs. Sister Abegail Santos, OP, my community member and companion, focuses on collating the gift certificate and reporting on their distribution to Caritas Manila.
While I am busy accepting the donations in kind, ordering goods, and sending deliveries to various parishes, I also purchase milk for the children and distribute gift certificates for their medicines.
The East West Seeds Philippines Corporation approved our request to provide us with vegetable seeds and seedlings, since we are experiencing crisis. It is good to plant vegetables while we are in lockdown. We teach our people to produce their own vegetables in their own backyard. This is an application of the message of Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ and is one way that we care for and nurture our Mother Earth.
The company also connected us to the farmers, purchasing fresh vegetables at a reasonable price. This benefited both the farmers and the people who received the seedlings and learned to plant organic vegetables.
In Mining, Angeles City, Sisters Arsenia Puno, OP, Victoria Changcoco, OP, Liberty Mendoza, OP, Meliza Arquillano, OP, and Leizel Tedria, OP, have also been involved in ministry to people suffering because of the pandemic. They received donations of more than 300,000 pesos and distributed goods to 500 indigenous Aeta families. In addition, they cooked food for people on the front lines and distributed food packs to 500 families for four weeks – a total of 2,000 packs – through Caritas Manila.
Sister Ines Manuel, OP, also cooked for the people on the frontlines and distributed food packs to people with disabilities and other neighbors in Manibaug, Porac.
Sisters Jolyn Dungo, OP, Yolanda Manapsal, OP, Marifi Lugtu, OP, Antonette Lumbang, OP, Rosita Yaya, OP, and Filomena Manuel, OP, distributed food packs in San Fernando.
I thank God, for all the experiences we had despite of many trials we encountered. God is good, sending generous benefactors in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis. We are blessed to have a bishop who is so compassionate, caring, and supportive, and who is always worried about the situation of our poor brothers and sisters.
I salute, too, all the people on the front lines: the doctors, nurses, media people, military personnel who are assigned in different checkpoints, salespeople, bakers, parish volunteers, the Curia staff, and all those reach out to our brothers and sisters. We also thank those who spend more time in prayer that we might overcome this crisis.
We have been in this situation for about two months and have kept on praying that we will survive and gradually return to our new normal. I know that God is with us as we unite all our prayers and sacrifices. I entrust everything in God’s hands. I pray, too, that we will have the medicines and vaccines to combat COVID-19. God is merciful. I pray that He will heal our Land, and the whole World. God bless us all!
Feature photo: Father Celoi Andamon, OMI, Director of Caritas Kalookan, and Sister Maria May Cano, OP, with a car-full of donations of squash. The priests and religious pick up the squash and distribute them to the people in their parishes.
In recognition of the United Nations International Day for Street Children on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020, Sister Jolyn “Jules” Dungo, OP, writes about her ministry to street children in the Philippines through the Adrian Dominican Sisters School on Wheels.
By Sister Jolyn “Jules” Dungo, OP
April 8, 2020, San Fernando, Pampanga, the Philippines – Pope Francis summoned each of us to move out of our comfort zones and bring the Good News to the frontiers of Earth. In his pastoral exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the pope called us to bring Jesus to the very heart of the world so that people may know about God, hope, salvation, love, and everlasting life.
I have been reaching out to children on the frontiers in my native Philippines through my ministry with the Adrian Dominican Sisters (ADS) School on Wheels. The ADS School on Wheels meets the practical needs of the street children.
Together with our volunteers, we meet the children in the marketplace – where they perform everyday labor – and at the city government hall, which has become a meeting place or school for them. We teach the street children and other interested children how to read, write, and count, along with religious education.
Our ministry to the street children has three objectives: to develop a culture of acceptance and equality among children from a disadvantaged environment; to strengthen social functioning and potential through education; and to change society’s negative impressions of street children.
As a social worker charged with reaching out to the street children, I witness their daily struggles. They try to work through socially acceptable ways like selling eco bags and flower garlands. Others work for minimal pay as parking lot attendants, car washers, and fish vendors. They are forced to work to survive.
In this ministry, we deal with the most vulnerable sector of society and we strive to protect them from all forms of abuse, trafficking, and violence. But we want more for them. We want them to dream and to realize their dreams outside of life on the street. We give them opportunities to work toward their dreams, no matter where they come from, their religious affiliations, or their associations.
Engaging in this ministry is transformational. It changes my perception. The street children’s situations allow me to dream for them and to help them to realize their dreams in God’s time. I believe what they need is acceptance, opportunity, and the hope that they can overcome poverty and their lives on the street.
Dr. Jose Risal, our Filipino national hero, once said, “The youth is the hope of our country.” His words are technically and figuratively true. When the good traits of the children are nurtured and developed, they might become teachers, architects, engineers, priests, Sisters, the next national hero or President of the Philippines, or even the next Filipino saint. If these children are included in the development efforts of the United Nations, their dreams will be realized. It takes one individual who believes in them to make a difference.
Feature photo: Sister Jolyn “Jules” Dungo, OP, speaks with a group of street children as part of her ministry.