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January 10, 2017, Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines – The Adrian Dominican Sisters are starting the new year with an eye to the future - specifically, to the future of more than 200 students and their future classmates at Dominican School of Angeles City.
The school, located in the impoverished Barangay (village) of Mining, Angeles City, opened six years ago with three kindergarten students. Today, the need and desire for a Catholic school in the area is evident as the enrollment now stands at 238 students in grades kindergarten through 10.
With its rapidly growing enrollment and the need to add 11th and 12th grades, an additional three-story building is being constructed to house six more classrooms and spaces large enough for school Masses and physical education.
The estimated cost of the project is $1.2 million.
Situated near the Clark Freeport Zone – the area surrounding the former U.S. Clark Airforce Base – the school was opened by the Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies, based in San Fernando, Pampanga, shortly before they merged with the Adrian Dominican Sisters in November 2011. The area has been dubbed as the “entertainment capital” of the Philippines, and its children are at risk of becoming involved in the sex trade or worse, human trafficking.
“The school aims not only to provide the children with an excellent, affordable, faith-filled education, but also to instill in them the social justice values of the Catholic Church,” explained Sister Zenaida Nacpil, OP, Chapter Prioress of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter. With their education at Dominican School of Angeles City, the students can become “bearers of a faith tradition that, as Pope Francis reminds us, upholds the dignity of every person, recognizes our integral connectedness to the whole Earth community, and seeks the common good for all God’s people.”
Sister Arsenia Marie Puno, OP, guidance counselor at the school, spoke with wonder at the ability of the children’s parents to pay the minimal tuition that the school charges. The children come from low-income families, with parents who hold down humble jobs: carpenters, welders, marketplace vendors, and public transportation drivers. In addition, there is a lack of resources such as clean water.
“They are happy families in the midst of a difficult situation,” Sister Arsenia said. “It is amazing how, with their deep faith in God, they are able to send their children to school with so many challenges in life.”
These challenges make the Dominican School of Angeles City even more vital for the future of the children and their community. Along with academic training, high school students receive vocational training in areas such as eco-farming, care-giving to the elderly and to children, and computer technology.
Part of the school’s land has also been dedicated as an ecologically sustainable farm. Local farmers are hired to work the land, and school parents can buy the produce at a reduced price. In addition, a windmill provides energy to pump water from a well to irrigate the farm and to power a filtration system so water can be bottled and sold to community members.
“We have great hopes for the Dominican School of Angeles City and the impact it can have in helping the people of Mining to build a resilient and sustainable community for generations to come,” Sister Zenaida said.
In spite of their strong faith in God, their dedication, and their resiliency, the families of the Dominican School of Angeles City still need help from their neighbors in the United States. “We are with high hope that you are able to lend us your helping hands,” said Sister Arsenia. “Please help us build a school where more students will be able to attain their dream of a Catholic education in the K-12 program. Please help us with your financial gifts from God for this sacred endeavor.”
To make a donation, click here or contact the Adrian Dominican Sisters Office of Development at 517-266-3480 or email@example.com.
October 31, 2016, Manila, the Philippines – “We are one with you in fighting for your ancestral land and your right to self-determination ... and we believe what is yours is yours and you deserve to live a normal and peaceful life. Courage! God is listening and watching up there...”
These words, posted on the Facebook page of Adrian Dominican Sister Jolyn “Jules” Dungo, OP, of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, capture some of the feelings of Sister Jules and other Sisters who have been accompanying some 3,000 indigenous peoples from the Philippines since October 13.
Four Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Philippines have been taking part in Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya. The event, from October 13-28, was a protest by the indigenous and minority peoples of the Philippines to draw attention to the exploitation of their lands and the marginalization they face as native and minority peoples. During this time, the protestors took up camp at the University of the Philippines in Manila while they participated in a number of planned activities.
Adrian Dominican Sisters standing in support of this national protest were Sister Jules; Sister Antonette Lumbang, OP; Sister Salvacion Valenzuela, OP; and Sister Meliza Arquillano, a novice. Members of the native Aeta people, whom Sister Jules ministers with, also participated in the event.
The Sisters handed out donations of food, clothing, and school supplies and listened to the stories of the indigenous and minority peoples about their experiences.
“With us in the conversations with other indigenous groups are some Aetas from [the region of] Pampanga, who are gaining a lot of inspiration in joining the Lakbayan 2016,” Sister Antonette wrote in an email. “They are inspired to continue with the struggle for their own future and those generations yet to come.”
As Lakbayan 2016 came to an end, Sister Zenaida Nacpil, OP, Chapter Prioress of Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, reported on the opposition that many of the protestors faced.
“The marchers were subjected to different harassments,” she said. “Two leaders in their native places were killed, though not with the marchers. In one place, [the protestors] were dispersed by water hoses from fire trucks.” In another incident, she reported, a police officer drove back and forth among the protestors, almost hitting some of them, she said. “May our God of Peace end this violence against peaceful rallies of people most vulnerable to harassment and whose ancestral lands are plundered and destroyed.”
The indigenous and minority peoples make up about 15 to 20 percent of the population of the Philippines. They have struggled against the invading regimes of Spain and the United States – which still has a military presence in the Philippines – but still suffer from marginalization and oppression. Many hope that President Rodrigo Duterte, who has recently taken office, will fulfill his commitments to right the injustices that they have endured for years.
Lakbayan 2016 included a variety of special activities, including cultural celebrations and lobbying and dialogues at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Embassy, mining companies, and the Philippine Stock Exchange.
Some of the events brought signs of hope. During an October 26 address to the Lakbayan 2016 participants, consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said the organization backed the right of the indigenous peoples to self-determination in their negotiations with the national government.
The indigenous and minority peoples tried the U.S. in a tribal court, held at the Bonifacio Shrine in Manila. After hearing of incidents of genocidal attacks by U.S. forces, three professional judges found the U.S. government guilty of atrocities.
Lakbayan 2016 is one of many recent examples of indigenous peoples striving to reclaim their rights. Similar efforts have taken place during the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch’s Convergence at the Border and at Standing Rock, North Dakota, where members of the Sioux Tribe are attempting to block the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
Feature photo: Members of Our Lady of Remedies Chapter posing with the indigenous peoples at Lakbayan 16 are, from left, Sisters Antonette Lumbang, OP, Jolyn Dungo, OP, Salvacion Valenzuela, OP, and novice Sister Meliza Arquillano.