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By May Cano, OP
Executive Secretary, Caritas Kalookan, Inc.
January 16, 2021, Caloocan, Philippines – We celebrated Christmas 2020 in a different way in the Philippines. We used to celebrate in a festive, joyful atmosphere. As December approached, we started to decorate our houses and offices for Christmas and to sing Christmas carols.
In my ministry at Caritas Kalookan, Inc. – serving the Diocese of Kalookan, one of the Metro Manila dioceses – I used to plan and prepare Christmas gatherings, especially for our poor brothers and sisters, people with disabilities, the families of victims of extra-judicial killings (EJK), the sick, the aged, vendors, workers, and other groups in need. We sent letters to our friends, benefactors, and relatives abroad and here in the Philippines, asking them to share their blessings with us. We took the time to visit people on the peripheries.
This Christmas was different. I did not organize a Christmas gathering because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to practice social distancing. Still, our Lord sent generous people who shared their blessings with us. They delivered food such as corned beef, spaghetti, packs of noodles and sauce, macaroni and cheese, coffee, rice, and candies, as well as hygiene kits. The Assisi Foundation gave us 500 packs of goods such as fruit cocktail, spaghetti sauce and noodles, macaroni and cheese, and mayonnaise, which we distributed to families who are poor in local parishes. With cash donations, we purchased eggs, rice, and spaghetti noodles and sauce.
Many followers of the live streamed Mass celebrated by Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, DD, Bishop of Kalookan, donated cash into our account or shared their blessings in response to the needs of our brothers and sisters who are poor. His homilies inspired many people to become involved in our mission.
All Sisters in Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter were busy in their own ministries, distributing food to people with disabilities, our indigenous Aeta people, drivers, vendors, janitors, senior citizens, homeless people, rural settlers, and other people in need.
On December 22, Sister Victoria Changcoco, OP, and I made the two-hour trip to our convent in Pampanga to accept a truckload of 1,445 boxes of instant noodles. I called up the Sisters in the area, who helped distribute them to people in various mission areas. Sisters also distributed food to the poor on December 29.
The gift-giving continues in January. The National Secretariat of Social Action (NASSA)-Caritas Filipinas Foundation will distribute 1,600 “bags of blessing” to the poor families whose names Caritas Kalookan submitted. NASSA will also donate vouchers, which families will use to purchase groceries.
We celebrated Christmas in unique, simple, and unexpected ways, making it more creative and meaningful. Christmas was an opportunity for new experiences and solidarity with a great part of our human family and for a deeper faith.
It is good to remember and cultivate the following attitudes:
Count your blessings.
Identify positive ways of coping.
Thank God for His boundless mercy and love!