Tag Archive: Environment


AMDG

Many of the Catholic parishes in the Highlands of Scotland were also ‘crofts’ – which allowed the priest to support himself and the parish by living off the land. A croft is a small free-hold of land which allows sustainable living. As communities have got wealthier, the need for the parish to sustain a croft has diminished. However I now in many places the vestiges continue. I have had the joy the last few years to go to the Outer Hebridean island of South Uist for a few weeks supply in the summer at this parish click here.  The priest still has his own flock of sheep, real not metaphorical, and last summer I was presented with my own lamb, butchered and prepared by the parish shepherd!  Here in Arisaig  the priest keeps over 40 chickens, and ably assisted by the wonderful Winnie (left) we have a regular supply of ‘holy eggs’ which parishoners pick up and are enjoyed at breakfast. I have really enjoyed feeding the chickens with Winnie and learning about poultry-care.

Even better of course is enjoying the fruits of their labour. The parish house is equipped with a magnificent double egg-cup – first time I have seen one!  Not only does it allow you to be greedy – but also to compare tastes. Today I tried the light blue shelled egg along side a Polish chickens classic brown colour egg.  The Pole edged it slightly – with one of the richest yolks I have every enjoyed. It is true that free-range tastes much nicer.

There is a serious point – the growing movement of eating locally sourced and in-season products. Not only does it support the local economy, the food is healthier and tastier!  Scotland seems to be leading the way with this and the influential Fife Diet.  Asking local people to sign-up to eating food from the region of Fife, for a year,  and to monitor their progress and share their experience. The project has developed from a voluntary network into a funded body and in its development has changed from a small amount of people dedicated to eating ‘from Fife’ for a year, to a much larger network of people trying to re-localise more generally and to explore what sustainable food might be. It has won awards for ethical consumption.  Seeing the parishioners donate money and pick up their eggs  on Sunday was very inspiring – particularly as the younger contribute a bit more so the older folk can get their eggs very cheaply.  This could be a great idea for other parishes to take up!

AMDG

Solar Bottle

Last weekend I went back to stay with the family who had kindly hosted me in October in Navotas.  We had a great time singing karaoke till 3am – lots  of Beatles of course!  Navotas is a ‘squatter area’ i.e. what might be referred to as a slum area in Manila – overcrowded and under-served with utilities.  Over the years it has become better established with electricity and running water in some areas, but there are still many areas where there is none.

That is why I was very excited to find out about this Philippino initiative – called ‘a litre of light‘.   Fantastic!   Just by getting an empty plastic bottle and filling it with water and household chemicals – and placing half of it so that it catches the sun.   This ‘solar bottle’ could make a big difference to the life of many people around the world. It is also recycling waste products.  I can’t wait to see it  being installed in Navotas.  The video below shows you how it works.  You can also find more about it by clicking on their website – click here.

This wonderful project reminds me of another story i have just posted on my other storytelling blog – click here.  A wealthy Chinese businessman was now old and wanted to retire. He called his three sons too him and said to them, ‘ I have decided not to divide the business into three, but will give it to the one of you who proves himself to be the best businessman. You can prove this to me by passing a simple test.’  Each son was given $10 and instructed to use the money to purchase something that would fill a big empty room.

The first son went and bought a big tree, after cutting it down, he dragged it to the room, it filled up about half the room with its leaves and branches. The second son went and bought the kunai grass that some of the farmers were cutting in their fields, this filled up most of the room. The third son went and bought a small candle for 25 cents, and in the evening after dark, he called his father over to the large empty room. He put the small candle down in the middle of the floor and lit it. After a minute he turned to his father and said, ‘Dad can you see any corner of this little room which is not filled by the light of the candle?’.  He won the business.

AMDG

You may remember the terrible tragedy before Christmas in the South of the Phillipines – due to the Tropical Storm Washi  (or Sendong as it is known in the Phillipines).   The Death Toll has reached nearly 1500 now.  However the news has moved on – even here  in the Phillipines there has been a landslide which has killed 30 and that is dominating the news now.

Why did so many people have to die?

The excellent  ESSC  (Environmental Science for Social Change) a  Jesuit research institute has already produced a report – as well as the Manila Observatory and the Ateneo Physics Departments.  But as always it seems to be falling on deaf ears – political short termism and corruption seem to prevent progress.

Anyway the main points that even I can understand so far -

  1. Sendong was accurately downgraded to a tropical storm (not a typhoon) – due to windspeed measurements, this might have induced a false sense of security
  2. However the rainfall was categorised as extreme – 180mm in 24hrs (monthly average is 120mms according to report from Manila Observatory)
  3. So the flooding came not from the sea – but from the water running off the mountains – the other direction
  4. Much of the flooding was exacerbated by illegal logging operations that has degraded the environment (greed)
  5. Information and warnings about Sendong were available three days before but there was no strategic response – which indicated a failure at both local and national political level (corruption)            
This is a combination of ‘natural evil’ and ‘moral evil’.  But before we loose touch with what this actually equates to – here is an incredible video of children being rescued – if you have the time please watch it. This shows the results of a combination of these ‘evils’ – as always it is the poor that suffer the most :

So what is the answer?   I have been very impressed by the response of the Phillipino Jesuits. In the affected areas of Cagayan de Oro –  the local Bishop, High School and Universities are all in the care of the Jesuits.  The Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro has been at the forefront of the relief effort. They have even offered 5 hectares of land to help relocate victims (click here) .  One of Fr Pedro Walpole‘s strategies with the ESSC is to help build up disaster resilience, and move beyond relief – to building up a strategic capacity to respond. With the President of the University Fr Bobby Yap they have suggested four ways forward – this is taken from their commentary.

“Emergency preparedness. A warning system on every typhoon in every area of potential risk must be put in place, and not just announced. A day or night evacuation strategy must carefully lay out the locations, paths and methods to reach safe areas for evacuation and temporary settlement.

Relocation and land allocation. A critical review and implementation of land allocation and securing access are vitally needed to assist city and local governments in identifying safe lands for settlements and the procedures for acquisition. A prioritized relocation plan for every city and barangay that sets accomplishments is imperative. This plan should not be simply mitigation activities, like developing and rebuilding infrastructure that will not withstand the next disaster. A sustainable relocation must consider people’s livelihood accessibility so that livelihood is sustained and risks are minimized.

Landscape and waterscape planning and development. An open, transparent planning process for infrastructure development is crucial with broad participation of key people, especially in critical areas of river banks, slopes and floodplains.

Floodplain management. To re-establish natural flood areas, we need to develop a floodplain management program and regulations that strictly enforce restrictions and controls in: the alteration of natural floodplains, stream channels, and natural protective barriers that channel floodwaters; developments that increase flood damage; and construction of flood barriers that unnaturally divert floodwaters and increase flood hazards in other areas.

We need a society that can value life and change its systems of relations and responsibilities to meet new basic needs. Transformative learning has to become a new adult literacy that moves to action beyondbayanihan, expanding this Filipino value and infusing an informed pro-activeness that changes our landscape for the good of all. This includes serious planning for a sustainable future that integrates the knowledge of the disaster potential and local realities. “

But are the politicians listening?  A column written by another Jesuit, Fr Tony La Vina in a popular Manila paper click here ceratinly puts pressure on the highest political levels. Click here to read it and a powerful personal account of survivors.

So now the relief effort is winding down – rehabilitation and resettlement efforts kick in – as well as trauma counselling.  The excellent relief operation co-0rdinated by the Jesuit University – Click Here – are now training counselors and realising suicide risk- indicators.  For those so short-sighted to want to close Religious Institutions working in Education- they should see all this as a lesson in building up the common good.  For the rest of us – lets keep praying for those affected

AMDG

We have been enjoying two days in Baguio City – it feels a little like our base camp – before we are sent to our respectives areas for Christmas. It has been nice to relax and acclimatise away from the heat and noise of Manila. Known as the “Summer Capital” Filipinos by their thousands flock to Baguio to enjoy family vacations in the cool temperatures and dry air of the mountains. The City is at an altitude higher than Ben Nevis – and was developed by the Americans as a resort town in the mountains.  The Jesuits have a beautiful house called Mirador. It sits at the top of one of the hills in Baguio and has itself become a tourist hotspot.  Over a hundred years ago, Spanish Jesuits built a Grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes which is accessible by climbing 252 steps! And at the weekends it attracts many Phillipinos as much for the views it commands as for devotional reasons. Anyway we all managed to make it up the steps with our full packs- a little bit of training before the Christmas masses in the Mountains.

Mirador was once the site of a Jesuit Observatory and Seismology Station early in the last century which has since relocated to Manila.  For 20 years it became the theologate for the expelled Chinese Jesuits (at the time of Mao) – who have since moved on to Taiwan.  Now Mirador is a retreat/villa house for Jesuits who needed to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is under the management of the CLC.  Tonight – four of us are catching a night bus to Tabuk – where we will be assigned our areas by the Bishop. The journey may be about 12 hours – we have to go the long way round because the direct road is closed due to a combination of landslides and warring tribes!!  Please keep us in your prayers.

For me the highlight of our tour of Baguio has been visiting a quite remarkable work by the Good Shepherd Sisters. They have been training and educating many of the young people from the remoter regions of the Mountain Provinces. At first they had to rely on begging to support such scholarships – but now they have built up an incredible social enterprise where the youngsters support themselves through studies through a series of practical work – from making a nationally famous strawberry jam, coffee,  baking, needlework, making peanut brittle.  In 1990 there was a terrible earthquake which destroyed much of the plant – and so the sisters considered pulling out – but the youngsters insisted that as long as they could still be educated they would carry on the work for free until they built up the business again.  Another important element of the sisters work is to encourage the youngsters to be proud of their indigenous heritage (see pic) – and to preserve it as it is often looked down on by the locals! You can read about this remarkable and inspiring project here -journey form charity to social enterprise.   

I have made a small video called a taste of Baguio – it shows you some of the scenery, a beautiful hermitage in the grounds of the retreat house, the stained glass windows with the famous rice terraces and indigenous villagers depicted (where we will be giving our Christmas Ministries), also some of the work of the sisters, as well as a lovely scene outside the Cathedral in Baguio, with two young girls enchanted by the angelic Holy-water stoops and learning to bless themselves, Don’t worry it is only 90 seconds long!

 

AMDG

This has been a lovely few days sharing with each other the consolations of the long retreat. Very inspiring and there is a great joy in the tertianship.  Today the focus has changed, looking forward as we prepare to leave on Friday for our ‘Christmas ministries‘.  We are all travelling north to the Mountain region.  This is a very beautiful region, famous for its 3000 year old rice terraces. In spite of its remoteness – its population speak English as well as their tribal languages, a testament to a truly remarkable networks of schools and hospitals developed by Belgian missionaries.  Half of the group will be based around Bontoc – which is fairly developed.  However four of us (including me) are going further north – to Kalinga region, where the bishop will assign us to various places. A previous tertian reports having to walk 5hours a day to various mission chapels scattered in the mountains to celebrate mass and also how happy the people were to have a priest for Christmas. Excited – I decided to do a bit of research  to find out what the next three week might have in store.  This is what the Lonely Planet  (thanks JP!) says about Kalinga.

This rugged inaccessible province north of Bontoc attracts those who are looking to escape from civilization entirely. Kalinga is a place where weekends aren’t even a concept, let alone a reality; a place where animals are frequently sacrificed in ritual feasts and where traditional law still trumps the laws of the contemporary world. Here you might meet the last of Kalinga’s notorious head-hunters and see tattooed tribeswomen with snake bones in their hair.  You’ll dwell amid free ranging livestock and hike along ancient mountain trails to villages enveloped in rice terraces. 

Reading this has made feel a bit of trepidation as well as excitement.  I sent an email back to the province Treasurer yesterday telling him about the head hunters – he is in charge of our insurance policy :)  –  and he very helpfully told me to make sure I got a picture before I went in the pot! I have lost about 10kgs in weight since arriving here – so I am afraid I won’t be the most tasty Christmas Dinner. Anyway we have been assured that we will be quite safe at the moment because the tribes are not warring, and having a priest come for Christmas is very special for such a remote area.  However the animals might not be so respectful – I have been told not to wander off the paths into the bushes as I might attract hordes of voracious pigs looking for a tasty meal….. Luckily I am assured of a guide with me (catechist or youth worker who will probably be wearing flip flops )

Christmas is very special in the Phillipines – commemorated by a novena of masses that start on Dec 16th – the Misa Aguinaldo.  The one catch – each one starts at 4am!  yes 4am….. So I have invested in a powerful head torch – to help me trudge through the mountains and paddy fields.  At least the stars should be stunning!

 

 

Parishioners and friends of slain missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio line up to see his remains at the Notre Dame of Arakan, North Cotabato on Sunday, October 23. Fr. Tentorio was the school director. Photo by Ruby Thursday

Fr Fausto PIME (Pontifical Institute for Missions) was killed on Oct 17 by a man who shot him with 10 bullets.  On Oct 25 his remains were laid to rest beside the grave of Fr Favali, PIME  also murdered.  10,000 mourners joined the procession in a four km route.  Present were his brother, relatives and in-laws, Fr General of PIME, Italian Ambassador, 80 priests, three bishops and government officials. This is the Bishops homily at his funeral.

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Father Fausto disliked ceremonies; especially ceremonies that drew attention to himself. He was quite content to labor in relative obscurity as a priest for thirty years in North Cotabato, first in Columbio, and then in Arakan. But the attention Father Fausto managed to escape from in life, he must now endure in death.

In death, he is now called an environmentalist-priest, a human rights defender, the anti-mining activist, the protector of cultural minorities.

But there is a tendency, even by well-meaning souls, to enlarge the life of one who has met a high-profile death.

We do not have to boost to mythical proportions Fr. Fausto’s life in order to make sense of his tragic death. He should be remembered simply as a good and faithful priest, who loved his people, and sought to serve them as best as he could, even in the face of danger to his own life.

How did Fr. Fausto want to be remembered?

In his last will and testament, Fr. Fausto wished that his tombstone to contain the following: “You were told, O Man, what is good and what God requires of you: to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah)

That is what Fr. Fausto did. He showed mercy, especially to the least of God’s children among his parishioners, the lumad. He sought justice for them, when they were dispossessed of their land, when they were harassed by men with arms, when their own government seemed to abandon them. But doing that—even in a quiet and humble manner —can earn you enemies, enemies that go after even the kindest of men, like Jesus of Nazareth, whom Fr. Fausto followed all the way to Arakan.

And Fr. Fausto knew that.

Twenty-six years ago he saw what happened to Fr. Tulio Favali, PIME, who was gunned down by paramilitary assassins. He could have changed course then, packed up his bag, and head for a safer and kinder place on the missionary map. But he did not. He had fallen in love with his people.

In his last will and testament, he wrote this, in Bisayan, to his people:  “Your dream is My dream, Your struggle is my struggle. Therefore, You and I are one; companions in constructing the Kingdom of God.”

When his assailants felled him with bullets, Fr. Fausto was exactly where he chose to be—with his people. When he met death, Fr. Fausto was doing exactly what he had been praying for strength to continue doing: ministering to the people he now called his own. He would not have it any other way.

So it can be plainly said without a doubt, that Fr. Fausto’s death is nothing less than a fulfillment of what St. John says in the gospel: “Greater love than this no man has than he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).” Stripped of all editorializing, social commentary, and propaganda literature, Fr. Fausto’s death is simply an emulation, a following and imitation of Jesus’ own death on the cross.

And we gather here in this liturgy because we do not want to lose the essential meaning of Fr. Fausto’s death. More accurately, we are here to be caught up and enlivened by his death, now united with, and suffused by, the saving power of Jesus’ own crucifixion and death. And because Fr. Fausto faithfully began the pattern of the paschal mystery, some form of the resurrection for us will not be far behind. What will it be? We do not know.

But this we know. After Fr. Favali was killed 26 years ago, something like a resurrection followed and is now reflected in the number of priests of the Diocese. Fully one half of their number comes from the Tulunan-Mlang area where Fr. Favali met his martyrdom. So, even as we shed tears today for the loss of a well-loved priest in Fr. Fausto, we are not without hope for the kind of resurrection heaven has in store to surprise us.

Today, then, as we bring Fr. Fausto to his final resting place, we should say “thank you,” first, to his family for allowing him to come and stay with us, for giving him to us. His brother and his sister-in-law and nephews are here with us, all the way from Italy.

Second, we should thank the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and all Fr. Fausto’s confreres. Their General Superior from Rome, the Very Reverend Father Gian Battista Zanchi, PIME and local superior, Reverend Father Gianni Re, PIME, are here with us.

It is said that the Colliseum of Rome, though outside Vatican City, is still considered as belonging to the Catholic Church for the earth on which it stands has been soaked by the blood of countless Christian martyrs who died there in the olden days. In a similar fashion, the local church of the Diocese of Kidapawan is like that. Long after the PIME Institute shall have deemed the Diocese no longer a mission area for its members to be sent to, we shall forever remain yours, for we are marked by the blood of Favali and Fausto, two of the finest missionaries the Institute has ever produced.

Our last word of thanks goes to Fr. Fausto who, though he lies there in silence, must be fidgeting in spirit, unable to wait for all this to end. So, I shall be brief.

“Fr. Fausto, rest in peace. Your labors have ended. With your prayers, we will take up and continue your work.”

+  Romulo de la Cruz, D.D.

Kidapawan City, Cotabato, Philippines

October 24, 2011, Feast of Anthony Mary Claret

AMDG

A supporter of murdered Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio becomes emotional as he lights a candle as other activists hold a banner demanding justice for the priest at the start of a nine-day candlelight protest in front of the Davao City Hall. (photo by Romy Elusfa, InterAksyon.com)

The strategy of the enemy according to St Ignatius  “He goes around to lay snares for people to seek to chain them. First to tempt them to covet riches that they more easily obtain the empty honors of this world and then come to overweening pride. The first step then, will be riches, the second; honor, the third; pride, these three steps lead to all other vices”  Spiritual Exercises Week 2, Fourth Day

There were 0ver 400 views of the previous post No Greater Love  about two recent ‘martyrs’  in the Phillipines, The Jesuit scholastic Richie Fernando and this weeks murdered missionary Fr Tentorio( (FT). So I suppose it would be good to update you on the situation with FT.  It is important to stress that there is an investigation underway and there has been no formal allegations made. However following it in the Phillipino press from Manila, everyone in Mindanao, where the killing took place, seems to be making the same connections. It has also shown me how impressive the media is over here, free and forthright at times – but at a cost.  Anyway below in the form of bulletpoints are what I have gleaned so far.

  • Agreement seems to be that FT was killed by a professional hitman, implying powerful enemies
  • Extrajudicial Killings‘ is a major problem in the Phillipines, which led to Freedom House changing the countries status from ‘Free’ to ‘partially Free’ in  2008, a relegation that still applies
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists claim that the Phillipines is the third most dangerous country to be a journalist after Iraq and Somalia
  • FT was campaigning against the open-pit mining (Tampakan Project) proposed by a company called Sagittarius Mines (SMI)
  • The project claims that it will exploit the worlds largest untapped gold/copper seam
  • The Dioceses of Marbel, Digos and Kidapawan  are currently coordinating efforts to stop SMI from getting its Environmental  Compliance Certificate to operate its Tampakan Project
  • In their annual report they claimed to have contributed P2.5 billion to the Philippine economy last year, and paid P399 million in taxes and fees.
  • Workers from the mining company are regularly attacked and sometimes killed by the communist ‘New People’s Army’
  • In this climate, companies create politically sanctioned  agreements with the military to have ‘private armies’ protect their interests,
  •  According to Clemente Bautista of NGO Kalikasan, FT was already threatened by elements of the Bagani paramilitary group under the 73rd Infantry Brigade
  • Xstrata Copper owns 62.5 percent of the controlling equity at Sagittarius Mines and are based in Switzerland

Fr Tentorio had pointed to a particular mahogany tree among the hundreds he had planted at the back of the convent in the 1980s, as the one that would be used for his coffin when he dies

Fr Tentorio will be buried on Wednesday.  What is clear is that there is a culture of impunity in the Phillipines that allows the politically well connected to literally get away with murder.  As another Jesuit pointed out to me over dinner – Extra-Judicial Killings is a term usually used for the assasination of ‘criminals’ – It is not clear what Fr Tentorios Crime was. From what I can gather, he opposed irresponsible mining practices,  especially the plans of Sagittarius Mines Inc. to open-pit mine the minerals on the lands of the indigenous people of the Dioceses.

The second part of St Ignatius meditation of the Spiritual Exercises is as follows – Christ our Lord, the Lord of all the world, chooses so many persons, apostles, disciples and sends them throughout the whole world …….  there are three steps. The first poverty, opposed to riches, the second scorn or contempt, opposed to worldly honor, the third humility, opposed to pride. From these three steps Christ leads them to all virtues
LDS

No greater love…..

Advocate for the rights of indigenous people

AMDG      The Blood of the Martyrs is the Seed of the Church… (Tertullian)

Father Fausto Tentorio was killed yesterday morning, just minutes after celebrating Mass in Mindanao, Southern Philippines, as he was leaving to meet with the other priests of the diocese, at the bishop’s house. According to eyewitnesses, his murderer, with the sense of security that belongs to those who have powerful patrons, approached him and shot him twice in the head. Then he calmly left on his motorcycle, his face covered by a helmet. An autopsy report said he was shot eight times.

According to Asia News – he was a priest commited and loved by his parishoners.  Long pastoral visits by motorbike, by car or on horseback to visit the most isolated tribal groups, sleeping on a mat on the floor, eating the poor things of the natives to build a church where being foreign or local does not create unfair exclusion or differences; also a commitment to the education of children and adults.

Mindanao has long been an active area of both radical Muslim groups and the rump of the Communist groups that fought Marcos.  Kidnappings are common here.  However in this case there is no evidence that Fausto was killed by either groups, in fact the The Moro Islamic Liberation Front condemned the killing, calling it a sign of degeneration of morality and spirituality in the country. News agency UCA News reported town councilor Leonardo Reovoca  said Father Tentorio had been an active law and order campaigner in Arakan and recently was appointed as head of a civilian anti-crime task force in the town. “I am a witness to Father Tentorio’s strong stance against mining and other projects which are not sustainable and would harm and affect the indigenous peoples, in particular,” he said.

I know where my heart is, It is with Jesus Christ, who gave his all for the poor, the sick, the orphan

Yesterday we also remembered the 15th anniversary of the death of Richie Fernando.  A young Filipino Jesuit working in Cambodia as a teacher in a technical school for the handicapped, often landmine victims. Among Richie’s students was Sarom, a sixteen-year-old boy who was a victim of a landmine.  He wanted to finish his studies there but he was asked to leave by the school authorities for his disruptive attitude. According to Richie, Sarom was tricky but he still had a place for him in his heart. On October 17, 1996, Sarom came to the school for a meeting. Angered, he suddenly reached into a bag he was carrying, pulled out a grenade, and began to move towards a classroom full of students. Richie came up behind Sarom and grabbed him, he accidentally dropped the grenade and in a flash, Richie was dead.

Four days before he died, Richie wrote to a friend in the Philippines, “I know where my heart is, It is with Jesus Christ, who gave his all for the poor, the sick, the orphan …I am confident that God never forgets his people: our disabled brothers and sisters. And I am glad that God has been using me to make sure that our brothers and sisters know this fact. I am convinced that this is my vocation.” Shocked by what he had caused, Sarom sat in his jail cell and mourned too. In March 1997, Mr. and Mrs. Fernando wrote to Cambodia’s King Sihanouk, asking for pardon for Sarom; somehow, someone had to stop the violence. Sarom had not wanted to kill Richie. “Richie ate rice with me,” he said. “He was my friend.”

Community & Living Space

More than 50,000 people per sq km in Navotas

AMDG

It has been very interesting listening to my companions reflections on their time in Navotas.  One of the most challenging things for all of us was the lack of space. Not all of our familes had toilets (holes in the ground) – misleadingly called ‘comfort rooms’ here!  The first adjustment to make was being able to perform our daily routines knowing that within 5 meters you could hear the voices of dozens of people – who where only seperated from you by a billowing curtain, or a flimsy piece of cardboard! Luckily I was able to relax quite quickly and get into the routine – but I think this was a bridge to far for some of my brothers!

The creative use of space became a source of  wonder to me in Navotas. I remember when I was about eight and had my first airline meal, I was fascinated by how everything was designed to fit into the tray neatly. Plates, cups, were designed to maximise the space.  In Navotas too, especially when I stayed with the Estayo family – everything was neatly stored, hung up, folded away – to maximise living space.  Water, a precious commodity, stacked and stored, used efficiently for washing and shared generously with the poorer neighbours.  I felt very comfortable with my families – but some of the other tertians had much more challenging ‘living quarters’ – constant flooding, fumes from cooking (asthma a big issue), corrugated huts soon becoming baking ovens.  But I think once you get over the chock and adjust you start to see the incredible order and organisati0n that exists.

Eloisa

The slum areas in Navotas are incredible human colonies – full of energy and activity – carefully hidden from us was the suffering , tragedies and desperation.  I remember the amazing series on the BBC last year The Human Planet,  well worth watching, about how Human life is capable of colonising and adapting to such varying conditions – Deserts / Mountains / Forests / Ice Sheets –  and there was a sense of fascination just being briefly part of daily life here.  What seemed to be keeping so much of the community together, amidst the pressures and stress of Navotas were incredibly strong mother figures. I think that is where we as Jesuits should focus our support and training.  Below is a small clip of my daily journey home through the narrow streets, as well as all the friendly greetings – see if you can spot the man preparing icecubes, the videoke birthday party and when I get lost – I am following Maricel (the woman in red).  Apologies for my creeping finger covering the lense – its not easy being 6ft 2 – walking through such a narrow space! 

These urban slum areas are growing at a huge rate – according to the UN 2006, was the first time when the majority of people in the planet lived in urban areas. So there is a huge migration from the rural to the urban taking place especially in Asia. This presents a real challenge to the political classes – particularly at a local level. How do we protect and respect the dignity of these people. They seem to be living in a constant state of uncertainty, corrupt local officials exploiting them, fires being started by unscrupulous businessmen who want to clear the area for development, relocation always hanging over them – as the government want to build stronger flood defenses, adn of course the weekly threat of typhoons, monsoons and storm surges. I saw many signs of hope in Navotas – but the Church needs to be on the front line as advocates for these vulnerable communities.

Living on stilts!

AMDG

I have just arrived back from a very special 10 days of  ‘Phillipino Life Experience‘  living with two families in Navotas – which is effectively a shanty town in the North of Manila. As in many shanty areas – space is a real premium, so many houses and even ‘streets’ are built out into Manila Bay – with families and whole neighbourhoods precariously surviving on bamboo stilts. It has been an unforgettable experience of community, hospitality and new friendship. A very special place.  Many people surviving on very little – but with a great joy and simplicity, sharing and singing.  As I let the experience sink in, I will share some of my stories on this blog over the next few days.  It is truly one of the great graces of the priesthood to be received into the heart of a community like this, and it was an honour to be able to celebrate mass with them, and join in their vigils and processions. Something I intend to continue to do whilst I am in Manila.

In Navotas - Space is at a premium!

The four pillars of this community seem to be  – A) their faith, particularly their devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, B) the family (often very extended!), C) Karaoke – every other family has a karaoke set, and yet more proof of the universal popularity of the Beatles (and perhaps more suprisingly also the Bee Gees and the Carpenters!) and D)  TV! Soap operas and game shows are staple here.

Our stay was facilitated by a charity called PPF – run by lay people, who have been alongside the community for 20 years. Run by lay people – with a close connection with the Jesuits, they help to organise, running nurseries, housing schemes, scholarship schemes, bible sharing groups ( the dynamos of the community).  I will be designing a website for them over the next few days. An impressive outfit with UN observer status – even though relatively very small.

The community here face many threats – forced eviction, poor sanitation, fires that are rumoured to be started by hostile political and commercial entities, and an incredible vulnerability to the challenging tropical climate and typhoon season. 2000 families are still in emergency evacuation facilities after the recent typhoon Nesat/Pedring. In the face of all this they are incredibly resilient and never give up hope. As one of them said to me – when you do not have much it is easy to rebuild and start again.  Below is a video showing some of that spirit in the face of these problems.

Half way through the clip the children ask me to dance ‘Kendeng Kendeng’ from a popular game show – hence the smiles and laughter! This seems incongruous in the face of such difficulties but that is the infectious spirit of the place!

You can donate directly through the bank details on the previous post.

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