I spent some of the dying days of August with the fisherman of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides.  Looking after a couple of parishes up there I always jump at the chance of going out in boats with some of the parishoners.  So I was delighted to hear that the next stage of our experience here will be living with Families in the ‘fishing capital of the Phillipines – Navotas’.  I think it may be quite a different experience to that of the Outer Hebrides.  Navotas is one of the cities that comprises Metro Manila – however unlike the wild beauty and space of South Uist, here there are over 250,000 people living in an area of less than 5 square miles!    Many families, escaping the violence at the end of the Marcos Regime came and settled here, sometimes referred to as ‘squatters’, they live very precarious lives, many of them building houses in stilts out in the sea.  Overpopulation and Pollution are serious problems in this part of Manila.

The Jesuits have been involved with this community through a foundation called the PPF who run housing, health and education projects.  Through these links, we have been invited to live with the families, to share a bit of their lives, for the next couple of weeks.  Because of its location (see the map) – Navotas has been hit very hard by the recent typhoon and the resulting storm surges. Over 100 of the families that we have connections with have lost them homes – simply swept away. The local government of Navotas has placed the city under ‘state of calamity’ after thousands of residents were evacuated from their homes due to flooding.  Because of this, I was a bit anxious about arriving at such a difficult time – but we have been told that it is a great honour for these families to have priests staying with them,  so this has put my mind to rest.  Also because they have so little – it is easy to rebuild and start again, there is great resilience (see my previous blog).  We are also lucky that because of our long-standing connections John and Myself (the two white westerners) will be quite safe – living in an area where tourists would never dare to go, the people know we are Jesuits.  That is one of the great privileges of being a priest – the access and trust that people still offer us all over the world.  Why are we doing this – it is not some sort of ‘disaster tourism’, but a privileged chance to learn from the challenges and the joys of the people of Navotas.

So I will be off-blog for 9-10 days. Thankyou for all your interest so far – I started this primarily for my ex-students back in the UK, who were sending me messages asking me for stories from the Philippines, but the interest has been much wider than just the lads fom St Ignatius College.

Because of the damage down in Navotas – the families are temporarily being housed and looked after by the government in emergency evacuation centers.  We are not sure how long that support will last.  As they have lost everything – our tertian master is collecting money, and food, clothes and blankets so that we can step in and support them when the emergency contigency plans come to an end.  If you would like to help – and a small amount of money will go a far way.  You can send some money to the tertian account –

Helping to clean up after the floods

  • Name of the bank: BANK OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
  • Branch: LOYOLA/KATIPUNAN
  • Account name: ROGER CHAMPOUX and/or KANG YUP JUNG
  • Account number: 3084-0568-89
  • Bank’s swift code: BOPIPHMM
If you can send a donation please Mark it with – NAVOTAS.  When we return from this experience I will be able to give you a first hand account of life in Navotas and the situation after typhoon Nesta.