Mabuhay! (Welcome) From The Philippines

– by Durstyne Farnan, OP

Following the Asia-Pacific Dominican Justice Promoters meeting in Taiwan in October, I went to the Philippines to meet our “daughters,” The Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies. What a courageous and dedicated congregation of women. They took great care of me while sharing the justice issues they face as Filipinas.

The 40 women in the congregation are highly respected in their country, as well as outside the Philippines. In the following photos and vignettes, I hope you will get a taste of what I experienced with the sisters.

One of the many indigenous peoples in the Philippines are the Aetas. The sisters began their ministry with the Aetas 10 years ago. Prior to the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, the tribe was nomadic. Sister Vangie now lives among the people after gaining their trust. They live about 50 minutes from San Fernando where the Motherhouse is located. Sister Vangie comes home periodically for meetings and feast days, but her heart and ministry are with the people. She has reclaimed the land and turned it into an ecological model for the area, and everyone who visits is asked to plant a tree. The people prepared a delicious meal of fish and rice wrapped in banana leaves and cooked over coals. The whole neighborhood joined us for food, dancing and song.

One afternoon was spent with farmers who are reclaiming the land next to the old Clark Air Force Base in San Fernando. They formed a co-operative of 40 families that till 75 hectares of land. The government recently took 25 hectares for a new road that will carry produce all the way to Manila in a shorter amount of time. The farmers are in their seventh year of a 10-year contract, and hope that it will be renewed. Like farmers in the U.S., they are up against corporations that sell genetically modified organisms (GMOs). However, three agricultural college graduates and the older farmers are working together, and new technology has enabled them to produce an extremely large yield of tomatoes this year. They also have planted rice, mango trees and other crops. They use one machine, a thresher for the rice, but the rest of the farming is done by hand or with traditional farming tools. The investment of time and labor is unbelievable.

The sisters care for many children in their ministries. They minister in two centers that are for children with special needs and include residential and day programs. Corporations in the Philippines are partnering with the sisters to bring a spirit of joy to the children as well as needed equipment and educational materials.

A variety of transportation modes are utilized in the Philippines, including the calesa (a small horse-drawn carriage), the jitney and the Pedibike — all of which I rode. It was quite an experience!