Sunday, July 6, 2008

MV Princess of the Stars and the Church of the Poor

I watched the replay of Probe, the weekly investigative show of veteran journalist, Che-Che Lazaro. The episode was about the sinking of MV Princess of Stars. It's difficult not to get affected listening to the pleas of the victims' relatives. You can feel their pain, frustration, fatigue, and anger from endlessly waiting for news about their relatives. Many have been resigned to the fact that their parents, children, husbands, wives, grandchildren, grandparents, etc. must already be dead, days after the disaster. But at least, they wanted to find their bodies. Some, would want to believe or to convince themselves that they believe that their loved ones are still alive, waiting for rescuers somewhere in one of the islands surrounding Sibuyan.

Once again, the response of the government was very slow, unlike the government's swift action in China in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. (I would have long wanted to post the slide show on this, unfortunately, Google does not have the capability yet to allow the attachment of powerpoint presentations in the blog. I'll just attach it to my email in the egroup). Here, government prioritized the investigation to pin the blame on Sulpicio Lines, which in turn, blamed Pag-Asa for its wrong weather forecast. There was not enough coordination and instruction to local government units on what to do with the floating bodies that they find in their seas and shores. For days the Mayor of San Fernando, Romblon in Sibuyan Island was appearing on TV calling on the coast guards or Sulpicio to get the dead bodies, which they already put in coffins. In Burias Island in Masbate, they had to bury the bodies for fear that this would affect the health of the residents. Other bodies appeared in Mulanay, Quezon and in Pasacao, Camarines Sur. In the first few days, relatives flocked to the Office of Sulpicio Lines but no responsible person was there to give them updates. Government also did not immediately advice them to go home first and look for ID cards, and medical and dental records of their missing relatives, which would be useful when identifying the dead bodies.

Those who responded to the queries of the relatives were volunteers from the Red Cross and social workers of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Conspicuously absent were the church people who could have comforted those in pain and sorrow. According to Ceres Doyo of the Inquirer, hindi “nagkandarapa” ang mga taga-simbahan para tulungan iyong pamilya ng mga biktima. We did hear Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales saying that the disaster was not an act of God and blamed Sulpicio for it. Archbishop Oscar Cruz, in turn, said that Sulpicio should be in mortuary business.

This morning, I went to Church early, maybe 45 minutes ahead of the schedule of the first mass. Dakul kaya akong gustong hagadon. Pagdakol na an taong nagdadasal, baka maribong na an Diyos kun si isay an i-inutong dangug-on, kaya marhay na an ma-enot. On a serious note, I'm a bit bothered by the request of our parish priest. He said that in spite of the crisis that we are experiencing today, he hopes that the parishioners would still fully support the project to renovate the third floor and basement of the office, as well as to improve the altar.

Our Lady of Fatima Parish is a small parish here in Barangay Hills, Mandaluyong. The church is small and modest but nowhere being run-down or dilapidated. The altar is also okay as it is. Kaya lang, gustong gawing granite ba o buong marmol. So, the parish is selling raffle tickets. (Bako bagang gambling pa din ini?). Yet, it did not call on the parishioners to contribute resources for the relief and rehabilitation of the people in areas stricken by typhoon Frank.

If we can ask God, do you think He would prefer the beautification of His house at this time instead of attending to the needs of those suffering from disasters and the present economic crisis? This reminds me also of the announcement of the healing priest, Fr. Suarez, that a big, big Church and statue of the Virgin Mary will be built in one of the hills in Batangas, which would become his base. I think he's already coming home from Canada to stay in the Philippines for good. He said, this would even be bigger than one of the new wonders of the world – the image of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro. Wow! Will he be doing this for the benefit of the poor? Or is it because of pride?

1 comment:

Daet Parochial School Class 67 said...

Talagang paradox, Toti. This is a nice observation from you. Contrasting the MV Princess of the Stars and the Church of the Poor is a good angle.

Yes, I think I also got the MV Princess Powerpoint presentation you were mentioning. Talagang grabe… I just hope that this Suspicious Lines na ini ay dai na na mag-layag pang muli. Four times already and they always blame the disaster on God…Now I heard they are blaming the Pag-Asa and has already filed some legal actions against it. The MV Princess is a real tragedy. Or it has always been a tragedy waiting to happen. Can you imagine that our Delta Clan, one of the fraternal organizations I helped found in MIT, PWU and UST when we were in college was planning to have a 3-day cruise for our 2010 reunion sa Suspicious Lines? Wow! I also observed the inauspicious absence of the church and our politicians in the search and rescue ops.

Vaguely though, I have also heard about this church that Fr. Suarez is building in Batangas. From my limited information, eh mukha daw talagang worthy of being a world class site. When you contrast the two, you really see two worlds that seem (or pretend) to care for one another… BUT DON’T. Funny enough, this is happening worldwide… My experience has thought me to be a bit cynical about big time solutions proposed by institutions like government, church, NGOs and the politicians. I prefer homegrown solutions (e.g., Grameen, Bank for Kids, etc.) from the poor themselves. I guess what is missing is the appropriate lenses to observe (purportedly being done by the media), watch and facilitate the build up of humble solutions that the poor are trying to communicate to us…whoever cares to listen… and ACT.

Lots of huggggssssss….

Ed Canela

Sor Victorina de la Providencia, Mother Superior of Daet Parochial School

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