Everyday is Christmas

Community News & Features Dec 16, 2004 at 2:40 pm

For concerned Filipinos of St. Anthony’s Parish

By Rowena Jane D. Esguerra

he Christmas spirit is one of love, of concern for others. It is a season of sharing, of giving and therefore not confined to one day of the year. Especially in these times when natural disasters, poverty, hunger and disease abound in many parts of the world, need knows no season.

The Concerned Filipinos of Saint Anthony’s Parish (CFSA) have their annual fundraising events as in the Summer or Spring dance, bake sales and the like. Every now and then, there are also generous monetary donations – gifts from the Parish.

With solidarity from parish priest Fr. Ezio Marchetto and members of the Parish Council composed of representatives of the Portuguese, Brazilian, Sri Lankan, Italian and Filipino communities, the CFSA sends help to two beneficiaries in the Philippines: 1) the special-needs children, poor families and youth, and the sick and needy in far-flung areas through the Camillian Sisters Mission; and 2) the Cordillera People through the Montanosa Relief and Rehabilitation Services Foundation (MRRS). Both partners of the CFSA are community- or mass-based non-government organizations.

Direct support to affected communities

The Camillian Sisters’ mission that receives support from CFSA is primarily based in the province of Rizal. Their programs include education/formation for the youth, therapeutic activities for special-needs children from low-income families, nutrition, and community participation (celebrations, choir, liturgical and spiritual formation).

Urban poor and peasant families share the joy of receiving clothes donated by the Saint Anthony’s churchgoers sent by CFSA through door-to-door services. The nutrition program is much appreciated by hungry children and their parents who worry where to get one meal after another.

The Sisters impart the meaning of spiritual ceremonies of Christmas to the children. The youth program includes spiritual formation where the young people design their own liturgy that includes shared learning through popular theatre.

Fostering empowerment and self-reliance

The Montanosa Relief and Rehabilitation Services Foundation (MRRSF) is a non-government organization serving the indigenous people of the Cordilleras. This is where the famous Ifugao Rice Terraces is located, once considered the eighth wonder of the world. Many parts of Cordilleras are ruined specifically by mining operations of global corporations and dams built to serve their interests. Because of these, the people suffer greatly when natural calamities occur like typhoons, heavy rains and earthquakes.

In the face of people’s needs in times of disaster, MRRSF has developed three major programs. 1) emergency response geared towards delivery of emergency and relief services to disaster-afflicted localities, 2) rehabilitation and mitigation projects assistance that primarily contribute to the productive activities of disaster-afflicted localities and 3) training and education towards the formation of disaster response committees at the community level.

Gifts need not come in Christmas wrappers especially when people are hungry. Financial support from the Concerned Filipinos of St. Anthony’s Parish in Toronto has brought sacks of rice that are repacked and distributed to individual families. These and boxes containing seedlings of vegetables to replace plants ruined by wind and flood do not need fancy wrapping.

The sacks of rice, boxes of seedling and farm tools are loaded in a jeepney. MRRS staff and volunteers from the affected communities need to detour to low-lying areas when roads are blocked due to landslide. Then the going gets even rougher when going up the mountain localities.

More importantly, the MRRS programs provide the impetus for the local folk to organize themselves and establish a quick system of distribution, planning, maintenance of community effort/projects and evaluation. It is usual for a community meeting to be held to figure out how distribution of goods is to be carried out. Even when disaster seems insurmountable, sustainability is always the final goal.