Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Filipino Ministry on a mission

Naida Castro
Chairperson, Diocesan Filipino Ministry

We of the Filipino Ministry at the Diocese of San Bernardino consider the phenomenon of multi-cultural diversity in the Diocese of San Bernardino as a blessing. This is God's wonderful gift to us. This gift reflects the richness and extravagance of our living God. To promote this multicultural diversity and harmony as richness in the Diocese of San Bernardino, the diocesan Filipino Ministry created and developed its Philippine Exposure Program Discovering and Re-discovering Our Filipino Roots, A Journey to the Philippines  The objectives of the exposure program are:
  • To introduce participants of the exposure program to the current Philippine situation;
  • To expose Filipino young adults, and their friends to Philippine rural, urban, and indigenous communities as the closest link to Filipino roots;
  • To appreciate the richness of the Philippines, the land and its people; and
  • To take a much needed rest and recreation to reflect on our life-experience before, during, and after our journey.

History of the Program
We launched the program in June 2006 with 11 pilgrims/missionaries comprising of five adults and six young adults. We exposed them to rural and urban communities in Manila, Cavite, Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Norte. In June 2007 the program introduced Filipino-Americans and their Irish-American, Caucasian and Mexican-American friends to Philippine history, culture and present day realities – the survival of the poor and the struggles of the marginalized for justice, peace and integrity of creation. It included a four-day stay with the lumad, an indigenous community of the Manobo, Banwaon, Talaandig and Mamanwa tribes at the San Luis Lumad Community High School in Agusan del Sur, a three-day stay at the beautiful white beach in General Luna, Siargao Island, a visit at the Urios College in Butuan City, as well as sightseeing and shopping in Manila, Quezon City and Cebu, conducting interviews and meeting with the children of desaparacidos (or the disappeared). During this exposure, the Filipino Ministry – DSB produced its first documentary: Discovering and Re-discovering the Philippines in collaboration with the Naida and Alex Castro Foundation for Philippine Solidarity and Development and Kodao Productions, a Philippine-based multi-media outfit.

Through the Philippine Exposure Program Discovering and Re-discovering our Filipino Roots, the Filipino Ministry - DSB and its participants experienced a deeper meaning of the social teachings of the Catholic Church.
In February 2009, in collaboration with the University of Santo Tomas Medical Association, we included in the program the  medical mission  serving the indigents in Isabela, Manila, Batangas, Mindoro and Cavite.

Our Program Today, January 2011        
This 2011 we will go for our fourth Philippine Exposure. The Filipino Ministry – DSB, with its team of medical and non-medical professionals, clergies and young adults, will be leaving for the Visayas, Mindanao and Manila on January 12 through January 25, 2011, to provide medical care to the poor, the marginalized and the underprivileged Filipinos. We want to  discover and re-discover our Filipino roots, this time, through the medical mission among the poor and indigenous peoples in the Philippines.  In this journey to our roots, 47 people make up the medical mission group of six doctors, seven nurses, four priests and 30 volunteers.

Why among the poor? Because they are the ones most affected by the historical social health deprivations in our country. To know their health situation and to respond to their medical needs means for us, health and medical practitioners in the US, to discover and rediscover the causes of the common diseases and health problems besetting our poor people. We also would like to establish solidarity ties with the peoples and groups of the Philippines who are trying to make better our country, on the side of the poor and victims of historical and social maladies. From the perspective of medical and health care, these are the groups of professionals, medical and health care practitioners, who have developed a HOLISTIC MEDICAL CARE. They are in the poor and indigenous communities to help empower these communities in their preventive, curative and post curative phases of health and medical care. Together with these communities they have also developed native and indigenous health practices and medicines, hygiene and social and environmental health, besides making available those medicines that are produced in the market. That is why we link with the Community-Based Health Program (CBHP), Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), Community Medicine (COMMED) and Botica sa Barangay (literally, Drugstore of the Village). These organizations are our primary partners; hospitals are our secondary partners. These organizations are the primary partners of the Church: the Dioceses of Bacolod and Iloilo have strong CBHPs.

We do not go there for purely medical and health reasons. We go there to know the history and the situation which create the existing health and medical situation and practice in the Philippines. That is why prior to, during and after the medical mission activities, we will always have a briefing and an orientation on the history of health and medical care in the Philippines, the social and environmental causes of diseases and sickness in the Philippines, and the stage of the people’s initiatives to care for themselves, socially, economically, politically, culturally and medically or health wise.  We go there with faith. We hope to develop a spirituality of holistic healing and medical care for the integrity of mind, body and soul. That is why we will have celebrations of the Eucharist; reflection and prayer sessions; integration with the community; rest, recreation and relaxation, besides being able to visit and connect and re-connect with our families.

Our Hope
With the blessing of our Most Rev. Bishop Gerald Barnes,  it is our hope that the  Filipino Ministry of the Diocese of San Bernardino will be able to  help the  Filipino Catholics in this diocese  discover and re-discover their Filipino roots in a new and more profound way.

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