Fr. Aristelo Miranda, MI
A Brief Introduction to the Camillians in the Philippines: The Founders
The Camillians landed in the “Pearl of the Orient Sea”, the Philippines, in 1974. Fr. Antonio Crotti (+), Vice-Provincial Superior of the Far East Vice Province, Taiwan, identified the need to expand the Camillian ministry in the Philippines. He appointed two Camillian scholastics, Fr. Ivo Anselmi and Fr. Pietro Ferri (+), to travel from Taiwan to Manila to study theology at the Philippine Jesuit Foundation’s Loyola House of Studies. Immediately following their ordination to the priesthood, they established the first formation house in Quezon City where they began receiving candidates into the religious life. Years later, they established Our Lady of La Paz Parish in a underpriveleged but well-populated area of Makati City. The foundation of the parish was followed by the construction of a polyclinic. From 1986 onwards, more polyclinics and hospitals were established to serve the medical needs of the indigent on the various islands.
In 2003, the Philippine delegation was raised to the status of a province with two delegations, namely Taiwan and Australia. This strategy enabled the creation of a more dynamic ministry to the sick, including the provision of health care and the empowerment of the sick through Camillian health institutions, community health initiatives and chaplaincy services. At present, there are about 40 perpetually professed Filipino religious in the Philippine province who are serving the sick in the various regions of the Philippines and Australia. It is a pleasure to see so many young and vibrant individuals so eager to serve the Lord!
Disaster-Response History in the Philippines
Natural and man-made disasters are accepted as ordinary occurences in the Philippines. The Philippines ranks number five within the hierarchy of countries that regularly experience major natural catastrophes. It is one of the world’s most hazardous landmasses where volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, typhoons and the like are frequent phenomena. The existence of such calamities made us aware of the need to reflect and organize, with logic and prayer, some methods we could utilize to provide immediate responses to these exigencies as they occur.
In August 1999, a flash flood hit Marikina City where our college seminary is located. Just a few hours after the incident occurred, the St. Camillus College Seminary community in Marikina City, led by Fr. Aristelo Miranda MI, mobilized to provide assistance to the affected families. The team coordinated with the local government to render immediate services, transporting the victims to the large gymnasium which served as the evacuation center. For several weeks the Camillians assisted with medical needs, food and supplies for the center.
The Payatas Tragedy of July 2000 fostered the need for increased environmental awareness. Triggered by heavy rains, a mountain of rubbish at the old Payatas dump in Quezon City eroded and shifted, culminating in a landslide which buried alive hundreds of families and their homes. Fr. Aristelo Miranda MI, Fr. Charly Ricafort MI, Fr. Domingo Barawid MI and some Benedictine Sisters formed an alliance with Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY), an organization that provides assistance to the urban poor. In conjunction with the KADAMAY facility located on the site, the priests and sisters transported the wounded to the hospital, facilitated the distribution of relief goods and meticulously documented the individual cases of victims and survivors of the tragedy.
In December 2004, a flash flood and landslide hit the Quezon province, affecting thousands of families. The Camillians, led by the Commission on Justice and Solidarity in the World of Health- (CJSWH), formerly known as the Justice, Peace and Integrated of Creation – Order of St. Camillus [JPIC-OSC] Quick Reaction Team), responded by organizing a medical and relief goods distribution mission. From that time on, responding to disasters has been the charge of the CSJWH team of the Province. The team is composed of Fr. Aristelo Miranda, Fr. Charly T. Ricafort, Fr. Domingo Barawid, Fr. Samuel Cuarto and Fr. Junrey Ente.
In March 2006, the Southern Leyte Mudslide smothered the entire barangay of Guinsaugon with 28 meters of mud, causing 1002 recorded deaths and leaving 677 survivors. Under the guidance of Fr. Aris, the CTF group of the St. Camillus Hospital Calbayog Medical Team assisted with the medical needs of the evacuation center.
In December of the same year, Typhoon Reming assailed the entire region of Bicol. The CTF of Calbayog promptly organized a medical mission in response. Meanwhile, the CJSWH, led by Fr. Charly Ricafort and Fr. Samuel Cuarto, with the financial support of CTF Central, helped inhabitants to rehabilitate the fishing industry, the primary source of livelihood for many in the region.
Last year, the powerful Typhoon Frank slammed the province of Iloilo in the western Philippines, flooding several municipalities. The CTF Calbayog and our scholastics, in cooperation with the Diocesan Social Action Office of the Diocese of Jaro and the local government of Carles, Iloilo, responded. Services addressing the immediate needs of those affected on the island of Gigantes were provided through a medical mission led by Fr. James Roa MD, MI.
The Camillians implemented other improvements as well. One major development was the creation of a system to document the cases of the victims through the recording of information acquired during personal interviews.
Many of the disasters mentioned originated in great part as a result of human environmental misuse or neglect. For instance, illegal logging, quarrying and open-pit mining left land susceptible to landslides, soil erosion and flash floods. Poor waste disposal practices in garbage dumps contributes to the leaching of toxic wastes into the soil, contributing to soil instability and tainted crops.
Environmental protection and relevant preventative ecological measures have become the “food for thought” for the future of the organization as a necessary part of the formation and advocacy of the CTF in the Philippines.
Reflection on the Rome Experience
The first international convocation of the CTF in Rome last February (2009) was indeed an elevating and unifying experience. It was inspiring to learn that there is, within each one of our fellow Camillians and our collaborators, a desire to integrate and strengthen our efforts, and to be ever-available when man-made and natural disasters occur. The awareness we acquired of the existence of other organizations willing to assist with disaster-relief efforts when catastrophe strikes inspired us with an immense sense of consolation. Some of these entities, now our collaborators, existed even prior to the birth of the CTF. Thus, they have had the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and experience necessary to successfully combat the effects of natural disasters as they arise.
The conference presented an occasion to establish international collaboration and the pooling of each province’s human and material resources. We are not merely an isolated entity known as the Camillian Task Force but a dynamic, well-connected ministry formed for the benefit of the sick and the poor who constitute, in the eyes of St. Camillus, the “heart of God.”
Looking ahead: future plans for the CTF in the Philippines
In an attempt to organize and develop the Camillian Task Force ministry more fully, the provincial administration has committed itself to the creation of an administrative division of the Camillian Task Force in the Philippines.
A base for CTF operations will be established in the St. Camillus Polyclinic, Pasig City. Our regional Camillian health care institutions will cooperate in the establishment of various branches of the CTF within the region. The development, training and formation of CTF volunteers will receive immediate priority. In conjunction with the Commission on Justice and Solidarity in the World of Health (CJSWH) , the CTF will develop training modules for this purpose.
According to CJSWH Philippines team member Fr. Charly T. Ricafort, MI – a full-time social worker will be employed by the Philippine Province and assigned to oversee the project, which will be located in the St. Camillus Polyclinic-Pasig. In the event of a disaster or other CTF concerns, he or she will be instructed to prioritize response to these demands.
The social worker will receive CTF training and orientation to be funded by CTF Central. At the conclusion of the training, the social worker will design a training module for the purpose of educating personnel from our various Camillian institutions regarding appropriate disaster-response strategies in their respective areas.
The CJSWH and CTF orientation modules will be included in the new training modules to facilitate the integration of the new components and to ensure continuity of previous practices maintained within the CTF Philippines and CJSWH alliance.
More photos of CTF activities in the Philippines are available for viewing at: http://picasaweb.google.com/arismir/ISLANDMission?feat=email.
Fr. Aristela Miranda, MI
Susan M. Stefanski, Assistant Editor, CTF-SOS DRS Online Newsletter
|The Catholic Catechism teaches. . . . All men are called to the same end: God himself. There is a certain resemblance between the unity of the divine persons and the fraternity that men are to establish among themselves in truth and love.|
Love of neighbor is inseparable from love of God.
(Catholic Catechism – 1878)