In the barangays of Alabel: Alegria, Nop, and Kawas. The following is from our special correspondent in the Philippines.
Does anyone believe in chance? This Thursday, March 9, the mission moves to Alegria: after Paradise and Hope, here is Joy. Joy to be able to continue this mission, joy to bring a little relief to the sick and to souls.
If everything is going smoothly and with good humor, it is largely thanks to the logistics taken care of by the municipality of Alabel. Municipal employees move the equipment at the end of each day's mission, transport it and unload it at nightfall on the site the next day, working until the middle of the night to install everything, so that the volunteers can get to work as soon as they arrive around 8 o'clock in the morning.
This Thursday, March 9, the journey from Kawas to Alegria is shorter, which the volunteers who acrobatically board the dump trucks do not necessarily regret! Atmosphere assured, but minimum comfort. This mission site reminds us of Polomolok in 2019: a large closed gymnasium and even larger crowd than the day before.
The “elders” of the mission found Diana there, born with a single arm and without legs, who they had met at the 2017 mission. A day had been devoted to the care of the disabled, and the ACIM had offered her a to get a free wheelchair which she had refused, as she considered herself completely independent. She had learned to live like this in her mountain village.
Doctor Araneta, an ophthalmologist from Manila, joined the mission this Thursday for the last three days. She will be able to distribute the many pairs of glasses that the volunteers have brought in their luggage. Allowing a few short-sighted or presbyopic people who have never worn glasses to recover their sight is one of the most visible and very touching “miracles” of the mission.
Doctor Araneta will receive 41 patients during the day. She will diagnose a few cases of pterygium, an outgrowth of tissue that invades the cornea, a very common condition in the Philippines. She will close her “office” at nightfall after all the others. The results of the day: nearly 500 patients were able to receive care. Nobody was idle.
Friday March 10. The mission settles in Nop – Springtime in Visaya – but at 8 a.m., the heat is already more like summer than spring … The stepped village is nestled in the hollow of a cliff, in a setting of tropical greenery. To get there, one has ad to follow a winding track through rice fields and banana plantations, passing through a few small hamlets of bamboo huts.
The passage of trucks raises a lot of dust. It powders the rays of the morning sun which seeps through the palms of the tall trees, in a play of shadow and soft light. But do not confuse the Rosa Mystica mission with an artificial tour operator!
The daily expeditions that took the volunteers to these lost places certainly made them discover nature and magnificent landscapes off the beaten track, but above all real life, the material and often moral and spiritual misery of these mountain Filipinos, crossed along the trails, met throughout the days of the mission spent with them.
The schoolchildren, on leave today – because the classrooms have been transformed into consulting rooms, operating room, analysis laboratory, and pharmacy – welcome us by performing a frenzied dance. They twirl their multicolored malongs, this piece of tubular fabric with multiple uses serving, among other things, as a baby carrier, and sweep along with them the delighted volunteers.
The wooden office chairs have been borrowed from the classrooms and find their use in the open-air waiting room where the patients are protected from the sun by vast circular canopies, set up and taken down every day by the Alabel municipal employees.
Once again, it is no coincidence that the Blessed Virgin came to invest this place with two opening and closing processions, and through the apostolate of the members of the Militia of the Immaculate. The majority of the population there is Protestant or Muslim, and we note that the school has been the object of the solicitude of another “humanitarian” organization: the small wooden desks are “marked” that they have been donated by the local Masonic Lodge.
Maximilien Kolbe, in the statutes of his Militia of the Immaculate founded in 1917, clearly expressed its purpose: to seek the conversion of sinners, heretics, schismatics, and especially Freemasons.
At the end of this fifth day of the mission, stethoscopes, otoscopes, oximeters, and thermometers were already put away when an extremely weak and emaciated old man, accompanied by his daughter, arrived to be seen by a doctor, carried on the back of a volunteer. This man can no longer swallow anything and is starving.
Doctor Olivier goes back to work and diagnoses an advanced cancer. He must once again announce it to the patient and his family. He also invites him to speak with Fr. Tim. This man is of the Baptist religion, but not practicing. He agrees to follow the catechism and to receive the baptism which will be given to him on Monday. The man will return home on a stretcher carried by the soldiers.
His daughter, to whom I had spoken a little, took a liking to me. She dragged me by the arm to her house, a poor bamboo hovel in this mountain slum. We reached it through narrow and dirty alleys in the middle of which flows pestilential sewage, and where all kinds of waste accumulate.
The man was placed in his “bedroom,” a small room in the fragile structure of woven banana leaves, on the concrete floor on which is spread an old blanket as a mattress and box spring. We waited for Fr. Tim, seated on the benches of the open-air “terrace room” around which the inhabitants of the neighborhood came to chat.
A young woman who spoke a little English explained to me that this family was extremely poor, and had never been able to send her father to the hospital, even though he had been sick for many years.
After six days of the Rosa Mystica mission, the Acim-Asia permanent team continues its work with the patients encountered. They will try to bring a little comfort to this old man to relieve his great suffering at the end of his life. Yolly won't abandon him. Neither will Fr. Tim. Before visiting the family, he first wants to place this predominantly Baptist and Muslim village under the protective mantle of Our Lady of Compassion.
In procession, followed by the children of the village, he descended from the school to the town square where a small altar had been erected. There, observed by a few onlookers, he offers the village to the Blessed Virgin, so that for these poor among the poor, she may be the Salvation of the infirm, the Comforter of the afflicted, the Mother of divine grace.
Last day of mission. It will take place in the Kawas school, a few hundred meters from Pinobre park where the young volunteers were accommodated during the week. This time, it is in the large municipal courtyard which serves as a waiting and consultation room… and as a pharmacy.
At the end of the day, during the gala dinner offered by the municipality, it was time to take stock: almost 2,500 patients were received and cared for by the Rosa Mystica mission during these six days spent in the Sarangani mountains. The mayor of Alabel, who honored us with his presence, expressed his deep gratitude to us after the traditional presentation of the Certificates of appreciation.
He invited us to come back next year, because many other villages in his constituency could not benefit from our visit. Too short also for the taste of all the volunteers, but it's only a postponement. Thank you to all the benefactors of the Rosa Mystica mission, without which it would not exist.
To help the Rosa Mystica mission: by PayPal on the website www.rosamystica-mission.com or by check to ACIM, 2, route d'Equihen F-62360 Saint-Etienne-au-Mont. IBAN Code: FR52/3000/2056/0000/0070/2978/B46