by Lauro A. Caliva

COVID-19 impacted both public health and economy in Luzon. The enhanced community quarantine paused the normal operations of businesses. While others shifted to skeletal workforce and work-from-home arrangements to continue operations, others were not able to adapt to the situation. Among those who failed to adapt were the poorest families.

Nobody was ready for the pandemic. Governments struggle to provide assistance to as many people that they can reach. In the Philippines, the government found economic reinforcements in the league of big corporations that donated great sums of money to charitable institutions. One of the institutions that served as “chamber of donations” is Caritas Manila.

In the spirit of Christian brotherhood and social justice, Caritas Manila organized the Oplan Damayan drive where donations are channeled to the families who need them the most. The charitable Catholic arm converted donations from different companies into gift certificates that were given to the different dioceses in Metro Manila. Each family received a gift certificate worth 1,000 pesos.

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes received a total amount of 1.5 million pesos. This translated to gift certificates given to 1,500 families from all barangays under its ecclesiastical care. There was a total of 6,001 people who benefited from the financial aid.

“After receiving the gift certificates from Fr. Ronnie Santos of the Diocese of Cubao last April 3, NSOLL SSDM coordinator Bong Carpio immediately asked the BEC coordinators of the 9 barangays to list down possible recipients ranging from 100 to 200 families from every barangay,” explained by Fr. Cesar Acuin, OFMCap in a text message sent to the Social Communications Ministry. In the same message, our parish priest and rector further explained that the gift certificates were equitably distributed instead of equal distribution because some barangays have more families that belong to the poorest social stratum than those in more affluent barangays.

The distribution of gift certificates started last April 06, Holy Monday. The parish team in-charge of distribution was composed of Mr. Henry Bong M. Carpio and lay ministers from his SSDM team with the assistance of a Capuchin priest. They chose to travel to every house of the recipients to avoid mass gathering. The Capuchin priests who assisted the team were Rev. Fr. Rex Cutamora OFMCap. (in more or less 5 barangays), Rev. Fr. Paul Vincent Perlado OFMCap. (in 3 barangays), and Rev. Fr. Cesar Acuin OFMCap. (in 1 barangay).

“It was not an easy task since this was a new procedure amid the lockdown of some barangays. The team had to maintain social distancing and avoid a large gathering of people,” described by Rev. Fr. Acuin OFMCap. when asked about the overall experience of the distributing team. Nevertheless, all gift certificates were successfully distributed until April 14, 2020. The documentation and other supporting reports of the distribution were submitted to Caritas Manila last April 15.

During the non-consecutive 7-day distribution of gift certificates, it is wonderful to note that our parish was able to sustain its daily distribution of packed lunch meals to around 100 street dwellers in the Santa Mesa Heights area. Beyond the success of its humanitarian actions, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes is a proof that Church ministries remain strong and divinely guided even during challenging times.

#NSOLLPH

Caption for the Image (L-R): Mr. Henry Bong Carpio SSDM Coordiinator, Rev. Fr. Rex Cutamora OFMCap., and Mrs. Maria Loida M. Reyes, BEC Coordinator with a beneficiary.

About the Author: Lauro A. Caliva is a volunteer writer from the Social Communications Ministry of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.

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