Reverse carolling in Mindoro

December 17, 2015 at 4:32 pm Leave a comment

Carolling in Mindoro was one of the easiest reverse carolling experiences physically, but also one of the most challenging emotionally. It was easy because Father Caloy and his team of dedicated volunteers from San Isidro Labrador Chaplaincy was extremely hospitable and super organized, and assisted us fully, driving us almost point to point everywhere, and carrying the hampers which were filled with four kilos of rice, canned food and other grocery basics.

It was very difficult emotionally for the poverty of the families we visited was quite extreme. Life is hard. There is barely any work to be found every day even if one wants to work. Often we visited families whose breadwinner, the man of the house, was home, sitting in the darkness of his ramshackle hut with vacant, hopeless eyes.

There were instances we came across single parent families like Ate Laling’s, whose husband left her for another women, leaving her with two children to feed besides herself. At the time she was left to fend for her family, she was in such dire straits that she was forced to live in an abandoned pig pen with her two children. She has no source of income and her daughter who is around fifteen has a mental disability and is incapable of doing much. Ate Laling herself is mentally challenged and does not comprehend much. When we visited, her twelve year old son was in school and she now lives in a hut built for her family next to the pig pen.

Farming is back-breaking work, especially rice, or padi, which is manually planted. After the landlord takes a substantial share of the harvest, the farmer gets his share which he sells to the middle man at a depressed price who then sells it for exponentially more money. Whatever pittance the farmer earns must last him through the next planting cycle until harvest time rolls around again. In the meantime he can only hope he has no emergencies that require extra cash for he cannot afford it. Neither can he afford a poor harvest due to inclement weather conditions.

Most of the people I met did not own the squalid, cramped shacks they call home. They literally live in darkness when the sun sets, mostly forgotten, hunkering down amidst the untamed greenery and the fields of cultivated padi, corn, banana, coconut and calamansi. And yet, they were hospitable when we came calling, offering us buko or coconut juice and saman (rice wrapped in banana leaves). Father Caloy calls it the richness of the poor.

What can be done to help them break the poverty cycle when the issues run so deep? It is systemic, structural (some places have no running water and people have to visit the church well for water every day) and cultural (the Munyan hill tribe is largely looked down on and ignored, as are the single female parent families, the elderly, the sick and the handicapped destitute).

I felt angry, sad and helpless when I learned the stories of each family I visited. And yet there is hope. One person can make a difference. This was my take home message from Mindoro. Father Caloy is a man for the people, especially the poor and the marginalized. He has a heart for the poorest of the poor and works tirelessly to better their lives and further their cause.

Because of his wide-ranging vision and unwavering love for the poor, he has founded a community of like-minded volunteers in the San Isidro Labrador Chaplaincy who work with him to effect a change in the outlying areas. In turn, there has been a trickle down effect such that the barangay or village captains and the people living within the different barangays are themselves sensitive to the cries of help from their neighbours and lend a hand when needed even when they themselves are not much better off. Ate Laling’s new hut is a result of such communal cooperation.

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Entry filed under: Events.

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