Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cagayan de Oro under water

Cagayan de Oro continues to be inundated with water, as you can see from the pictures above. This is part of a larger disaster affecting the area. From the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

At least 14 people were killed when floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains this week struck parts of Mindanao and the Visayas, as well as Catanduanes province, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), and the disaster councils of Region 10 (RDCC10) and local government units.

Figures provided by the various disaster councils also showed at least 46,346 families, or 234,578 individuals, have been displaced and otherwise affected in the calamity-stricken areas.

A Plurkpal, the same one from whom I lifted these pictures, is raising money to help feed the displaced families. You can view the details from her blog.

Disclaimer: I do not know Chiq Montes personally, so I cannot guarantee that this is not a scam. A number of friends do vouch for her, and I have sent in a small Paypal donation. Please use your own judgment if and how you want to help.

The Witness of Fr. Rey Roda

A year ago today, in the small island of Tabawan in Tawi-Tawi province-- so small that you might not even find it on the map -- Fr. Rey Roda of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate was beaten and shot dead in front of his chapel.

Here is an account of how he died:
Fr. Jesus Reynaldo A. Roda, director of the Notre Dame of Tabawan and head of the mission station there for the last ten years was praying in the chapel, as he used to do every night when armed men barged in and tried to take him. He struggled and resisted being taken away, and explicitly said that he preferred to be killed right there and then. A witness said that he was beaten and then shot dead.

For me the anniversary would have passed by unremarked had I not decided to attend Mass at the Ateneo chapel this noon. Fr. Albert Alejo, a friend of Fr. Roda, was the celebrant; in his homily, he reflected at some length on the death of Fr. Roda.

Fr. Roda was 54 years old when he was killed. He had been director of Notre Dame of Tabawan since 1998. He was known as a tireless advocate of education. According to a blog set up in his memory:
Among his Oblate brethren, Fr. Rey is known for his almost obsessive advocacy of his scholarship program for the youths of Tabawan. Given the meager island resources, he believed that only through education could they escape the cycle of poverty and hopefully give something in return to the island and its populace. Thus, he unceasingly sought assistance from whatever source not only for his own school and scholars but also for the whole formal education system of Tabawan and the rest of Tawi-tawi.

Not only that, he was also instrumental in assisting deported Filipino workers from Sabah, which is a stone's throw from Tabawan.
When in 2003 Malaysia deported thousands of illegal Filipino workers, many of them from Tabawan, Fr. Rey became involved in caring for these deportees — helping to find assistance for and to organize the building of core shelters, day care and feeding programs, and alternative livelihood projects.

And to all this, we still have to add the other livelihood projects and peace initiatives that Fr. Roda was involved in. He was due for transfer to another assignment but declined because he wanted to remain in Tabawan to continue missionary work there.

Fr. Rey Roda is the third Oblate missionary to die in the area. The other two were Bishop Benjamin de Jesus in 1997 and Fr. Benjamin Inocencio in 2000. Archbishop Orlando Quevedo explained the mission of the Oblates among the predominantly Muslim communities:
Theology is no longer Mission as understood at the time of St. Francis Xavier. In 1971, a Synod of Bishops from all over the world gathered in Rome and taught that ‘action for justice and participation in the transformation of the world is a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel.

Fr. Rey’s generation of seminarians and young priests had this in mind when going to the missions, as in Sulu. Helping create a world more peaceful and more just, more harmonious and more ‘fraternal’ in collaboration with peoples of other faiths — that is at the heart of the Oblate missions in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. And why? Because such a world is a fuller reflection of the universal Reigning of God. That is part of Catholic belief and is probably shared in one form or another by various religious traditions.

In a time when many accuse religion of hindering progress, when martyrdom is sullied by those who would use it only for violence, Fr. Rey Roda and the Oblates stand as witness to the continued dedication of the Church to its mission.

May we follow in their light.

Some links to other blogs:
Fr. Rey Roda, Servant of Peace
In Memory of Fr. Rey Roda
Burial of Fr. Rey Roda
Fr. Rey Roda, OMI
The Oblates of Mary Immaculate

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Sin chia kiong

"Sin chia kiong!"

For many years those three syllables were at the core of an annual ritual in our household. We children would scream those words into the telephone, all the better to be heard above the din of firecrackers going off in the background of both ends of the connection. In later years, shouting was still the norm, because we had gotten used to it and because the people on the other end had become hard of hearing, said people being Grandmother and Grandfather in Dumaguete.

Up to now, I am unsure of the exact literal meaning of the greeting. "Sin" I know means "new", and that indicates its roots in Hokkien. Of "chia" or "kiong" I'm not so certain. "Kiong", my mother says, takes from "kiong hi", which is our way of saying "congratulations." "Chia" is not at all in our regular vocabulary, but I guess it would be "year."

Compounding my confusion was the fact that only we seemed to use the greeting. Everyone else said "kung hei fat choy", which is Mandarin (or in Hokkien, "kiong hi huat choy"); when I gave friends the usual family greeting, I would be met with puzzled and bemused looks. I really don't know why that should be: "kung hei fat choy" means "more happiness (and wealth) to you", and is thus less literal than "sin chia kiong."

But what did it matter if people outside the family circle understood it or not? It was the greeting Guama and Guakong used. It was the greeting linked to the happiness of the new year. "Sin chia kiong, Ama! How are you? Are you well?" "Sin chia kiong, Angkong! Yes, it's very noisy here; I can hardly hear you. Are they tossing firecrackers there, as well?" And we said all those tangential things because, by our convention, we never said "I love you."

These days, we could say "sin chia kiong" without shouting. Davao, having banned firecrackers for the past five years, is the quietest place to spend the New Year; there are no explosions to shout over. The telephone calls are much clearer and cheaper -- we can talk as long as we want for only P10 per call. It would be a fine time to greet Guama and Guakong: "Sin chia kiong!" I would still shout, though, if only from habit.

All but for one thing: Guama and Guakong are no longer there to hear it; and so I content myself to whisper it:

"Sin chia kiong, Guama; sin chia kiong, Guakong."