Church, society called to enable new landowners via land reform – CBCP president

coffee farmers' cooperative, Laguna /NJ Viehland Photos

coffee farmers’ cooperative, Laguna /NJ Viehland Photos

AGRARIAN REFORM

AS A CONTINUING PROJECT OF SOCIAL JUSTICE

Not too long ago I issued a statement on the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and its implementing law, lauding its achievements as well as candidly pointing out the challenges that still had to be hurdled.  The CBCP is once more being asked about the expanded and enhanced version of the program and whether it remains not only legally but morally justified.

Laguna,NJ Viehland

Laguna / NJ Viehland Photos

Agrarian Reform as Moral Imperative

Unless the expropriation of privately owned property serves the higher cause of social justice, agrarian reform cannot  hardly (be) justified.  When it casts itself off from this moral mooring, land reform merely becomes disguised confiscation by the State of private property.  This also means that the underlying motive as well as the defining criterion for any enhancement, expansion or amendment of the agrarian reform law presently in place must be social justice — and this is exactly what is disturbing because our Legislature that has not seen urgency in other matters of national concern involving social justice cannot credibly enact an enhanced or improved agrarian reform law unless it takes all the demands of social justice in their entirety to heart.

Some Concerns of Law Reform

The present spate of investigations into questionable acquisitions by officials of government of considerable tracts of land — often in scandalous proportions — leaves no doubt that the law has in several ways been circumvented and persons otherwise disqualified from amassing vast tracts of land in contravention of the law have in fact done so.  Genuine law reform and resolute law implementation must address this.

It is also a fact to which many of our pastors throughout the country bear witness that farmer-beneficiaries have, through some subterfuge, successfully alienated their acquisitions, defeating the purpose as well as the intendment of the program.  While on the one hand, this speaks of a downright irresponsibility on the part of farmer-beneficiaries, it also suggests that they needed assistance from government, from the Church, from NGOs to succeed in their new roles as land-owners bad sadly, at least according to their perception, received no such assistance.

Clearly, therefore, the nagging problems of the redistribution of land resources in this country cannot be solved by the mere passage of laws or the amendment of legal provisions.  The Church, for one, is called to that charity that takes the form of empowering new land-owners so that they may truly enjoy the self-determination that characterizes persons as God’s free sons and daughters.

Laguna,NJ Viehland

Laguna / NJ Viehland Photos

Family Fragmentation and the Vacuity of Land Reform

Agrarian reform envisioned the family as an economic unit, endeavoring to give each family that portion of God’s earth on which it labored so that together, having impressed the marks of their personhood — both as individuals and as a family — on the land, it would be truly be theirs.  But this idyllic picture is slowly fading, sliding over into the realm of fiction, for the sad reality is that the Filipino is now very frequently a fragmented family, youngsters setting as their priority migration to some foreign land with the result that continued ownership of the land their parents once lovingly tilled becomes a matter of indifference.

Again, it is clear that the issue goes far beyond legal considerations and touches on the very mission of the family and life apostolate of the Church.  Agrarian reform, the CBCP continues to hope, should be a potent instrument of social cohesion and the flourishing of the family as the domestic church.

THE CBCP THEREFORE requests the Legislature to consider the foregoing points in its project to expanding and enhancing the agrarian reform program, even as it calls on various church groups, lay groups in particular, as well as NGOs, to do their part to see to the meaningful fruition of this program.

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, November 12, 2014

Archbishop Socrates Villegas. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas / NJ Viehland Photos

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS

   Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
   CBCP President

Social dev’t. movement anniversary shines spotlight on charcoal making project

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle discusses with Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, his predecessor as archbishop of Manila in the sidelines of a plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in Manila / Dave Viehland Photo published with permission.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle discusses with Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, his predecessor as archbishop of Manila in the sidelines of a plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in Manila / Dave Viehland Photo published with permission.

            Pondo ng Pinoy the movement began by Manila Archbishop Emeritus Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales in the Archdiocese of Manila marks its 10th year by showcasing the Eco-Uling project that gives livelihood to persons with disability and that promotes the environment. The project produces charcoal briquette from a combination of water lily, coconut husk and shell.
 
            The celebration for its 10th year on June 12, 2014 will be held at the community where the Eco-Uling project is located in Taguig City. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle leads visitors at the project site where there will be a demonstration of how the unique charcoal briquettes are produced starting at 8 a.m., followed by a program at the Ed Carlos Property, C6 Road, Brgy. Calsada, Taguig City. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle will celebrate the Mass at 11 a.m.  About one thousand delegates from 21 Pondo ng Pinoy member diocses are expected to attend the celebration.
Charcoal maker in small home industry in San Isidro Parish, Bagong Silangan, Novaliches diocese on Good Friday 2014 - NJ Viehland Photos

Charcoal maker in small home industry in San Isidro Parish, Bagong Silangan, Novaliches diocese on Good Friday 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

 
            Some 20 persons with disability and their young Muslim friends run the project, from the gathering of the materials, to the technical production and marketing. With this project, Pondo ng Pinoy has enabled the disabled persons to earn a living by themselves. Also, the project is able to utilize water lily which causes problems in the waterways because of its proliferation that leads to clogging and flooding especially during the rainy season.
 
            Pondo ng Pinoy initially granted the project Php300,000 (US$6,880) and gave an additional Php280,000 to expand the operation.
 
            Cardinal Rosales saw in Pondo ng Pinoy a way by which every person, “no matter how poor, no matter how humble, the freedom to give, to help and live fully.” This is because Pondo ng Pinoy aims to cultivate the culture of giving and helping another, through saving as little as 25 centavos a day as an act of love for the poor and as symbol of one’s good works. The money, Cardinal Rosales said, would be meaningless without the love that is generated from saving it. Cardinal Rosales summed up the Pondo ng Pinoy principle in this motto, “Anumang magaling kahit maliit basta’t malimit ay patungong langit.” That is, small ordinary acts can accomplish great things if done or given by many, frequently and consistently pooled together for a common vision.
A March 27-30 nationwide survey of the Social Weather Stations found that 17.8% of the respondents -- equivalent to an estimated 3.9 million families -- claimed to have experienced having nothing to eat in the past three months. - Ed Gerlock photo, published with permission.

A March 27-30 nationwide survey of the Social Weather Stations found that 17.8% of the respondents — equivalent to an estimated 3.9 million families — claimed to have experienced having nothing to eat in the past three months. – Ed Gerlock photo, published with permission.

 
            To date Pondo ng Pinoy has sponsored more than 300 projects on health, livelihood and development, alternative learning, housing, and Hapag-Asa (subsidy) feeding program, amounting to more 200 million.
 
            Pondo ng Pinoy movement operates through the Pondo ng Pinoy Community Foundation. It has as members, aside from the Archdiocese of Manila, 18 dioceses, two apostolic vicariates, and the Military Ordinariate. 

CiA Document : Moral Ethical Dimensions of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform

Farmer beneficiaries of Land reform in Cabuyao, Laguna, south of Manila tell visitors how they banded together in Casile-Guinting Upland Marketing Cooperative (CGUMC) to support each other in developing and improving productivity and hold a strong bargaining position in the business of farming. - NJ Viehland Photos

Farmer beneficiaries of Land reform in Cabuyao, Laguna, south of Manila tell visitors how they banded together in Casile-Guinting Upland Marketing Cooperative (CGUMC) to support each other in developing and improving productivity and hold a strong bargaining position in the business of farming. – NJ Viehland Photos

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform will expire on June 30.

Where do we go from here?  We cannot remain oblivious to the plight of the poor famers.  It is useful to review some of the guiding principles that come from the treasury of Church social teaching.

 Basic Principles

First, capital (including land) exists for the sake of labour, because the human person is a ‘labouring being’ who fulfills his vocation in the dignity of human labour.

Second, the human person is more important than material things. Human beings must not be placed second to the land that they till.

Third, the private ownership of the world’s resources cannot and should not be the reason that God’s sons and daughters are denied access to these resources for the achievement of their full stature as human persons.  In other words, in the ethical order, the right to use precedes the right to own and private ownership is justified only to the extent that it allows for the more efficient use of the world’s resources.

 The Situation

The hard facts are disturbing.  In 2011, the Agrarian Reform Communities Level Development Assessment (ALDA) showed that 54% of households among agrarian-reform beneficiaries fell below the poverty line.  Due to this, we now have a class of newly-landed Filipinos, the majority live below the poverty-line.  This is what prompts observers to recognize a new class of farmers: “the landed poor“.

What is clear is that distributing expropriated land to beneficiaries and leaving them to their own resources does not serve the purpose of agrarian reform, for it is very well possible that the beneficiaries, lacking the wherewithal and the skills render of their new holdings that were hitherto productive now unproductive.  The generous allocation of funds for farm inputs, unless accompanied by an uncompromisingly rigid system of accounting and transparency, will only line the pockets of those who have remorselessly profited from public funds!

In this respect, the Church will do its share, and dioceses and other ecclesiastical jurisdictions are urged to activate their social action commissions to police, observe and report on the allocation, distribution and application of public monies and funds targeting farm productivity.  

Regrettably, some farmer-beneficiaries of agrarian reform have had recourse to the subterfuge of alienating their newly-acquired property in the underground market in an attempt to make quick money, frustrating the very purposes of land distribution.  In this respect, legal reform towards allowing farmer-beneficiaries to lease or mortgage their property when such contracts should hold out the promise of higher productivity for the land and higher standards of living for our farmer-beneficiaries must receive serious study.  But we, your pastors, must warn against every scheme that would have land that has already been distributed, gathered in the hands of those would once more amass tracts of land in contravention of the equitable purpose of land-distribution.  What this problem points to is the importance of the formation of our farmer-beneficiaries, including their Christian formation as ‘stewards’ of this world’s resources, particularly land.  

And where a farmer-beneficiary regrettably chooses to leave his holding idle, to abandon it or to leave it unproductive, there has to be some legal mechanism by which the land reverts to the scheme of re-distribution so that it may be awarded to farmer-beneficiaries who have the willingness and capacity to render it more productive and to serve the common good.

There is finally, the problem that 70% of Certificates of Land Ownership Awards issued are, thus far, collective.  These involve one million farmers and two million hectares.  In effect, the legal rights of the individual beneficiary are not yet settled.  Consigned to a state of uncertainty, this acreage cannot be productive, nor can the supposed beneficiaries enjoy the rights that the law intends them to have.  This is a matter to which the Department of Agrarian Reform must turn, with urgency and resoluteness.

 The Moral Reponse

In summary, while the task of re-distribution is apparently done, the government’s efforts — in tandem with the initiatives to the private sector, particularly our Catholic laity — should go into rendering these new holdings productive.  A more responsible system of allocating, distributing and applying government funds and resources towards farm productivity must be set in place coupled with people’s efforts at rendering transactions transparent and responsible officials, accountable.  Where legislative reform is necessary to enable leases and mortgages of acquisitions towards higher levels of productivity and a rise in the living standards of farmer-beneficiaries, these must be enacted.  But the Philippine Church must, with all haste and diligence, involve itself in the formation of our farmer-beneficiaries so that rather than devising ways of circumventing the law by alienating their holdings and contradicting the purposes of land-distribution, they may be true stewards of this world’s goods.

From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, June 6, 2014

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS, D.D.
   Archbishop of Lingayan-Dagupan
   President, CBCP

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World Fair Trade Day 2014 – May 10

Casile and Guinting, Cabuyao, Laguna
May 7, 2014
N.J. Viehland

Fair Trade People, 2014 World Fair Trade Day’s theme shines the spotlight on Fair Trade producers, people buying their products and other supporters who are “real drivers of the growth of Fair Trade,” organizers said. 

They and their promoters, funders and volunteers are credited with leading the movement promoting social justice today. Here are some of these people in the Bote Central network:

Fair Trade businesswomen Vie Reyes (left), treasurer of Bote Central that produces Alamid Civet Coffee, explains challenges coffee farmers here in Cabuyao, Laguna face to Jena Krause of the London-based Pamana, a coffee roaster that commits to Fair Trade principles. NJ Viehland Photos

Fair Trade businesswomen Vie Reyes (left), treasurer of Bote Central that produces Alamid Civet Coffee, explains challenges coffee farmers here in Cabuyao, Laguna face to Jena Krause of the London-based Pamana, a coffee roaster that commits to Fair Trade principles. NJ Viehland Photos

Read more about Vie Reyes’ Fair Trade product Coffee Alamid  , The World’s Rarest Coffee Brew

For Jena Krause’s business, click Pamana coffee roaster 

At AgriKapihan coffee shop and headquarters of Casile-Guinting Upland Marketing Cooperative (CGUMC), coop president JoJo Andal (left) and Greg Casalme (with hat) greeted coffee roasters they would be meeting with. Andal shared about spirituality of work promoted by Saint Jose Maria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei.

 

fair trade farmers escriva NJ Viehland

CGUMC includes some of the 82 farmer beneficiaries of government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform program in Casile, Cabuyao City. A profile the cooperative prepared specifies that while agriculture is the main source of livelihood for Casileños,”profit proves to be incredibly insubstantial due to farmers often getting bad deals out of selling their produce. Most of the people look to the barangay council for solutions to their (mostly) personal problems, but only occasionally explore how they can increase productivity in the community.”

Andal said the cooperative was designed to bridge citizens’ woes and the projects that should address these. A program to achieve this aims to:

a) advance each members’ knowledge and techniques of agribusiness,

fair trade organic veggies NJ Viehland

b) serve as a conduit for modern and effective technologies for agronomy and animal husbandry, as well as how to process them, and

c) learn techniques for proper investment, thrift and profitability resulting from their respective livelihood ventures, through their collective effort and individual capabilities.

fair trade mother business NJ Viehland

For starters, he believes that farmers should re-learn how they till their lands and in partnership with the City Government of Cabuyao and the City Agriculture Office, the cooperative created a “Farmer’s Field School Program” where farmers are taught to abandon outdated farming practices in favor of revamped, more modern methods and technology while City Mayor Isidro L. Hemedes, Jr. granted the co-op members a mini-tiller tractor, a greenhouse, and coffee and vegetable seedlings in aid of their projects.

fair trade basil reyes NJ Viehland

Today, the coop has 125 members tending  roughly 25 hectares of coffee farmland, primarily growing and selling Liberica, Excelsa and Robusta coffee beans and blends (Barako ng Cabuyao & Upland Coffee Blend).

fair trade robusta arabica NJ Viehland 2

Previously, harvest period was depressing for farmers due to middlemen getting the bulk of their income instead of them, whereas now the cooperative sells their products directly to retailers and consumers at a much higher value.

For example, papaya harvests were typically pegged at a cheap Php5-10 per kilo, where today it can be bought from the cooperative for up to Php25 per kilo. Similarly with coffee, where 10 kilos used to be sold at Php280-320, is now valued at Php400 at the co-op. As members say, farmers first.

Mothers who used to only stay at home waiting for harvest time or for their children working in big companies are now employed in the co-op, earning as much as Php1,000 every week or more.

Fair Trade mother coffee beans NJ Viehland

Vie Reyes showed the great difference in the income farmers get from selling raw material compared to selling the end product. She estimates that a kilo of Arabica coffee green beans selling for about 275 pesos (US $6.30) fetches up to 1,000 pesos in roasted form, and up to a total of 3,500 pesos if sold per cup as brewed coffee.

“It’s an industry with the biggest jump in price from the raw material to the end product,” Vie Reyes noted. For this reason, part of the company’s plan is to help farmers develop their business “from soil to cup.”

fair trade 18Days coffee NJ Viehland

Citizen participation and empowerment is the core of the CGUMC, as it encourages members to develop whatever resource they have to improve their income. This is achieved through formal trainings and seminars where members are taught modern agriculture techniques that far surpass the results of old-fashioned, conventional farming.

Vie and Basil Reyes of Bote Central have helped greatly with these training needs, Andal told Catholic In Asia.

He adds that participation is not limited to its formal members though, as the CGUMC also involves the youth in various programs designed to impart knowledge of Casile’s agricultural progress.

Students from Casile National High School are given ‘short courses’ as a primer to how the Casile agribusiness works, starting from the basics: planting and growing crops.

fair trade agriKapihan NJ Viehland

fair trade youth basketball NJ ViehlandThis summer, the coop sponsored uniforms for a youth basketball team with the cutwork of a cup and basketball above it to promote working in farms. Andal said some of the youth also come to help in the farm or to roast coffee beans.
Periodic meetings see participation from all members, where each and every one can and are encouraged to contribute relevant input, put forward issues that need addressing, and even plot roadmaps to determine where they could take their booming businesses next.

INNOVATION

Training on all modern technologies.Learning various ways of processing their products are also a priority for them, in order to maximize their value.

Bote Central treasurer Vie Reyes and worker show computer settings for the coffee roaster designed and created by her husband, Basil Reyes, company president who focuses on research and development of technology and systems with the needs of the farmers as foremost concern. NJ Viehland Photos

Bote Central treasurer Vie Reyes and worker show computer settings for the coffee roaster designed and created by her husband, Basil Reyes, company president who focuses on research and development of technology and systems with the needs of the farmers as foremost concern. NJ Viehland Photos

TRANSFERABILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY
CGUMC has been active for 3 years since its founding on October 20, 2011, and it shows no sign of slowing down or fading into documentation shelves of the ‘ningas-kugon’ type.

Co-op president Mr. Andal has led the program since its inception, and despite some opposition regarding certain issues on co-op policies, everyone seems intent on keeping him there for a little while longer.
The program’s desire to keep farmers updated on the latest effective agricultural practices and technology ensures that their knowledge does not stagnate nor devolve to complacent mediocrity.

Fair Trade farmers house NJ Viehland

Cabuyeños are a health-conscious folk, and Casile is more than ready to provide the entire city with organically-grown products. Their signature Casileños Coffee Blend is a cut above their other organic goods (which are nonetheless impressive) and is already export quality, being shipped/trucked to both nearby and far-flung markets.

fair trade coffee bean wet NJ Viehland

The rate of revenue from said products proves that there is a market for what the CGUMC, and by extension, the City of Cabuyao has to offer. The type of entrepreneurship model that the CGUMC employs pays off considerably, and figures indicate a steady growth for demand not only for their coffee, but also for products like ginger tea and squash maja as well, among others. Demand equals continuous productivity, after all.

With so much market potential being realized in their farm-to-shelf strategy, the CGUMC has no trouble winning approval from the City Government, especially when the local government units’ initial investment has already paid off and more, with this unique-in-its-own-terms cooperative on its way to self-sufficiency and a veritable revenue-generator for the city in the foreseeable future.

[text excerpts from CGUMC Profile]

 

Filipino family wrestles with Haiyan

 

Haiyan survivor Mark Anthony Lacanaria who joined People Surge alliance of typhoon survivors told Catholic In Asia in Manila in April how he survived the "super typhoon" that flattened communities in Leyte, central Philippines last Nov. 8, 2013. NJ Viehland Photos

Haiyan survivor Mark Anthony Lacanaria who joined People Surge alliance of typhoon survivors told Catholic In Asia in Manila in April how he survived the “super typhoon” that flattened communities in Leyte, central Philippines last Nov. 8, 2013. NJ Viehland Photos

“Kuya” is the Filipino term of respect for older brother. Big brother was what Mark Anthony Lacanaria felt he had to do well last Nov. 8 when news reports and local leaders announced a “super typhoon” was underway.

On his trip to Manila with People Surge alliance of Haiyan victims preparing to meet Cardinal Luis Tagle in April, Lacanaria told Catholic In Asia the ordeal his family and community of Diit, Tacloban City, went through before, during and after typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), which left his community in shambles. His story follows: (translated from Tagalog)

My family

We are five siblings – orphans – and I’m the eldest so I felt responsible for everyone’s safety. Two days before the typhoon our barangay (village) was preparing for the super typhoon. I asked my younger siblings on the eve of the typhoon to help me tie down the roof so that at least there will be some “yero” (galvanized iron) left should the wind get vicious. As it turned out the typhoon would not just come after our roof, but ate up our whole house!

We’ve experienced many typhoons before in my 30 years in this world, but nothing with this strength of the wind and this severe flooding.

My wife is a DH (domestic helper) in Malaysia. Our daughter was in Guiuan (Samar) where my in-laws live.

Preparing for Yolanda (Haiyan)

On the eve of the projected arrival of the typhoon, many residents left their houses for higher ground. Many others didn’t want to leave their property.

Past 5 a.m. Nov. 8, I told my siblings to cook noodles so we can feed the children (nieces/nephews) breakfast before the typhoon came. After we ate, I sent away my younger siblings and three of my nephews and nieces to a house not far from ours but on higher ground. Four of us brothers stayed behind with my pregnant sister who was worried about leaving her belongings.

Saving my family

Wind came first. It was powerful and sounded like a machine was ripping off the galvanized iron from our roof. Around 7:30-8:00 a.m. was when the water came into our house. It was as if a fireman pointed his hose at our front door and turned on his power hose. Water gushed in, only it was black. In a few minutes we were swimming out through my bedroom window, one behind each other.

When we looked back in just a matter of minutes and about 3 feet way the water had swallowed our house. It really didn’t matter that many of us were good in swimming. We just stayed steady and allowed ourselves to flow with the tide because if you tried to swim, you might hit what was under water – iron roofing of houses, broken glass, huge posts with nails, so we couldn’t swim.

Our youngest sibling got cut by yero because when he kicked to swim he hit something.We were dragged by the water to a huge mango tree so we hung on to its branches and watched our whole barangay disappear under the water. My brothers and pregnant sister began crying.

We managed to float past the tall wall of a warehouse near our house so it blocked the water from coming so fast at us. We got lucky with that wall. Four pairs of us floated around, including a couple whose wife was also very pregnant, and an elderly man who was yelling at the top of his lungs, but we couldn’t hear him at first because the wind was very loud. In the beginning I wondered whether we had been dragged to sea because I swallowed water several times and it was really salty. It wasn’t rain water.

When we got to the tree, I told my sister to clasp the tree. She wanted me to go back for her children, but I told her, later on. The water had not completely subsided.When it did it left so many bodies scattered around our community. People began crying.

Bigger family

We gathered together wherever we were those of us who survived. I saw a man and his sons Christian and Alwin. Alwin  grew so pale after having blood ooze out of a cut on his arm from flying roofing material. One of the sons is only 2 years old.

The children were in a house that was on higher ground but they still had to climb up into the ceiling They squeezed in there, eight families. When I saw them after the flood, I was just so grateful that the ceiling didn’t collapse. They were all wet and very scared. I just left them there first.

Our village

I climbed a nearby hill farther from the seaside. I looked down and saw from our barangay to the downtown areas. It was like everything was swept away.

Our barangay is Diit. It is a slaughterhouse for cattle. We live near a slaughterhouse. The meat from there is sold in the market. I used to work there. My parents worked there too. So all the dead were scattered around the grounds – carabao, cattle, pigs, dogs and people. People looked at the corpses to find relatives. They began wailing in chorus.

In our entire region, it really wasn’t made clear to us what was the projected viciousness and power of this typhoon would actually be. They said “storm surge,” but we didn’t know what that was. Even Mayor’s (Alfred Romualdez) family didn’t seem to know. Although they kept saying the words on tv, it wasn’t clear to us how strong would be the impact and that there would be this rising water.

I sent my brothers out to gather anything we could eat. That was the first thought that came to mind. This will be a big long period of hunger.

Cut off from the world

Meanwhile, my wife was very worried because she couldn’t reach any of us from Malaysia. It was Nov. 24 when we were finally able to talk. She didn’t know what happened, how we all were. Our daughter was in Guiuan (Samar) and my wife had heard from the news the typhoon first hit landfall in Guiuan and they showed scenes of the wreck it left there. But my in-laws had less damage than we suffered in Diit.

I  wondered why no help was coming. I told my siblings I thought they were saying on tv that the government was very ready with help for us before the typhoon struck. They were reporting there were ready relief goods. Where were all these goods?

For days nobody came to us. Then finally after about 4 days media came. But their chopper didn’t come down. It just hovered above us, maybe scanning the area. Maybe they were headed somewhere else. It was the fifth day after the typhoon, soldiers came in trucks, but they were just clearing part of the way. They didn’t bring food or anything. That’s why I suppose looting began.

Looting

We are far from the mall area but we were so starved for five days taking in only water that we gathered from containers floating around. We boiled it because we weren’t confident they were safe. We only found coffee and some crackers and whatever snacks.

We even found discolored rice already spoiling, but we cooked it just the same because the children were getting hungry. It came out sticky because it soaked in water already. I couldn’t bring myself to eat it, and I was amazed that the children ate it. I prayed so hard that they wouldn’t get diarrhea, and they didn’t. We older ones couldn’t eat it.

After a few days, I could no longer hold back my tears. I thought where was that help that the government said they were ready with?  So when news came to us about looting, my brothers said, “Kuya let’s go downtown and get food.” But I told them it was too long a way and the roads and bridge may not passable even by foot. We couln’t bike because there were so many dead bodies scattered around. If we would just get material things it is useless. I told my siblings what we need is food.

Relief in a washed away ship

Word arrived there was a boat that was dragged by the winds to shore not too far from our community. More important, we heard it carried 8 thousand sacks of rice. I climbed and squeezed into the boat to grab as much rice as I could for my family and neighbors. I got one sack of rice and split it in two. Half sack I gave to the owner of a house in our barangay that allowed us all to stay in their house for about 2 weeks while we were building a makeshift house from scraps. The other half sack I split into eight families. My sister, my aunts, uncles.

In the malls, victims may have taken food. If there were appliances taken, those aren’t legit victims, but maybe professional thieves or syndicates from neighboring towns or provinces. Imagine, they reportedly had vehicles. We in Tacloban had no vehicles. They all went underwater.

Our third brother brought his son to Caloocan (Metro Manila). The boy is so traumatized by this experience. He’s afraid even of rain and just if the wind blows the window.

Here in Diit, we went ahead and gathered scraps from wrecked houses and tried to build a makeshift house for my siblings before I left for Guiuan. My sister is just weeks away from delivering her baby. I didn’t know where to take her and how the hospitals were. We had no clue if the hilot (community midwives) had also been washed away.

Tears of joy

All the time I worried inside me about Guiuan where my in laws and daughter were. I heard it was wrecked also. I was very nervous. I didn’t know anything about them. When I arrived there I was so relieved to see they were all okay. They too were worried about me. Everything was wrecked there, but it was mostly very powerful winds. Water didn’t go up. They said they worried that I was drowned also. My daughter, 7 years old, was crying and crying. They were teasing her that I might have drowned.

People Surge

While I was in Guiuan to help my in laws clean up my friend came to Diit to say Makabayan group was holding relief operations. I looked for him after returning to Diit and I volunteered for relief operations. We went around remote places not reached by the donors and aid.

I couldn’t stand the scenes. My thoughts went back to the scenes in Diit on the first day of Yolanda. I could not imagine how it must have been for these people in the hinterlands with few places to run to. A child would come up to me to ask for rice and other food, and in my mind would come pictures of my nephews, or older relatives. “Kuya give us water, do you have water?” they said. My tears kept filling my eyes.

When I heard there would be a big rally in Tacloban last Jan. 25, I decided to join because I experienced everything the organizers were describing not only in my personal experience, but also those of people we were bringing some relief goods to. I learned about the rally from my companions in the relief operations. I heard there would be a big mass action to demand help for typhoon victims. It is just right that what is for survivors should be given to us. We learned that at the height of relief operations, NGOs and international community were donating funds and goods for us survivors, and yet the relief goods being handed out by LGUs were not enough for all.

Suddenly DSWD declared that they would stop handing out relief goods after December. When that announcement was made, I confirmed my decision to join the Jan. 25 rally. I felt the situation was already overwhelming and I couldn’t be a good provider to my family on my own. The government was stopping relief operations even before the situation has been reversed.

Benedictine Sister Erlinda Eslopor (black veil) led a group of 6 members of People Surge alliance of Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors and two supporters (including La Salette Sister Sonia Silverio in white veil) who met with Cardinal Luis Tagle April 8 at the Manila archbishop's residence to present the "true situation" of survivors' continued struggle with no help from government for many places. They also appealed for particular actions from Cardinal Tagle. NJ Viehland Photo

Benedictine Sister Erlinda Eslopor (black veil) led a group of 6 members of People Surge alliance of Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors and two supporters (including La Salette Sister Sonia Silverio in white veil) who met with Cardinal Luis Tagle April 8 at the Manila archbishop’s residence to present the “true situation” of survivors’ continued struggle with no help from government for many places. They also appealed for particular actions from Cardinal Tagle. NJ Viehland Photo

I felt all Eastern Visayas victims had been set up, not only people in Tacloban. They didn’t dialogue with us. It was like we were just floating that time. We didn’t know where to ask or get help. There was nowhere to go. We could see some foreigners arriving, but they had no way to distribute their goods. There’s no system. I heard about People Surge and the movement led by Sister Edita (Eslopor, OSB) to add my voice to the rest who were calling for the same things and asking same questions I had.

Manila sojourn, Cardinal Tagle

Cardinal Luis Tagle posed with members of People Surge alliance of Haiyan survivors and their supporters after he listened to 8 representatives report on their situation and demands from the government at a meeting he hosted in the Manila Archbishop's residence in Intramuros on April 8. NJ Viehland Photo

Cardinal Luis Tagle posed with members of People Surge alliance of Haiyan survivors and their supporters after he listened to 8 representatives report on their situation and demands from the government at a meeting he hosted in the Manila Archbishop’s residence in Intramuros on April 8. NJ Viehland Photo

I joined the group that came to make our situation known in Manila officials and people. At least each of us represents a town and sitio in Eastern Visayas. We went to Malacanang, but we weren’t entertained.  Only DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) secretary saw us. Now we will go to each official of government. We want to show them we are here trying to get what is given for us. This is not a field trip. I hope Cardinal Tagle will face us and listen to our pleas because we are legitimate victims that were devastated by the typhoon. We aren’t beggars.

End of Part 1/ People Surge

CBCP Easter Pastoral Instruction on Stewardship of Health

Sharing this message from CBCP president:

WHERE O DEATH IS YOUR VICTORY?
WHERE O DEATH IS YOUR STING?”
(I Cor 15:55)

Easter Pastoral Instruction on Stewardship of Health

Today the Church returns to the tomb and sees it empty. The tomb without the body inside leads us to an act of faith “He is risen!” The resurrected Jesus had a body but quite different from the way the disciples experienced Jesus before the Passover. The body of Jesus was both resurrected and changed.

As we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, let us also renew our faith in the resurrection of the body. This body as we have it is a gift from God. This body as we have it will be resurrected and will be changed. Taking care of this body is not always an exercise of vanity. Taking care of the body is a spiritual duty as good stewards of health.

Saint John Paul II tirelessly reminded us during his papal ministry that we are created in the likeness of God. The human body is sacred because the human body is a gift from God. We must act and live like God because we were created like Him.

The passage of the Reproductive Health Law also prompts us to lay down these teachings about the Christian understanding of health. While we respect and recognize the duty and right of the State to pass laws, we deem it our duty as pastors to teach you about the Christian understanding of health which the present RH law seems to misunderstand.

STEWARDSHIP OF HEALTH

“As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Peter 4.10)

God has bestowed on us the great gift of life. As Christians we promote and defend a consistent life ethic symbolized by the “seamless garment”. Human life ought to be promoted and defended from the moment of conception to natural death. Our life is in our hands as stewards of the gift of life. And our stewardship of life calls us to be responsible stewards of health. While health may not be the greatest value and good of the person, health is a gift and a task for all of us.

The American bishops define a steward in the following way: a steward is one who receives God’s gifts gratefully, tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them in justice and love for others and returns them with increase to the Lord. (USCCB. Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, 1993)

What is health? The World Health Organization in 1948 defines health as follows: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Later, the WHO added a significant reality to health that includes the spiritual aspect of human life. At its best, health is drawing our capacity to “fullness of life”. Health entails the harmony of the person with himself or herself, with others in the community of people and the whole created order.

The Church teaches us that our bodies are not simply material vessels for our souls. They are integral and essential aspects of who we are as persons created in the image and likeness of God. Vatican II reminds us that we are obliged to regard the human body “as good and honourable since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.” (Gaudium et Spes 14, par. 1). The human person is a unity of body and soul. Just as we are called to care for the spiritual health of our souls, we are also called to be responsible stewards of the health of our bodies (CCC 364). Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.” (CCC 2288) Taking care of one’s health is not a selfish activity but rather it is a necessary and important task related to the building of God’s Kingdom. A person with good health will have more time and energy to participate in the life of the Spirit and the saving mission of Christ.

Our contemporary times present various challenges to living a healthy life. Drawing from the richness of the Christian tradition, particularly the practice of Christian virtues, this pastoral letter seeks to offer guidance to those who strive to be responsible stewards of bodily health.

CALLED TO A VIRTUOUS LIFE

Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life (CCC 1804). Virtues can be learned by education, developed by habitual and deliberate practice, and sustained by God’s grace. Through God’s help, our efforts at living out Christian virtues will enable us to grow more perfectly in our following of Christ

There are four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. Prudence enables us to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means to achieve it (CCC 1806). Justice moves us to give what is due to God and to our neighbour (CCC1807). Temperance moderates our attraction to pleasures and provides a balance in the use of created goods (CCC1809). Fortitude enables us to be firm in the face of challenges and to persevere in our pursuit of good (CCC 1808). Each of these virtues comes into play as we strive to care for our bodies and our health.

Food and Drink: Called to live in Moderation

Camachile, bananas of Subic, Zambales NJ Viehland Photos

Camachile, bananas of Subic, Zambales NJ Viehland Photos

Some of the leading causes of mortality for Filipinos, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, are either caused or aggravated by inordinate consumption of food and drink. Being responsible with one’s diet is one way of being a good steward of one’s health. The virtue of temperance can help us deal with our appetites for certain types of food and drink that can cause harm to our health. Temperance teaches us self-control and discipline with regard to our appetites in pursuit of the goal of good health. The virtue of prudence guides our practice of temperance by reminding us not to consume too much or too little; one needs to discern the right type and quantity of food and drink that is appropriate to maintain one’s health.

Exercise: “Mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body)

Along with a correct diet, exercise is also an important element in maintaining good health. Exercise enables us to control our weight and reduce our risk of developing chronic diseases. While many persons have a positive attitude toward regular exercise, some persons need more encouragement and motivation to start a habit of exercise. The virtue of fortitude can help a person to persevere in physical exercise and not be discouraged when progress is slow or difficult. Fortitude enables a person to work toward the goal of good health while bearing with the challenge of being faithful to regular exercise. Prudence accompanies fortitude in this case when careful discernment is needed in choosing the appropriate type and amount of exercise for the person’s condition. Prudence will tell a person not to exercise too much in a manner that would cause injury and not to exercise too little in a way that has negligible effect. All experts agree: no exercise is bad, too much exercise is bad, some exercise is good.

Rest

Maintaining proper health also requires sufficient rest to allow the body to renew its energy and repair itself. Catholic social teaching remind us that rest from work is a right (Laborem Exercens #19). Human life has a rhythm of work and rest (CCC 2184). Everyone should take care to set aside sufficient time for leisure (CCC 2187). The virtue of justice requires that employers, despite economic constraints, should make sure that employees have adequate time for rest (CCC 2187).  Prudence will remind us that too much rest can lead to slothfulness while too little rest can cause grave harm to the body and spirit.

Harmful Substances and Activities

The natural law urges every person to do good and avoid evil. While we should pursue what is good for our health (e.g., proper nutrition, adequate exercise, and sufficient rest) we should also avoid what is harmful to our wellbeing.

The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air (CCC2290). The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense.  (CCC2291). Prudence would remind us that there are substances and activities that should be avoided if we desire to maintain our physical well-being for the present and the future.

Unhealthy Perspectives on the Human Body

While it is quite clear that doing little to take care of our health is wrong, doing too much to achieve physical perfection can also be unhealthy and harmful.  Morality rejects a neo-pagan notion that tends to promote the cult of the body, to sacrifice everything for its sake, to idolize physical perfection and success at sports (CCC 2289).

Vanity, idealized body images, and excessive competitiveness can lead people to manipulate their bodies in ways that do not respect the human body’s health, integrity, dignity, and intrinsic value. Examples of such harmful manipulation of bodies include excessive use of cosmetic surgery, unhealthy forms of dieting, and the use of banned substances in sports.

WHAT GIVES MEANING TO HEALTH?

Love and life! As Christians, we believe in the priority of these values over health. We live healthy lives because we are willing to nurture and to care for the gift of life. And we are willing to care for others in love and concern for them. We are reminded of this: there may not always be cure in the many illnesses that people face every day, but there must always be care and love for those who are ill among us. And it is love that enables life to grow and even to improve.

We live in a stressful world. So many demands and many deadlines keep us on our toes. There are two kinds of stress: eu – stress (good stress) and dis – stress (bad stress). Work is stressful and thus good when it brings out the best in us – when it challenges us to excel and be the best for people around us, especially the poor and marginalized. Work is distressful when it diminishes our humanity – when it manipulates and exploits others and the whole created order.

AGENTS OF HEALTHY LIVING

The Family

The sanctuary of life, and thus of health is the family. Healthy living is exemplified in the dynamics of a family life that nurtures the values of love and temperance, respect and responsibility.  A healthy balanced lifestyle promotes family “bonding” of parents and children. One must take into serious consideration the responsibility of the family to instil a healthy sense of self in relation to others. On the one hand, the commandment’s “to honour” means showing proper gratitude, affection, respect, obedience and care to parents. (CCC 2214f) On the other hand, the church teaches that parents have the duty to provide so far as they can for their children’s needs, guiding them in faith and morals and creating for them an environment for personal growth (CCC 2221 – 31). We must admit, however, that the continuous migration of our people, especially parents have created “unhealthy family situations”. There is still no substitute to a parent’s love and concern, supervision and guidance. We therefore exhort the extraordinary work performed by guardians. You have an obligation to help in the strengthening of character building among the children and the young. Treat these children and young people as if they were your own. Love them as best as you can.

The School

Healthy living is exemplified and strengthened in the school. The whole school curriculum is directed to the integral formation of the person. A specific school discipline is Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health known as MAPEH. Educators point to the “multiple intelligences” that must be developed in each child and young person. Learning after all is not simply an intellectual pursuit. It is the wholesome and holistic program to bring out the best in the person. In Catholic Education, the formation in the school has one objective – “to make saints of our students!”

Catholic Hospitals and Community – based Health Care Workers

The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines points to institutions of health care as agents of renewal. Physicians, nurses, midwives, physical therapists, medical technologists have been gifted by God with the graces to heal and make people whole again. They should be reminded that there may not always be cure but there must always be care. In the end, it is the compassionate love of Jesus expressed by health care workers that makes a difference in the lives of the sick among us.

Conclusion

St. Paul tells us that our body is temple of the Holy Spirit which we have received from God. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6: 19-20). Taking good care of our health is a fitting response of gratitude for God’s graciousness in creating us in his image and likeness.  Like the good steward in Scripture, may we also be responsible stewards of the gift of health that God has granted us as we make our earthly pilgrimage to our heavenly home, where the fullness of life awaits us.

The healthiest person on earth is the saint. Through self-denial and asceticism, mortification and prayer, the saint is one who seeks God in all his/her endeavours. Our health, after all, should be at the service of our primary vocation – to seek the Kingdom of God.

Let us renew our faith in the resurrection of the body, an important part of what we believe in as Christians. We beg our Lady who gave her body to Jesus as His dwelling place for nine months to make us ready and willing to give our bodies to Jesus too so that we receive the promised fullness of life.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, April 20, 2014, Easter Sunday

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President

What can Asia expect of upcoming papal visits?

Commentary by Hector Welgampola 

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

India’s bishops have invited  Pope Francis to visit their country. Other Asian invites too have been reported from South Korea, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. More may follow.

Will such journeys offer the innovative pope opportunities to downplay the diplomatic aspect of papal visits and focus on pastoral outreach? If political fanfare are axed, the visits will give the Holy Father more access to people for two-way sharing — a model for bishops’ pastoral visits, as well. In hindsight, past papal visits may shed some light on what began as a papal pilgrimage to Asia.

Amid the first flush of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed John XXIII agreed to hold the 1964 International Eucharistic Congress in Bombay (now Mumbai). He knew, though, he was not fit to travel there, much less for an elephant-ride planned by Cardinal Valerian Gracias of Bombay. After the good pope’s death, his successor, Pope Paul VI, chose to be the first papal pilgrim to Asia.

It was not mere grandeur of traditional Indian hospitality that made the event memorable. As the then editor of “Bombay Examiner” told me, from the initial Namaste on, Pope Paul’s Mahatma-like simplicity won hearts. Catholics’ fervor of Eucharistic worship impressed the Hindu nation. So did the conference on “Christian Revelation and non-Christian Religions.”

A pre-congress seminar on “Food and Health” focused on the problem of poverty. Pope Paul had invited the FAO head to speak there on “Freedom from Hunger: the Challenge of the Century.” America magazine said the congress: “created in Asia a hitherto unappreciated image of the Church: that of a compassionate Vicar of Christ – a Christ born poor – more at home in the slums of Bombay than in the magnificence of the papal court.”

Children in impoverished communities around Manila survive with very little food and other basic needs. (Ed Gerlock photos published with permission)

Children in impoverished communities around Manila survive with very little food and other basic needs. (Ed Gerlock photos published with permission)

The papal court too had begun to change by the time of the next noteworthy papal visit to Asia. It took place in 1970, a week after Pope Paul set the 80-year retirement age for cardinals. Leaving behind the restive old guard, the pope took his longest trip in time and distance.

In Manila, his main stopover, the pope joined 180 Asian bishops to set up plans for the FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences). After the historic event, came a symbolic gesture: Speaking as “a humble apostle of Christ,” he broadcast from Hong Kong a message of love for the Chinese people.

But thereafter, cares of office including negotiations to end the Vietnam War as well as efforts to contain the backlash of Humanae Vitae limited Pope Paul to routine travel.

Blessed John Paul II was the widest travelled pope. Some 15 of his 219 travels included Asian destinations. Prayer at the Mahatma Gandhi Samadhi, on the 1986 visit to India, inspired him to set the annual interreligious prayer day in Assisi.

The 1998 Asian Synod in Rome and release of the synod document Ecclesia in Asia in India engaged many Asian bishops. The synodal boost to local cultures was in sync with what his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope had said: “It was necessary to set about the work of inculturation, as Father Matteo Ricci, the apostle of China, proposed….”

Some of the more than 15,000 Catholics in the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh religiously went to Sunday Mass at various buildings. Here's how we went to church: shoeless, pewless. NJ Viehland Photos

Some of the more than 15,000 Catholics in the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh religiously went to Sunday Mass at various buildings. Here’s how we went to church: shoeless, pewless. NJ Viehland Photos

However, even as of then, a move was afoot on the very outskirts of China to retire the Ricci concept of inculturation. It all began with a theological conference in Hong Kong under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Invitees from doctrinal commissions of Asian bishops’ conferences were introduced to “interculturality” in place of the popularly accepted teaching on inculturation. Our religion has a culture as much as other religions have their own cultures, bishops were told. Inculturation was called a misnomer diluting Christian culture with extraneous elements. These directives stifled future efforts toward dialogue and adaptation. The rest is history.

AMOR South Asia Postulants NJ Viehland Photos

Will these memories encourage Asian papal visit organizers to set such stalled pastoral issues on the agenda for Pope Francis? Meeting laypeople also will help the Holy Father understand their genuine needs. In addition to support on issues of justice and poverty, Asian Catholics need a faith boost through meaningful worship. Will the pope’s Latin American experience lead him to restore the trend of worshipping God in words, symbols and music that resonate the joys, sorrows and yearnings of Asian peoples?

"Lord, have mercy" was sung in Chinese at the XVI Asia-Oceania Meeting of Religious women in Tagaytay, City, south of Manila in Nov. 2013. NJ Viehland Photos

“Lord, have mercy” was sung in Chinese at the XVI Asia-Oceania Meeting of Religious women in Tagaytay, City, south of Manila in Nov. 2013. NJ Viehland Photos

Girls and boys perform to the theme song for Year of Faith at the launching of the celeberation at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila Nov. 3 led by Cardinal designate Luis Antonio Tagle / N. J. Viehland Photo

Girls and boys perform to the theme song for Year of Faith at the launching of the celeberation at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila Nov. 3 led by Cardinal designate Luis Antonio Tagle – N. J. Viehland Photo

As much as feasts of medieval saints are less meaningful to Asian Catholics, liturgy desacralised to suit post-christian societies has lost the sense of mystery cherished by Asians. And, Pope Francis’ recent remarks on the need for liturgical reform hold out hope.

In earlier conversations with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, the future pope had said that: “Each nation picks up the vision of God and translates it in accordance with the culture and elaborates, purifies and gives it a system.” No doubt, such a mindset will help the pilgrim pope see the need for freedom to adapt and develop worship styles to suit the genius of Asian peoples.

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai (w/ red shash), Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) follows behind Vietnam Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh during the welcome procession for delegates of the 10th FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc Pastoral Center compound Dec. 11, 2012. [N.J. Viehland Photo]

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai (w/ red shash), President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) follows behind Vietnam Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh during the welcome procession for delegates of the 10th FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc Pastoral Center compound Dec. 11, 2012. [N.J. Viehland Photo]

May upcoming papal visits encourage the FABC to update the Holy Father about the stalling of inculturation and the push to homogenize liturgy. If genuine inculturation is to resume, worshippers’ faith-based living traditions should take priority over post-christian viruses cultured in alien theology labs. And may Asians be freed up from curial shackles that inhibit their yearning to de-Helenize Jesus’ message and restore its original authenticity.

Fifty years after the first papal pilgrimage to Asia, we pray that upcoming Asian visits will help Pope Francis see the elephant in the room and not be led on white-elephant rides.

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Summer food for that temple of your spirit

By: N.J. Viehland

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
– 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
New International Version (NIV)

Everyone in my family enjoys my blueberry crumble a-la-mode [French vanilla ice cream is best] - including myself!

Everyone in my family enjoys my blueberry crumble a-la-mode [French vanilla ice cream is best] – including myself!

If you are finding it hard to be nice and sweet in the Philippines’ summer weather [34 degrees Centigrade today with 65% humidity] , Rappler dotcom suggests various and “healthier” options than our popular Halo-halo to beat the summer heat.

I’m looking forward to hearing which of the treats you tried, and how you liked them.

Any of your own favorite summer food?