Sun | Aug 20, 2017

DIARY OF A GHETTO PRIEST | Images of the Orient

Published:Friday | April 7, 2017 | 4:00 AM
Father Ho Lung holding a Filipino baby named Christine.
Father Ho Lung in the ghetto of San Andres Bukid Manila, Philippines.
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The Brothers are in three homes and four apostolates in the Philippines - Cebu, Naga and Manila. Our homes are teaming with the homeless: elderly men and women, little girls and boys, little babies.

We were there to perform The Messiah to obtain funds in Manila so we can build a third floor at Divine Mercy Apostolate for our kids. There are so many asking to be cared for in San Andres Bukid, totally rejected and abandoned. Thank God for the musical productions.

These are some images I remember.

A little boy found in a restaurant - the parents left him. He is crippled and has long, thin legs. A little girl at our home named Christine. She is blind, born of a 14-year-old girl whose father raped her. She played the baby Jesus held in the arms of Kimberly, a young lady who acted as Mary.

The Brothers waking me up at 2a.m. in the dark of night, "Father, there is a little girl vomiting blood. May we take her to the hospital?" At 6a.m. she stopped vomiting. Thank God she lived, despite predictions that she would not.

 

GREAT WEALTH AND POVERTY

 

San Andres Bukid is planted right next door to Makati - a huge, fashionable district with buildings, many of them looming next to our poverty-stricken neighborhood. Makati is an area of great wealth, and poverty.

Eight families own 60 per cent of the wealth of the Philippines. Young people in the Philippines are wanting piece of that pie. The women are blonds, brunettes, red heads. They walk around in skimpy-tight shorts in the wealthy areas as well as in the ghettos. They want to be white. Never before had I seen so much alienation in all my visits among these young Asians - the wealthy and middle class as well as the ghettos.

The roads are crowded with cars. There are 15 million Filipinos in Manila. It takes 45 minutes to travel five to 10 miles most of the day, less time in the evening, but not much less. Our neighborhood - San Andres - is even more crowded.

And the images continue.

Small streets with children playing - thousands of them - mostly, basketball is the game. Later in the day, children living in a room eight feet by eight feet pull out a mattress and sleep in the streets. later on, older kids take shift and get their sleep, then the parents take their turn; cars and jeepney (small tricycles) - hundreds of them, navigate the little streets.

 

PEOPLE RESPECTFUL

 

Though our neighborhood is so densely populated and people are pushing against each other, there is peace and understanding between them, and people are so respectful.

Everyone respects, looks up to their elders. Men don't touch or flirt with the women, children don't fight or battle with each other; they obey their parents. I found all this very strange coming from Jamaica.

In the midst of all this, there is the Catholic Church. People - rich, poor, middle-class go to the churches for worship - even during the week they go to worship. There are hundreds and even thousands of schools run by the church. There is much social services - hospitals, clinics, orphanages, food and clothes centres.

There is much kindness everywhere. Our singers are hugged, welcomed, greeted, and respected everywhere. There is great warmth and friendship. Little kids - so many of them - walk or crawl in the streets all by themselves, unattended by parents or any elder. That is sad and careless; they don't seem to cry or become distressed.

I am overcome by this country and the gentleness of these people; there are 102 million people in the Philippines (7,641 islands - some large, some small, only 2,000 are inhabited). But I cry inside. Why aren't the kids going to school? Why have the people left their farms and the rural areas? Why is the pop culture of America taking over these oriental people? Why is the US allowing the brain drain of so many young professionals? What is the United Nations doing?

There are so many parallels with Jamaica and the Philippines. Most of us do not want to leave our own countries. But taxes, interest on loans, lack of machines and technology, lack of kind and merciful trade agreements - all these and other problems, and the imposition of false western values, are destroying us poorer countries.

We will be held accountable on the last day.