This morning we blessed our 13th mission station at Sitio Kaunlaran in Caloocan city, with the Jesuits as our mission partners. The little chapel, which used to get flooded during heavy rains, had been elevated by about two feet just in time for the occasion. I immediately noticed the recycled floor tiles that had been salvaged from our recently renovated San Roque Parish hall.
When I stood in the sanctuary area, my head almost touched the ceiling. (This is a problem only for tall people like myself, not for Fr Willy who stands only up to my shoulder.) This man does not seem to mind being small among small people in society. No wonder the people of Kaunlaran were instantly at home in his company. It was easy to observe that this man has the gift of being able to blend quickly with the poor. I couldn’t believe that I was actually installing as chaplain of this humble mission station a Jesuit who was the former vice-president of Ateneo de Zamboanga, along with two scholastics.
Some tents had been installed in the street in front of the Chapel. Since only around 30 people could fit inside, most of the people stood in the streets and alleys outside, including the choir. There was a festive atmosphere and a mood of excitement. The fact that it took a while for several priests to give holy communion meant there was a pretty big number of people in attendance. The lady who did an informal emceeing during the program after Mass referred to our mission partners as “Jee-suits”.
After the Mass, one of the scholastics, Bro. Madz, introduced me to the wife of a recent victim of the drug war, who lives just a block or two away from their little apartment. The woman, accompanied by her daughter, narrated to me that a few weeks ago, police operatives barged into their house and, without warrant, arrested her 58-year old husband, along with her 32 year old son. It was around 8pm and they saw around six other men along the street alley, apparently also from the neighboring houses. They were made to stand facing a wall and told that they would get shot if they turned around or attempted to run away. Soon they were brought to the nearby police station and held for questioning. The following morning, the family was informed that the father and son tandem had been brought to the MCU hospital in Caloocan. The wife rushed to the hospital and was shocked to find her husband having seizures and her son looking catatonic. Apparently they had been forced by the police to drink a bitter tasting liquid that immediately sent her husband convulsing. Later they were transfered to PGH. They kept repeating to the doctors that it was the liquid that they were forced to drink that had caused the convulsions. The police, however, claimed it was just plain water. The men were positive it was laced with a drug—perhaps to make sure that they would test positive when given a drug test. A few days later, the husband died in the hospital. Her son is still under detention at the Sangandaan police station. I asked if her husband and her son had been issued an inquest. The woman looked at me and asked in Tagalog, “Ano po ang inquest?”
I sat with Bro. Madz as I spoke with the victim’s family in a corner of the chapel, while a program meant to welcome Fr Willy was going on. Fortunately for the family, one of the guests at the launching volunteered to have the family assisted pro bono by a lawyer.
Whew. What a way to get our Jesuit partners started in their mission. Welcome to Caloocan, Fr Willy Samson, SJ and companion-scholastics!
We also blessed the little apartment that will serve as residence for our new mission partners. It took me only a minute to sprinkle the whole house with holy water. I saw an office table as soon as I entered the living room that extended to a tiny kitchen area with toilet and bathroom on the side, climbed a flight of stairs and almost hit my head against the beam, entered a second floor which served as a bedroom with double deck bed (presumably for the scholastics) and a single bed near the window (presumably for Fr Willy). From the window you could hear an infant crying, most likely from the next door neighbor’s house.
On our way back, I saw a tricycle driver slumped on the seat of his parked vehicle, sound asleep, while huge trucks sped along the Dagatdagatan highway. He reminded me of the Irish saying, “May you sleep the sleep of the just.”
May God be glorified in our newly-inaugurated Sacred Heart Mission Station!