Embracing the SVD ministry in St Arnold Janssen KALINGA Center

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A Lay Partner Testimony by Ivy Lisa F Mendoza (FB post January 24 2020) – unedited

OVER THE HOLIDAYS, I was watching the 2019 CNN Heroes of the Year which puts the spotlight on and honors ordinary people doing extraordinary work to help improve the lives of others. Listening to their individual stories and how in their personal capacities they are helping make this world a better place to live in, I thought of how politicians in this country would answer the question “why are you running” every election time. Their template response is the obvious bullshit “Para makatulong po sa mahihirap.” (barf, barf). Hey trapos, I’ve got news for you — you can certainly help without angling for government position and dipping your dirty fingers into public funds.

I have had the honor of personally knowing regular people who give their time, effort, money, and talent to uplift the lives of the least, the last, the lost. Without the benefit of government funds, they are able to pull off programs out of the goodness of their hearts. Like my friends Carol and Sofia who go to Bicol annually to distribute school supplies to underprivileged schoolchildren; they even went on an unscheduled trip to Bicol after typhoon Tisoy, gathered whatever goods and money they could, and shared them with those devastated by the typhoon;

Like Zena, who even on scant funds, would passionately engage in talks on mental health and depression even in the provinces so that people would understand and know how to deal with this growing malady especially among young people.

And then there are many more of these personal heroes – – like the three young fellows from Lipa who after giving out relief goods in Batangas a couple of weeks ago, met a vehicular accident on their way home and died; like the countless nameless people who have trooped to the evacuation areas, regardless of dust and traffic, to share whatever they could with the needy.

And then there is Fr. Flavie whom I first heard about as one of the priests who bravely goes where EJKillings are, comforting the families of the murdered, giving them hope and strengthening their faith in a just God, an Almighty who sees all that is happening. Fr. Flavie, coordinator for justice and peace issues of the Philippine Central Province of the SVD order, was one of the three priests who married Hector and me. The two others were Paring Bert Alejo and the “running priests” Fr. Robert Reyes. The three love to call their triumvirate “Tatlong Itlog”, even as they are known as the modern-day Gomburza.

Fr. Flavie runs the Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center, SVD’s ministry for the poor located beside Catholic Trade Center in Tayuman, Manila. KA-LI-NGA, short for Kain, Aral, Ligo nang Ayos, is a feeding and hygiene (toilet and bath) center for the homeless. That is why there is that unmistakeable stench as you enter the center because it welcomes those who have not bathed and eaten in days on a daily basis.

Since 2015, Kalinga has been offering the destitute not just water and soap and hot meals, but more importantly, dignity, self-worth, and the realization that all humans are equally loved by God. Kalinga also offers an Alternative Learning System (ALS) program to those who want to continue their studies, as well as livelihood projects where they are taught job skills to set them up to be self-reliant. Fr. Flavie says this is the mission of Christ, to go out and heal the wounded, to find the lost, and to care for the last.

For our Catholic church wedding in the Philippines, we expressed to our guests that their presence was a precious gift enough. But if they would like to help Kalinga, which needs about half a million monthly to feed, bathe, house and school thousands of our poor brothers and sisters, they could give in monetary form. And oh, how our friends and family responded!

So this is a throwback post, but nevertheless one that is heart-warming and uplifting. Before Christmas, H and I turned over Php250,00, the amount our family and friends gifted Kalinga with through us. H and I are just overjoyed that we are starting our life together right by sharing the love we have for each other with others. Our heartfelt gratitude to those who selflessly shared as well. Our hearts are brimming with gratitude. We hope that you can also find time to visit Kalinga and see for yourself how heroes are made in the real world.

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