Pastoral call of South Central Luzon Bishops Conference Chairperson (SCLBC) for humanitarian mission for victims of the Taal Volcano eruption
The Filipino compassion never fails to spring up in times of crisis.
Whether we belong to different political camps or social circles, great needs always unite the Filipino people. This is proven now by the eruption of the Taal volcano, the smallest active volcano in the world, located in Batangas province. It reminds the world of its ferocity with its ash, quakes and an impending violent eruption. It has caused fear and distress among our brethren Batanguenos and Caviteños, and far beyond them, among all Filipinos. We have risen up with different initiatives in solidarity with the survivors.
The faithful of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in Laguna, one of the neighboring provinces of Batangas, are witnesses to the struggles of the displaced people. All of a sudden, on Jan. 12, they almost lost their lives. With the lockdown of 11 towns, they now stay in evacuation sites or in the homes of their family and friends outside the 14-km radius. Some families are scattered. They await an explosive eruption, but some will definitely lose their homes and their living. Amid these dire realities, IFI Laguna also witnessed the compassion of so many.
But, a long-duration disaster must be met with continual compassionate work. In fact, in many places still, thousands haven’t been reached by relief efforts. We are challenged by the reality of 500,000 displaced lives. We must let each one of them feel that there is still love in this world — that we are capable of generosity, kindness to strangers and constancy. With all the pain and tears they’ve shed, they need acts of compassion to remind them of the positive things to be thankful for, the various things to be strong for.
In unity, there is strength. Where there is strength, wonderful things are achieved. The effort, the finances, the time, the graces that we share as individual IFI faithful, parishes, dioceses and faith communities testify that we are a Church on a mission to love the people in spite of our diversities; a Church that lends a hand to those in need because of our faith in a loving God.
The Diocese of Laguna started the distribution of donations from its parishes together with the Diocese of Maquebaca. On Jan. 22, 2020, almost 900 affected families in Malaking Pulo, Tanauan, Batangas, received packs of food, water and other basic needs. As the diocesan bishop of the IFI Diocese of Laguna, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to each and every Aglipayan who immediately responded to our call and shared to their neighbors. I am overwhelmed and pleased. May we continue to persevere and share what we can until all is well with our siblings in need.
Being the chairperson of the South Central Luzon Bishops Conference (SCLBC), I further entreat dioceses to extend support to the province of Batangas. SCLBC has reactivated the KAPIT-BISIG HUMANITARIAN MISSION, in cooperation with the Ramento Project for Rights Defenders and SCL National Priests’ Organization. The initiative already maintains efforts in different areas, but we need to sustain our work and do more.
Moreover, we are preparing to support the rehabilitation of the damaged properties and livelihoods, so we call on our members in the country and abroad to consider how they may help us mount this.
Our efforts remind me of a succinct thought: “Rich or poor, we are to do what we can when others are in need.” Yes, we can’t help everyone but everyone can help someone. We must believe that a small contribution that we can give out of compassion can make a big difference in the lives of others. May we all continue to show compassion.
Bishop Rowel Arevalo
Chairperson, South Central Luzon Bishops Conference
Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul
January 25, 2020