MANILA, April 9, 2014— If only to remind them of their sacred duties as Christians, a high-ranking churchman appealed to Filipino Catholics Tuesday, April 8, to always “stand by their brethren affected by super typhoon [Yolanda]” in the light of survivors’ pleas to the government to make good on its promises.
Caloocan Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez, who delivered his message at a mass protest in support of ‘Yolanda’ survivors at Plaza Miranda, said that as followers of Christ, Catholics must “unite in love for those who are most in need like the Yolanda survivors”.
The prelate also stressed that Christians must always be prepared to “offer themselves to others”.
A known champion of the poor and the oppressed, Iñiguez, with many other priests and nuns in tow, joined the rally spearheaded by People Surge, an alliance of different church and lay groups with the common aim of “helping Yolanda survivors get what is rightfully theirs” as promised by President Benigno S. Aquino III (PNoy), and to urge the chief executive to do away with unjust government policies that only worsen their plight.
The alliance’s petition includes three demands: First, that the PNoy government should deliver on the promised P40,000 cash relief which covers two months’ worth of food, transportation, and other contingent expenses for each ‘Yolanda’-affected family; second, to junk the “No Build Zone” policy, which only puts a toll on survivors; and lastly, to continue the relief efforts until the survivors are stable enough to get on their feet.
The peaceful rally formally started with a Holy Mass, which Iñiguez celebrated with other members of the clergy at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church).
In a “solidarity lunch” that followed, Iñiguez joined People Surge members, church groups, and ‘Yolanda’ survivors currently in Manila in a humble meal consisting of “camote” (sweet potato) at the Plaza Miranda.
The prelate explained that this food, a root crop which many Filipinos jokingly refer to as the “poor man’s bread” and which abundantly grows in Eastern Visayas, symbolizes the “daily struggle of ‘Yolanda’ survivors”.
Towards afternoon, the protesters marched to Mendiola Street in Sampaloc where they held other activities and programs for ‘Yolanda’ survivors.
On November 8, 2013, the central regions of the Philippines, particularly the Eastern Visayan cities of Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte; and towns like Tolosa, Tanauan, Alangalang, also in Leyte; and Guiuan, Basey, Dolores, and Balangiga in Samar Island, were struck by a powerful tropical cyclone, the strongest on record, killing at least 6,268 people, and leaving many more homeless. This happened in spite of preemptive evacuations. (Raymond A. Sebastián)