By Father Christopher Guy Snyder, PIME
Steve was pastor here in our parish in Manila for several years, so I asked him to show me around and help me to understand the working of this mission parish. According to Fr. Steve there are some 120,000 people in the parish! (Can you imagine?!) We began by walking around visiting the various buildings of the campus. There is a medical clinic and dental clinic which the parish runs. Although it is especially for the children, others are also allowed to come to receive free service. We then went to drive around and visit the different neighborhoods of the parish. There is one part in particular – Purok1B (also known as the CAA) that really struck me. It is an area of squatters. Through the years they have just started building up housing there and eventually some of them went from quite disposable structures to something which could even be considered more permanent. The government does tolerate them and even tries to do things to help them out. However, if the government should ever need the land these people do not have title to it.
Of course, there are children everywhere, and it was such a joy. Being the big white guy I am, they all came up to see me. A couple of them even touched my belly to see if it was real! I would say “hello” and they would say the words they knew in English. They would also mimic every word I would say – that was kind of fun! (All schooling in Manila is done in Tagalog. They may learn English in school, but they don’t really start using it until college studies and/or beyond.) Fr. Steve also took me to one of the nicer “gated” communities that our parish serves. Here is a “black water” canal (I think that means sewage canal?) that runs next to our chapel. The flooding from last week’s typhoon (Ondoy) completely filled this canal and overflowed. The people were saying that the flood level was just about up to their necks at the spot where I was standing ! Can you imagine?