Thursday, April 9, 2020

Churchwomen serving in the trenches

Before I go to the main subject of this piece, let me say that President Duterte’s habitual dead-of-night state-of-our-COVID-19 nightmare TV appearances are, to say the least, spooky even to insomniacs and nocturnals.
Let me also say that those despicable Filipinos who discriminate against health workers who are risking their lives to save COVID-19 patients, those who splash bleach on frontliners and cause injuries, should be subjects of a citizen’s arrest. Livid, I say: No mercy. A former chief of “Manila’s Finest” would bark without batting an eyelash: “Posasan!”

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World War I and II battle scenes came to mind when Pope Francis reminded long before the COVID-19 pandemic began that the church should be like a field hospital. In this pandemic season of our lives, his words are now a call to arms, not necessarily to be in the frontlines that health workers and other service providers occupy, but to be in the trenches and foxholes where the rest of us should be because of the lockdown/enhanced community quarantine imposed on the rest of us. But not for us to be in hiding or becoming hypochondriacs, but to be creative and serving even while forced to live cloistered lives.

The forced confinement can affect those with fragile mental conditions, I know. But note that there are existing helplines for them. Yes, the mind can play tricks, and I chuckle because when the letters WFH (work from home) first streamed into view in my messaging apps I thought I saw WTF, if you know what that means.
Give it to the women to find ways and means not only to survive but to be of help. While under “house arrest,” all I could do myself was to let my fingers do the talking and walking to find help for a group of persons with disabilities run by women. These women were not going to let their wards starve while waiting for the long-awaited government help. Big thanks to former social welfare secretary Dinky Soliman, the “Bayanihan Musikahan” group, and several others who responded without delay.

Quietly doing their bit in the trenches are Catholic women religious. The Global Sisters Report (GSR) of the US-based National Catholic Reporter, to which I occasionally contribute stories, asked me for stories on what some Filipino women religious are doing while COVID-19 rages and how their day-to-day lives have changed. GSR is continuously running pandemic-related stories that involve women religious all over the world.
The Religious of the Good Shepherd in Quezon City have readied their St. Bridget School to be a board-and-lodging place for health frontliners of nearby Quirino Medical Center on Katipunan Avenue.
The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary have also made available what used to be St. Clare’s Convent in Pandacan, Manila, for the use of health frontliners of the Philippine General Hospital.
The Missionary Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica’s College-Manila have their Tuluyan San Benito to house the street dwellers and homeless night scavengers. Tuluyan is really a day “R and R” for the homeless who need a place to rest, bathe, cook, and do laundry. But because of the lockdown they have to be indoors, and Tuluyan has made their safety possible.
A classmate of mine who is a contemplative Good Shepherd sister in Connecticut, United States, says her community is very busy making homemade fabric face masks.

GSR is “an independent, non-profit source of news and information about Catholic sisters and the critical issues facing the people they serve.” GSR’s raison d’être for highlighting the life and work of women religious is something to ponder on during this Holy Week: “For as long as there have been Christians, women have been in the forefront when it comes to serving the Body of Christ. In fact, according to the Gospels, it was a group of women—Mary Magdalene, Salome, Joanna, Susanna, as well as unnamed others—who financially supported Jesus’ ministry and cared for his needs.”
And before I forget, you can help both dairy farmers and health frontliners by buying fresh milk from the former that would nourish the latter, the needy communities, and yourselves as well. Send inquiries to or visit
For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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