Caritas Manila taps local partners to rebuild churches

Caritas Manila Chairman Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila and Executive Director Fr. Anton Pascual (left) with renowned composer-musician and papal awardee Ryan Cayabyab and Esther Santos, President of PLDT-Smart Foundation present "RISE! Rebuild from the Ruins" benefit concert they organized to support Caritas Manila's rehabilitation of churches and chapels destroyed by Haiyan in Samar and Leyte provinces. (N.J. Viehland)

Manila, Philippines — Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila was saying Mass in typhoon ravaged Palo cathedral at the close of the archdiocese's diamond jubilee celebration last November when he witnessed with admiration the "unshakable faith" of people amidst suffering.

This, Tagle said at a press conference May 30, was what the fund raising concert of sacred music of renowned composer and musician Ryan Cayabyab called "Rise! Rebuilding from the Ruins" on June 11 hopes to recognize.

Tagle recalled his Mass last year inside the church whose roof had been blown away by typhoon Haiyan. People just covered the top of the church with tarpaulin material so when rain poured during Tagle's Mass, people and things inside got wet.

"At the end of my homily the wind blew. It rained and people panicked. They seemed allergic to the wind," Tagle told journalists, artists, co-organizers and partners for the concert. "One thing I appreciated was people stayed through the rain and finished the Mass," added the cardinal who chairs the Board of Caritas Manila.

"This is the church – the building – but this is also the living church which stays firm even when the roof blows away," Tagle remembers thinking to himself.

He said the "effort to rebuild the buildings made of stone and steel and iron sheets is actually not only a tribute to God or to the faith, but also a tribute to the living community and their living faith."

Organizers, talents and supporters of the upcoming concert to be held in Manila Cathedral are also paying tribute to the physical church that serves as refuge, sanctuaries, evacuation centers and dormitories in times of crises like Haiyan, locally named Yolanda, Tagle said.

Father Anton Pascual, Executive Director of Caritas Manila said the project Caritas Manila was undertaking on its 60th anniversary with Ryan Cayabyab, a papal awardee intends "to raise the social consciousness of the people to help the churches that were destroyed in Samar and Leyte areas."

He said the target is to raise at least 20 million pesos (U.S. $456,300.00) for 20 barrio churches and chapels in the two neighboring provinces in the central Philippines. The churches, shown in a video presentation at the start of the press conference, had no roof, or walls. "We are really building from the ruins," Pascual said.

Pascual told NCR the project aims to complete construction in most churches and chapels before the end of the year, not only because Pope Francis has said he would come to the Philippines in January, but also because rains and typhoons sweep the country around that time.

Cayabyab, who also turned 60 this year, said it was for him a way of "giving back" to the church.

The concert presented by PLDT-Smart Foundation and One Meralco Foundation with the Cultural Center of the Philippines for Caritas Manila's Haiyan rehabilitation program features seven Philippine-based choirs, Voices of Aloha choir from the University of Hawaii, and veteran Filipino artists Basil Valdes, Dulce, Soprano Clarissa Ocampo, Tenor Ervin Lumauag among others, said Cayabyab, a papal awardee.

"Sublime things, noble things, spiritual things are best expressed in art," Tagle said. He believes artists can lead people to "deep truths which serve as foundation of civilization and a community that knows what justice, truth and communion mean... things that cannot be taught by ideology."

Pascual told NCR Caritas has raised seven million pesos from sponsorship and ticket sales.

He said there are at least 100 chapels destroyed in Samar and Leyte, "but we are focusing on 20 only for this project. We have started already with 15, and this is the next round."

He said even before talk of the pope's wish to visit typhoon survivors started, Filipinos have given generously to relief operations. "From Nov. 8, Caritas Manila was able to generate 150 million pesos already from local donors mostly for relief and initial rehabilitation," Pascual said.

[N.J. Viehland is an NCR correspondent based in the Philippines.]

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