December 13, 2018, San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines – A visit to the Philippines brought two Adrian Dominican Sisters the opportunity to explore the many ministries of Sisters in the Congregation’s Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, time to cherish the renewal of friendships, and to bid farewell to a Sister who passed to the next life. The visit was hosted by Sister Rosita Yaya, OP, Chapter Prioress of Our Lady of Remedies, and by the Sisters of the Chapter.
Sister Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor, was accompanied on the trip by Sister Marcine Klemm, OP, who lived and ministered with the Sisters from 1968 to 1973 when their mission was first taking root in the Philippines. At the request of Bishop Emilio Cinense, Bishop of the then Diocese of San Fernando, Mother Gerald Barry in 1961 agreed to help in the formation of a group of Filipina women into religious life. Four young women completed the formation process in Adrian, Michigan, and in 1965 returned to their country to begin a new life. Sister Marcine later ministered and lived with the Sisters of the Dominican Congregation of Our Lady of Remedies.
In December 1972, the Remedies Sisters became an independent Congregation. At their request, the relationship of the two Dominican Congregations came full circle, when in November 2011, the Remedies Congregation merged with the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
Sister Marcine, always revered by the Sisters in the Philippines, was fêted on November 30 with a surprise 90th birthday party, about six months early, at the San Fernando Motherhouse of the Our Lady of Remedies Chapter. The celebration included the Sisters from the Chapter, as well as people whom Sister Marcine had known from the 1960s and 1970s: Archbishop Emeritus Paciano Aniceto, former students, and friends.
But the focus for much of the visit was on the present – on collaboration with the Dominican family in the Philippines and on the ministries in which the Sisters are engaged. The Sisters offer ministry, support, and presence to people who live in impoverished areas.
On December 1, Sister Elise participated with a number of the Sisters in the annual Dominican Family day in Manila, attended by more than 300 Dominican women and men from throughout the Philippines. “The focus was on strengthening collaboration and the two examples given of strong collaborative efforts involved our Sisters,” she said.
On the way back to San Fernando, the Sisters dropped off Sister May Cano, OP, who is now living in the Diocese of Caloocan in northern Manila, working closely with Bishop Pablo Virgilio S. David in coordinating a diocesan-wide program to assist families of victims of extrajudicial killings. “While we were there, the bishop, who has publicly criticized the government’s war on drugs, was in the news as the subject of slanderous accusations by President Duterte,” Sister Elise recalled.
From left, Sister Lourdes Pamintuan, OP, addresses the children at Dominican School of Apalit. Students at Dominican School of Apalit welcome their visitors with dance.
In the two schools that the Sisters visited, they were welcomed with “song, dance, recitals, and gifts,” Sister Elise said. At Dominican School of Angeles City – which recently celebrated the addition of a new building to accommodate its growing enrollment of more than 200 students – Sisters shared lunch and toured the water purification site. Ministering at Dominican School of Angeles City are Sisters Meliza Arquillano, OP, Victoria Changcoco, OP, Liberty Mendoza, OP, Arsenia Puno, OP, and Michelle Salalila, OP.
Sisters Elise and Marcine also received a warm welcome from the Sisters ministering at Dominican School of Apalit, an elementary and high school founded by the Sisters more than 20 years ago. Administrators of the school are Sisters Rowena M. Cruz, OP, Ruby Lumanlan, OP, and Lourdes Pamintuan, OP.
Sisters Liza David, OP, Gudelia Kabigting, OP, and Ines Evangelista Manuel, OP, welcomed the North American Sisters to the rural communities of Villa Maria and Diaz. There, they minister with the indigenous Aeta people who have been displaced to the mountains from their farming homes since the 1992 eruption of Mount Pinatubo. Ministries at Villa Maria include a school and a feeding program for 300 people.
Many other ministries also focus on serving people in need. At the Shrine of the Holy Sepulchre, Sister Maria Socorro Garcia, OP, focuses on the needs of people living in poverty. Sisters Jules Dungo, OP, Zenaida Nacpil, OP, and Marifi Lugtu minister to street children with the aid of a School on Wheels and on the patio of their community house in San Fernando.
Sisters Elise and Marcine were also given a tour of the University of the Assumption in San Fernando by the Sisters who minister there: Sisters Marissa Figueroa, OP, Yolanda Manapsal, OP, and Abegail Santos, OP.
Even with touring the various ministries in the Philippines, Sister Elise said, “I also had time to visit with the women in formation – Sisters Michelle Salalila, Marifi Lugtu, Meliza Arquillano, and Novice Leizel Tiedra – as well as to meet with the Remedies Mission Council.”
On the last day of their stay, a scheduled visit to another community of Sisters was canceled with the tragic death of Sister Amelia Sarmiento, OP, who had been ill. “We participated in a sacred time of mourning with the Sisters, joining them in the first day of the three-day waking of the body before the funeral Mass and burial on December 8,” Sister Elise said.
From left, Street children from the Dolores community pose with, from left, Sisters Rosita Yaya, OP, Chapter Prioress; Elise Garcia, OP; and Marcine Klemm, OP. Sisters Elise García, OP, and Marcine Klemm, OP, toured the water purification system at Dominican School of Angeles City. Shown in the photo are Sisters Victoria Changcoco, OP, on the right and in the background, from left, Sisters Meliza Arquillano, OP, Rosita Yaya, OP, and Liberty Mendoza, OP.
Please enjoy this video created by our Sisters in the Philippines in honor of Sister Marcine Klemm's 90th birthday.
August 23, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates in the United States are known for their work for justice. Adrian Dominican Sisters in the Philippines in the Philippines also have been fighting for years against issues of injustice in their own nation.
During a recent visit to the Adrian Motherhouse, three Sisters from the Philippines – Sisters Antonette Lumbang, OP, Bibiana (Bless) Colastio, OP, and Marissa Figueroa, OP – gave an update on their own work for justice.
Sister Antonette, Justice Promoter for the Remedies Chapter, began her presentation with a video that demonstrated the horrors of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs.” This war results in the extra-judicial killing of drug dealers and users – many times by contract killers who take orders from the police. More than 4,000 people were killed in three months through this policy of extra-judicial killing.
“It’s still the same, two years and two months after [President] Duterte was elected,” Sister Antonette said. “Human rights continue to deteriorate … Gross violations of civil and political rights are happening alongside worsening deprivations of economic, social, and cultural rights.”
Human rights advocates also face the threat of violence. Sister Bless noted that three priests who advocated for human rights were gunned down in recent months. Sister Patricia Fox, NDS, a Sister of Our Lady of Sion from Australia, and a human rights activist stationed in the Philippines, was deported as an “undesirable alien” on September 4 when her missionary visa expired – after 30 years of serving the people in the Philippines, Sister Antonette said.
Sister Antonette also spoke of the exploitation of the ancestral land of the indigenous Aeta people by private investors and quarry companies.
“Before the Aeta are forced to leave their ancestral land for lack of water or livelihood, they are seeking compensation and help in regulating the quarrying and stopping the conversion that shrunk their territories,” Sister Antonette said. On January 30 this year, she said, the Aeta people put up barricades on their land to keep out the trucks that were coming in to work in the quarries; they have remained on their barricaded land ever since.
Sister Antonette said the Sisters from the Remedies Chapter have been involved in such strategies as prayer and fasting, rallies and mass demonstrations, lobbying at Congress, and education campaigns. In addition, Sisters Bless and Marissa are among Sisters and seminarians who are preparing to be involved in human rights monitoring.
The Sisters from the Remedies Chapter are also working, through their formal ministries, to advocate for justice and to improve the situation for people who are suffering because of injustice.
Sister Marissa, Director of the Community Extension Office of the University of the Assumption in San Fernando, said her office provides “holistic treatment and rehabilitation” for drug users. “We are strongly convinced and strongly believe that drug addiction destroys the person’s life and future,” she said. “Full recovery is a challenge, but it is possible.”
Sister Marissa’s office is also involved in community-based prevention. “Last year we conducted a drug-awareness forum, in partnership with the Archdiocese of San Fernando, attended by almost 700 parish leaders,” she said. “The key to prevention [of drug addiction] is to build a harmonious, supportive family environment and promote responsive drug rehabilitation in the community and the school system.”
Sister Bless, head of the Commission for Family Life of the Diocese of San Jose Nueva Ecjia, said the Commission trains and facilitates the ongoing formation program of para-counselors, people in parishes who are not professionals but who have the temperament to offer counseling to parents and children.
Once a month, Sister Bless is also involved in group counseling at the House of Prayer and Evangelization (HOPE). HOPE offers programs such as Bible sharing, skills training, and gardening to drug addicts. She also conducts a symposium on drug addiction and other social issues at the diocesan, vicariate, and parish levels.
“We believe drug addiction is one of the reasons for extra-judicial killings,” she said. By working to prevent or heal drug addictions, she and other counselors and involved citizens can stop the violence of President Duterte’s war on drugs through extrajudicial killing.
“What we do as a Mission Chapter is a drop in the bucket, with all the justice issues and with the president still enjoying popularity with the majority of people,” Sister Antonette said. “Justice moves slowly.”
But Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, Director of the Congregation’s Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, praised the three Sisters and all members of the Remedies Mission Chapter for their commitment and their work for justice. “Thank you for updating us and for the work you do,” she said. “That’s very heartening, because I’m sure you’re saving lives. We are so proud of you and will continue to pray for you.”
Feature photo: Sister Antonette Lumbang, OP, Justice Promoter for Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter in the Philippines, shares a light moment with her U.S. Sisters before giving an update of justice issues in her country.