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Sisters in Philippines Stand in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples Losing their Land

March 21, 2018, Pidpid, Porac, Pampanga, the Philippines – Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in Pampanga, the Philippines, stood in solidarity recently with indigenous peoples whose land has been taken from them for development.

The Sisters in the Remedies Mission Chapter, along with local Benedictine Sisters “are in the front line of support” for the united indigenous peoples, who have barricaded with rocks the road where trucks haul gravel and sand for development projects on the tribe’s ancestral land, said Sister Zenaida Nacpil, OP, Chapter Prioress.

Since January 30, the Aetas have established themselves in the barricaded area, putting up temporary grass huts to shield themselves from the heat, Sister Zenaida said. They have also set up an ongoing school at the barricade, indicating their intention to stay in the barricaded area as long as possible.

The indigenous Aeta Mag-indi and Aeta Mag-antsi tribes established their home in 1960 in the barrio (town) Camachilies. They were displaced in June 1991 with the eruption of Mount Pinatubo and have since resettled in the nearby Pidpid area. “They no longer want to be thrown out by another disaster, which is now man-made and which is much more disastrous than the eruption of Mount Pinatubo,” Sister Zenaida said.  

She noted that in 2006 the Aetas received a Certificate of Ancestral Domain title from the government of the Philippines, giving them title to 18,659.73 hectares (72.046 square miles) of land. But in 2009, because of development projects, the land was taken from them by local and foreign corporations that have established quarry operations there. This work has destroyed the natural habitat, leaving the Aeta’s water source polluted.

“A huge portion of this ancestral domain is being destroyed by these operators through quarrying and water pollution,” Sister Zenaida said. “While [these corporations] get millions in profits, the indigenous peoples are left with nothing except the destroyed natural environment.” 

So far, she added, foreign and two Filipino-owned quarry operations have temporarily stopped their work, and the military have not been involved. “We pray that the quarry operations will be stopped completely.”

Watch a video from the barricaded area.


Dominican School of Apalit Anticipates 20th Anniversary

By Sister Liberty Mendoza, OP
Principal, Dominican School of Apalit

June 14, 2017, Pampanga, the PhilippinesAs the Dominican School of Apalit, located in the region of Pampanga in the Philippines, anticipates its 20th anniversary in 2018, Sister Liberty Mendoza, OP, reflects on how faculty members and staff have worked to form the students as young Dominicans.

The Dominican School of Apalit (DSA) will turn 20 in 2018. One of the lessons we have been impressing upon the hearts of our young pupils is “compatior” or compassion. The learning community, from the youngest 4-year-olds to those in the 12th grade, in collaboration with the parents and local government units, has been engaged in the process of learning what it means to give compassionate care for all of creation. It is presumed, however, that the seed of compassion was first seen, sown, and nurtured in the homes of our pupils. 

To be a Dominican stakeholder means not just to acquire profitable competencies that prepare an individual for the “university of life,” but also to walk an extra mile, to be other-oriented. It means to share not just canned goods or a bowl of hot soup during disaster relief operations or peak sharing seasons, but to see, smell, and feel the holy presence of God in the people who are poor, in the faces of the indigenous Aetas, the indigent pupils in nearby government-run schools, or the out-of-school children residing at a nearby public cemetery. 

The hope of the school staff is that these encounters would strike a chord in the hearts of our young Dominicans, urging them to forget themselves and change the small space where they stand. Compassion for all of creation is translated into concrete actions. 

How has Dominican School of Apalit preached in terms of living out its stance on compassion for all of creation? Teatro Dominiko, the school club for students who have inclination and passion for stage-acting, has mounted well-attended plays dealing with social and ecological themes: Mommy Ko Nature in 2011, Balik-bayan Box in 2014, and Luzviminda in January 2017.

Mommy Ko Nature exhorts spectators to suffer with, weep, and even bleed for Mother Earth as she continues to experience wanton destruction. Every child of nature is awakened from its slumber caused by indifference and must pledge to nurse his Mother, named Nature. 

Balik-bayan Box is a tribute to our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), in particular to the many Filipino parents who saw the heart-wrenching need to leave children behind, risk working on foreign shores, and remit crisp foreign currencies back to their families, with the hope that this will ensure a more secure and stable future for their loved ones.

Luzviminda, a contracted name for the three major islands in the Philippines – Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao – aims to remind the audience about the current ecological state of the country. The play advocates respect for the dignity of all life forms – the marginalized tribal groups, plants, animals, fish, and everything else that breathes and lives.

Providentially, this preaching medium – theater – has been helping us to send the message about the urgency of taking part in rehabilitating and healing the planet Pope Francis calls “our common home” and of being more conscious of the social ills besetting the country and the world. 

In partnership with Caritas Manila, DSA – and the other schools in which the Sisters in Our Lady of Remedies Chapter serve – recently drafted an Eco-Ministry Plan. We are acting on that plan in many ways.

DSA is situated near the Pampanga River and numerous coastal spots, which have been clogged by thriving water lilies that cause flooding during rains. Our School Head, Sister Rosita M. Yaya, OP, and the Parents-Teachers Association are working with the local government of Apalit, and Senator Cynthia Villar’s Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance Foundation to solve the problem by removing water lilies and turning them into materials for handicraft weaving. 

We at DSA hope to care for the legacy of the Pampanga River and other local coastal bodies so our students will understand that the river has its own life. It is our duty to keep that life flowing.

Feature photo (top): Prep students from Dominican School of Apalit perform a welcoming dance.

 

   
LEFT: Students perform an ecological theater presentation involving care for creation. RIGHT: Students welcome guests, from left, Sisters Zenaida Nacpil, OP, Rose Ann Schlitt, OP, Kathleen Schanz, OP, Marcine Klemm, OP, Attracta Kelly, OP, Jean Marie Lehtinen, OP, Rosemary Abramovich, OP, and Liberty Mendoza, OP, Principal.

 


 

 

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