Tag Archives: Caritas Manila

Charity work

FROM rampaging lahar flows in Pampanga to the great flood in Ormoc, Sister Aurora Macabebe was there to care for the dying and the dead.

“Isa ako sa mga namumulot ng patay, bringing their bodies to the funeral parlor,” the (then) 64-year-old nun said as she recounts her six-year stint as part of the disaster management team of the Daughter of Charity.

(Note: During the time of interview Sister Aurora is the spiritual counselor for patients afflicted with the deadly AIDS virus at the Halfway House in San Lazaro Compound in Sta. Cruz, Manila.)

Sister Aurora works for the AIDS prevention program of Caritas Manila. Aside from teaching hobby-craft to patients to temporarily relieve their minds of the inevitable (that is death), Sister Aurora conducted one-one-one counseling sessions with each patient.

But oftentimes, they walk an extra-mile for many “special cases.”

One such case is that of a patient whose only wish was to meet his mother whom he had not seen for a long time.

“I called up a fellow sister in Sorsogon to let the mother visit his ailing son. They hugged and kissed upon seeing each other. Now he’s very happy and seem to get stronger each day,”

The soft-spoken Ilongga sister, said doing social work entails equipping one’s self with KASE – knowledge, attitude, skill and experience.

She added that one must have self-discipline, good values, maturity, and knowledge of cultural values to be able to interact with different kinds of people.

“Before we really don’t mind about ourselves, but at this point in time, self is very important because you cannot give what you don’t have. So if we lack these things, we don’t know how to listen to them,” the nun stressed.

Citing her 15 challenging years as a social worker, Sister Aurora said she and others in the same profession perform a very unique role in the community as far as bringing individuals to the mainstream is concerned.

“When you see a sick person, whom do you call, a doctor; when somebody is at fault, you call the police or lawyer to defend; so when somebody is dying you call a priest to save his soul; but when somebody cannot interact with others or if somebody is maladjusted to his environment or his community, who is the one answering, intervening? It is the social worker,” she explained.

“My work here is very challenging, you only need a lot of patience, generosity and compassion. You cannot expect something from them but give them compassion and this can bring them back to God. In their last days, they could die a happy death,” she shared.

Sister Aurora said she has learned to love each of the patients at the half-way house.

Sister Aurora said a patient who ws not even a Catholic requested that the receive the Holy Communion before he died.

“He cannot find peace of mind, he later became a born-again Christian. He joined group sessions and activities like group singing. But when his time came, I asked him if he wants to see a priest, he agreed so we prayed for him, he took a communion that night at about 11 p.m. the man died. Hindi mabibili ng pera ang nararamdaman naming kaligayahan ng mga oras na ‘yon,” she narrates.

This article was one of the few articles I did for Courier, the flagship publication of PJI, before it folded up in 2000.

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She eases prison life

TEN years ago, I met social worker Virgie Daniles from Caritas Manila. She deals with inmates and convicted prisoners, both of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) and the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW), extending paralegal assistance, boost their spiritual life, and even do some errands for them.

Virgie said it was God’s plan that drove her to do social work. She fills in the vacant post at the Prison Justice and Development Program (PJDP) of Caritas at the time when no one seems to fit in the job.

“Maybe due to lack of enough exposure in dealing with inmates and convicted prisoners,” she shared.
(Caritas is a 55-year-old charitable institution run by the Catholic Church in Pandacan, Manila.)

Since Virgie is dealing with almost all kinds of offenders in the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) or the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW), she discovered that many of the inmates were wrongfully accused and rejected by their own families.

Virgie’s works extend from paralegal assistance to reuniting families separated by imprisonment.

The woman recounts an instance where she had to accompany an ex-convict to a bus terminal that would take the person back to his province. She and other volunteers also helped in reuniting an inmate mother to her child whom she had not seen for a long time. The child at present is under the custody of the institution since relatives refused to take care of him.

Virgie also shared a story about a dejected person whom she helped recover.

The man came from an affluent family, was a drug dependent and committed various crimes. For three instances he was placed behind bars. His siblings also blamed him for the death of their parents. Also a dispute among his relatives about a piece of land aggravated his depression.

But persistent counseling from Virgie and her group finally changed the man’s outlook in life.

Their client now works as a janitor in an institution and is an active participant in spiritual activities held by social workers and volunteers for prisoners.

With a smile on her face, Virgie said they still conduct follow up counseling to ensure that the man will be okay.

She heaved a sigh of relief every time she recounts the same story, “there is fulfillment in helping other people.”

My story first appeared in Courier, the flagship newspaper of the Philippine Journalists, Incorporated in Oct. 2000.