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.