On Friday, February 21, Our Lady no longer faces the rain, but a very strong wind that allowed us to imagine what the Filipino typhoons can be like. What we experienced there was, it seems, only a gentle wind!
The Mission is going to set up in the heights of Pelaez, in the district of Claveria, at an altitude of 1200 m, where the few warm clothes carried in the suitcases will have to be shared. The young volunteers and Fr. Jacques Péron, our French chaplain who had already participated in the Mission in 2018, as well as the Filipino members of ACIM-Asia, will spend a cold night under a tent shaken by gusts of wind and water. As for the not so young, they will have to take the road (or the track!) every evening in the opposite direction to get back to their hotel located these last three days in Balingasag, the nearest coastal town. It takes about an hour to reach the first hotel, which are very poorly developed in this region. The potential for tourism is huge, but for too long the communist guerrillas have created a climate of insecurity, preventing any development in this area.
"The Cross and the Sword"
That same day, some volunteers went to meet Colonel Ricky Canatoy in his HQ in Dimalulupig, Claveria District. He described to them the political and economic situation in the region and the reasons why this area was chosen (at the last minute!) for the Rosa Mystica 2020 Mission. The whole week we travelled in all directions through a small peninsula located two hours drive west of Butuan, where the Mission should have taken place.
These mountainous districts are inhabited by extremely poor indigenous tribes. The NPA (National Liberation Army) takes advantage of this extreme poverty to recruit the inhabitants to "convert" them to communist ideology, taking advantage of the little interest the government has shown in them so far.
The pacification has been carried out successfully for two years, and the Philippine army has developed a community support program, in which our medical mission has been carried out. The aim of this aid operation is to extract the population from the influence of revolutionary groups that are still present and active, in a residual way, despite the military successes achieved by the army. The activity of these guerrillas has tended - since their armed resistance has been reduced - to turn into mafia activity, which is also dangerous for these populations weakened by poverty.
Colonel Canatoy expressed his gratitude to our organisation for the assistance provided in an impromptu and yet very timely manner. In return, we expressed our gratitude to him, because without the logistical support of his unit, the 58th Infantry Battalion, the Mission could not have taken place. A nice thanksgiving dinner was offered to the volunteers on the last evening, in the military camp which was also the base camp for the last two days of the Mission.
Father Tim Pfeiffer, prior of Davao, capital of the island of Mindanao, recalled, in a deep and vigorous speech, that true success cannot be achieved without complying with the requests of Our Lady of Fatima: communism will be defeated by the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. The peregrinations of her holy image through these mountains, the numerous personal consecrations and those of barangays (municipalities) are a modest response to Our Lady's desires. And did she not already accede to the prayers of those poor among the poor, thus advancing among them, "beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army arrayed in battle"?
In this spirit, the working day of the volunteers and missionaries of the Legion of Mary ends each evening with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated in the village chapels, under the meadows or other makeshift buildings, when places of worship are lacking. The decor can therefore sometimes be surprising! For example, the Santo Nino (Filipinos have had a great devotion to the Child Jesus of Prague since the first missionaries came in the 15th century) placed to the right of the altar in the chapel of Pelaez is certainly more "liturgical" than the sacks of rice piled up in Aligodon, or the war hymn of the 47th division in the premises of the 58th battalion! But in the Filipino context, no one thinks of complaining about this happy alliance of the Cross and the Sword!
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Donation by cheque payable to ACIM: ACIM - 2, route d'Equihen - F-62360 Saint-Etienne-au-Mont ;