Rosa Mystica Mission 2024: Live From Alabel in the Philippines

Source: District of Asia

This year, 38 volunteers from all over the world once again responded to ACIM-Asia's appeal to participate in the 17th Rosa Mystica medical mission, from March 3 to 10, 2024. The story is from our special correspondent in the Philippines.

At the Blaan’s

Whether they are French, Swiss, Spanish, Portuguese, American, Singaporean, or Australian, they have all crossed oceans and, after more than 48 hours of travel for some, have reached Alabel, at the foot of the Sarangani mountains, in the south of the island of Mindanao. It is the southernmost island in the Philippine archipelago. Located east of the large city of General Santos, where our volunteers landed in the early morning of Sunday, March 3, the municipality of Alabel covers an immense mountainous territory where the large population of the Blaan's still lives on their ancestral lands.

200,000 inhabitants live scattered in around 15 villages (barangays, first administrative division of the municipality) perched on the heights of these green tropical mountains, on the steep sides of which crops cling: bananas, corn, coffee, abaca or banana fiber (with 150 uses including the fabrication of the dollar), which provide some meager resources to the families of this tribal community.

Last year, the mission, officially welcomed and materially supported by the mayor of Alabel, visited six of these villages. During the traditional thanksgiving dinner at the end of the mission, he urged them to return in 2024 in order to visit the villages they had not been able to reach due to lack of time and weather conditions which did not allow them to reach the most remote villages, only accessible by tracks which become impassable in rainy weather.

Today, the road leading there has gained a few kilometers of concrete thanks to the peacemaking program for these regions – shaken, isolated, and impoverished by a long communist guerrilla war until 2022. The renewed call from the mayor of Alabel also fits into the framework of this peacemaking policy and development of these medically under-served areas.

A bridge was even built – but is still not in working order – where the river was forded last year. However, despite this little progress, again this year it will be necessary to travel along rugged trails, a veritable roller coaster climbing and descending the steep slopes of the ridges, to reach the mission villages.

This Monday, March 4, 2024, the caravan sets off in the early morning to cover around forty kilometers in a good three hours! The young volunteers brought medical equipment – medicines, glasses, small surgical equipment, etc. – in dump trucks made available to the mission by the municipality of Alabel, with experienced drivers!   

Upon reaching the end of the track, the mission set up in the municipal courtyard of Datal Anggas where a crowd of patients was already waiting, many of them coming on foot from distant hamlets, via non-motorized paths. On the roads and trails of these mountainous areas, one may come across many small all-terrain motorcycles, often overloaded with passengers and goods.

Not everyone can afford this means of transport. Horses, mules, and carabaos (domestic buffalo) are still part of the landscape; and they walk a lot. The children, dressed in charming uniforms, often walk many kilometers to reach their school. It is easy to understand that in the event of a medical emergency, ambulances cannot reach these villages.

We were told that in the event of a difficult birth, women are transported on a stretcher, which means several hours of walking for the bearers, to the road where the patient is taken by a medical vehicle, generally under-equipped, which transports her to the hospital. This Monday, Bruno, a young Portuguese doctor practicing in Switzerland, is seeing a 12-year-old child with a displaced fracture of the arm, which occurred the day before.

The child was able to follow this obstacle course to reach Alabel hospital. But, on the other hand, he did not stay there to undergo the operation to reduce the fracture, because his family did not have the means to pay for it. For this child, the mission is a blessing! It came at the right time for him: it will cover the cost of the surgical procedure, which will save him a lifelong disability.

Under the Patronage of Our Lady of the Apostles

This is another type of care, and more urgent, that two other patients with very advanced pathologies would not have received if the mission had not passed through Datal Anggas this Monday. Two cases of terminal cancer were diagnosed. We can only offer some palliative care for pain. But, on the other hand, the doctors will offer this woman and this man in danger of death the opportunity to meet with the priest. One, Catholic, was able to confess and receive extreme unction. The other, Protestant, agreed to wear the scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

A charitable and apostolic work, the Rosa Mystica Mission always aims to be faithful to the spirit of its founders, Fr. Daniel Couture, then superior of the Asia District of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and Dr. Dickès: to open the souls of these poorest of the poor to grace, treating their ailments and relieving their pain as much as possible. It does it with the weakness of its means, a small drop of water in an ocean of misery, and the dedication, enthusiasm, and joy of its volunteers in the exercise of fraternal charity.

For their part, the priests (this year Fr. Duncan, a French-speaking American stationed in Sri Lanka, joined the mission to ensure the spiritual support of the volunteers), brothers, lay catechists, members of the Legion of Mary, visit patients in open-air “waiting rooms.” Many of them will not leave without having received the miraculous medal of the rue du Bac, the scapular, or having joined the Militia of the Immaculate.

One may then understand even better why this year Fr. Timothy Pfeiffer, chaplain of the mission, joined to the Rosa Mystica Mission the eponymous patronage of Our Lady of the Apostles, accompanied by two of her greatest devotees, St. John Eudes and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. To show the way to heaven to all these poor people, as deprived spiritually as materially, there is no other way than that preached by these two great Apostles of Mary: total abandonment to the love of the Mother of God, who is “the whole reason for the Hope of the children of God.”

Giving a little relief to these suffering bodies, and hope to these abandoned souls, by entrusting them to Mary so that she can lead them to Jesus, this is the goal of the volunteers of the Rosa Mystica mission and all those who support it with their prayers and their donations.

The Rosa Mystica Mission Needs Your Support

It only survives thanks to the support and donations of friends and benefactors! The volunteers are volunteers and pay for their own plane tickets. Donations are allocated solely to the material organization of the Mission, to the purchase of medicines and medical equipment, and sometimes to financing hospitalizations and surgical interventions larger than those that can be offered to the mission.

You can send your donations:

From France :

By PayPal on the site:

By check to ACIM: 2, route d’Equihen F-62360 Saint-Etienne-au-Mont.

By transfer: IBAN code: FR52/3000/2056/0000/0070/2978/B46.

By Hello Asso:

From Switzerland:

On the website of the Association Mission et Entraide aux Philippines (AMEP):

AMEP, Route de Collombé 24 A, 1976 ERDE.

Raiffeisen Bank Martigny and Region. Account: 19-1454-1

IBAN: CH24 8080 8001 0967 6858 4. SWIFT-BIC: RAIFCH22XXX

Tax receipt on request for France or Switzerland.