I have been wanting to write about this for weeks now, but I was not able to create the best title for this, until I found this:
Caritas et amor (Gregorian chorale) by Z. Randall Stroope (*1955)
Sung by the Philippine Madrigal Singers
Church of St. Matthias, Munich-Fürstenried, Germany, 2010.
Video credits: isispartners
And that’s what I experienced during my visit to two institutions last month: Elsie Gaches Village and Kinder Zoo (now known as Adventure Jungle).
Christian love of humankind. Charity.
The Shrine of Jesus volunteers visited Elsie Gaches Village in Alabang, Muntinlupa as our outreach activity. As we arrived, we were briefed by one of the social workers there, as to what to expect. They only have a few social workers taking care of some 500 people, young and old, with physical disabilities and special conditions, specifically the mentally challenged. If I recall it right, the proportion is two social workers to one cottage with about 50 persons. That’s too much! A salute is not enough for their noble work.
We were ready. The patients trickled in, and so did the rain. We would have wanted to take a peek of the 16-hectare area donated to the government that used to be a summer villa of philanthropists Samuel Gaches and Elsie McCloskey. One of the volunteers cracked the ice by teaching the patients an action song, which I accompanied with the guitar my husband brought. We were asked to render some songs for them later in the morning.
Randomly, some volunteers would pull me out of a group to play guitar for the others. And they were all delighted to listen to the guitar! Some patients have amazing voices, like the girl who sang Journey popularized by Lea Salonga. Some requested songs and I tried my best to play them well. Mind you, I had to play everything without sheet music, and I did it! What power and love music can give.
One specific reminder that was mentioned to us is that these people appreciate being touched as a sign of love, because of the lack of it. High fives, handshakes, and hugs filled that rainy morning, and were generously given by the Shrine volunteers, and reciprocated by the patients.
We capped the visit with snacks and a simple gift-giving. Theirs are such appreciative and kind souls. We, for sure, are the strangers in their special and blessed world. And as we part, we can’t just help but wonder when they will feel that love again, and from whom. The social worker told us that since the holidays are coming in, a number of organizations wanted to pay the village a visit to do an outreach as well.
I can’t explain how I felt but I was just grateful to the Divine Master for this opportunity not only to do our apostolate to those in need, but also for the chance to do this with some of the nicest people I know — the Shrine volunteers and our Rector, Mons Bobby. They are all inspirations to us as we continue to do our ministry in the Shrine. Challenging days in the Shrine are always outshined by days like this.
It was also a great opportunity to meet the social workers and listen to their stories. They are the patients’ heroes. They are our heroes! No one can match the caritas they selflessly give.
Love. The greatest gift.
Love for animals. They say that animals are a man’s best friend. For zookeepers, this love is so pure.
I took my daughter to Adventure Jungle, found in nearby Manila Zoo, through the invitation of their PR officer, Grace Nicolas, a fellow mom blogger. We’ve been to Manila Zoo before, but this is another facility inside the zoo. And we saw new animals and Aria even got to ride the horse! Truly a highlight for my little champ.
There also, we met and talked with two people, Neng, who has been a zookeeper for more than a decade already. She explained to us that a zookeeper should be mindful of the animal’s feeding schedule, diet, and the like. She had studied these animals on her own, and she’s not even a veterinarian! It was just pure love dedicated to these animal friends.
We also met Mr. John Chua, brand ambassador for Canon Philippines, and a volunteer elephant keeper at the Manila Zoo. He frequents Manila Zoo and he loves Mali the elephant so much, that Mali follows his commands! The kids during the tour were able to feed Mali with some bananas, and Mr. Chua asked Mali to hug one of the media people who covered the event. And he is not paid for this.
If these animals could only talk, I am sure that they will profusely thank Ms. Neng and Mr. John, and their loving zookeepers.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est. God is defintely there, in these two places.