In 2017, myself, together with Miriam Bartolo and later, Josephine Farrugia, started a missionary experience in the Philippines which lasted up till last year. We used to live in Bicol, an almost nine-hour drive from Manila, a drive that we took regularly to renew our VISA.
Living abroad in remote places like the Philippines, it is always helpful to have good acquaintances that help you settle faster, especially if you need to go to new locations and you do not know how and where. This is how I came across the MSSP fathers living in New Manila. I called Fr. Stephen Mifsud, the only contact I had as we are somehow related. I explained to him why we needed to travel to Manila. His prompt reply was to visit them as soon as we get there.
This was neither our first nor our last time to visit the fathers. Often enough, we spent weekends to rest at their formation house in Manila before hitting the road to Bicol since the drive is quite straining.
Needless to say, the fathers were always very welcoming and hospitable. Through these visits, we became more and more aware of the missionary work they were carrying in Manila. The people that live in close proximity to the fathers are very poor. I had never experienced such poverty before. The MSSP fathers reach out to them unreservedly.
Every Saturday morning they gather all the nearby children for catechism after which they carry out crafty activities. Before the children head back home, the fathers prepare what they call a ‘merienda’, a light meal, for all the children. I also learned that they sponsor children to aid them in their studies. More so, during the pandemic outbreak that hit Manila badly, they provided laptops to 52 students in order for them to continue with their schooling whilst schools were closed. This was made possible through the aid they get from Maltese benefactors.
We also had the privilege to visit Bataan, around a two-hour drive from Manila where we met another MSSP father, Fr. Joe Cremona, who is also carrying great missionary work. He works around the clock to continue gathering youth off the streets from nearby villages and gives them a new purpose through teaching them music. Over the years, he managed to form an orchestra. Nevertheless, the villages are even poorer and hence Fr. Joe does his utmost to help the villagers sustain themselves, especially after being hit by typhoons that leave great devastations at every occurrence.
This is just a small overview of all the hard work that Maltese missionaries are carrying out in the Philippines. We would like to show our sincere gratitude for the hospitality and great love that they showed us every time we visited.
Antonia Cuschieri is a MUSEUM associate from Malta doing mission at their base in the Philippines.