Covid-19 Emergency in the Philippines. Father Prigol: “Never Seen Such Solidarity”

From Manila, the missionary recounts the difficulties of the Scalabrinian migrant centers due to the pandemic

Manila, April 7, 2020 – From Manila, the Philippines, the Scalabrinian missionary Father Paulo Prigol recounts the difficulties encountered in the Scalabrinian centers in the area due to the covid-19 pandemic. The Scalabrinian realities in question are the Stella Maris center of the Apostleship of the Sea – AOS (an organization for which Father Prigol is Coordinator in Southeast Asia), the Scalabrini Center for People on the Move – SCPM (of which Father Prigol is Director) and the Pius dormitory.

“Continue to serve seafarers”

The first two weeks of March were characterized by the doubt about what to do, whether or not to close the centers or to only partially block their activities. A serious decision, since the complete closure would have meant the abandonment of many needy people in the city streets in a difficult moment, while the continuity of the works (albeit in a reduced form) could have worried the residents if there had been a positive case.

On March 11, 2020, 107 people were hosted at the SCPM, 94 in the Stella Maris Ermita dormitory and 58 in the Pius dormitory, to which 8 staff members were added for a total of 267 people. “In the late evening I sent a message to Monsignor Broderick Pabillo, auxiliary bishop of Manila on the same day explaining the situation, the possible consequences and asking for his guidance – Father Prigol writes in a letter – His reply was:“ You can continue to serve the seafarers, but make sure that they respect the rules of cleanliness and remain attentive…”

The lockdown on the island of Luzon

It was therefore decided to proceed with the utmost caution by decreeing the lockdown of the three centers, whose dormitories have a total capacity of 318 people. Meanwhile, the government has enacted the enhanced quarantine for the entire island of Luzon until April 12, 2020.

“I am extremely grateful to the staff of Stella Maris for accepting the challenge of staying – Father Prigol still writes – I cannot visit the Pius dormitory nor the Ermita dormitory because the streets are closed, but we keep in touch daily via phone calls. We are also extremely grateful to the SCPM canteen for agreeing to stay to minimize the risks. “

The Bayanihan spirit

Although Filipino migrants and seafarers are not unrelated to living in limited spaces with movement restrictions, the current situation poses a series of challenges, among the immediate ones, that of keeping healthy to fight the virus (in this period of the year where the temperature in Manila reaches 34 degrees and it could help to minimize its spread).

In the short term, all centers will find themselves operating to its limits unless they find financial support. “We are currently using the savings – concludes the Scalabrinian missionary – But this crisis is also highlighting one of the best Filipino traits: the” Bayanihan” spirit (of solidarity). I have never seen or experienced this type of solidarity between seafarers and migrants before.”