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Care for Our Common Home: Cagayan de Oro

Abp. Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ

Pastoral Companion


POPE Francis’ recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, enjoins all of us to care for our common home, the earth. More directly, we are also challenged to care for our common home, the city of Cagayan de Oro. During fiesta time, we celebrate the gift of family, renew friendships, and strengthen the bonds of community.

During the time of Typhoon Sendong, affecting the entire city, we showed how we could all work together to help dislocated families who lost their houses and loved ones. A home is not only a house where a family lives; a home is built by the love that is shared by all members of the family. So, too, with our community; our “City of Golden Friendship” is built by the spirit of solidarity and concern for the common good.  It is in this light that we can look at three challenges confronting our “common home” mentioned in Pope Francis’ encyclical.

Lately, a People’s Council of concerned citizens, including residents of affected subdivisions, have voiced their concerns on the problem of pollution coming from the city’s basurahan. The garbage dumpsite poses an immediate threat to the health of people living in nearby housing areas. There has been a persistent clamor for a sanitary land fill and for solid waste management practices. The goals of zero waste can be achieved through reducing, recycling, and reusing waste materials.

Last week, together with several ministry workers of the Archdiocese, I visited the J.R. Borja City Hospital upon the invitation by its administrator, Dr. Ramon M. Nery.  We were glad to see the marked improvements not only in the physical structures, but more so in the hospital management’s policies of accommodating the needs of all indigent families.  However, we were told that the foul odor from the basurahan could be noticed in the afternoons whenever the wind direction changes towards the hospital.

Clearly, the city’s garbage issue can be solved if the city’s executive and legislative officials can work together and go beyond partisan politics for the sake of the common good.  But it is also a challenge for all of us, to do our part in making sure that our surroundings are clean and hospitable.

A second challenge mentioned in Pope Francis’ encyclical is the issue of water. There are a number of housing areas, including Typhoon Sendong relocation sites, that still do not have regular access to clean drinking water.  nd yet, as Pope Francis remarks, “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.” (LS, 30)

Water scarcity may be a constant problem in some areas of the city.  On the other hand, too much water in times of heavy rains can severely threaten the city, as what happened during Typhoon Sendong.  Hence there is the call for watershed protection which extends to the upland area of north-western Bukidnon.

Since 2010, we have formed a Cagayan de Oro River Basin Management Council (CDORBMC), of which I am co-chair together with the regional directors of DENR and DILG and the city mayor. As a multi-sectoral group involving government agencies, LGUs, academe, business, NGOs, and church communities, the Council has undertaken the tasks of rehabilitation of watershed areas, mobilization of local government units, community development, and resource management.

The ongoing fluvial procession as we celebrate this Mass is not only a way of honoring our patron, San Agustin, and his mother, Sta. Monica, but also our Birhen sa Kota sa Cagayan de Oro (Our Lady of the Fort of Cagayan de Oro).  Her protective image on the river should remind us that she is also our Birhen sa Kinaiyahan (Our Lady of the Environment). Here again, all of us are asked to do our share in protecting and conserving the environment by such practices as tree-growing, proper waste management, etc.

Pope Francis’ encyclical stresses that environmental ecology is closely linked to an “ecology of man.” Our relationship to the environment stems from our relationship to one another. This then is the third challenge we face: the peace and dis-order in our society.

Over the past two weeks, in our city, we heard about the senseless killings of two young persons—14-year old Stacey Villar on Aug. 13, and 9-year old Cairistian “CJ” Balguin on Aug. 21.  These two innocent persons were killed by perpetrators who were allegedly high on drugs.  The problem of drug-trafficking is another form of pervasive pollution that threatens the well-being of our residents, whether in guarded subdivisions or in slum areas. The majority of city jail inmates, we are told, are there for crimes related ultimately to drug addiction.  Once more, we appeal not only to law-enforcing authorities but to all of us to be vigilant in detecting and reporting instances of drug trafficking.

On a larger scale, the peace process in Mindanao needs our understanding of its historical context and a re-examination of our biases and prejudices. Notwithstanding several changes being introduced in Congress to the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, ultimately the crafting of a meaningful BBL accepted by both sides still offers the best chances of winning a just and lasting peace for Mindanao.  We are all stakeholders in this process.

Pope Francis points out the need for an Integral Ecology – that encompasses Environmental and Social Ecology. Our three concerns over Pollution, Water, and Peace bring out this interconnectedness of all living creatures with Mother Earth.

Highlighting this interconnectedness and as a response to Laudato Si’, the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro launched a Season of Creation, starting this Aug. 28 until Oct. 7, 2015, the Feast of our Birhen sa Kota—Our Lady of the Rosary. The six Sundays of this season will focus on various themes related to our care of the environment and our human society.  May our City of Man follow closely the vision of St. Augustine’s City of God.

(A homily of Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J. delivered at the Feast of St. Augustine, Metropolitan Cathedral, Cagayan de Oro, 28 August 2015)

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