By Rudy M. Viernes
The Hospicio de San Jose in Manila is a Catholic charitable institution, managed since 1865 by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. It is the foster home of orphans, children and adolescents abandoned or surrendered by their parents due to poverty. Some of these children have special needs. There are also elderly residents with nowhere to stay. At present there are nearly 300 residents to be fed and cared for, a monumental task the Sisters are undergoing daily, a consummate and enduring act indeed for such a long period of time.
There is a Crisis Center that caters to all types of clients in crisis situations – pregnant single mothers, street families, vagrants, victims of abuse and violence, and those displaced by natural disasters and calamities.
In the past there were newborn infants abandoned by their anonymous parents, especially at night, at the legendary “Turning Cradle” at the gate of Hospicio. This was discontinued because of the emphasis placed on the need for mothers/parents to surrender their children personally in order to facilitate the speedy process of finding alternative families for them. So the parents, especially the mothers, directly surrender their babies to Hospicio and sign a Deed of Voluntary Commitment which means that the child is being surrendered to the care of Hospicio de San Jose.
In some cases babies born in hospitals abandoned by the mother after birth were turned over to Hospicio by the social worker of the said hospital. Other children are admitted for temporary shelter only which normally lasts for half a year or a year. But most often this arrangement is extended when the mother could not afford to have her child back because of extreme penury.
Other residents are for long-term care. This is brought about when the mother brings her child to Hospicio to be safe from harm’s way from an abusive step-father, and there are many of such cases. In this situation they stay at Hospicio where they are brought up and provided with education so that they may have a brighter future after which they can be released or are old enough to fend for themselves. This is the case of a young girl this writer is helping for her education in partnership with a group he calls Magnificent 15 whose members are willing to be part of a worthy cause.
As earlier stated Hospicio de San Jose is a charitable institution that operates through the benevolence of people with kind hearts. Indeed it needs outside help in order to continue its philanthropic commitment to provide residents their very basic needs. Or it needs sponsors for the education of children of school age, or children with acute physical and mental infirmities who are harder to take care of and whose stay at the institution is fore life.
Hospicio is celebrating its bicentennial this year (1810-2010!). The celebration has for its theme: “Hospicio de San Jose Celebrates 200 Years of Witnessing to Charity and Mission…Nurturing Hope.” It started last Dec. 28, 2009 with a grand motorcade through the streets of Manila with Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim in the entourage, and the laying down of a marker where Hospicio had its beginnings.
Last March 13, 2010 benefactors were honored during a “Tribute to Our Benefactors” night held in honor of St, Joseph, its patron saint. The personnel, children and elderly presented a two-hour show entitled “Pasinaya: Hospico de San Jose Through the Years” consisting of plays, songs and dances from the Spanish era to contemporary times. (Pasinaya means tribute).
A “Cradle of Hope” coffee-table book was prepared that includes Hospicio’s history and 101 testimonies from “adoptee” and “alumni” all over the world, some of them have already families of their own.
Mr. Taj Hamad, Sec.-Gen. of the World Association of Non-Government Organizations arrived from New York on time to present the prestigious WANGO award to the Sisters for Services to Humanity. He lauded Hospicio for performing such laudatory and heroic acts of the Daughters of Charity to the helpless, hopeless, homeless and those in abject circumstances who are no less God’s children for such a very long period of time.
Sr. Maria Socorro Evidente of the Daughters of Charity and the Administrator is inviting Hospicio alumni and adoptee in the United States and elsewhere, and there are thousands of them, to go home and visit their “roots” during this bicentennial year which ends in December 2010.
During last year’s back-to-back flood that devastated the Metro-Manila area Hospicio was not spared. It is located at a small islet in the middle of the Pasig River at the fringe of the Ayala Bridge in Quiapo. . The entire first floor was inundated. You can just imagine the material havoc (appliances, furniture’s, books, etc.) the deluge had wrought. Thank God no life was lost because of the timely evacuation of all the residents to the second and third floors of the main building.
If there are kind souls out there who like to be benefactors or collaborators of a philanthropic cause they can email Sr. Maria Socorro Evidente at firstname.lastname@example.org who will give them Hospicio’s bank account number, or call her in Manila at 734-2367/68 and 734-9184 (dial first 011632 then the number), Fax No. 734-2366, or send your cheques to this address: Hospicio de San Jose, Ayala Bridge, Quiapo, Manila, 1099.
When we radiate light that makes a difference in the life of others I remember the golden nugget which says: “It’s only when you share your life with others that life begins to have meaning and purpose, the time you touch others is the time you really live.