‘Season of Creation’
The “Season of Creation” campaign of the Archdiocese of Manila is well named. Similar campaigns are held in many countries as a celebration of the Earth during the month of September. In the Philippines, it will run on Sept. 1-Oct. 5, with the aim of encouraging Filipino Catholics to be “more proactive in protecting and preserving the environment.” Celebrations of the Mass, such as the opening Mass to be officiated by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, will be joined with an information campaign on pressing environmental problems throughout the archdiocese’s many parishes and communities.
The archdiocese embarked on this laudable campaign last year, when the Season of Creation stretched out over six weeks, with each Sunday celebrating a specific element of nature: fire, water, air, earth, “halaman” (plants) and “tao” (humans). In an interview then with the Church-run Radio Veritas, Tagle cited the importance of what the archdiocese was trying to do: “I am hopeful that through our environment-centered programs and catechesis, the faithful in our parishes, schools and communities will be moved to action in protecting and caring for nature. I also hope they join us in encouraging others to do the same as stewards of God’s creation.”
The Catholic Church in the Philippines may sometimes seem to be caught up too deeply in the ceremonies and not enough in the applications of the faith. But its Season of Creation shows that religion can be a powerful force in the protection of the environment. Last year, the Archdiocese of Manila made its voice heard against the continued operation of the oil depots in Pandacan. In a statement issued in July, the archdiocese noted the existing threat on the wellbeing of Pandacan residents as well as the lackadaisical attitude of City Hall, regardless of who is in power, especially after it was revealed that one company had released thousands of liters of bunker oil into the Pasig River, sending up fumes that required hospital treatment for some residents. “[We] are concerned that the national and local government units only act when actual oil spills occur,” the archdiocese said. “It is sad that action is only taken when damage has been done. What good governance urges are preventive action, sanction to the damaging company and, more importantly, a pro-people, pro-poor development plan for the 33-hectare [area] once the oil depots relocate.”
One doesn’t have to be of the Catholic faith to take part in this campaign to focus on the Philippines’ “key ecological issues.” The problems faced by our environment are plain to see—government neglect, uneven (or nonexistent) implementation of pertinent laws, the people’s failure to appreciate their role as Earth’s stewards.
The archdiocese’s hopeful step forward is crucial because of how difficult the task of protecting and preserving our natural treasures has become. The dangers faced by our natural wealth are legion. Within the archdiocese’s territory, the once iconic Manila Bay continues to deteriorate despite the Supreme Court’s landmark 2008 ruling requiring 13 government agencies to remove trash and pollutants from the bay. According to a Manila official,
86 percent of some 14 million households still have their wastewater pumped directly into the bay. Just this month in Cagayan, evidence was found that 10,000 board feet of hardwood had been illegally cut in the protected area that is Palaui Island. Deforestation is a constant scourge in our rainforests.
Meanwhile, silted and blocked rivers and other waterways result in flooding in the lowlands and the endangerment of certain species that are forced out of their natural habitat. Many rivers that used to flow vigorously, such as Cebu’s Butuanon River, have virtually come to a halt. Sometimes, development itself is the problem. This is the experience of the folk of Benguet, where a road project is damaging a forest in Tuba and various government projects are leading to the possible ruin of the ecological sanctuary that is Mount Pulag. Endangered species are being pushed to the brink of extinction.
The Season of Creation is for everyone, regardless of faith, creed or code, to save our environment and ultimately ourselves.