SINGAPORE – A Canossian Lay Missionary Group from Singapore visited and ministered to the poor in Manila’s Tondo’s slum during a five-day misson tour last July. They stayed at the Canossians’ Tondo Convent.
At the infamous "Smokey Mountain" where dozens of people, including children, clamber over the rubbish dump to forage for plastic bottles, metal and paper to sell, dwellers live in abject poverty and sleep in cardboard structures.
One such slum was called Happy Land. The Singaporeans wondered what happiness could be derived from this kind of lifestyle. But as they waded past cluttered alleys and hopped across dirty drains, they encountered happy faces and greetings of "welcome to Happy Land, po" (‘po’ is used as a term of respect).
At Senden Home, a home for street children, smiling orphans and kids from broken families dressed in oversized t-shirts and slippers that had seen better days, were overjoyed when they were brought to eat at a fast-food restaurant and to buy slippers. That was the first time they could choose a pair of slippers for themselves.
Shanty towns, homeless kids, parentless children – the Singaporeans learnt much: to laugh, share and be contented. As is the Canossian Lay Missionary paradigm: "whatever you do to the least, you do to me", the Singaporean missionaries saw a naked and hungry Jesus in them. More impassioned than before, they will continue sending clothes, shoes, bags and books to the poor in Manila.