Sweet potatoes, broccoli, and carrots have filled the church of Christ the King (CTK) Parish in Project 7, Quezon City.
This has been the usual sight in the church since the month of April when Fr. Ronnie Santos started selling vegetables in his parish.
Fr. Santos, the parish priest of CTK-Proj. 7 and Director of the Social Services and Development Ministry (SSDM) of the Diocese of Cubao have been thinking of ideas on how the church can continue serving the poor and at the same time sustain its expenses during the crisis brought about by the Corona Virus pandemic.
When the National Government of the Philippines declared a total lockdown last March 15, 2020, the SSDM led by Fr. Santos immediately helped poor families who could not afford to store food.
As the weeks passed, the SSDM team continued with the relief operations until they were slowly running out of resources.
With the help of a priest friend and the Religious of the Virgin Mary, Fr. Santos came up with the idea of selling vegetables. He called this project “Oh My Gulay.”
Once a week, farmers from Nueva Vizcaya deliver 5,000 kilos of vegetables to be sold at the CTK Parish-Proj.7.
At first, Fr. Santos was very apprehensive about how things will work out, but fortunately, they are now earning well and they use the money to continue the distribution of relief to poor families.
“Lakasan ng loob! Nakaya naman at maganda yung programa kasi tinututulungan natin ang magsasaka.At the same time yung mga middle class natutulungan din sila kasi mura lang yung gulay. Then, yung proceeds naman nito sa charity napupunta– sa ating social service,” Fr. Santos said over the interview with Cubao Media.
According to the priest, the “Oh My Gulay” project has also revived the Bayanihan Spirit in their community.
Some who buy vegetables intentionally give more than what they have to pay as a form of support for the ministry.
Moreover, the urban poor families no longer receive noodles and canned goods as a relief because Fr. Santos has replaced these with monggo, patatas, and sayote.
“Nakakabili tayo every operation ng 30 sacks of rice, plus yung natitirang gulay ay ni-re-repack natin para sa pang relief na rin natin… Yun yung isa sa magandang nangyayari dito. Nagkakaroon ng malasakit yung mga bumibili… parang bayanihan.”
Unlike the Scripture passage of the Cleansing of the Temple wherein the church was turned into a marketplace, Father Santos explained that what they are doing is turning the marketplace into a church by forming a caring community.
Instead of taking advantage of the consumers, their goal is to help everyone by selling the produce at a cheap price and using the income to help the needy.
“Si Hesus sinabi niya na huwag n’yong gawing palengke ang simbahan kasi yung mga maralita na mag-aalay sa templo, tinutubuan nila. Niloloko nila. Sa atin, hindi natin niloloko ang maralita, tinutulungan natin, and ang nagiging prinsipyo ngayon, tama wag mong gawing palengke ang simbahan pero ginagawa nating simbahan ang palengke, bumababa tayo sa mga tao at bumubuo ng community.”
Aside from “Oh My Gulay”, Fr. Santos also sells fish that he gets from the Navotas port. He calls this program, “Fish be with you.”
He added that even if the Extreme Community Quarantine will be lifted, the SSDM and CTK Parish will do their best to continue these projects that are helping the poor.