I woke this morning to hear there had been an order from the Bureau of Immigration about my case. I was surprised as I had thought the process was that I would have 10 days to put in a counter affidavit to answer the charges. It was through the media that I heard of the decision as I or my legal counsel don’t yet have a copy. I am very sad that the decision at present is that I leave the Philippines.
In 1990, when my Congregation was asking for volunteers to come to the Philippines, I eagerly volunteered as I had Filipino friends in Australia. It took a while to become a bit inculturated as things are done differently, but the people in the rural areas where I spent most of my time, were so patient and laughing with me at my mistakes. It was through them that I came to learn some of the basic issues which caused their poverty: lack of their own lands, control of markets, dependence on pesticides.
I stayed with tribal people and learnt how the mountains are their supermarkets and pharmacies, how they were excited to have their own schools which taught sustainable agriculture but also preserved their culture. But also about how large mining and logging corporations as well as plantations were threatening the life and livelihood of these rural people.
As I lived in the city, I came to know the situation of the workers and their lack of job security which is now happening in other countries as well.
As a Christian, believing that our mission is to bring God’s Kingdom to the here and now, I couldn’t help but to get involved both with projects, such as training in organic farming, to uplift the livelihood of the farmers, but also to advocate with them for their rights to land, livelihood, peace, justice and security, all universal human rights which the church sees as integral to her mission. It seems this is what has brought me into conflict with the Philippine Government.
I am still hoping for a chance to explain how I see my mission as a religious sister and maybe the decision can be reconsidered.
Whatever happens, I will be forever grateful to all those Filipinos that I call my friends and for all those from both church and sectors who have supported me through this time. I may lose my right to be in the Philippines but I can never lose the learnings and beautiful memories.