As part of the advocacy on social transformation among the students, support staff, alumni, faculty members, and University partner communities, institutions, and Dominican networks, the UST SIMBAHAYAN Community Development Office (UST SIMBAHAYAN) biannually conducts a Community Service Day.
It is an event rooted in the promotion of environmental sustainability and action with a proactive response to the call of Pope Francis’ in Laudato Si. This year, the Community Service Day titled “Araw ng Paglilingkod sa Panahon ng Paglikha 2020” with the theme “Hubileo Para sa Daigdig: Pagtalab at Pagtugon sa Pagpapanumbalik ng Sangnilikha” was held on National Heroes Day, August 31, in collaboration with the AlerTomas Cluster composed of the the Faculty of Arts and Letters, Faculty of Engineering, College of Science, College of Architecture, Graduate School, and National Service Training Program (NSTP CWTS/LTS), the Dominican Family for Justice, Peace, and Care for Creation – Philippines (DFJPPC), and the Fellowship for the Care of Creation Association Inc. (FCCAI). This also served as the launch of the activities for the Season of Creation that took place starting September 1 until October 11, 2020, Indigenous People’s Sunday. The Season of Creation was introduced by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Permanent Council in 2003 to celebrate the Creation Day and Creation Time in affirmation to the CBCP’s first Pastoral Letter on Ecology and Environment, “What is Happening to Our Beautiful Land.”
This was echoed again in the July 2019 Pastoral Letter, “An Urgent Call for Ecological Conversion, Hope in the Face of Climate Emergency.” According to the Global Catholic Climate Movement – Pilipinas, a global, grass-roots movement of Catholics committed to living out the message of Laudato Si’: On the Care of Our Common Home, “This is a time to allow our common home to rest from our throw-away culture, our addiction to consumption, to unlimited economic growth and to the dirty and deadly fossil fuels. This is a time to create, develop and nurture a new mindset, a paradigm shift anchored in the interconnectedness and interrelatedness of everything.”
Despite the limitations in conducting community development and advocacy activities in compliance with and observance of the safety measures in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UST SIMBAHAYAN remained resilient in its plan to hold the event by shifting to an online engagement through a virtual seminar. The webinar was formally opened by an opening ritual led by Ms. Mylene Saluta of FCCAI. This was followed by the warm opening remarks of the UST SIMBAHAYAN Director Asst. Prof. Froilan Alipao, and the Justice, Peace, and Care for Creation Promoter of the Dominican Philippine Province, Inc., Rev. Fr. Victor C. Calvo, O.P. They both stressed the importance of individual, collective, and institutional efforts as praxis in the care for our common home as humans and the environment are interdependent with each other.
The first speaker was the UST Vice Rector for Religious Affairs Rev. Fr. Pablo T. Tiong, O.P. who discussed the topic Laudato Si: Mula sa Pananaw ng Simbahan at Pananampalataya. His talk highlighted Pope Francis’ second encyclical letter, which is about love and concern for the poor, which must lead to an ecological conversion towards a Christian Normal. The second speaker was Bro. Jaazeal “Tagoy” Jakosalem, OAR with the topic on Laudato Si: Mula sa Perspektibong Pastoral na Pakikisangkot.
His presentation delved on the seven Laudato Si Goals and the suggested responses to these challenges. The event highlighted the structural change in product consumption and every person’s ability to protect the environment. Furthermore, environmental degradation does not stem from marginalized communities or user consumption, but from the capitalist system targeting these potential markets. Aside from the talks, a significant part of the event was the Pledge of Commitment for the Care of Our Common Home led by the Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines Very Rev. Fr. Napoleon B. Sipalay, Jr., O.P. Committing their pledges were UST Vice Rector for Religious Affairs Rev. Fr. Pablo T. Tiong, O.P.; Justice, Peace, and Care for Creation Promoter of the Dominican Philippine Province, Inc., Rev. Fr. Victor C. Calvo, O.P.; Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Fellowship for the Care of Creation Association, Inc., Rev. Fr. Angelito Cortez, OFM; UST SIMBAHAYAN Director Asst. Prof. Froilan A. Alipao, MCD; UST Central Student Council President, Mr. Robert Dominic Gonzales, RPh, and the Samahang Kamanlalakbay President Mrs. Merlita B. De Guzman. An estimate of 220 participated in the webinar from the different academic units and departments of the University, partner communities, institutions, and networks such as the Juan Luna Elementary School, among others, representatives of different religious congregations, and university/school members of Laudato Si Philippines.
The creative publicity material was developed by Mrs. Charmaine Joie Buena-Castillo, RPh, a Facilitator of National Service Training Program (NSTP). The Jubilee of the Season of Creation runs from September until October 11, 2020 as there are upcoming events prepared by the AlerTomas Cluster and the UST SIMBAHAYAN Community Development Office.