UCA News

St Marillac’s feast brings joy to Filipino street children

Louisian Foundation gives them food and relief materials in honor of the patron saint of social workers
Street children are seen here getting a drink before receiving food from Louisian Foundation volunteers in Manila
Street children are seen here getting a drink before receiving food from Louisian Foundation volunteers in Manila. (Photo: Libertad Jasmin)
Published: March 16, 2023 06:25 AM GMT
Updated: March 16, 2023 07:31 AM GMT

Thousands of street children flocked to churches in the Philippines on March 15 to receive food and relief materials during the feast of French Saint Louise de Marillac, the patron saint of social workers.

They had received an invitation from the Louisian Foundation that sent more than 1,000 volunteers across the country for the feast of its founder.

Saint De Marillac, who was canonized in 1934, founded the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, a female religious congregation that takes care of poor children. 

“At least I don’t need to buy rice and fish for a few days. This could go on for one or two weeks. It’s more than enough,” Joven Israel, a teenage street dweller from the capital Manila, told UCA News, after receiving the gift.

Israel came up to receive food packs and relief materials from the Catholic foundation to save money.

“We met some of the foundation members. We were shy because we were just living under a bridge. Last week, they informed us about the event today,” said Israel, 17, who has been living under a bridge in Manila for three years after he fled his home in Bohol province in the Visayas region due to an abusive stepfather.

Israel has struggled to survive in the city and begs for food, since he has no relatives in Manila.

“At first I worked as a helper in a banana store. But the owner asked me to work until late in the evening with little pay,” he said.

“They [the owners] knew I had no family here and that I had run away from home … so they took advantage of that fact,” Israel added.

Other children also voiced their appreciation of the aid. 

“I knew that a group would be giving food today. I didn’t know them but I am here because I need food and whatever they could give me,” Anthony Magtibay, 15, who is living inside abandoned jeepneys in Quezon City, a suburb in the northeast of the capital, said.

Jeepney's are a kind of minibus and the most popular form of public transport.

“The [jeepneys] are our home. We’re always out because my father drives his own jeepney. It’s our most valuable possession,” he said.

Magtibay did not join his father on March 15 because he saw the announcement of food distribution in a nearby parish. Many parishes opened their kitchens to cook for the event.

“Participants are welcome to cook here. In fact, here in the parish, we are willing to donate ingredients so that street children can have a decent meal,” Quezon City priest Father Rowan Rebustillo told UCA News on March 14.

“Our members and volunteers also brought food from their homes to feed the children,” Tess Matula, secretary of the Louisian Foundation, told UCA News.

According to media reports, there are more than 250,000 homeless street children among 4.5 million homeless people in the Southeast Asian nation which has a population of 110 million. 

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