Vincentian Father Danny Pilario is seen here with parishioners at the St. Vincent School of Theology. (Photo supplied)
A Catholic priest has shared his reflections on how the poor and the Philippine government are dealing with the pandemic after testing positive for coronavirus while conducting relief operations with his religious order.
Vincentian Father Danny Pilario said on social media on Sept. 3 that he had finished a 14-day quarantine in a seminary in Quezon City after testing positive for the virus.
Father Pilario spearheads Vincent Helps, a relief operation that gives food packs and groceries to slum-dwellers who eke a living by scavenging through Manila’s garbage.
“Like all patients, I had to be quarantined for 14 days, maybe more since it took time for the swab results to come. The isolation can be boring. People were afraid of me,” said Father Pilario in a social media post.
Father Pilario said that although he was alone, he considered himself privileged for not being lonely.
“Someone cooked for me and brought food to my room … but how many isolated and [poor people] have to handle it alone without families? How many do not even have windows or balconies to look beyond? They keep trembling without knowing what is going to happen to themselves the next day … This sense of insecurity inflicts endless pain which no word of assurance or therapy can heal,” he said.
The priest also recalled an encounter with a scavenger while conducting relief work on the streets of Manila who risked all to find food for the table.
“He told me: ‘I do not mind contracting Covid … What I would not be able to take is to see my children die of hunger,'” Father Pilario added.
Father Pilario also recalled a group of volunteers who helped in the distribution of food packs and fish in slums during the Vincent Helps relief operations.
“This courageous group of women leaders … who have risked their lives and safety to distribute rice, milk, vegetables and fish to their neighbors for six months now since the lockdown,” he said.
Father Pilario said he took comfort in the words his nurse said during his confinement.
“What brought me to my senses was a young nurse who did the swab test on me … I asked her: ‘Are you not afraid of being contaminated?' She said: ‘It is my duty to do this. So here I am.'”
While resilience was admirable, Father Pilario lamented that “politics of fear” has led many to “thoughtless impositions to the point of being inhuman.”
“Government protocols enhance this fear. A violent military presence reinforces it. We are in a state of war. Obey or you die,” the priest said.
“We see a government that does not give assurances at all. All we hear are endless recorded ramblings, cuss-words and dirty fingers at midnight; deep corruption in the health department; senseless bills being filed in Congress; the closing of a local media company. All these are happening while Covid cases are rising and hospitals are closing.”