We were very fortunate to have Father Edu Gariguez speak to us at CAFOD’ HQ in London on the 11 July. Since 2010 Father Edu has been the Executive Secretary of NASSA, National Secretariat for Social Action, which is part of Caritas Philippines.
Fr Edu said, “CAFOD is a major partner in our rehabilitation programme for communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The first part was relief and meeting immediate needs such as food. We have completed the first year of the recovery and rehabilitation programme. Now we are focusing on shelter reconstruction and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene).” CAFOD is very involved in WASH. We work with Raphael Mutiku, CAFOD’s Emergency Programme Officer for WASH in the Philippines, who is our advisor. The programme is also for livelihoods and disaster risk reduction – it is a holistic programme. It will continue, but now we are more focused on empowerment and capacity building and moving into the arena of sustainability. There are really three areas for the programme:
- Building resilience
- Sustaining it
- The more transformative part of it, where we transition into development
How did you get involved in this kind of work?
Since studying at pre-school, I have been involved in campaigns. When I was a seminarian I was already involved in the issues of the poor and campaigning for the environment.
When I was ordained I requested to work and live with indigenous communities. Many mining companies threaten the livelihoods of the indigenous people as they are farmers. The damage is so great – I knew I had to campaign and I have since campaigned nationally and internationally against extractives.
I guess I am not the usual kind of priest. I am involved in protest movements, organising mobilisation and campaigns – but I also give mass!
Can you share an example of one of these acts of campaigning or protest?
I was given the Goldman Environmental Prize for being a grassroots environmentalist. We did a hunger strike against a government agency when the mining company had been given the go-ahead. I was one of the leaders of this hunger strike. It was a long struggle – and we won! We succeeded in stopping this mining company in our region. But really it is the people’s victory, I just happened to be part of the movement.
How do you find the differences between your work campaigning and your work on the rehabilitation programme?
Rehabilitation is also really challenging, but you see concrete examples of your work having an impact so it is more immediately rewarding. In campaigns the work is long. Even now we are still “waging war” against mining companies, but it is always gratifying and rewarding to see your results. The programmes I such a big project so we also need to manage and provide leadership, which is another level. But I’m learning! I’m happy to learn and I love challenges.
I do all of this because it is very clear to me that I am in the service of the people.
What do you wish to see for your region in five years’ time?
We are already trying to project what would be best for the communities in the years to come. We want to see the programme we started sustained. It should not only be dependent on the availability of funds. This is an opportunity to empower the people and strengthen the organisation and institution. Resilience is the long term goal for these communities.
We finished the day with mass. Everyone found the day very inspiring and energising.