10 Nov Whatsoever you do to the least of My brothers, this you do unto Me.

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priest

JUAN SAYS: This is not exclusive to the members of the clergy, though we too wish that there were more priests and pastors like him. Instead of using the age old tactic of scaring people, why not extend a hand, give hope and love. Though we do NOT condone the promiscuous behavior of people, our hearts go out to those who have no choice but to sell their bodies to any takers, so they can put food in their mouths. Our hearts bleed for those who succumb to drug addiction just to forget their problems. While we may all be tempted to say: “there is hope,” to some people there is none, until you show them that there is one. The key word here is SHOW, not SAY. It is not enough for us just to talk about it, let us take it a step further. It’s Christmas – the birthday of a SAVIOR. Let’s do a little saving too.

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Facebook post by Ana P. Santos
Photo by Veejay Villafranca

Cebu, Philippines — Bro. Paul, SVD doesn’t get much sleep. He spends most nights walking the streets of Cebu with a plastic box tucked under his arm and a sling bag over his shoulder.

He goes into the dark corners of the slums, talking to the residents. They tell him they have a cough, have a headache or aching joints and he hands them a neatly tied plastic bundle of paracetamol from his pillbox.

Under the light of street corners, he reaches out for his slingbag to give out condoms and lubricant to sex workers.

This task takes up most of the evening as Bro. Paul stops to talk to the residents, the sex workers and drug users. He listens to them, intently, patiently and without judgment. Sometimes, someone will ask him about getting an HIV test and Bro. Paul will set a time and date to accompany them to the Cebu City Health Office to get a test.

“In Biblical times, this was considered a sin,” he chuckles, referring to the time he spends with those who call the streets and the slums their home. “But I think our mission to help the poor and marginalized is just words unless we put action behind it.”

Sometimes, Bro. Paul will slip a packet of crackers along with the condoms, lubricant or medicine.

“Oh, that’s just extra. To build a deeper relationship with the community.”

Cebu is one of the 6 cities identified by the Department of Health (DOH) has having a potentially uncontrollable HIV epidemic.

Photo by Veejay Rius Villafranca

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Veejay Rius Villafranca and I are reporting from Cebu for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting investigating the intersections of HIV, injecting drug use and sex work.

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