By Tracy Cabrera
SINCE the onslaught of the coronavirus global pandemic that has caused not only a health crisis but also impacted on the country’s economy, hunger has become a Damocles sword hanging over the heads of our countrymen—threatening the lives of almost a hundred million Filipinos.
In reaction, the Catholic church has instigated relief operations to assuage the sufferings of poor families across the archipelago and one archdiocese has responded by expanding its long-running mass feeding program for the poor to prevent people from suffering the economic hardships brought by the pandemic.
North of Manila, the Lingayen-Dagupan Archdiocese in Pangasinan said it is looking to increase the number of people on top of the more than 750 people it feeds each day as part of its Rice Porridge for the Poor program, which it launched some three years previously.
Rice porridge, or lugaw in the vernacular, is also known as the ‘poor man’s food’ because it has been proven to be very economical—one cup of rice makes about six cups of porridge, enough to feed six hungry mouths.
During World War II, it became the staple food for most Pinoy families, especially when food was scarce.
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the feeding program has gained in popularity and support among many churchgoers since it was launched in 2017.
“It started in Dagupan City three years ago feeding 750 people daily and has been expanded to 15 parishes now,” he narrated, adding that the program was originally only expected to last until donated rice ran out but churchgoers have continued giving sacks of rice to parishes.
The prelate disclosed enthusiastically that the response had been fantastic since then and the archdiocese has not run out of rice to cook.
However, how many more people the archdiocese can feed will depend on how much rice is donated.
The youth ministry of Mary Help of Christians Parish and the archdiocese’s minor seminary have been helping distribute rice meals to the needy as part of the project’s expansion. The group said in a social media post that it been distributing food for more than two weeks and would continue doing so while they received donations from ‘generous’ hearts.
Churchgoers have praised Archbishop Villegas and the youth ministry for their efforts.
“We thank the archbishop for expanding this project. The pandemic may be a difficult time but it is also an opportunity to be generous to our poor brothers and sisters,” said a parishioner.
“May God bless you all for the good [things] you are doing for the poor. There is indeed a joy in feeding! May God reward you for your generosity,” he concluded.