by Clyde Ericson Nolasco
photos from Arko ng Pilipinas Facebook account
In 2012, I met new friends in the person of Ate Lala, Ate Rea, Kuya Jordan, Flor, Benito, JP and Kuya Raymond. They are the “core members” of Arko ng Pilipinas or “Punla” in Cainta, Rizal.
As part of our apostolate and Theology formation, my classmate Job (now Fr. Jober of Krus na Ligas, Cubao) and I would spend our weekends at Punla. Our weekend adventure would start with an hour to two-hour travel from San Carlos Seminary to Cainta; and spend the night in the community.
L'Arche is an international community catering to our brothers and sisters who are intellectually and developmentally challenged. Jean Vanier, a Canadian Catholic philosopher and theologian, along with two friends, put together the first L’Arche house in Trosly, France, over 50 years ago, as a response to seeing that some intellectually handicapped were treated inhumanely in large institutions. Their mission was to promote a community that acknowledges the gifts of each member, regardless of intellectual disabilities.
Arko ng Pilipinas
Today L’Arche is present in 38 countries and 5 continents with 160 communities. It reached Philippine soil in 1988 as L’Arche established two communities in Cainta, Rizal. These communities are called Arko ng Pilipinas or simply “Punla” (seed). They operate as a house for a number of intellectually disabled residents whom they honor as “core members” and as a daycare center for developmentally disabled children in the area.
Every time I was in Punla, my task was to “assist” Kuya Raymond.
Kuya Raymond or Mon-mon was the first core member. He was left in the care of the community by the Missionary Sisters of Charity without any proper document but a piece of paper bearing his name. Even his birthday was unidentified. However, a case study report says that he was born in 1976 although a media certification says 1972.
Kuya Mon-mon has severe autism. He cannot talk but would make sounds and noises to communicate and express his emotions. He is functional but needs assistance in taking a bath and getting dressed. He can eat on his own but his food must be cut into small pieces before serving to him.
Yet in spite of his incapabilities, Kuya Mon-mon is the community's “welcoming committee.” Also, he is very dependable with house chores. He is in-charge of putting away all the empty plates and cleaning the dinner table after meals.
Kuya Mon-mon is older than me but he is very transparent and would throw a tantrum when hungry and smile or laugh when very happy. Nevertheless, his disposition inspires the people around him to be grateful even for the littlest blessings.
With Punla’s 35th anniversary, there are a lot of stories to tell and to share, especially those that will remind us that persons with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities are also blessed.
Arko will be having a benefit concert featuring Simeona F. Chanyungco Lahing Kayumanggi Mananayaw ng Marikina at the Hotel Resort & Main Event Hall Le Blanc Hotel in Antipolo City on May 13 at 5pm.
Please support Arko! You can make a donation or simply buy a ticket and watch the show or even visit the community. I have seen how the community helps the lives of those with disabilities. Your support will go a long way!
For donations or inquiries, visit the Facebook account of Arko ng Pilipinas.