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Creating Laudato Si Families through Eradicating Plastic Pollution

By Fr. Antonio “Beng-Beng” Molavin, SDB

       Makati, Metro manila, The Philippines, 31 August 2021 -- The rector of San Ildefonso Parish-Makati, Philippines, Fr. Antonio “Beng-Beng” Molavin,SDB shares his personal experience working with Plastic Bank and the communal commitment of the parish community towards ecological sustainability.

       For the past 2 or 3 years, our parish had adopted a battle cry or slogan which goes like this. I shout out: “Taga San Ildefonso”. And everybody answers: “Santo, Misyonero, Tagapangalaga ng Kalikasan”. (Those belonging to the parish of San Ildefonso strive to be saints, missionaries and carers of nature), concluding it with a loud “Whooooo.” I just thought that is what we should be striving for in this time of the Church. The Church has the mandate of continuing the work of Christ as priest, prophet and king. It is bringing salvation through evangelization and the promotion of the good of all. The popes of every given time emphasized certain aspects which he sees necessary during the time they are leading the church. One of the most important writings of Pope Francis is “Laudato Si” on the need to care for mother earth. He has also dedicated 2021-2027 as years of serious study and implementation of his teaching in this matter.

       As we were shouting out our slogan for the past years, I really did not have any idea of how to put this in reality. Here we put care for the earth (tagapangalaga ng kalikasan) as one of the 3 priorities of our parish together with holiness (santo) and evangelization (misyonero). We tried different approaches as tree planting, urban gardening, segregation of trash, etc. But it was not working or so hard to get the cooperation of all. There would be an interested group but it was hard to bring to the grassroots or something even the most ordinary people even kids can do.

       This year our parish was chosen by the Ecological Ministry of the Archdiocese of Manila to be the first parish in the Philippines to partner with PLASTIC BANK PHILIPPINES (visit their website for more info). It is an international NGO endorsed by the Ecological Ministry of Vatican and of the Archdiocese of Manila. Their concept is to recycle all types of plastic. I believe it is not anymore practical to eliminate plastic but what we can do is MANAGE IT. I believe our partnership with the Archdiocese of Manila Ecology Ministry and Plastic Bank was answered prayer. If we take seriously the problem of plastic pollution and give it an effective solution, we would have solved a big problem of ecology.

       Despite the pandemic, we were able to get the involvement of many people. We brought the project first of all to the Basic Ecclesial Communities which adopted plastic recovery as their main project during this time of pandemic. After disseminating the concept, we started going house to house. The households interested are instructed to wash the plastic with soap using the soap water they used to wash their clothes before throwing away the water. They are to rinse the plastic after rinsing their clothes before throwing the water used in rinsing. Then they are to dry the plastic as they dry their clothes. We then go around collecting the plastic, making sure they are clean and dry. At the start we had to reject some of them. But they learned fast and practically all the plastic brought to us is really clean and dry.

       All these steps create an ECOLOGICAL CONVERSION which I experienced personally. I collect all the plastic used in the convent kitchen and do as the above. Even when I go for retreat or meetings elsewhere, I make sure I wash and dry the plastic I use like sachet of coffee, tea or junk food, containers of Yakult or Yogurt and the like. Even eating out in McDonald or Jollibee, I would bring along any plastic container I would have used personally. I even encourage the others to do the same and give me their plastics which I bring home. I teach them too to clean them before giving them to me. We have a weekly community pantry giving goods to 200 poorest families of the community. We ask them to contribute plastics which should be clean and dry. We have a festive and daily oratory. We encourage the youth to bring to the oratory every time they come here whatever plastic they have at home instead of throwing them in the trash. I see taking plastic seriously can involve everybody even the smallest kid to the oldest grandparent, from the richest to the poorest, from the learned to the out of school. Yes everybody and it can be done everyday. I cannot see anything which can involve more people than solving the problem of plastic.

       I see the proper management of plastic as a practical way of starting a real ecological conversion. From there people especially the young become interested in other ways of taking care of the earth. As part of our five-year plan (2021-2026), we hope to raise 500 families who will work together to put a solution to the problem of plastic in our parish and be an example to other parishes. We hope to raise at least 75 “Laudato Si Families” in our parish and that our parish will be an accredited “Laudato Si Parish” within 5 years. These are among the 8 goals of our parish which is celebrating 70 years of its establishment in preparation of its 75 years anniversary.





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