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Love and compassion on the streets of Central

HONG KONG (Mabuhay) : In 2007, a handful of migrant workers made a decision to reach out to their compatriots in Hong Kong who had been diagnosed with cancer.

Inspired by two people who were living with the illness, the little group saw how much a migrant worker is isolated from their basic family support group, which makes a diagnosis of cancer an even more frightening prospect, as it may have to be faced alone, in isolation.

They started a group called Buhay Ka (Walking with Dignity) and set about learning how to accompany migrant workers suffering from cancer in a constructive manner.

Beginning as a street movement, the members of Buhay Ka undertook to accompany cancer patients; to be with them whenever possible at medical appointments, the Immigration Department and in hospital, as well as pray with them and assist with family communication where needed.

They sought help from professional groups for guidance on constructive ways to accompany people with a life-threatening illness and gradually, as it built up its expertise and more people began requesting help, volunteers came forward and it developed from a street-based movement to a highly sophisticated organisation.

This brought many necessary changes to the organisation of the group, but talented leaders stepped forward and accepted the challenge. They saw the need for change and began with a new and more recognisable name.

And so FILMCASS (Filipino Migrant Cancer Support Society) was born.

On October 11, the group held its annual street concert in Chater Road, Central, a celebration not of cancer, but of life.

As a large crowd gathered, the two emcees for the afternoon, Noreen Bricia and Janice Valencia, introduced the cancer survivors who are still living in Hong Kong. They came to the group, first for support, and then stayed on as care givers.

Their continued health was prayed for and their struggle acknowledged. Several of them later took part in energetic dances, demonstrating that there really can be life after cancer.

Later in the afternoon the gathering acknowledged those who have succumbed in their fight against cancer, as people stood in front of a memorial banner dedicated to their memory.

The memorial stood in centre stage, serving as the backdrop to an afternoon of fun and frolic, reflection and prayer, and recommitment to keep on learning.

The spiritual adviser to the group, Sister Vicky Ramos, told the gathering, “We are not caring for cancer, but we should all be aware that life is a gift from God to be cared for.”

She explained that as the group has developed, while its focus has not moved away from caring for the cancer-affected, it has developed a strong emphasis on promoting overall wellness.

“We come here today for well-being,” Sister Ramos said, “recommending a healthy life without stress.”

She then acknowledged guests from the University of Hong Kong who had recently hosted the FILMCASS group for six talks on how to maintain good overall health in daily life, at a programme jointly sponsored by the university and the Philippine Consulate General.

The hosting group operates under the name of Service 100 and intends to make the six-talk course available to all migrant workers in Hong Kong in the future.

The objective of FILMCASS to create an awareness that life is precious is shared by the organisers of Service 100. Sister Ramos said that it stresses that you may be alive, but you can always be more alive.

Sister Ramos called on the gathering of friends and supporters to give witness to that value, which is reflected in the dedication the care givers show in accompanying the sick and promoting healthy life-styles.

She then invited Jenny Stocksen, who leads Yoga sessions at regular meetings of FILMCASS, to introduce a simple, but effective, technique that can help remove the stress of daily life from the body.

“Make a pause. Do an exercise. Feel the heart. Feel the love and compassion,” she said. “Inhale and exhale breathe, and make sure it all comes out to leave room for the next breath to come in.”

She called these simple exercises in self-awareness that can help us to be at peace both with life and with death. 

“And we all know that we have to die one day,” she commented.

Guests for the afternoon included Michael Magtoto Manio, a doctor from the University of Hong Kong Medical Faculty; the Philippine consul general, Bernardita Catalla; the chaplain to Filipinos in Hong Kong, Father Jay Flandez; and several families that are regular supporters of FILMCASS.

The strong point of the afternoon was the presence of a number of groups that continually offer support to the group; the members of El Shaddai, CARD OFW Hong Kong financial literacy group and parish based communities.

FILMCASS has been able to become a family substitute because of the solidarity of its members, which is achieved through the constant awareness of self-growth and learning, and continually looking outwards to see where it can contribute to the welfare of others.


For more information on

9228 6054 Gemma Solomon
6165 0171 Sister Vicky Ramos


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