Tondo church gives hope in the time of COVID-19
It started with scavengers at the infamous Smokey Mountain in Tondo putting up a modest makeshift chapel of only around 100 square meters--a mere part of an unfinished structure that provided a roof to a livelihood facility. That time the chapel could only accommodate 60 worshippers, out of the 2,500 households or some 25,000 individual residents of the Parish of the Risen Christ. The parish at the dumpsite was established on 27 March 1989 through the proclamation of then Manila Archbishop Cardinal Sin, upon the request of Rev. Fr. Cornelio Alpuerto of the Societas Verbi Divini (SVD, or the Divine Word Missionaries). “Kristo Basurero” Neither the thick and suffocating dark smoke which usually engulfs the church nor a swarm of flies pestering the area prevented it from functioning as a house of prayer - holding regular ceremonies like baptisms, confirmations, weddings, catechism classes, retreats, recollections, and bible studies. The altar of the Risen Christ with an image of Jesus rising from decaying garbage in triumph, depicting the parishioners’ aspiration to rise from their wretched situation. Scavengers fondly refer to the image as “Kristo Basurero.” In a bid to address their basic needs, especially health and education, the parishioners formed several organizations with the church at the fulcrum and common faith as the driving force. But the situation would change when businessman Reghis Romero II took on the challenge of building a medium-rise residential condominium complex atop an unstable ground of methane-emitting and leachate-contaminated muddy soil, now known as the Smokey Mountain Development and Reclamation Project (SMDRP). As fate would have it, Romero of R-II Builders and parish priest Fr. Ben Beltran crossed paths at the National Housing Authority. Beltran was then seeking for an onsite housing project at the Smokey Mountain while Romero was in the lookout for an opportunity to rid Manila of the eyesore dump.