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‘Running priest’ launches book on parish’s response to pandemic, killings

The book details the challenges brought about by the pandemic and the “horrors of the bloody war on drugs campaign” to the parish

The Philippines’ “running priest” launched this week a book that documents his parish’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the spate of drug-related killings in the country.

Father Robert Reyes, known as the “running priest” for his penchant to run to dramatize his advocacies, launched “Kusina ni Doc Sally: A Community Response to the COVID-19 pandemic” on February 24.

The book details the challenges brought about by the pandemic and the “horrors of the bloody war on drugs campaign” to his parish.

He started documenting and writing in January 2020 when a parishioner was killed.

When the government imposed a lockdown in March 2020 to contain the the pandemic, Father Reyes also documented his community’s response to the health crisis.

“Kusina ni Doc Sally,” or “Doc Sally’s Kitchen,” is the name of the parish’s feeding program for the poor during the lockdown.

It was named after Dr. Sally Gatchalian, a 67-year old expert on pediatric infectious diseases who died of COVID-19 on March 26, 2020.

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Gatchalian was an active lay worker and benefactor of the San Isidro Labrador Parish in the Diocese of Cubao where Father Reyes is parish priest.

“She would come to church every six o’clock in the morning despite her busy schedule as a medical expert,” said Father Reyes.

Days before she died, Gatchalian gave a lecture in the parish on the coronavirus disease and how to respond to it.

Father Reyes later established a feeding program to provide hot meals to people in urban poor communities in the parish.

The priest’s book also chronicled the spate of “extrajudicial killings” in the parish that were allegedly linked to the government’s “war on drugs” campaign.

Father Reyes documented at least 12 parishioners who were killed since January 2020.

“Almost all of them, including their families, were beneficiaries of the feeding program,” said the priest.

The book also provided a glimpse on how the parish survived the impact of the pandemic and how the families of victims of the “drug war” organized themselves to “fight for justice.”

Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao said the book will serve as a “reminder to everyone of how the people of faith responded to the challenges” of the year 2020.

“Nothing is very sure about the future because of this pandemic and yet we know who holds the future,” said the prelate during the book launch.

“It is God and it is important that we go beyond the main concerns of the world, which are passing,” he said.

Bishop Ongtioco described the stories in the book as “inspiring” and “worth considering when people are searching for better meaning in life.”

He said the stories “serve as solid food in feeding the heart and the soul.

“They are good guidelines in building a parish community and in giving birth to a better church,” said the bishop.

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