CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Celebrating cancer awareness

HONG KONG (SE): “This is how we celebrate cancer awareness,” Janice Andeza told an eager crowd gathering around a banner proclaiming Cancer Survived is a Life Revived in Chater Road on November 13 for the annual FILMCASS (Filipino Migrant Cancer Support Society) Concert.

FILMCASS is a volunteer organisation made up of migrant workers, which reaches out to those who are suffering from cancer or have relatives affected by the disease.

The organisation began under the name of Buhay Ka in 2007 as a response to the need of migrant workers who are diagnosed with cancer or a life threatening illness for someone to fill the vacuum that would normally be occupied by their families.

Migrants are alone in Hong Kong, often with no one to help and guide them in times of sickness or do the small chores, which at a time of good health can be taken in your stride, but in sickness can become a terrible burden or even impossible.

The dedication of the 65 volunteers that gather around those who are ill make up the active membership of FILMCASS, but as they are acutely aware, it is difficult to go it alone and the witness of the group has inspired over 50 individuals or group benefactors to generously and enthusiastically support their work.

The group has worked hard to not only be available to people, but to study how to accompany them effectively and respond to their real needs.

It has received support in this, especially in the early days, from the Catholic Nurses Guild and more recently from Michael Manio, a doctor currently working at the University of Hong Kong, and a variety of other people.

The presence at the afternoon concert of vice consul, Robert Quintin, and representatives from the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration and the welfare attaché reflected the importance that the diplomatic corps places on its mission.

The two emcees, Andeza and Noreen Bricia, drew the attention of the gathering to a large banner decorated with pink balloons proclaiming Concert for Cancer Society 2016 and Cancer Awareness Programme, as well as a memorial to the 22 people who have received support from FILMCASS and succumbed to their struggle with the disease.

The long time spiritual director of the group, Canossian Sister Vicky Ramos, was herself diagnosed with cancer some months ago.

In a short message she said that no matter how hard she tried, it is only now that she knows the real courage and strength the struggle against the sickness demands.

“I know now that I could never have truly appreciated it previously,” she said.

Appreciation for the work that the FILMCASS volunteers do among the migrant community was well expressed by the 30 or so groups that turned up, either bringing greetings or even putting on a bit of entertainment of their own creation.

The Mindanao Midwives Association spent the afternoon checking blood pressure and handing out basic medical advice, and Mamie Lau, an expert on radiation, gave a little bit of advice on dealing with the radiation level in the city, which she said is double that of Japan.

But amidst the frivolity of a happy day out, there was time to pay respect to and pray for the 21 cancer survivors who are still living and working abroad, as well as the 23 others that have returned home to The Philippines.

Necitas Loprandado, who is currently receiving treatment and wears a breast plate to protect her vulnerable body, spoke of her struggle and also thanked those who have rallied around her in her time of need.

But the treat of the afternoon arrived as the sun began to sink in the sky in the form of the band from the Cinta-J Club Bar and Restaurant, as Pamela Landagan, Penny Salcedo, Jerelyn Lamparero and Wendie Sacedon came down from the stage to become street entertainers for a good cause.

Appreciation for the generosity of the group was wildly expressed as the four packed up their belongings and headed off to work, to do another much longer stint on stage at the club.

And so it was time to pay tribute to those who did not survive their battle with cancer, pray with and for each other, and promise solidarity in the coming days in carrying out the mission of a group in Hong Kong that has brought much comfort and solace to many people in difficult times and provided much more than just a shoulder to cry on.

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