Development workers and political activists who work for national organizations in the Philippines will certainly know the Australian missionary, Sr. Patricia Fox, NDS. She speaks Filipino, rides the jeepney and the MRT regularly, and has been involved in most national issues for the past 27 years — genuine agrarian reform, right to self-determination of the indigenous peoples, churchpeople’s rights, right to development, women’s empowerment and a host of many other issues. As one friend laughingly said, “She is everywhere and we do not know in what sector she belongs — She can be with the peasants in Hacienda Luisita this week and with the churchpeople in a rally the following week. And after that she will be with the indigenous peoples somewhere in Mindanao. Then she holds consultations with co-founders of a program for the elderly.”
Her stamina and energy defies her age (71) and her commitment and dedication to the causes she advocates is admirable. During a medical mission to a Yolanda-affected community in Northern Samar, she braved the almost 24 hour travel and put to shame the younger delegates of the medical mission while climbing the mountain on the way to the community. Angeli Mercado, a twentysomething medical student who was with Sr. Pat’s group observed that “I had more difficulty catching up compared to her”.
Developing and Establishing Organizations
Sr. Pat, as she is fondly called, is no ordinary missionary nun. She is also a lawyer and has led the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) from 2000-2007. During her time she immersed herself in the issues of the landless peasants, agricultural workers, fisherfolk and indigenous peoples.She steered RMP to provide support services to its constituencies including agricultural production, trainings in project management, self help undertakings and organizational development.
Sr. Pat believed that apart from the land issue, the peasantry face the constant challenge of inadequate support services and inputs for their productivity.Along with her colleagues in RMP, they launched serious attempts of mobilizing church people towards developing projects and programs for farmer’s and indigenous peoples communities. This, she did side by side with capacity building of RMP chapters. Recognizing the need to further strengthen RMP she spearheaded trainings and activities for organizational development. Regular evaluations were likewise undertaken for more accurate planning inputs.
Sr. Pat would surprise even herself when she began a modest alternative program for the elderly who have spent most of their lives for nationalist and progressive causes. Along with like-minded individuals from the academe, church and the medical and health profession, they would establish the Tahanan ng Pag-asa (TNP). It fights for the rights of the elderly and advocates a community-based elderly program.
Upon hearing that ASCENT Convenor and Senior Consultant Benito Quilloy and Program Staff Member Rita Espinosa were arrested on trumped-up charges, Sr. Pat was also among the first ones to extend her support to ASCENT. She is an active member of the Free Ben and Rita Now alliance. In a strange twist, she now finds herself also illegally arrested and detained for participating in rallies. ASCENT’s members and volunteers are sure to raise protest over this.
The nun who knows no season in coming to the aid of the poorest of the poor will absolutely be defended and protected by those whose rights and interests she selflessly fought for.