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Standing with those bearing the brunt of the climate crisis

The words of those experiencing the climate emergency, spoken at the ‘No faith in fossil fuels’ church service.

Tearfund’s Ruth Valerio and Patricia Pagulayan at the 'No faith in fossil fuels’ church service, part of Extinction Rebellion's The Big One. Image: Billie Anderson / Tearfund.

Patricia Pagulayan is Tearfund’s International Communications Manager, based in the Philippines. She happened to be in the UK for work recently and was able to join Tearfund’s Director of Advocacy and Influencing Ruth Valerio to speak at the ‘No faith in fossil fuels’ church service in central London on Friday 21 April.

Patricia shared her experience of how climate change is affecting people in the Philippines. As she spoke from her heart, many people attending the service were stirred and requested we share her talk so that others could read it. Feel free to also share this with others.

We’ve ended this blog with the blessing that Bishop Olivia read out over the congregation at the end of the service, before we headed out in pilgrimage to pray and protest in Westminster.

Patricia’s story

Hi, everyone. My name is Patricia Pagulayan and I’m from the Philippines. I’m here to paint you a picture of how the climate crisis has been affecting us in the Philippines.

Our country has some of the world’s most pristine beaches and we have a rich biodiversity as well. However, we are also one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. We face disasters on a yearly basis. Every year cyclones cause catastrophic damages, destroying rice fields, livelihoods, homes and even lives. Because climate change makes the oceans warmer, we are already seeing more frequent and more violent typhoons.

A majority of our farmers and fishermen are poor and they are heavily dependent on the environment. My own mother-in-law is a farmer and I've seen first-hand how typhoons flattened an entire season’s worth of harvest, giving her a great sense of loss.

But it’s in these darkest moments that we see faith rise up. I remember my visit to one of our disaster response work in the coastal area of southern Luzon after a major typhoon hit in 2020. Fisherfolks’ houses were wiped out by ten-foot waves, thousands of families were displaced, and fishing boats and equipment were damaged. Fishermen lost their only source of income. And even in the midst of the aftermath, there was a strong sense of faith. People told me how they still believed

that God is good and God will help them.

Aftermath of Typhoon Goni, in the Tiwi municipality within Albay province. Tearfund's local partner, Philippine Relief and Development Services (PHILRADS), supported affected communities. Photo: Geovani Dah-ya/PHILRADS

I met a single mum who was carrying her infant inside her make-shift home, made of tarpaulin with only an empty sack to give her and her child privacy. She told me that her husband is working in another town and she is left to care for their kids.

She held onto the big sack of rice that Tearfund had provided and she said she’s been saving it to make sure it lasts them a few more weeks before her husband comes back. I can still see the desperation and helplessness in her eyes but at the end of our conversation, she told me that she has faith that God would help her – and her family would overcome.

Filipinos are indeed resilient. Disasters never stopped us. We have this saying that goes, ‘Babangon din tayo,’ or ‘We will rise up again’. That’s why you see Fiipinos smiling even in the face of disasters.

But in my mind, I keep asking: How long do these poor families and fisherfolks need to be resilient? How long do they have to bear the brunt of a crisis we did little to cause? And how long do we have to wait until real changes are made to help vulnerable communities cope with the climate crisis?

I’m a mum of two small kids – a nine-year-old and a five-year-old – and they barely know what carbon emissions are. Yet for them, climate change is fast becoming a reality. There’s unpredictable weather patterns that cause rain in the middle of the dry season. They notice mango trees are not bearing fruits in summer: the rainy season lasts longer and summer days are excruciatingly hotter. My older son who has asthma experiences triggers because of the constant change of weather and he tells me how worried he is that it's becoming too hot. ‘Mama, why is the weather always changing?’

My husband is also a climate activist and he teaches our kids about the importance of planting more trees, consuming only what we need, growing our food and making sure we protect the environment.

Still, I feel like we are not doing enough. I can’t help but wonder if our small contribution can make an impact, and I am concerned about the devastating effects of climate change in places like Kenya, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Mozambique.

But here, today – I see real, tangible hope.

It’s so encouraging to see how many people are here today: committed individuals on this side of the world, passionate about making changes in their daily lives, and rallying for real change to happen. Indeed, we can be the change we are looking for. It’s inspiring to see that our collective effort can make a real difference.

As you gather together today, imagine that you are standing with local farmers and fisherfolks like those in the Philippines who experience the brunt of the climate crisis but can’t do anything about it. Remember that we are connected. That we are all the body of Christ and what we do here will make an impact throughout society.

Filipino fisherman Francisco goes out to sea. Photo: Reynaldo A. Concepcion Jr./Tearfund

Thank you for actively advocating for justice for those who are most vulnerable in our society. Thank you for representing us and doing what you can in this fight against the climate crisis.

Please continue to pray that more and more people will join this movement and make small changes in their daily lives that will have ripple effects across the world.

Pray for governments to focus on ensuring that the vulnerable are given tools to adapt to climate change and financing is provided to countries and communities that are most at risk to the climate crisis.

Thank you again for having me. Mabuhay.

A Franciscan benediction read at the 'No faith in fossil fuels' church service

May God bless us with restless discomfort

at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,

that we may truly live, from deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger

at injustice, oppression, and the exploitation of God’s creation,

that we may work together for justice, peace and integrity.

May God bless us with tears

to shed for all who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and loss,

that we may reach out our hands to comfort them

and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness

to believe that we can make a difference in this world,

that we can do what others claim cannot be done

and live in kinship with all our fellow-creatures.

Lord, hear our cry as we raise our voices in compassion and for the sake of justice.

Bless the decision-makers with wisdom, insight and courage.

And may your will be done. Amen.

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