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Dagupan residents recall how Mother Teresa changed their lives

/ 12:03 AM September 05, 2016
IN THIS undated photo, Mother Teresa meets with Pangasinan residents Lina Tan, Baby Balingit and Josie Lolarga who asked her to establish a mission house for the poor in Dagupan City. PHOTO REPRODUCTION BY WILLIE LOMIBAO / INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

IN THIS undated photo, Mother Teresa meets with Pangasinan residents Lina Tan, Baby Balingit and Josie Lolarga who asked her to establish a mission house for the poor in Dagupan City. PHOTO REPRODUCTION BY WILLIE LOMIBAO / INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

DAGUPAN CITY—-People here could hardly remember the month in 1984 the newly canonized Saint Teresa of Kolkata visited a Missionaries of Charity house in this city. But what is clear to some of them is that visit had changed their lives.

Mother Teresa came here in 1984 on her third visit to the Philippines.

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Lina Tan, a civic leader here, said she first sought Mother Teresa at the Missionaries of Charity house in Tondo, Manila, to follow up a request from then Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Federico Limon to extend her ministry to this city.

Limon had asked her to put up a house for the dying and the destitute.

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“I saw her at work, washing near-death patients with great care … She was doing it with love and care, something I myself would not do. I could hardly breathe,” Tan said.

After ministering to the patients, Mother Teresa held Tan’s hands and said, “Lina, look at me. Pray and pray and pray. Let’s pray together that it be God’s will for us to be in Dagupan City.”

Tan said: “I looked deep into her eyes, and I saw her soul. Right at that moment, I also knew who I was and where I would like to be.”

The first Missionaries of Charity house, now called “Abong ng Panangaro (House of Love),” was established here in 1984.

“[Mother Teresa] came to Dagupan that year to visit the first temporary [mission] house, which was owned by the Villaflor [family]. It became a food and medicine dispensary after the Missionaries of Charity sisters [reached out to] the city’s poorest of the poor,” Josefina Tamondong, a former Dagupan school administrator, said in a letter emailed from the United States where she is now based.

Tamondong, along with her husband Ding and Dagupan-based friends Inday de Venecia, Aurora Samson-Reyna, Zenaida Torio and Helen Co, went to Rome to witness the canonization of Mother Teresa.

They were part of Tan’s group who welcomed Mother Teresa and her missionaries to the city.

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Tan recalled that the nuns arrived here in 1984 on a cargo truck, covered with a canvas sheet. They pulled out cleaning equipment, aprons and pails from the truck, and immediately went to work, cleaning and putting the whole house in order for its first batch of residents.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas: “Mother Teresa taught Filipinos that the way to Holiness is through the poor.”

“She opened our eyes to the reality that poverty is not just material … There is also the poverty of affluence … people are rich, people have food, but they [are lonely],” said Villegas, also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

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TAGS: canonization, Dagupan, Dagupan City, Mother Teresa, Saint, Saint Teresa of Kolkata
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