Prince and Grandmaster of the order of Malta turns over 350 houses to typhoon victims News

The 79th Prince and Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing arrived on Monday at the Daniel Z. Romualdez airport in Tacloban City, Leyte and flew in a government helicopter to the nearby town of Basey, some 27 kilometers east of Tacloban City.

In Basey, the prince attended mass at the San Antonio Church as well as the consecration to Our Lady of Philerme and the blessing of 350 framed icons of Our Lady of Philerme. Festing had lunch with San Antonio community folk then turned over the 350 permanent shelters to homeless families in Sitio Gin-utdan. Festing left the town at around 3:45 p.m. en route to Manila, with only two days left in his official visit in the country.

Earlier, Festing paid a courtesy call on Malacanang and turned over a symbolic key to 700 houses to President Aquino. The 700 houses, 350 of which were constructed in Basey, were donated to Yolanda survivors in Basey, Samar and in Bantayan Island, Cebu. In return, Aquino conferred on Festing the Order of Sikatuna (Rank of Raja), the highest order of diplomatic merit the Philippines can bestow on a head of state or government.

Festing also conferred on Aquino the Order of Malta’s highest award, the Pro Merito Melitensi. Aquino accepted the award “on behalf of the Filipino people, as a symbol of our shared commitment to serve the poor”.

In his visit, Festing noted that the bilateral relationship between his order and the Philippines was not like that shared between donor and beneficiary but one of partners working hand-in-hand to provide relief and assistance to the needy, including victims of natural disasters.

Festing is the second leader of the Order of Malta to visit the country, the first being the late Angelo de Mojana di Cologna in 1979. The order’s main activities in the Philippines focus on post-emergency interventions, which include rehabilitation and disaster-preparedness programs for communities affected by typhoons in recent years.