The government of Ireland has pledged aid of more than 3 million euro to the disaster-stricken Philippines, and Irish missionaries are in the forefront of providing assistance to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, according to Irish news reports. Tipperary-born Sister Anne Healy, for example, of Trocaire, the overseas relief agency of the Catholic Church of Ireland, led volunteers who delivered food to thousands who survived the Nov. 8 catastrophe.

Left, residents struggle to rebuild their homes in the Philippines after being slammed by Friday's typhoon. Photo: Bullit Marquez/AP

This is not surprising, considering the historical affinity of these two small nations at opposite ends of the globe. Indeed, the two countries have quite a bit in common. Both have a had a tragic, centuries-long history of domination by an oppressor (in the case of the Philippines it was Spain), both have a excelled in music and literature out of proportion to their size, both are known for the hospitality of their people, both have had many who’ve experienced the need to emigrate, and both have had a long tradition of Catholicism.

The ties between the Philippines and Ireland goes back to the 19th century, when Irish Catholic religious orders founded houses in the Philippines. The missionaries opened schools and hospitals that became among the best in the country. Today, many government officials count schools like the Jesuit Ateneo University as their alma mater. Originally started by Spanish Jesuits, American Jesuits staffed the school after the United States took over after the Spanish-American War. One of the Irish Americans who taught at Ateneo in the 1960s was Father Joseph O’Hare, S.J., who later became president of Fordham University.

There was even an Irish connection during the Philippines’ years of revolution against Spain. The Filipino national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, married Josephine Bracken, daughter of an Irish-born British soldier stationed in Hong Kong, on the eve of his execution by the Spanish in Manila. Bracken later led Filipino revolutionaries in a number of battles against their colonial overlords, to the point where many called her the “Joan of Arc of the Philippines.” She was subsequently banished by the Spanish, who wouldn’t execute her because she was a woman.

Right, Molly Malone's Pub, Manila

In recent years, during the Celtic Tiger boom, Filipino nurses were recruited to work in Ireland, as they have been in the United States. And the business relationship between the two countries has grown stronger, with many Irish ex-pats stationed in Manila. A handful of Irish pubs have even been opened in the city, notably Murphy’s in the business district, Mulligan’s near the airport, and Molly Malone’s in the central entertainment district.

Though so many miles apart, Ireland and the Philippines do indeed have much in common, and many Irish number kind and convivial Filipinos among their good friends. Anyone who wants to help our friends in need can do so through the Irish humanitarian agency GOAL, Trocaire, The Red Cross, at www.redcross.org, or Catholic Relief Services, www.crs.org. MQ

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Tags: Asia, Manila, News, Philanthropy, Philippines

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