Malta head of state starts visit to PH.
MANILA -- Knights of the Philippine Order of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta were honored with a state visit by their Grand Master, Fra' (for brother) Matthew Festing, who arrived in Manila on Sunday.
As head of a sovereign state, Festing and his delegation of ministers (including two who are princes, and two barons), will be hosted by President Aquino at a state lunch at the Palace on Tuesday.
The order has a fourcentury history in the Philippines. Antonio Pigafetta, a survivor of Magellan's expedition in 1521, grateful for surviving LapuLapu's onslaught, used connections to join the Knights of the Order of St. John. Other Knights of the oldest chivalrous order occupied highranking positions in Spanishcolonial Philippines.
Beginning as a monastic order with a church, monastery and hospice in Jerusalem for the sick and poor among 11thcentury pilgrims, the Knights took up arms in the crusades, defeating the Ottoman Empire in the legendary Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Based successively in Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta where Napoleon took it over in 1978, they finally settled in Rome.
Reverting to their roles as Hospitallers, today's 13,500 Knights and Dames of Malta work in 120 countries dispensing medical and social care and humanitarian aid. The order maintains diplomatic relations with 105 nations, many of which are nonCatholic.
Malteser International, its worldwide relief agency, works at the front lines of natural disasters and with refugees in armed conflicts.
Chief Justice and Ambassador Manuel Moran was the first president of the order's Philippine Association when it was established in March 1957, later upgraded to diplomatic status. In the Philippines, among the order's earliest activities were caring for patients at Culion Leper Colony in Palawan in 1972, and on a 24hectare property in Tala, Caloocan, for exHansenites. A vocational training center and an agricultural colony aided selfsufficiency, as well as employment at Cardinal Ceramics for them.
Since then, it has worked at a range of homes for the elderly, orphanages and the destitute, and the pediaoncology ward at Philippine General Hospital, while educating communities on preventing motherchild HIVAIDS transmission. At major disaster areas, it has built Malteserfunded homes and shelters with latrines in the Visayas and Mindanao, and distributed an estimated billion pesos in medicine, hospital equipment and health kits.
Blankets, water canisters, 150 tons of rice, 1,500,000 canned goods, vegetable packets and garden tools are other disaster relief it has distributed. Rebuilding washedout farms in northern Luzon and fishponds in the cities of Las PiAas and ParaAaque, and in Laguna province, and psychosocial healing form part of its work among disaster and wartorn refugees.