Kapatiran Dorm: Conducive to Studying

Eda Acierto

 

As a Dormitory Manager, I usually roam around the 4-cluster dormitory buildings in the compound of Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation, Inc. (KKFI). This dormitory complex is located in the heart of the University-Belt (U-Belt).

On these occasions which is typically at night, I mingle with residents who are doing their activities. I would check the reviewer-filled library, the newly renovated multi-purpose student center (K-Hub) where residents with common interests happily meet.

I always remind them to be mindful of the curfew. In these cases, I would take the opportunity to ask how they are, personally and scholastically and ask them, “Is KKFI dorm really conducive for study?” In this blog, I would feature two residents.

Keyselle Palasigue, a board passer in the recently held licensure examination for certified public accountants (CPA), has been staying here for three and a half years. She graduated cum laude, an achievement all students are aspiring for and all parents are proud of.

keyselle
Keyselle Palasigue

When asked how she achieved her high grades in school, she would often say it was because of the facilities that the Kapatiran dorm offers. She claimed they helped her a lot in her studies. Whenever it was too hot in their room, she would go to the air-conditioned library. There, she could concentrate more on her subjects.

She said, the canteen inside the compound also helped since it saved her time. Rather than waste time going out of the KKFI compound to scout for a dining place around the area, she would simply step out of the dorm building and walk a few steps to the KKFI canteen, saving some time that she could spend for reviewing.

“Sobrang komportable ang pagtira ko dito. Ang daming pasilidad na maaaring pagkaabalahan. Pakiramdam ko ay para lang akong nasa bahay namin sa Tarlac” (My stay here is very comfortable. There are a lot of facilities to be busy at. I could feel the atmosphere of our home in Tarlac.),” she mused.

The other resident I interviewed was Myking Dunca. Myking, now a licensed mechanical engineer, would invariably visit the KKFI dorm whenever he comes to the Manila. He stayed in the dorm during the full duration of his review until examination days.

When asked what made him miss the dorm, he would say without blinking: “Friends, a relaxing place, peaceful from the city’s rat-race, the air-conditioned library and the K-Hub which was very significant for us reviewers because it helped us a lot in breaking the stressful moments of our reviews.”

“Swerte sa amin ang KKFI dahil lahat kaming walong mechanical engineering reviewees sa room 209 ay pumasa,” he said. (KKFI is lucky for us. All eight reviewees from room 209 passed). He added, “I will not hesitate to refer this to my friends and schoolmates.”

Among the users of the K-hub are johnrein Dulay at Brent Alarcio, fellow residents, who regularly play the piano. Indeed, who would not be relaxed when you hear the beautiful sound of mixed classical and contemporary pieces played from the old piano envelope the surroundings in the morning and at night. Would you not be inspired to study? They affirm that Kapatiran dorm is conducive to learning. We invite students and reviewees to stay here and find out for themselves.

KAPATIRAN STORIES: ALMOST NOTHING IS NEW YET EVERYTHING IS NEW

By Nancy C. Nicolas

KKFI Executive Director

Twenty members, including two new ones, attended the Annual General Membership (AGM) Meeting yesterday, April 18, 2017, held in the Ruth Prudente Hall of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) Compound on P. Paredes Street in Sampaloc, Manila.

One of the highlights of the half-day meeting was the acceptance of five new members of the Foundation, namely: Reinier Reyes Puno, Edna Oraye Imperial, Dr. Glenn Roy Villa Paraso, Bernice Laudencia Dumlao and Dr. Irma Francisco Panaga.

Aside from this part of the meeting, almost nothing else changed. An election for five members of the Board of Trustees was held and voted were re-electionists Dr. Florangel R. Braid, Mrs. Ruth Flores, Mr. Eduardo C. Jimenez, Mrs. Fiona A. Molina and Mrs. Perla E. Gunzon.

I take their fresh mandate to be an affirmation that the present Board, as a whole, is doing a good job and a marching order to continue its good work. Hence, almost nothing is new.

Or so it seems. But a closer scrutiny of the programs and projects of the “Kapatiran” will show that they are moving and evolving fast. Hence, new challenges are presenting themselves continuously to the Board and the Kapatiran staff.

As the executive director, I am proud of what the working staff of KKFI has done and is doing. During the AGM yesterday, we presented a video production showing a glimpse of the works of the Foundation this past year.  It was prepared by Kapatiran’s program director, Ms Christian Love Daroy-Gagno.

Another highlight of the AGM was the presentation of a new book we call the Kapatiran Stories, a compilation of blog entries and articles published in mainstream magazines about Kapatiran’s programs. We also created an electronic version (e-book) of it for our friends abroad.

One of the touching moments of the gathering occurred at the start, when the Board Chairperson, Ma’am Goody Mercado urged the Board members to be more involved in the works of KKFI. She said she “witnessed first-hand that God is using KKFI to extend His hand to the children and youth who were assisted to continue their education.”

Ma’am Goody related that her exposure to the things Kapatiran does changed her. She said: “In the process, I am no longer a bleeding-heart fence-sitter but an actor who joins the struggle of the underprivileged children and youth Kapatiran is trying to help.”

She said she was blessed by what she underwent. She concluded: “There is only one conclusion that I would like to share to all of you: These experiences have enriched me emotionally and spiritually. It is my prayer that everyone in the Board of Trustees be as blessed as I am by immersing in the programs and activities of our Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc.”

With Ma’am Goody’s permission, I would like to extend the same invitation to everyone who is reading this piece because I believe it is our duty as a Christian to help those in need. I know you will be equally blessed, especially because you will not just help an individual or individuals but a whole generation of the future.

HOPE AMONG THE TOMBS

by Rev. Julie Schendel

(Rev. Julie Schendel is one of the faculty members of the LaGrange College, Georgia, USA who participated in an immersion program of Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) in January 2016 and January 2017. She is also the  Associate Pastor at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church. We are reposting her blog last Januaray 12, 2017 in https://julieschendel.wordpress.com/ so that more partners may be aware of our programs and services. Readers may visit her blogsite as she made a lot of posts in her 2-year stint at KKFI.)

 

Welcome to the world of Manila’s poorest citizens: Manila North Cemetery. Actually, even that’s being generous, since the government doesn’t recognize them as citizens. Since many can’t afford to be born in a hospital, they have no birth certificate, and therefore no identity. Their greatest hope to gain any kind of ID comes through baptism. They can use their baptismal certificate to prove who they are and start the process of becoming a citizen. How’s that for gaining a new identity? Get baptized, gain new life in Christ, gain new life in your community.

Manila North Cemetery (MNC) is 54 acres filled with beautiful mausoleums and 10,000 residents, above ground. There are countless other permanent residents encased in granite and concrete, serving as beds and tables for those who share their space to make their homes.

Most of the families that live in the cemetery are employed by the relatives of those buried. Wealthier families hire individuals to keep their mausoleums and crypts clean and free from vandalism. In exchange, they get to live there, rent free, and since there is no electricity or running water, there are no additional bills. Earning about $1 a day, families struggle to feed all their kids.

There are benefits to living in a cemetery besides the free rent. Everyone jokes that it’s peaceful, the neighbors are quiet, etc. It’s built on higher ground, so the space is less likely to flood during typhoon season. What might be most significant, for better or worse, is the sense of community. Most homeless living on the street may be scattered here and there, but never really feel like they have the support of neighbors. In the cemetery, everyone lives in close quarters. There are small stores along the corners to purchase snacks, toiletries, and other necessities. And there are people all around. Families pile in together, older siblings take care of the littles, and there is always someone nearby to help with laundry, motorcycle repair, or to teach the children. Since there aren’t always solid walls on the mausoleums, it’s hard to hide. Neighbors can call through your entrance gate, or simply look in to see if you’re home. While it may lead to a loss of privacy, there’s this sense that everyone’s in this together, and it brings a closeness to the community.

 

Erica, a KKFI scholar, showing us her home.

With everyone in such close quarters, it’s easy for things to get dangerous, especially for young girls. Fights break out, drunks can stumble into the wrong home or even intentionally abduct the women. Then there’s the stigma that comes from living in a cemetery. People on the outside shun most of the community. If children go to public school, they get teased and called ghosts or witches, accused of eating the dead. Most can’t handle the taunting and drop out of school, which kills their chances of ever breaking free from this environment. All the more reason for KKFI to step in and lead programs offering a glimmer of hope.

Our assignment was to lead 4-6 year olds in Supervised Neighborhood Play.

We were told these kids were ages 4-6, but their size made them look 2-4. It was a rainy day in the cemetery, so 32 kids were gathered together on an 8 foot square tarp, under a makeshift roof in the mausoleum.

At first, they weren’t too sure about their foreign visitors. They don’t get outside the walls of the cemetery much, and many have never seen people with skin as white as ours. A couple of kids laughed as we circled up and they saw my skin next to theirs. Pointing back and forth between our arms they giggled…”brown, white, brown, white.”


Once the games began, the giggles exploded, and the joy these children shared was contagious. If you ignored the crypts surrounding us, you’d never know these kids grew up in an environment worthy of nightmares. This was life for them, and they were resilient. I saw several kids fall flat on their face on the concrete, look stunned for a second, then jump up to brush themselves off and keep going, no tears or shrieks were uttered. Mothers or older sisters were always nearby, tending to the littlest and making sure they felt included in the group.

Despite the rough environment, these kids are bright and patient and loving. They’re quick to forgive, gracious to whatever is given them, and as curious and playful as any other children their age. After spending the day with them, I found myself inspired. After being shunned because others see them as different, they easily welcomed strangers into their homes and their lives. After scrounging for any advantage they can get, they’re quick to share with their siblings and care for their family. After growing up surrounded by death, they still strive for a future and keep finding life. And that is a beautiful thing.