THIS CEMETERY IS FOR THE DEAD … AND THE LIVING

By Bellarme Milosi Lumbwe

 

Cemeteries are supposed to be where the dead are placed to rest in peace. That is the common and widely accepted knowledge among many of us, including myself… That is, until lately. When I came to the Philippines, I discovered that there can be life in a cemetery. If ever you visit this country, you might come across Manila North Cemetery (MNC).

I have been to Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and even the US of A and witnessed how people struggle with life, but not to the extent of spending it in a cemetery.

Manila North Cemetery sounds like a place for the dead. Well, that’s true, but with a slight difference to the common notion. Amid the daily burial ceremonies and practices there, people were also going about their own lives—working, eating together, celebrating special family occasions, courting a person you are attracted and all the rest of normal human activities.

I was told the relatives of the dead have to pay people to watch over and maintain the family grave, or else the grave might be transformed into somebody’s house.

There are many sorts of reasons why the poor people of Manila prefer to live there. The lot is free and there is available water, albeit unsafe. One can also avail of free electricity; all it takes is the gut and some climbing and electrical skills to tap illegally in an actual electrical post.

What I’m telling you is true and I have seen it with my own eyes. People choose to stay in MNC for a reason—they have raised their families there and to look for another place to stay is tantamount to uprooting their children from their natural habitat.

It is true that children did not choose to be born there. In fact, it is not a very safe place to raise children and families. And the dangers are very real.

Is there anything which can be done? For sure, yes! Throughout the Bible, God encourages His children to serve others. I purposely avoid to use the term “helping others” but I choose “serving others” because as Jesus Christ said in Matthew 25: 40: “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Since it is unthinkable for us to help Jesus, we should instead serve others with our talents, resources, and energies.

You can choose to serve others on your own; that’s will still be fine with God, I think. But sometimes, you might choose to join other people or organizations to serve others, especially when you have seen them at work, sustaining lives of people in such areas.

You can join hands with us at Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) to serve others through various programs that the organization implement in this community. Here are some active programs which KKFI runs in MNC to bring hope to the hopeless one, the Supervised Neighborhood Play (SNP), Child Development Center (CDC), Alternative Learning System and the newly implemented program “Happy Wives, Happy Community.”

You are always welcome to join our service to God by serving others.

 

Advertisements

MAPALAD NA KABATAAN

ni Margoh Bronzal Dela Paz

 

Isa ako sa mga iskolar ng Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) mula pa noong 2015 sa Alterntive Learning System o ALS bilang mag-aaral sa sekondaryong antas. Sa kasalukuyan, pinag-aaral pa rin ako ng KKFI sa kolehiyo.

Kami ng mga kapwa ko iskolar ay isinali ni Ma’am Nancy C. Nicolas, Executive Director ng KKFI, bilang isang grupo na sasayaw sa gaganaping ika-67 taong anibersaryo nitong ika-20 ng Hulyo, 2017. Ito ay kumpetensya ng pagandahan ng presentasyon sa pagsayaw.

Limang grupo ang naglaban-laban, kabilang dito ang mga kawani ng KKFI. Mga usong sayaw sa iba’t ibang dekada—mula 1950s hanggang 1990s—ang gagawin.

Nang malaman ko na sasayaw kami ay medyo kinabahan ako dahil unang pagkakataon ko itong gagawin sa harapan ng mga tao. Alam kong kabilang dito ang mga kasapi ng Board of Trustees.

Pero nasabik na rin ako pati na ang mga kapwa ko iskolar nang malaman namin na sa amin ang mga sayaw noong 1990s. “Alam natin ito!” sabi name, excited. Nang malaman naming may malaking premyo ang mananalo, lalong lumipad nang matayog ang kasabikan naming.

Hindi naging madali sa akin ang pagpapraktis ng sayaw. Hindi talaga ako marunong sumayaw. Hirap akong sundan ang mga itinuturong dance steps. Hindi ko rin alam ang tamang pag-pitik ng paa’t kamay. Maging sa paggiling ng baywang, ay di ko mahanap ang tamang tiyempo.

Salamat kay Kuya Pio Leanado, ang aming instraktor sa pag sayaw, dahil kung hindi sa mahusay at mapagpasensyang pagtuturo tuwing Lunes at Miyerkoles sa loob ng ilang linggo ay hindi kami nakapag-sayaw nang maayos.

Hindi madali para sa amin ang pageensayo. Kung minsan ay hindi kompleto ang mga miyembro ng grupo dahil may kanya-kanyang iskedyul sa eskwelahan. Gayunpaman, walang bumitaw. Kahit na ginagabi na ng pag-uwi sa bahay ay pinagtiyagaan naming ang pagpapraktis. Hindi kami sumuko.

Sa loob ng isang buwan ng pagsasanay ay unti-unting naging maayos ang aming pagsasayaw. Tuloy na napagbibiruan naming amin na ang first prize. Malinis at magaling na kasi kaming sumayaw, natatawa naming nasasabi. Subalit talagang biro lamang namin iyonn sapagkat alam naming hindi magpapatalo ang ibang grupo. Sabi ko sa sarili ko: “Hindi baleng kulelat kami, ang mahalaga ay naipakita namin ang kakayahan namin sa mga espesyal na bisitang manonood.”

Nakita ko kung gaano ang pagpapahalaga at pagmamahal ng mga tao sa anibersaryo ng KKFI. Siyempre, tumulong ang mga iskolar sa mga gawain at paghahanda sa espesyal na araw na iyon.

Nang magsimula na ang programa ay nag-umpisa na rin akong kabahan. Unang sumayaw ang grupo ng Program Department na 1950s dance steps ang ipinakita. Ako ay lubhang humanga dahil sa galing at sabay-sabay nilang paggalaw. Bukod pa roon ay kahit magkaka-iba ang kanilang edad ay masasabi kong  mahusay sila.

Ang mga senior citizens ng Day Center ang sumunod dito na kuntodo naka-costume pa ng dekadang 60s, tunay na natuwa ang lahat sa kanilang presentasyon. Pagkatapos ay ang Resource Development Department (RDD) naman ang nagpakitang-gilas sa pamamagitan ng mga indak pang-1970s. Nagulat din ang lahat sa husay ng mga taga-Admin nang binuhay nilang muli ang mga dance steps ng 1980s.

Kami ang huling sumayaw (1990s ang sa amin). Ewan ko kung halata, pero kabado at nahihiya kami. Ganoon pa man, ibinigay naming ang lahat ng aming makakaya. Masaya kami nang matapos namin ang aming presentasyon nang maayos.

Nakita ko na nagustuhan ng mga manunuod sa aming ipinamalas na abilidad sa pagsayaw. Labis itong ikinatuwa ng aming grupo.

Napanood ko ang lahat ng grupo at ayon sa aking personal na hatol, ang grupong 1950s ang nakasungkit ng unang pwesto.

“Malamang, ikalawa lamang kami,” sabi nang walang halong lungkot o panghihinayang.

Ilang sandali pa ang lumipas at oras na ng paghahayag kung sino sa mga grupo ang nakakuha ng kung anong pwesto. Unang tinawag ang Day-C. Masaya na rin ang mga miyembro nito. Halatang masaya na sila na kabilang sila sa nakapagbigay ng kaligayahan sa mga dumalo ng anibersaryo ng KKFI.

Nagulat ako nang ang akala kong magiging kampeon ang sumunod na tinawag. Lalo tuloy akong kinabahan.

“Baka kami na ang susunod na tatawagin,” bulong ko sa sarili.

Inanunsyo ang grupong 1980s bilang ookupa ng ikatlong pwesto. Dalawang grupo na lamang ang natira at isa kami sa mga ito!

Sa gitna ng di magkamayaw na pagsigaw dahil sa excitement at in-announce ang nagwagi ng ikalawang puwesto—ang grupong 1970s. Kami ang kampeon!

Gulat na gulat kami ng aking mga kasama! Hindi namin ito inaasahan. Labis-labis na saya ang naramdaman namin sa pagkakataong iyon. Salamat, KKFI! Salamat sa panel of judges na ang tatlong miyembro ay mga kasapi ng KKFI.

Isa akong pinagpalang kabataan, hindi dahil sa nanguna sa sayawan, kundi dahil sa isa ako—o kaming mga iskolar—sa mga naging parte ng buhay ng KKFI. Mapalad ako dahil sila ang ikalawa kong pamilya. Mapalad ako dahil mayroon akong KKFI na nagbigay sa akin ng oportunidad upang mapalago ko ang aking sarili. Mapalad ako dahil mayroon akong KKFI na patuloy na sumusuporta sa akin upang mas lumago ang aking kaalaman hanggang sa patuloy na maging mabuting tao at patuloy na mangarap upang maabot ang ninanais sa buhay.

Mapalad ako nang sobra at labis-labis kong ipinagpapa-salamat dahil nakilala at nailapit ako sa Diyos. Kaya naman masasabi kong lubos akong pinagpala. Sobrang ipinagpapa-salamat ko sa Diyos at sa KKFI!

 

RISING FROM THE DEAD

by Glenda B. Gutierrez

 

“We now live outside of the cemetery,” says Anna B. Villegas, 32, apparently with proud air about her.

Anna is referring to the Manila North Cemetery (MNC), where her family used to live. To her and thousands of others who reside there, the life-goal has been to be able to own a house or at least rent a place outside of the MNC.

Anna’s dream came true because of the $4,000 livelihood grant that the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) received recently from the United Methodist Women (UMW).

On March 8, 2017, the grant was distributed to 13 recipients and Anna was one of them. She immediately bought a pedicab for her husband, Joselito, who now uses it to collect recyclable materials like plastic and glass bottles in Manila North Cemetery and neighboring communities.

Before acquiring the pedicab, the Villegas couple were caretakers of tombs in MNC.

“It was difficult living in the cemetery, especially when it rains and floods,” narrates Anna. “It is not safe there and there are a lot of drug addicts around.”

She says she and her family are now “happy to live in Caloocan City” albeit, still making both ends meet.

“Our monthly room rental is P2,000 plus P1,000 for electricity and water. My husband earns an average of P300-P400 a day, enough to meet the daily expenses,” she discloses, adding that Joselito works six days a week.

The Villegas family is blessed to receive a scholarship grant from a Korean national that benefits three of her four children, thereby augmenting the family income. She proudly says that her children are honor students: Krishen Keith Althea (Top 3), Kyle Dustin (Top 6) and Kristel Keith (Top 9). The youngest is yet to go to school.

Anna has her church, San Pancratio Parish in Caloocan City, for linking her to the generous Korean benefactor.

Anna wants the best for her family. Though she is a graduate of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Housekeeping Course, she wants to prioritize taking care of her family instead of working abroad.

She keeps on learning and has attended workshops on candle-making, fabric conditioner-making and dishwashing soap-making.

She is also a parent-leader of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) City Link since 2012.

Indeed, Anna is worth emulating. She and her husband continues to strive to improve their lives, and the first step came when they brought their family out of the cemetery.