LJ Basilio: No Retreat, No Surrender!

By Evelyn Tendero

 

Larren  Jo Basilio, or “Kuya LJ” to his students, is the education officer of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI).  Recently, he was elected as the national president of the United Methodist Youth Fellowship in the Philippines (UMYFP).

There is no question that LJ is a leader. His sight is set on making his organizations—both the KKFI and the UMYFP—better. He’s doing well in juggling both roles – his salary in KKFI helps in defraying the cost of performing his duty as UMYFP president, a post that does not pay, and he gives back to KKFI whatever he learns from the UMYFP.

Both jobs offer enormous challenges. Both required of him tremendous patience and courage. These are the qualities of a person who has a life-goal like his: To draw people to God.

Hence, LJ adopted the motto, “Walang Susuko!” (No Surrender!), an attitude he wanted his students of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) to learn by osmosis. He thinks the best way to become in charge of his “young soldiers” is to lead by example.

LJ is not new to hard work. He supported himself during college by helping classmates write their theses for a fee. With all those reading and writing, it is no wonder that, in 2016, LJ graduated cum laude with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the Far Eastern University (FEU).

He was born in Cabcaben, Mariveles, Bataan 22 years ago on a Christmas Day. He is the first-born to his parents who are active and dedicated members of the Cabcaben United Methodist Church.

His mother is a local church lay leader and the head of their district finance committee. His father, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who now works in Laos, became the president of the local church United Methodist Men’s Fellowship or UMMF. Hence, LJ grew up in a church environment and was involved in children and youth ministries.

In college, he joined the Tamaraw Volunteers, a school organization that focuses on “green peace” and improvement of education. They connected with other non-government organizations (NGOs) and adopted communities and indigenous peoples or IPs, like the Dumagats of Rizal Province.

LJ came to know about KKFI when he met Ms. Christian Love Daroy-Gagno, our current KKFI Program Director, in a Young Leader’s Summit for the UMYF members in Subic in September of 2016. They became partners in a discussion and Love invited him to join the program team of KKFI.  This led to him joining the KKFI working team in February 2017.

LJ said that the first three months of working as supervisor of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) in KKFI was “overwhelming.” His students were all out-of-school youth and adults aged between 10 and 35 who were used to attending formal schools.

The job was stressful, indeed, but he finds comfort in Love’s leadership and the loving attention he gets from the ALS students.

It has been a cycle for LJ—then stresses, rejuvenation process and then the return of enthusiasm to work again. LJ is glad that, like the proverbial Phoenix, he is able to rise from the ashes again and again, ready to journey once more towards his goal of serving others and drawing them to God.

“Walang susuko.”

 

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The Engineer’s 5 Reasons for Staying in KKFI Dormitory

By Evelyn Tendero

 

 

I have been seeing this smiling gentleman since January whenever I visit the main dormitory building of Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI).

One day, our Dormitory Assistant, Malou, introduced him to me. His name, I learned, is Marine Engineer Arnelo Llarena. He was a reviewee for 1st and 2nd engineer licensure exam, which he eventually passed successfully.

The engineer has been in the service for 20 years, but he took a respite from his job as a seaman since January 2018. He has since stayed in Manila with his 13-year-old son Karlo Martin, who was then reviewing for the International Mathematics Wizard Challenge (IMWC) held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

We had the chance to talk again after they arrived from Jakarta. Engineer Llarena proudly told me that Karlo garnered a bronze medal in the international competition! He said he was glad that he had a chance to be with his son to provide a much-needed moral support. It was a good thing that the engineer was still waiting for a call from his placement agency when it all happened.

The rare achievement was certainly worth all the trouble and the expenses, including airplane fare and accommodation in a foreign land, which he personally shouldered. That’s not yet including the cost of Karlo’s IMWC training.

The Llarenas live in Legaspi City, so Engineer Llarena had to rent a place whenever he stayed in Manila. We are glad the engineer chose to stay in KKFI every time. We are especially pleased when he brought with him his son on their way to Jakarta.

I know for a fact (since I am aware of the compensation package marine engineers enjoy) that the Llarenas can well afford to pay for a hotel accommodation. So why stay in KKFI facilities, instead?

Engineer Llarena gave me five reasons. They are:

  1. KKFI is accessible to Karlo’s training school
  2. The rooms and the compound itself are comfortable and conducive for study and rest
  3. The surroundings are clean and peaceful
  4. The people are hospitable and accommodating
  5. It is affordable.

It will not surprise me one bit if Engineer Llarena will choose KKFI to be Karlo’s “home away from home” when the time comes the latter enters college here in Manila. Will you be?

KKFI Day-C Annual Retreat

By Rev. Maricel Monceda-Osias

 

The Kapatiran Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) Day Center for Older Persons (Day-C) held its annual retreat at Decker Memorial Foundation Inc. located at 22 J. Abad St., Heroes Hills Quezon City last May 12.

Although only 13 Day C members participated (the rest were involved in the upcoming barangay polls) the whole-day activity was a lively one

“Unity in Love” wass the theme of the said event. The importance of unity in love within the group and love for their selves was emphasized. Thus the thrust of the activity in the morning was all about loving others. Group Dynamics activity entitled “Win as Much as You Can” encouraged them to love others by taking others interest not only their own. They have realized that most of the time they are more concern about their selves and forget to think about the welfare of others. One of the Day-C members said: “All I want is for our group to win. I want the money. I was thinking of dividing it among the group members and then later on go for a shopping in Fishermall (nearby mall). I never thought about how others might feel especially if we betray them by changing our cards.”

The afternoon emphasis was quite different. It shifted from loving others to loving their selves. The reflective activity entitled “Loving me: Reconciling with Myself” encouraged them that their love towards their neighbors would not be complete if they will not learn how to love their selves. And loving their own selves means reconciling with their selves and letting go with the things that will not help them grow as Christians. They were asked to write in a piece of paper some things (sins, guilt, shame, hate etc.) that are still haunting them to the present. The paper was put in front and burnt before them. When they gave their reflections, most of them were crying. It was a surprise that at their age they are still harboring a lot of negative emotions and are not able to forgive their selves even to those things they have committed back decades ago. It was one of their most unforgettable moments. One of them said “Pastor I have lived this kind of feeling long ago. And until now I am still haunted by it. My husband died without me saying I’m sorry for being unfaithful to him. I am glad we have this kind of activity. I can now breathe.”

After the moment and sharing the group ended the retreat with a fellowship snack at the Fishermall, Quezon City. It was nice to end up the activity with a feeling of relief as beautiful smiles painted in the beautiful faces of Day-C members. We are looking forward for another unforgettable retreat experience with the group!

 

Jomar Abana: A Will to Walk the Extra Mile

By Evelyn Tendero

 

When I retired from Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) in 2015, Jomar Abana was the institution’s driver as a replacement for his Saudi Arabia-bound brother, Marco, who left the Foundation in January 2014.

When I returned in November 2017, I learned that the 41-year-old Jomar was no longer the Foundation’s driver. He since then became the team leader of the maintenance division.

Jomar is the fourth of the 10 Abana children who were all born and raised in their hometown of Enrile, Cagayan Valley. His father was a skilled carpenter and his mother was a plain housewife who looked after them. Jomar was on his 6th grade in elementary when his mother died and his father followed her to the Great Beyond right after Jomar finished high school.

Jomar had been supporting himself since high school by driving. He would go with a relative who owned a jeepney to learn to drive. He secured a driver’s license when he was 18 years old, although he had been driving since he was 16.

He came to know about KKFI when he became the driver of a sister of Mrs. Priscilla Atuel, the former executive director of the Foundation. When Mrs. Atuel was looking for a driver for KKFI, he referred his brother, Marco, to the position.

Four years and four months ago, Marco reciprocated the gesture when he referred Jomar to the current executive director, Ms Nancy C. Nicolas, to replace him since he was then set to join his new wife in Saudi Arabia.

Jomar told me he was assigned in Gilead Center as driver-mechanic, gardener and maintenance for three months after I retired from KKFI. I asked him, “How come you know a lot about maintenance, from electrical to carpentry?”

He said he learned a lot from his father, who would bring him often to work. Jomar is not afraid to plunge into any kind of work and patient enough to figure out any problem. He loves to work with his hands and he’s gutsy.

Invariably, his colleagues in KKFI described him as “hard-working” and “easy to approach.”

“Masipag si Jomar at madaling lapitan basta maayos mo siyang lalapitan,” a co-worker said. “He is such a busy body yet he’s very accommodating. He is even willing to grant any of his colleagues’ requests even on his day off and Sundays.

Kapatiran has many valuable assets and, certainly, Jomar is one of them.

 

KKFI Board Elects New Member

By Glenda B. Gutierrez

 

The Board of Trustees of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) elected a new member last March 22, 2018 to replace Atty. Carlos S. Cao Jr. who resigned due to his busy workload.

Mr. Reiner R. Puno is the son of the former Board member and legal counsel, Atty. Leven S. Puno. He is an active member of the Knox United Methodist Church (UMC) and other civic organizations. At present, he is the manager of MOED Inc. (printing business), Director of General Board of Communications (UMCOMM), Corporate Treasurer and Board Member of the Philippine Christian University (PCU), and member of the Board of Trustees of the Mary Johnston Hospital (MJH).

His rich experience and expertise are great assets to the KKFI. He was immediately included in the Scholarship and Personnel Committees.

On another occasion, 22 members of the Foundation attended the Annual General Membership (AGM) meeting held last April 3, 2018. The program updates and 2017 Audited Financial Report were presented. They also ratified the board resolutions of the fiscal year 2017-2018 briefly discussed the proposed new logo of the foundation. They also re-elected five members of the foundation, namely: Atty. Armando L. Suratos, Mr. David D. Gutierrez, Dr. Betty. I. Molina, Ms. Eloida Lindo and Ms. Rosella Jean M. Puno.

The AGM was followed by the meeting of the Board of Trustees that re-elected Mrs. Goodwill Y. Mercado-Lansang as Chairperson.

Ms. Goodwill Y. Mercado-Lansang has been the chairperson of KKFI since April 2016. She has a rich background in management as the chief executive officer (CEO) and president of Primera Pharma Corporation, chairperson for the Resources for the Blind, Inc. and president of the Mary Johnston Alumni Association.

She has immersed herself in the programs of KKFI by volunteering in the Manila North Cemetery and by donating medicines.

She is supported by her co-officers namely: Atty. Armando L. Suratos (Vice-Chairperson), Mrs. Ruth R. Flores (Corporate Secretary), Atty. Lourdes M. Gayao (Assistant Secretary), Mrs. Fiona A. Molina (Treasurer), Mr. Eduardo C. Jimenez (Assistant Treasurer) and Mr. David D. Gutierrez (Auditor).

Like Ms. Mercado-Lansang, they have been serving as officers since April 2016.

 

‘Because We Care’: Organizing and Managing CGs in KKFI

By Rev. Maricel Monceda-Osias

 

“Because We Care” is the theme of the first Care Group Leaders Training of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) held at Prudente Hall of the KKFI Compound at 937 P. Paredes St., Sampaloc, Manila last June 21.

Ten Care Group leaders representing the different departments of KKFI attended the activity, which started at 9 a.m. and ended at 5p.m. These CG leaders are expected to administer care to KKFI staff members, students (residents and reviewees), as well as to the community-partners.

The aim of the activity is not only to train them on how to organize a Care Group (CG) or handle designated Care Groups but also to foster the importance of caring ministry in the lives of a Christian community such as the KKFI.

The activity started with a devotion, including a biblico-theological reflection on the importance of caring. It elaborated that seeking welfare (shalom) for others not only encompasses the spiritual but all dimensions of human life—physical, emotional, psychological, etc.

Ms. Nancy Nicolas, executive director of KKFI, emphasized in her lecture the importance of discipline in the life of Care Group leaders. She said leaders should be examples of excellence and integrity in both of their temporal and spiritual lives.

The self evaluation activity that Ms. Nancy Nicolas conducted helped the leaders realize their respective levels of discipline.

n the afternoon, the participants focused on discussing how to lead Care Groups. The Rev. Maricel Osias, chaplain of KKFI, discussed the following topics: “Why we join Care Group,” “Tips in leading Care Group,” and “How to lead Care Group: The Pastor’s Take.”

Malou Angoluan, one of the dormitory assistants who participated in the activity, expressed appreciation of the Reverend Osias’s inputs.

“This activity is very important for me, for us,” she said, “because before we don’t really know how to lead the group.”

Malou said she is often asked by the dorm residents what Care Groups are all about.

“We now know what to answer and how to invite future Care Group members,” Fath Leoncio, another dorm assistant, commented.

Malou and Fath are both leaders from the KKFI Revenue Development Department who handle Care Groups composed of University Belt students.

The said activity culminated with a practical application (practicum) on how to lead Care Group. Using Genesis 45:1-15 as the text, the KKFI chaplain led the leaders into a Care Group activity entitled “Reconciling Love” (from the Upper Room Disciplines). It was a meaningful and emotional moment for some leaders who opened up and shared their individual concerns.

“Because of this activity, we can now more effectively manage Care Groups and spread the message that we care,” Malou said.

 

Quenching My Thirst for Fellowship After 30 Years of Absence

By Rebecca L. Evans

 

Thirty years on from my first visit to KKFI or Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc., I have had the privilege to return in a research capacity.  I am working with the Water and Engineering Development Centre of Loughborough University in the United Kingdom and my thesis is WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) challenges in informal settlements/slums, particularly pertaining to MHM (Menstrual Hygiene Management).

I would like to share some of my initial observations with you.   I have looked at Water, Sanitation, Handwashing, Solid Waste and MHM in these areas: Manila North Cemetery (urban); Dump Site at Looban, Bulacan (rural); Tramo, a peri-urban site in Pulilan; and R. Papa Street, Manila (Urban).

Firstly, I have seen very big improvements with regard to water.  Piped water is available 24/7 here in Manila and there has only been one stoppage during my stay.  Even the informal settlements are served with household connections (except MNC) and individual meters on 1-inch diameter flexible piping.

A culture of purchasing filtered drinking water has also been established very effectively.  Water is sufficient and affordable for most.  This in itself will have led to a reduction in water-washed and water-borne diseases.

Regarding sanitation, there has been a cultural shift so that most people are using comfort rooms (CRs) and open defecation is not practiced in the city (although it still is in the rural areas).   Even in the informal settlements, people have dug pit latrines where they can.   Most are pour-flush as water is available.  However, they may be shared by a number of families, even 20-plus extended family members and friends.   Status is conferred by having a pedestal CR.

All the women I talked to have an aspiration to have a private CR.

Hand-washing is a bit of a hit-and-miss.  Many people know they should be hand-washing but they tell me they are lazy, or they forget.  There is a lack of understanding about the importance of washing with soap amongst those that are uneducated.

Generally speaking, solid waste and its disposal has got worse.  There has been a proliferation of plastic, here in Manila fuelled by the fast-food chains, but everywhere plastic is being used because it is cheap, convenient and, ironically, hygienic.

I have eaten food off plates wrapped in plastic to avoid washing up and making sure it is clean. The solid waste is accumulating in the streets and blocking drainage systems.  Although there is an efficient garbage collection system that comes regularly, there isn’t an understanding or commitment to separation and recycling.  The environment is being degraded.

Speaking to women about MHM, they face the same challenges as women the world over: worrying about leaking, staining, where to change, privacy, washing hands and disposal.  The extent to which it limits their activities is not fully understood.  It certainly is limiting to girls and students who are in education; they can’t always concentrate, they can’t take part in everything and they may need to go home.  It is also limiting to working women for the same reasons.

But for those in project areas who live in and around their homes, bringing up families, it does not seem to be such a worry.  Many are not regularly menstruating due to the constant cycle of childbirth.   It is difficult to say whether a coping strategy for menstruation is to stay at home, and a consequence is to have babies, or whether it is the other way round.

Nearly all women and girls would choose to use disposable napkins during their menstruation, for the comfort and protection they afford.  Women who stay at home or who are trying to save money, might use cloths.   Tampons are not available here and caused much curiosity.

I have identified some common cultural traditions surrounding menstruation:  On your first menstruation you should jump down three times in order to have a menstruation that lasts three days; you should not use disposable napkins otherwise your menstruation will stop; you should wipe the menstrual blood on your face to prevent pimples; you should stay in the house; and, finally, during your menstruation, you should not take a bath.

The extent to which these were practiced varied, though many people saw them as old wives’ tales.

In Manila North Cemetery, there are no household connections for water as it is not recognised as an informal settlement, merely a squat.  However, there is a hand-pump and deep-well, and people are earning sufficient as tricycle drivers mainly, to buy water to meet their needs.

However, there are very few CRs and many people are using “flying latrines,” (plastic bags which then go in the garbage).  In regard of MHM, most women can afford to buy napkins at the “sari-sari” store and dispose of them wrapped in plastic into the garbage, adding to the solid waste problem.

In Tramo, Pulilan, the community has water connections, CRs and garbage collection.  The main problem identified here is the anti-social behaviour of some of the residents.  Tramo is known as “Little Tondo” because of the fighting and drinking culture.  This prevents some people getting sufficient rest and was a particular complaint of menstruating women.

In Looban, at the dumpsite, the environment is full of waste.  There is plastic in the mud underfoot, diapers in the trees—it is everywhere. Although there are some household connections for water, there is also a hand-pump, which provides free water.  This community is very poor as their livelihood has been curtailed due to the closing of the dumpsite.

The hand pump broke while I was there.  Hand-washing is rare and they said soap was too expensive and too strong.  The people are not using sufficient water with soap for bathing, and I noticed a lot of water-washed diseases such as conjunctivitis, ringworm, scabies, boils, prickly heat.

The children looked malnourished and many have rotten teeth.  This community was also the least educated that I visited and very superstitious, for example, not taking a bath during menstruation.  This community needs education as well as practical assistance.

In Tondo, the main challenge is poverty.  Most of the workers are onion and garlic peelers, and their incomes are small.   Although they have household connections for water, they tell me they may disconnect them to save money.  The women and girls don’t always have enough money to buy sanitary products and have to resort to using old underwear during their menstruation.

These observations will form the basis of my paper and we are hoping to share the work globally at the Water and Engineering Conference in Kenya in July.  Our purpose is to capture the voice of women, and add to the academic literature which is informing governments and donors who are designing programs to make sure they are inclusive.

With my research complete, I was pleased to return to the dumpsite on my last weekend, changing my last dollars to buy some hygiene kits for the children of Looban.  We ran a hygiene education session and I was very pleased that we could give out 70 sets of soap, washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, powder and some napkins.    I very much hope that when I get back to the UK, I can continue to support this work.

My final reflections are really about what it has been like to revisit “Kapatiran” after 30 years.  Well, it was 30 years too long!

I made life-long friends when I came, who I see regularly on Facebook, and it has been my joy and my honor to have been able to meet up with so many during my stay.  Some of you may know Ate Nila Basilio, for example, who I was glad to see in Pampanga. She really looked after me when I was young.  And you all know Kuya Danny.  But the absolute highlight of my life was to meet up with my “sponsored child” from R. Papa Street, Webster Obina, who was able to finish his computer engineering degree and is now a grown man with a wife and family, with a good job that takes him all over the world.  He treated me to dinner in Makati City. I was so proud!

Kapatiran then, and now, is like a family.  I have found my old family, but I have also found my new Kapa-tiran family.  It has been a wonderful experience to have met so many lovely and passionate people in the new generation.

I have enjoyed sharing work, travel, devotions, street food (still not sure about “balut,” though) and birthdays.  I am indebted to you all: Ma’am Nancy Nicolas and Ate Glenda Gutierrez for making my visit possible; Kuya Danny Tangonan for looking after me in KKFI’s guesthouse; Ate Love Daroy-Gagno for organizing an incredibly rich exposure;  Joharrah Rafanan, Brian Fernandez, Ruzelle Camposano, and LJ Basilio for their fantastic translating skills;  Joanna, Teacher James Aguilar, Ate Ana Martin, Ate Lilia Bejer for making me so welcome in the office and including me in such fun times, Ate Evelyn Tendero and  Malou  Angoluan for making time for me, and Brian again for ensuring that I learn and experience as much as I possibly can about Filipino culture, language, food , politics, etc.

I have been richly blessed in meeting you all. You inspire me to continue with this work.