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.

 

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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.

 

AGE DOESN’T MATTER

By Flor Tatoy

A 60-year-old mother of three sons, a good wife, a reliable provider, and a person with a good heart. That’s how residents of Manila North Cemetery (MNC) describe “Nanay” Lilian Tiglao. This impression was not different from that of the staff members of Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI), who know her as a trustworthy, dependable and very strong woman.

Physically, though, Nanay Lilian looks very ordinary—her skin is tanned, her hair is cut short and blond, and she’s uncommonly thin, which she attributes to lack of nutritious food to eat. It is apparent that she has survived life’s many, many trials. But there’s one thing about her that’s remarkable—she always wears a beautiful smile.

She lives in a mausoleum inside the MNC with her husband and grand-daughter. Her sons have left them after they decided to take their respective live-in partners. Nanay Lilian provides the basics needs of the family and spends for her grand-daughter’s education, as well. She earns by scavenging and taking care of the tombs in MNC, from which she is paid P50 a month by the family of the deceased.

“Age does not matter. I can take good care of my granddaughter and help other young children too,” Nanay Lilian said.

“Masaya ako kapag nakakatulong ako sa kapwa ko.”

God’s provision has kept her family alive all these years, that’s the only way she could explain how they have been surviving. Despite her predicament, Nanay Lilian has a dream—for these young children to finish their studies so that they will be capable of helping others.

It was 2011, when Nanay Lilian came to know about KKFI through one of its social worker, Vince. She became a fan instantly, a firm believer of what KKFI is trying to achieve. She could tell that her dream and KKFI’s objective are aligned. So, she has made it a point to always get involved in its activities. Wherever KKFI needs her help, she was always there to give a hand.

Nanay Lilian, indeed, has been making herself available in almost all the activities of KKFI in MNC. She is even an active member of the SAMANTAGANOR, a group of caretakers of tombs and mausoleums inside the Manila North Cemetery (MNC) that KKFI helped organize.

In June 2016, she became an assistant teacher for the Supervised Neighbourhood Play (SNP) Program in MNC. The SNP is a home-based early childhood service for children ages 2-4 years old. It utilizes play as an approach in providing early stimulation activities that are developmentally appropriate for each target age of children in the community. It helps children develop relationships, skills, social values, self-confidence, self-respect and self-expression through unstructured time for play and socializing using the SNP manual of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Every day Nanay Lilian goes to house-to-house to fetch children and ensure that they will attend their classes. Even when sick, she still helped the main teacher handle the young students, teaching them how to write, draw, count and sing. She said she felt utmost fulfilment in what she does.

By helping KKFI, she is able to uplift the children by helping them finish their studies. Nanay Lilian does not feel she’s too old to extend help to the needy. She’s not the type who limits one’s self, especially when it comes to giving herself to others. She said that even a smile, a warm hug, or simple greeting of “hello” can impact the lives of young children. “These children only need our acceptance,” she said philosophically.

Economic Opportunity Given to Women of the Manila North Cemetery

By Vicente V. Eliver
Yesterday, March 8, 2017 the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) launched the “Happy Women, Happy Community” Project to benefit the women and single mothers of the Manila North Cemetery, particularly the members of SAMANTAGANOR (Samahan ng Mga Manggagawa at Tagapangalaga sa Norte). This was held at the KKFI Prudente Hall.

Happy Women, Happy Community Project aims to empower women by providing them training and development.

Women are oftentimes left at home, some being subjected to abuse and exploitation due to their limited capacities to address the needs of the family.

This project is a boost to their self-worth. The economic engagement will give them the opportunity to be key actors of change in their family and community as well.

The United Methodist Women of the United Methodist Church under their International Ministries with Women, Children & Youth granted KKFI ample amount of money last year 2016. Said grant will be used to provide of capital for the small scale business of Manila North Cemetery residents.

The KKFI management and recipients were excited with the initial kick off of the project. After a series of personality and small scale entrepreneurial trainings, 12 project proponents received certificates and the initial capital worth five thousand pesos (P 5,000.00) each giving them the opportunity to start a new or to expand their business activities.

The program started at 10 am, with the short devotion officiated by KKFI Chaplain Pastor Olympia Marcos.

She read the message from the book of Matthew about the Parable of the Talents that inspired and blessed the project proponents and staff who attended the service.

She cited the major point in her short message saying “All of us was granted by God a talent or talents. By using these talents and trying to improve them more, more talents will be granted. Using money in the right purpose will help you gain more and will make your life better.

Ms. Nancy C. Nicolas, KKFI Executive Director, in her short message also cited the importance of this project in relation with KKFI concerns on community building, economic and family well being of the residents in Manila North Cemetery.

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Ms. Nancy Nicolas, left, encourages the women recipients to use their talents to earn for themselves and their families.

 

She also encouraged the proponents to collaborate as a cooperative to better handle these projects and earn more.

We praise God for this opportunity to help the women and single mothers of the Manila North Cemetery. Special thanks also to the United Methodist Women for approving our proposal, and to Ms. Nancy C. Nicolas and Sir Rexan Dayao who authored the proposal.

NEVER TOO YOUNG TO LEAD

by Rex M. Dayao

 

I was on my way home one night of October 2016 when the jeepney that I am riding suddenly stopped. Three men had been shot dead. They, according the police, were drug users and pushers.

Drug users and pushers are considered the main culprits for crimes and illegal acts in the Philippines. While a part of me was at peace knowing that there were three less criminals in my community, I cannot help but worry about the lives that were lost because of not being given the opportunity to change, or perhaps given another option.

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YLEAD participants had to cross the “Spider Web” without touching the wires. Once a teammate touches the wire all of them have to repeat the process.

Our passionate President, Rodrigo Duterte launched a “war on drugs” with the fear of our country being a narcotic state. Since the launch, at least a million of Filipinos, majority are youth, have surrendered and are now being rehabilitated through a multi-sectoral approach.

More than 30 million Filipinos are in the age of 15-35. At least 20 million were not able to finish schooling and have limited access for jobs, or have no jobs at all. The lack of options gives these youth the ample time to engage on vices, gang wars or drug abuse.

This is the rationale that inspired Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc (KKFI) to develop a program that provides opportunities for the youth to learn about leadership, education, advocacy and development.

Youth, Lead and Advocate for Development (YLEAD) is a program that enables the youth to be a catalyst of change in their respective communities.

YLEAD was launched in September 2015 and was attended by 75 young leaders from communities in Manila and Bulacan. The seven groups were able to implement projects in their respective communities, to address challenges in education, economic and environmental concerns. It is good to note that majority of our Alternative Learning System passers undergo the YLEAD training, thus making the training relevant in shaping young leaders.

On its second year, the program team identified seven mentors composed of KKFI staff and Global Mission Fellows. To aid in facilitating the YLEAD Camp, 22 young facilitators applied and were competently trained to assist the mentors and co-participants.

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Barangay  Tibag group plans for their YLEAD project

Last October 25-28, 2016, 85 young leaders gathered at Gilead Training Center in Pulilan, Bulacan to learn more about themselves, their peers and their respective communities.

Ms. Nancy C. Nicolas, KKFI Executive Director opened the training by relaying her story of leadership. She said that her mother exposed her to national trainings provided by the United Methodist Church. Said experience propelled her to be the National President of United Methodist Youth Fellowship of the Philippines (UMYFP).

She told young leaders to never stop initiating change and believe in themselves amidst challenges.

The training was highlighted with the seven core groups presenting their community projects which aimed to provide people in their communities the knowledge and services they need to have a better life.

Axel Supleto, one of the participants said, “YLEAD is life-changing. I am thankful that I was able to attend. I was able to know myself better and I have the opportunity to do something for my community.”

While many fall victim of drugs and lack of opportunities, KKFI tries to find ways to create options out of challenges. YLEAD is a program that unleashes the power of the youth to be involved and prove to everyone that they are never too young to lead.

REGAINING SELF-CONFIDENCE

by Glenda B. Gutierrez
 
At the age of 15, Rachelle Cruz had to stop her formal education because “I got pregnant and got married.” Rachelle, still a teenager at 19, is very candid about. Yet one can sense regret in her voice.
 
She has reached the second level of high school and she is determined that the change of her marital status would not be a barrier. She knew that she has her whole life ahead of her and the lack of education would not stop her from dreaming of a better life.
 
Rachelle admitted that she lost her self-confidence when she got pregnant. She thought her future would be bleak. She said her mother, who is into direct selling of beauty products, supported her financially.
 
But Rachelle is a resourceful person. She buys goods from Divisoria, a business center in Manila, and sells them online.
 
“I earn enough for my baby’s milk,” narrates Rachelle.
 
Rachelle and her friend, Jonalyn Villaruel, were among those who enrolled in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Program of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) at the St. Peter United Methodist Church (UMC) in Navotas City.
 
She was among the youth who were visited by staff members of Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) to promote ALS.
 
“I enrolled in ALS because I want to have a well-paying and stable job,” says Rachelle.
 
Despite the difficulties due to her second pregnancy, she persevered. She studied at home whenever she was unable to go to class. She was advised by her doctor to rest near when her due date neared.
 
She initially thought that she would not pass the Accreditation and Equivalency Examination. That was how low her self-esteem was. Drawing inspiration from her children, she studied hard, reviewing thoroughly for the exam. Imagine her joy upon the knowing the results.
 
She is passed the entrance examination and interview of the Don Bosco TVET Center for the Bookeeping course of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). Their classes will start this November 2016. She plans to look for a job to save for a college education. She dreams of putting up her own business or a restaurant.
 
Rachelle is slowly but surely regaining her self-confidence that she once lost.

FOR THE LOVE OF GRANDMA

by Glenda B. Gutierrez

 

“The Alternative Learning System (ALS) will help me get a better-paying job with which I would be able to help my family. ALS would also widen my knowledge,” says Mark Anthony Tado, 16, in Filipino.

Mac, as he is fondly called, enrolled in the ALS of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) in Tondo, Manila because he wanted to finish his studies. He learned about the program from his grandmother who frequents the Barangay Hall to avail of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the government.

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Mark Anthony Tado left with batchmate Ian Leonardo Sabdao

Mac grew up with his grandparents. His mother, Laila is now living in Bacolod and has her own family. Mac has three half-siblings.

He stopped schooling after the second level of high school due to financial constraints. Both his grandparents are no longer working.

Mac idolizes his grandmother, Lola Anlay, whom he considers his inspiration. She took care of him despite her ailment. She is the reason why he refrained from bad habits and vices. He hopes to earn to help his Lola soon.

Mac admitted that his cousins did not believe he will not be able to pass the Accreditation and Equivalency examination. He even thought of giving up the ALS to take care of his grandmother.

But he really wanted to finish his studies. So he persevered and did his best. His folder which is full essays and mock tests is a testament to his dedication.

Mac wanted to become either a seaman or a basketball player who is included in the roster of a team included in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), the premier professional league in the country.

But first, he said he wanted to get a college diploma from the University of the East (UE) then work hard so he can buy a house and a car of his own. But before that, he knew he has to take a more practical and realistic step– enroll in a Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) course, have a job the soonest possible time, earn and save.

Mac will do whatever it take to offer the best for his grandparents, especially Lola Anlay.