TUNGO SA MALIGAYANG PAMAYANAN

ni Fort Nicolas

Kuwento ng Manila North Cemetery

Namimili ng mga bote ng Emperador, Ginebra San Miguel at iba pang alak si Aling Dolores “Dory” Cruz, 58, upang kumita. Ipinagbibili niya ang mga ito sa mismong mga pabrikang gumagawa ng mga ito.

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Aling Dolores “Dory” Cruz, (kanan) kasama si Ma’am Nancy Nicolas (KKFI Executive Director), Rev. Oly Marcoas at Henry Kibambe.

Bukod sa pamimili at pagbebenta ng bote ay may sari-sari store si Aling Dory. Kung anu-anong produktong de-lata, softdrinks, kape, tinapay, shampoo, alak at marami pang iba ang ibinibenta niya rito.

Ang dalawang negosyong ito, na parehong nakabase sa Manila North Cemetery, ang ipinambubuhay niya sa kanilang mag-asawa. Bagama’t may tatlo siyang anak sa kanyang unang asawa ay malalaki na ito at may kanya-kanya nang pamilya.

“Ipinaiikot-ikot ko lang ang kinikita ko sa dalawa kong negosyo,” ani Aling Dory. “Sapat lang, ngunit kung sakaling may kaunting sobra ay iniipon ko ito.”

Sari-sari store din ang negosyo ni Aling Adenita “Nita” Benevidez. Kumikita siya sa pagbebenta ng kandila at softdrinks higit sa ibang produkto. Tulad ni Aling Dory ay mag-asawa na lang nabubuhay sina Aling Nita. Pero, hindi tulad ng kaso ni Aling Dory, may kasama pang iba si Aling Nita, ang tatlong pinakamamahal niyang aso.

“Magastos ang mag-alaga ng mga aso,” pabirong pagrereklamo ni Aling Nita. “Aba’y singkwento pesos ang gastos ko tuwing kainan.”

Parehong benepisyaryo sina Aling Dory at Aling Nita ng bagong programa ng Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) na may katawagang, “Happy Wives, Happy Community.” Layon ng programang ito na matulungan sa paraang pinansyal ang kababaihan sa Manila North Cemetery na nagnanais na mag-negosyo o nais palawakin ang kanilang existing na negosyo.

Nang makapanayam ng manunulat na ito ang dalawa ay kababayad lamang nila ng balance ng una nilang ikot ng utang upang makautang silang muli sa pangalawang pagkakataon. Noong nakaraang Abril sila unang nakapangutang sa KKFI.

“Minabuti na naming kumpletuhin ang bayad sa unang ikot para tamang-tama ay mas malaki ang kapital namin ngayong malapit na ang Undas,” paliwanag ni Aling Dory. “Malaki ang kita ng mga negosyo sa Manila North tuwing Undas!”

Natutuwa umano sila sa bagong programa ng KKFI sapagkat di-hamak na maluwag silang nakapagbabayad sa pagkakautang.

“Dati-rati,” ani Aling Nita, “ay mabigat dahil ang inuutang namin na P1,000 ay kailangang ibalik namin ang halagang P1,500 sa loob ng tatlong buwan. Kaya’t kung P5,000 ang inutang namin, P7,500 ang ibabalik.”

Malayo umano ang nangyayari sa “Happy Wives, Happy Community” ng KKFI. Sa hiniram na P5,000, ibabalik lamang nila ang halagang P5,500 sa loob ng anim na buwan.

“Ang kainaman nito ay naniningil lamang sila tuwing weekend at hindi araw-araw tulad ng iba,” ani Aling Nita. “Napapaikot namin sa buong linggo ang kinikita namin.”

Ngunit inamin nilang hindi madali ang pumaloob sa programang ito ng KKFI. Kailangang mag-seminar muna ng apat na buwan upang matutunan ang pagtitipid at wastong pagpapalakad ng negosyo.

Kaya’t abot-abot ang kanilang pasasalamat kay Vicente “Vince” Eliver, ang social worker ng KKFI nan aka-assign bilang project coordinator ng “Happy Wife, Happy Community” Program.

Aniya, wala pang isang taon ang itinatakbo ng proyekto, na naimplementa dahil sa ibinigay na pondo ng United Methodist Women na kabase sa New York City sa Estados Unidos.

Napagtanto ni Vince na “challenging” pala ang pagsisimula ng lending business. Bago masimulan ay maraming dapat ihanda, tulad ng iba’t ibang dokumento, ang listahan ng criteria ng maaaring humiram at ang iskima (scheme) ng kabuuang programa.

Pangunahin umanong nais tulungan ng programa ang mga miyembro ng Samahan ng mga Manggagawa at Tagapangalaga sa Norte (Samantaganor), isang organisadong samahan ng mga manggagawa. Pangalawa ay ang mga magulang ng mga estudyante ng Alternative Learning System (ALS), day-care school at Supervised Neighborhood Play (SNP) na iniimplementa ng KKFI at mga iskolar nito.

Naglalayon ang programa na mabigyan ang mga magulang ng mga aktibidad na makadaragdag ng kinikita ng pamilya upang masuportahan nila ang pag-aaral ng kanilang mga anak.

Sinabi ni Vince na talagang mahirap ang simula ngunit sa unang batch na 13 nakapasang benepisyaryo ay may limang fully paid na, apat na kaunti na lang ang balance at apat na 30 porsyento pa lamang ang naihuhulog.

“Kapag may pera naman ay kusa silang nagpupunta sa kanilang ang ingat-yaman na si Aling Nita,” ani Vince.

Sa hinaharap ay nais ng KKFI na maging isang kooperatiba ang mga benepisyaryo at sila na mismo ang nagsisinop at namamahala ng nasabing pondo.

“Kailangan silang i-empower,” ani Vince.

Hindi lamang “economic empowerment” ang nararanasan nina Aling Dory, Aling Nita at mga kasamahan nila.

Mayroon din silang Bible study na sinimulan ng United Methodist Church (UMC) na nagpabago sa pananaw nila sa buhay. Halimbawa, aminado si Aling Dory na sugarol siya dati kaya parati silang nag-aaway ng kanyang asawa. Nagbago na umano siya. Nagbago rin ang relasyon nilang mag-asawa na naging matiwasay na.

Kaya’t ngayon, si Aling Dory at iba pa niyang kasamahan ay tunay na “happy wives.”

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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.

 

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.