By Glenda B. Gutierrez
“I am happy because I have proven to myself that despite poverty, one can succeed,” shared by Hazel Dungog, 22 in the vernacular. “I was determined to succeed because I do not want to disappoint or break the trust given by Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) management and staff.”
Hazel, a KKFI scholar, is the first Alternative Learning System (ALS) passer to finish a four-year college course. She belongs to the first batch of students in Sampaloc, Manila who pioneered the ALS program of KKFI in August 2011.
Last March 31, she graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Criminology from the University of Manila.
In my previous interview with Hazel in March 2013, I have seen how determined she was to achieve her dreams. She was teary-eyed when she narrated to the hardships she was undergoing.
She is eldest of five children of a construction worker. Though their mother helps augment the family’s income by accepting laundry and selling bananas, their income was not enough. Hazel had to stop going to school and help earn money.
“Before, my dream was just to graduate and pass the board examination and be a faithful and honorable law enforcer. Now, I want to give a better and comfortable life for my family,” expressed by Hazel.
“I am thankful to KKFI for being supportive. They even gave me a place to stay during my last year in the university,” added Hazel.
Hazel was referring to her one-year stay at Kapatiran dormitory when their rented room in Mayhaligue, Sta. Cruz, Manila was demolished. Though they were able to save money for the room rental fee and down payment when they stayed at their grandparents’ place, the room they could afford was too small.
She said she enjoyed staying at the dormitory where she was comfortable. She was a diligent student whose routine is dorm-school, home-dorm.
Most of all, she is thankful to KKFI for giving her a chance to finish school and achieve her dreams.
“I am grateful to see and know the importance of education,” she exclaimed. She added, “I am happy to experience the importance of unity in a group and to be able to participate in the activities of KKFI.”
Hazel was referring to her stint as a volunteer assistant teacher at the Child Development Center and as a teacher at the LikhAral (Create and Learn) Program. She was also able to experience the Lakbay-Aral and team-building activities for KKFI staff and volunteers.
At present, Hazel is working as a collector at the CMDCO Cooperative. She believes in the mission of CMDCO to help vendors expand their business and to increase their capital by providing loans to these vendors at low interest rates.
Hazel plans to continue working while reviewing for the comprehensive examination for would-be law enforcers. She intends to save as much as she can in order to help out in her family’s expenses.
She advised her fellow scholars and ALS students to continue what they started and to never give up and give in to trials and difficulties. She said they should focus on their dreams and be determined to succeed and not to break the trust given by KKFI and to prove that it did not make a mistake in helping them.
Her wish for KKFI is stability. She hopes KKFI will continue its mission of helping the needy and underprivileged. She prays that KKFI would have more recipients and beneficiaries.
“Thank you to all the staff of KKFI in the Administration, Resource Development and Program departments most especially to Sir Vincent Eliver, Sir Rex Dayao, Ma’am Nancy Nicolas, Ate Love Gagno and Ate Judith Ramirez,” as Hazel enumerated the staff who proved instrumental in her success.
“Thanks too to the donors and partners of KKFI like Ma’am Ruth Flores, Sir David Ahearn, Sir Philip Myers and to the LaGrange College.”
In conclusion, she thanked everyone for the unending support and assistance to the scholars and ALS students, saying, “May God bless you. Mabuhay po kayong lahat!”
By Nancy C. Nicolas
A loud cheer greeted the Rev. Olympia “Oly” Hidalgo’s announcement during today’s (May 2, 2017) morning devotion of Kapatiran staff that she will stay as the chaplain of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI).
The Philippine Annual Conference (PAC), where the KKFI belongs, held its yearly meeting in Tagaytay Mission Camp in Tagaytay City last week. On the last day of the holy conferencing, Manila Episcopal Area (MEA) Resident Bishop Ciriaco “Cerrie” Francisco announced the church assignments of pastors and deaconesses. Some of them had new assignments and some were retained.
“You have to bear with me a little while longer,” she told the KKFI staff jokingly. Pastor Oly is set to go to Iowa state in the United States a few months from now (probably August 2017) to do mission work there as a United Methodist Church (UMC) church worker. It was an assignment she had been waiting for in more than a year.
Bishop Francisco’s decision was what exactly Pastor Oly was praying for. She needed to be assigned within Metro Manila, at least, to allow her to work on her visa for her U.S. assignment. She was almost assigned to a mission church located in a remote part of Batangas. She had to ask for DS Max Gabriel and Bishop Francisco’s understanding and consideration in order to make her wish come true.
Of course, I am very happy to welcome back Pastor Oly, even if only for a few months more. I am also very glad that Pastor Maricel Osias, Pastor Oly’s replacement once she leaves for the U.S. sometime between this month and August, agreed to wait.
Choosing the chaplain for KKFI must be a bit more difficult for the bishop. The chaplain of Kapatiran must possess certain qualities that should fit the position. Aside from the KKFI staff, the “congregation” of the chaplain includes the 300 dorm residents, the beneficiaries of KKFI program such as the students of Alternative Learning System (ALS) and scholars, the senior citizens who gather weekly to join the Day Center for the Elderly and the total population of the University Belt (U-Belt) in Manila where the Kapatiran compound is located.
I also glad to have female pastors as chaplains of KKFI. We are contemplating on coming up with an aggressive campaign against sex predators in the U-Belt. I had a chance to talk to an acquaintance who happens to be active in the fight against human trafficking and sexual abuse. I was aghast when he told me of pastors of the church and professors of universities who take advantage of their young female church members or students sexually.
Hence, a female pastor as KKFI chaplain is a preferred choice. She has a long list of things to do for the Foundation. Only one thing I can assure her: Working in KKFI as a chaplain is an exciting and memorable experience.
Again, I greet Pastor Oly a big “Welcome Back!” I am also looking forward to the time Pastor Maricel will start working for KKFI as the head of its Pastoral Care Department (PCD).
Pastor Maricel is not new to KKFI. She stayed with us when she, her husband Darryl and their cute one-year-old daughter was still looking for an apartment to rent. Pastor Maricel is from Mindanao, where she and Darryl, the Administrative Assistant of Bishop Francisco, first met.
When the bishop was re-elected last year, he chose the Manila Episcopal Area (MEA) and reappointed Darryl to the latter post. Hence, the whole Osias family needed to transfer from Kidapawan City to Manila. And, yes, the bishop also decided to appoint Pastor Maricel to the chaplaincy of KKFI.
So, to Pastor Oly and Pastor Maricel, the whole KKFI family says: “Welcome back home!”
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.
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.
Since being in the Philippines, the homeland I never knew, many people have asked me how I’ve enjoyed my stay.
I’ve been living with a host-family and interning with Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) for nearly three months and I have learned more during this time than I ever have before.
My experience with KKFI thus far has been educative, enlightening, and inspiring in many ways. I have learned not only about the way an NGO functions both organizationally and relationally but, more importantly, how those who have a heart for the poor and marginalized turn their “calling” into tangible work that improves the lives of families and communities.
I have been able to observe several of KKFI’s ongoing programs in various communities including the Livelihood Training in Tigbe, Supervised Neighborhood Play in Manila North Cemetery, the CDC kinder classes, and the ALS youth class.
While these programs are unique, the commonality between them is the beauty and authenticity of the people they involve.
The women in the Livelihood Training program, most of them mothers, are intelligent, eager to learn, and encourage one another.
The children in Manila North Cemetery have wonderful laughs and marvelous minds and their devoted parents only want the best for them.
The children in the CDC are so very malikut but bright, happy, and good learners. The ALS youth are incredibly cool teenagers who I admire for their desire and dedication to continue their education.
From spending time with each of these groups, I have learned that there is something to learn from everyone, regardless of their age, gender, or background. I am also extremely thankful for the welcome, hospitality, and care everyone here at KKFI has shared with me. I am thankful for those who have brought me with them into the communities or allowed me to observe their classes despite my limited capacity to truly help since I can hardly speak Tagalog.
All of the staff members have been very kind and patient in answering all my questions, taking the time to explain things, and, of course, making sure I eat lunch!
I love the way the staff and volunteers relate to one another like a family, as family is surely the most important virtue and value of life in the Philippines. And these relations are extended to the communities as everyone works together to bring about the peace, social justice, and progress of the Filipino people.
Maraming maraming salamat to everyone at KKFI for a wonderful experience so far.
I count it a privilege and blessing to learn from you and be welcome here.
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.
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.
by: Nitz E. Nicolas
“We believe we cannot do everything without partners.”
These were the words expressed by Mr. Joey Ochave, EVP-Development Group, during the appreciation lunch for partners of UNILAB, a leading pharmaceutical company in Asia. The theme is, “Isang Taos-Pusong Pasasalamat sa Ating Samahan at Sama-samang Paglilingkod sa Bayan.” The ceremony was held at UNILAB’s Bayanihan’s Center last February 14, 2017 in Pasig City.
According to Mr. Ochave, the celebration was UNILAB’s way of saying thank you to everyone especially its partners. Partnership are a testament and an affirmation that through the Bayanihan spirit, UNILAB and its partner NGOs, LGUs, CSOs and other related organizations would work together for the common good of all.
“Husay at Malasakit,” UNILAB’S motto would continue to “inspire us as one family to help change the world which has become cruel and forgetting kindness.”
He challenged all institutions and organizations which were present to network with each other; to talk and find commonalities and areas for collaboration; and maybe through this collaboration, we could achieve a better world for the future generation of our nation.
UNILAB’s vision is to promote a culture whose work ethic revolves around family and community, cooperation and sharing.
During the celebration, Mr. Ochave thanked all UNILAB’s partners including Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. , which was represented by Mrs. Christian Love Daroy-Gagno, Program Director and Ms. Juanita Nicolas, Admin and Resource Director.
KKFI exhibited its products at UNILAB’s X-Quadrant, the venue for introducing UNILAB’s new products. KKFI is one of UNILAB’s valued social partners in promoting economic empowerment in marginalized communities in Quezon City.
A video featuring the interview with Ms. Nancy C. Nicolas, KKFI Executive Director, and Ms. Lilia Bejer, KKFI Livelihood Coordinator was also shown during the event.