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.




by Larren Jo N. Basilio

After a 10-month hiatus, my fate brought me to Manila once more. Peacefully living in the isthmus of Bataan where I enjoyed the fresh air, morning breeze, and green pastures, my body longed to respond to my first call–service—both community involvement and youth empowerment.

Teaching is part of our family heritage. Most of us are involved in this ministry. In fact, for the last eight years, I was part of 6 Daily Vacation Church Schools in Bataan. I used to teach in Sitio Boracay, which is the total opposite of Boracay in Aklan. Houses there are made with wood planks. The community is quite isolated that one needs to take a short ride on a raft. Everything in Sitio Boracay is superlative.

Haunted house, vampires, manananggal, white lady, name it. These were the first words that popped in my mind on my first attempt to visit Manila North Cemetery as Likharal teacher. I stared puzzled at every mausoleum filled with appliances, mausoleums that serve as flower shops and sari-sari stores, and home for the living and the dead at the same time. It sounds crazy but, yes, it is real! For my longest time living in this world, it was the most shocking community I have ever seen.

Larren Jo Basilio, fondly known as LJ, leading in a prayer during the Likharal at the Manila North Cemetery.

My first day was disastrous. Nobody was listening. I tried every single strategy I usually do and nothing seemed to work. I asked one of my students, a nine-year-old, who was staring blankly at some object.

“Anong natutunan mo?” “Wala,” he replied, to my dismay.

“Ano na lang narinig mo sa kwento ko kanina?” I continued.

“Wala, hindi ako nakikinig. Iba iniisip ko,” he answered in a very strong voice.

“Anong iniisip mo?”

“Kung ano pwede kong pagkakitaan mamayang hapon.”

“Hingi ka na lang kila mama at papa mo.” I urged.

And he replied fiercer, “Baka ako pa nga magbigay doon e.”

I was at a loss for words for a moment. I didn’t know why but, somehow, I feel the burden that this child was bearing. He and his friends chose to stay away from the group. I continuously approached these boys and kept on feeling the atmosphere.

After some time they started sharing their stories. Most of them dropped from school and their ages are no longer suitable to their last grade level, making it harder for them to come back. Days passed and the class of 30 was divided into three.

“Bawal ang pangit sa grupo namin; dapat magaganda lang lahat,” an 11-year-old uttered.

A commotion broke out 20 steps away from me after class when another girl shouted “Gyera na!”

Emotions were stirred and one thing led to another, prompting a understandably nervous parent to whisk her daughter away from the scene.

Earlier during a game, a group refused to accept defeat and initiated a fight. I was caught off-guard. When confronted them, nobody wanted to take the blame. I tried to talk to both sides, but they both ignored me. What they wanted was to continue throwing punches at each other. I admit I was at a loss of what to do at that moment.

Teaching the good news (the theme of Likharal 2017 was “Tell the Good News”) was really a huge challenge! I could not even tell if my students learned anything. They seemed vent on denying me the pleasure of knowing they absorbed something, anything!, from me. I wanted to give up and let the week just pass me by. But then I was reminded of our Likharal’s lesson: the Lord empowered Paul, formerly known as Saul, to tell the good news perseveringly amidst imprisonment.

LJ (left with Flor Tatoy and James Aguilar teaching a dance during the LIkharal.

I was reminded that when Jesus called His disciples, they were not at their best. It is the series of tests that made them faithful followers of Christ. It is the series of tests that enabled them to see the unbelievable and fight for the doubtable. It is through and by faith that they were able to follow Christ while He was preaching, healing, and praying. And once when the disciples doubted, Jesus got up and calmed the storm.

“Bakit ka bumabangon?” One time Ate Love told me after a very tiring day of ALS class. “It is because you love and care for them.” That is the exact feeling I have for my Likharal students. This time I cannot be what I once was. I could not make them silent, I chose to be with them in making noise. As the saying goes, “If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em.” I chose to enjoy and learn what others see as a chaotic world. I mingled and tried to understand. I learned not to beg for what they cannot give. In a dim world, I lit a candle of hope, telling them that I strongly believe in their capabilities. I knew from the start that they might not memorize the things I taught them, but I trust that they will not forget them. What the mind can’t remember, the heart can.


FB_IMG_1494578213164ni Joanna Marie Merced
Matapos ang dalawang taong pakikibahagi ko sa “LikhAral” ng Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI), dumating din ang pinakahihintay kong pagkakataon ngayong taon na ito.
Dati ay tagasaway lamang ako ng mga makukulit na batang kasali sa LikhAral. Bukod nga pala dito ay taga-ayos din ako ng mga kalat at tagabili ng pagkain ng mga mag-aaral at titser na nagutom matapos ang dalawang oras na sesyon. Ngunit ngayon taong ito, iba na ang level ko. Isa na ako sa mga guro ng LikhAral!
Nag-umpisa ito nang anyayahan ako ni Ate Christian Love D. Gagno na maging bahagi ng “Trainor’s Training” na ginanap sa Baguio City ilang buwan lamang ang nakakaraan. Nakasama ko doon sina Flora Mae Tatoy at Raquel Fabre, na pawang staff ng KKFI. Maraming iba pa ang nakasali sa nasabing pagsasanay at sila ay pawang nagmula sa mga local churches ng United Methodist Church (UMC).
“Tell the Good News” ang tema ng Vacation Church School (VCS) ngayong taon, at ito ay pinag-aralan namin sa loob ng tatlong araw. Ang mga participants ng training ang may responsableng ipahayag ang nasabing mensahe. Naitanong ko tuloy sa aking sarili: “Kaya ko ba?”
Ito at iba pang mga tanong ang naglaro sa aking utak. Siyempre pa, kinakabahan ako pero, ewan ko ba, may galak akong naramdaman sa aking puso. Totoong natutuwa ako sa karanasang aking pinagdaanan sa Baguio. Nakakilala ako ng mga gurong may kanya-kanyang katangian at kakayahan. May masungit at may mabait. Ngunit hindi ko naramdamang hadlang ang iba’t ibang pinagmulan dahil iisa lamang ang aming layunin—ang maipalaganap ang Mabuting Balita sa mga kabataang lalahok sa VCS, o ang KKFI version nito na LikhAral.
Nakakatuwang isipin na may iba’t ibang pamamaraan upang ipahayag ang pag-ibig ng Diyos sa sanlibutan. Sa Baguio, nakita ko kung paanong pinagsama-sama ng Panginoon ang mga taong hindi magkakakilala upang magkaisa. Sadyang kahanga-hanga kung paano itinuturo ang pag-aaral ng mga kanta, ang paggawa ng mga bagay-bagay mula sa malikhaing kamay ng mga kalahok at ang paglalagay ng tamang aksyon sa mga liriko ng kanta.
Tinuruan kami kung paano magpatawad at humingi ng tawad sa mga taong nakasakit at nasaktan namin. Kung magagawa umano ito, masasabi mo na kung kaya mong magpalaganap ang salita ng Diyos.
Maaaring maiksi lamang ang tatlong araw sa ganoong klase ng pagsasanay pero ang mga aral na natutunan ko ay naipunla na sa aking puso at isipan. Siyempre, hindi natatapos sa Baguio ang aking pagkakatuto sapagkat ibinahagi namin nina Flor at Raquel ang aming mga natutunan sa mga kabataan mula sa Tondo, Manila North Cemetery at Bulacan. Ang isang guro ay patuloy na natututo habang siya ay nagtuturo.
Ang pinakamahalaga kong natutunan ay ang katotohanang Malaki ang impact ng tatlong araw na LikhAral sa buhay ng mga bata. Nakakagalak sa aking puso ang makita silang nagpupursigeng magawa ang iniatas sa kanilang gawain. Kay gandang tingnan na ginagamit nila ang kanilang malikhaing kamay, mga boses, mga kamay at paa sa pagsunod sa liriko at ritmo ng bawat kanta.
Wala ngang imposible sa Panginoon. Sino ang mag-aakala na 40 kabataan ng Tondo ang tatanggap sa leksyon ukol sa pag-ibig ng Diyos? Kaya’t ang epekto sa akin nito ay tagos sa aking pagkatao dahil nakakataba ng puso ang kaalamang mahal ka ng mga kabataang-Tondo.
Alam kong naituro namin nang maayos ang mga dapat matutunan ng aming mga estudyante, na siya namang magtuturo sa mga batang lalahok sa limang araw na pag-aaral sa Tondo, Paredes, MNC at Bulacan. At hindi nga nila kami binigo dahil maayos nilang naisagawa ang LikhAral sa mga lugar na nabanggit.
Nakakapagdulot ng ligaya na maisalin sa mga estudyante ang mga leksyong aming natutunan sa Baguio. Kung minsan nga ay nananaginip ako na nagtuturo ako at nag-uunahang sumagot sa tanong ang aking mga mag-aaral, sumasali sa bawat palaro, gumuguhit gamit ang krayola at papel at nagbabasa ng mga assignment.
Alam naming hindi perpekto ang aming mga nagawa. Maaaring may kulang. Pero tiwala kaming naihayag namin ang kailangang iparating na tema na “Tell the Good News.” Nananampalataya ako na ang bawat batang nakilahok sa LikhAral—sa kanyang bawat pagkanta, pagkembot sa saliw ng awit, pag-memorya ng Bible verse at pagpapatotoo na mahal sila ng Diyos—ay nakapiling ang Panginoong Jesus sa mga panahong iyon.
Alam ko na hindi natatapos dito ang mga katuruang inihatid namin. Sa kapangyarihan ni Jesus, ito ay simula lamang.



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.

Hazel Dungog during the graduations rites at the University of Manila last March 31, 2017

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.

Hazel, leftmost with her fellow Likharal teacher, Judith Ramirez and their students

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!”

Kapatiran Dorm: Conducive to Studying

Eda Acierto


As a Dormitory Manager, I usually roam around the 4-cluster dormitory buildings in the compound of Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation, Inc. (KKFI). This dormitory complex is located in the heart of the University-Belt (U-Belt).

On these occasions which is typically at night, I mingle with residents who are doing their activities. I would check the reviewer-filled library, the newly renovated multi-purpose student center (K-Hub) where residents with common interests happily meet.

I always remind them to be mindful of the curfew. In these cases, I would take the opportunity to ask how they are, personally and scholastically and ask them, “Is KKFI dorm really conducive for study?” In this blog, I would feature two residents.

Keyselle Palasigue, a board passer in the recently held licensure examination for certified public accountants (CPA), has been staying here for three and a half years. She graduated cum laude, an achievement all students are aspiring for and all parents are proud of.

Keyselle Palasigue

When asked how she achieved her high grades in school, she would often say it was because of the facilities that the Kapatiran dorm offers. She claimed they helped her a lot in her studies. Whenever it was too hot in their room, she would go to the air-conditioned library. There, she could concentrate more on her subjects.

She said, the canteen inside the compound also helped since it saved her time. Rather than waste time going out of the KKFI compound to scout for a dining place around the area, she would simply step out of the dorm building and walk a few steps to the KKFI canteen, saving some time that she could spend for reviewing.

“Sobrang komportable ang pagtira ko dito. Ang daming pasilidad na maaaring pagkaabalahan. Pakiramdam ko ay para lang akong nasa bahay namin sa Tarlac” (My stay here is very comfortable. There are a lot of facilities to be busy at. I could feel the atmosphere of our home in Tarlac.),” she mused.

The other resident I interviewed was Myking Dunca. Myking, now a licensed mechanical engineer, would invariably visit the KKFI dorm whenever he comes to the Manila. He stayed in the dorm during the full duration of his review until examination days.

When asked what made him miss the dorm, he would say without blinking: “Friends, a relaxing place, peaceful from the city’s rat-race, the air-conditioned library and the K-Hub which was very significant for us reviewers because it helped us a lot in breaking the stressful moments of our reviews.”

“Swerte sa amin ang KKFI dahil lahat kaming walong mechanical engineering reviewees sa room 209 ay pumasa,” he said. (KKFI is lucky for us. All eight reviewees from room 209 passed). He added, “I will not hesitate to refer this to my friends and schoolmates.”

Among the users of the K-hub are johnrein Dulay at Brent Alarcio, fellow residents, who regularly play the piano. Indeed, who would not be relaxed when you hear the beautiful sound of mixed classical and contemporary pieces played from the old piano envelope the surroundings in the morning and at night. Would you not be inspired to study? They affirm that Kapatiran dorm is conducive to learning. We invite students and reviewees to stay here and find out for themselves.


By Nancy C. Nicolas

KKFI Executive Director

Twenty members, including two new ones, attended the Annual General Membership (AGM) Meeting yesterday, April 18, 2017, held in the Ruth Prudente Hall of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) Compound on P. Paredes Street in Sampaloc, Manila.

One of the highlights of the half-day meeting was the acceptance of five new members of the Foundation, namely: Reinier Reyes Puno, Edna Oraye Imperial, Dr. Glenn Roy Villa Paraso, Bernice Laudencia Dumlao and Dr. Irma Francisco Panaga.

Aside from this part of the meeting, almost nothing else changed. An election for five members of the Board of Trustees was held and voted were re-electionists Dr. Florangel R. Braid, Mrs. Ruth Flores, Mr. Eduardo C. Jimenez, Mrs. Fiona A. Molina and Mrs. Perla E. Gunzon.

I take their fresh mandate to be an affirmation that the present Board, as a whole, is doing a good job and a marching order to continue its good work. Hence, almost nothing is new.

Or so it seems. But a closer scrutiny of the programs and projects of the “Kapatiran” will show that they are moving and evolving fast. Hence, new challenges are presenting themselves continuously to the Board and the Kapatiran staff.

As the executive director, I am proud of what the working staff of KKFI has done and is doing. During the AGM yesterday, we presented a video production showing a glimpse of the works of the Foundation this past year.  It was prepared by Kapatiran’s program director, Ms Christian Love Daroy-Gagno.

Another highlight of the AGM was the presentation of a new book we call the Kapatiran Stories, a compilation of blog entries and articles published in mainstream magazines about Kapatiran’s programs. We also created an electronic version (e-book) of it for our friends abroad.

One of the touching moments of the gathering occurred at the start, when the Board Chairperson, Ma’am Goody Mercado urged the Board members to be more involved in the works of KKFI. She said she “witnessed first-hand that God is using KKFI to extend His hand to the children and youth who were assisted to continue their education.”

Ma’am Goody related that her exposure to the things Kapatiran does changed her. She said: “In the process, I am no longer a bleeding-heart fence-sitter but an actor who joins the struggle of the underprivileged children and youth Kapatiran is trying to help.”

She said she was blessed by what she underwent. She concluded: “There is only one conclusion that I would like to share to all of you: These experiences have enriched me emotionally and spiritually. It is my prayer that everyone in the Board of Trustees be as blessed as I am by immersing in the programs and activities of our Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc.”

With Ma’am Goody’s permission, I would like to extend the same invitation to everyone who is reading this piece because I believe it is our duty as a Christian to help those in need. I know you will be equally blessed, especially because you will not just help an individual or individuals but a whole generation of the future.


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 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.


Erica, a KKFI scholar, showing us her home.

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.