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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AT HOME AT KKFI

by Eda Acierto

(We are re-posting the the article on Eureka Joy Bueno, a loyal dormitory resident who stayed at the Kapatiran dormitory from 1997 to 2014 as part of the 67th Founding Anniversary celebration. This was first published in the 2013 Annual Report.)

 

Eureka Joy Bueno is one of the “big sisters” at the KKFI dormitory. She came to Manila in 1993 to continue her studies at the Philippine Christian University. She was a transferee from Saint Paul University.

In 1995, she worked as a secretary for a Chinese couple who owns a hardware business. It was in May 1997 when she decided to reside at KKFI to be with her younger sister, who was a resident from 1996 to 2000.

Joy was taking up a master’s degree in counseling at the De La Salle University (DLSU) when she was admitted to the KKFI dormitory.

Her family learned about KKFI dormitories from their pastor’s wife whose daughter had a reservation at KKFI. Since she was accepted at Mary Johnston College, they thought of transferring their reservation to Joy’s sister.

Joy said she likes KKFI because it gave her a safe place to stay.

“It has been home for me and I also found my second family here in the person of housemothers and dorm residents,” she said.

The dorm had a lot of activities to offer, such as acquaintance parties, Christmas parties, and most of all the weekly cell groups that started in 2004 and lasted up to 2008.

“It opened doors and increased my network of friends,” she pointed out.

Joining KKFI program and activities strengthened her passion to reach out to the community.

Her personal dream is to be a channel of blessing not just to her own family but to the community. She also wishes that her family will also feel the same passion she has in reaching out to people in need.

“KKFI has helped me see others as I see myself. To be more giving and to think of others’ needs first before one’s self,” she said.

She expressed hope that KKFI will continue its mission and vision to empower the people in the community.

Her message to KKFI staff, donors and stakeholders: “I would like to commend the efforts that KKFI staff put into their work — their going beyond the call of duty to serve and to be excellent in their work and for providing a warm and friendly accommodation for residents like myself. To the donors and stakeholders, I say, ‘thank you and may you be richly blessed for your generosity’.”

CANDLE OF HOPE

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.

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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.

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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.

DETERMINATION OVERCOMES ALL ODDS

 

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.

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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.

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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!”

WELCOME BACK HOME!

By Nancy C. Nicolas

Executive Director

 

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.

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Rev. Oly Marcos-Hidalgo

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.

Osias family
Ptr. Maricel Osias with husband, Darryl, and baby

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!”

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.

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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.

KAPATIRAN STORIES: ALMOST NOTHING IS NEW YET EVERYTHING IS NEW

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.