children playing street basketball

A Fighting Chance

Right before the Sucat Interchange is a small church that can be quite easy to miss if you are not looking at it hard enough. Its name is Ascension of Our Lord Parish, to commemorate Jesus’s Ascension into Heaven. It is small but it serves around 10,000 families distributed in a large area.

In a way, Ascension is a microcosm of the Philippines. Most of the parishioners are poor, living in the developing communities surrounding the Parish. The Parish Church itself is located in a middle-income suburb while at the farthest edge of the Parish is a sprawling exclusive subdivision. The irony is that at 300 or so households, the lowest number of families in Ascension, that subdivision still takes up the most landmass.

Our Parish Priest back then, Father Didoy Molina, was one of those young go getter priests, with an activist streak to him that always made him a fighter for social justice. He would always go around in the developing communities and he would visit individual families, and he would eat with them and exchange banter and stories.

One night, he was told that a family wanted to reschedule his visit as they were unprepared. Father Didoy told them it was okay, they did not have to prepare much but the family still insisted that they wanted to reschedule. It turned out that the family did not have any ulam (translation: viand or the main dish accompanied by rice) and what they had was saboy. Saboy in Filipino means to throw but in developing communities, it means literally throwing salt or soy sauce on plain rice so it would have enough flavor to be palatable. Most of the time, this would be the only meal of the day. This was poverty, staring right at us in the face.

Helping people get out of this cycle is therefore one of the imperatives of the Foundation. Through the help of G4S, one of the world’s largest security agencies, the Foundation and Ascension were able to hold a job fair for various positions in the security company in Ascension. The current Parish Priest, Father Jolan Landero was delighted that Ascension was chosen for this enterprise. From cashiers to drivers, these jobs would help to ensure that we can the endless cycle of poverty.

At the job fair, 15 out of the 20 interviewed had passed as Father Jolan recounts in one of his homilies. One of them, Dulce Amor from Masville recounts how this has changed her life. She had been studying at the convent, already a novice but somehow ended up marrying and settling down in Masville, one of the developing communities in Ascension. She takes odd jobs and every so often, sells kamoteng kahoy (rootcrop) to supplement her husband’s meager income. When the G4S offer came, she was ecstatic.

“Hindi ko inakalang matatanggap pa ako, pero praise God, inaalagaan pa rin ako ni Lord, (translation: I never thought that they would accept me, but praise God, the Lord still cares for me)” Dulce recounts, her voice quivering with emotion. “May pag-asa pa pala. (translation: There is still hope)”

Here is where we as a people can help our brethren. True, we give them stop gap measures so that they would not spend the day hungry, but giving them the opportunity to work and earn a living is far more powerful. All our brothers and sisters need is a fighting chance, a way for them to rise up from the quagmire of poverty.

It is our duty to give them that fighting chance.

 

About the Author:

Andrei Carada is a writer, blogger and dreamer. He dreams of a better Philippines.

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EGF SNAPSHOTS – LUPEN

We first met Lupen a few years ago during Mass at the Ascension of Our Lord Parish in Goodwill II. He was small, frightfully small. He was wearing a sacristan’s sutana at least two sizes too big for him and he looked like a kid barely out of preschool. We were a bit surprised when we found out that he was actually ten years old at that time, his size far too small for his age.

He lives out of Masville, a developing community straddling the border of Muntinlupa and Paranaque and part of the group of communities that Ascension serves. Malnutrition

We got to know him a bit better because he was assigned to be the lead sacristan every Saturday morning. That meant waking up at five in the morning to get to the Mass on time, something even we adults were hard pressed to do yet there he was, never failing to arrive on time. During especially holy days, he was the one in charge of the incense, an unspoken honor bequeathed to the most experienced sacristans.

Even then at a young age, Lupen has always said he wanted to become a priest, a dream that would have to be put on hold because it is frightfully expensive to enter into the priesthood. He is still enthusiastic about serving despite this, his passion for serving the Church unwavering. You would usually see him at the Church grounds, usually running an errand for one of the youth groups he was serving.

Last August, an urgent call to help sponsor the Masville National High School’s Sepak Takraw Team was sent to us via Facebook messenger. Given our prior relationship with Masville – we had several projects working with them – we were only too glad to help out and we went on a short mission there.

To the unitiated, Sepak Takraw is a game akin to volleyball, where a net divides the court into the two halves. The difference though is that instead of a rubber ball, the ball used is woven from abaca fibers and unlike volleyball, you cannot use your arms or hands. Rather, you primarily use your feet but the head is also allowed to score.

To our surprise, Lupen was part of the Sepak Takraw team. Despite being short, he was quick to show off his skills with kicking the abaca ball. We asked him why he was here. “Itong sepak po, nakakatulong sa akin po dahil ito yung susi para maging iskolar at makapagtapos,” (translated: This game sepak, this is what will be the key for me to become a scholar finish my studies) he tells us.

After we went there, we heard that the Masville Sepak Takraw won first place in their division meet. It warms our hearts to know that in our own small way, we may have given not just Lupen, but their whole team, a little push to get them on the path to achieving their dreams.

Here’s to helping more Lupens achieve their dreams.

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Andrei Carada is a writer, blogger and dreamer. He dreams of a better Philippines.

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