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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