My WD Story by Eunice Barbara C. Novio

Matapang ka kasi, kaya nadagdagan din ang tapang ko (You are brave, that’s why I became brave too.). These were the words which came from a young woman I helped, a victim-survivor of an abusive relationship. These words keep ringing in my ears every time a woman needs my help, not only in my hometown but also now in Thailand, among my fellow Filipino migrants and some migrant women from Burma.

In 2008, after the people’s organization in Occidental Mindoro where I was a member decided to fold up, I was left alone and decided to continue an advocacy focused solely on women’s issues and concerns. It was also the time that I was able to get a scholarship from the United States and decided to study in the Philippines instead of going abroad. But the shift from being a political activist into a woman’s advocate was not a sudden change. My involvement goes beyond being an activist or a woman but because I am a mother. It may sound strange or a cliché but advocacy and activism are more meaningful to me now because of motherhood. Now, what kind of feminism is that? I don’t recall anymore. I am not good in memorizing theories.

Soon enough, I occupied myself conducting gender sensitivity awareness in schools, first time this ever happened in our province. I infused feminist theology to gender orientation which could be applicable to the context. I tried to team up with government entities like the Municipal Social Welfare Office as well as the Provincial Social Welfare Office. And ultimately, I was able to convince a woman-survivor to open up in public and become my partner in the advocacy against VAWC [violence against women and children].

Being an advocate, and now known that I assisted women victims in filing of cases against partners, was not easy since I was not a part of any organization. On the other hand, those who approached me were assured that I could help them because I did not represent any government or private group. Even in the dead of night, I could receive calls asking me to go to the police station because a friend had a fight with her partner or a mother was crying because her daughter was abused.

When I enrolled at the CSWCD for its Master’s Program in Women and Development in 2008, I felt a compelling need to study the theories not to become an “expert” in the field but more to understand women’s issues and to concretize my realization that women, in spite of modernity, are still under the clutches of patriarchy.

But then, in the real situation, I cannot tell the women I was helping that “patriarchy is evil and we have to fight for it to gain control of ourselves.” Indeed, it was different. All the theories and the feminists I’ve known are a blur when I console a woman abused by her husband or partner. I could not utter a word, seeing a young girl telling her experiences of abuse. In such situation, I could just say, “it’s not your fault being a girl. You have all the rights. And we will fight for these.”

My husband would say that my advice sometimes was “brutal, ” not considering the feelings of the husbands or the partners. Yes, I may be brutal, because I wanted everything to be settled in court and the perpetrators to be punished. Now, that is a blend of radical and liberal feminisms.

One of the most memorable experiencse for me as an advocate and while still a student at WD, was when I persuaded a Fiscal (male of course) to represent an abused woman. Contrary to expectations, the lawyer of the abuser was a woman! It was a landmark case (in our province) of RA 9262, because it was finished in just six months after it had been filed! As of now, the fiscal is still handling VAWC cases. I just hope he is winning them.

However, things changed when in the middle of 2009, I was harassed by a military agent. By that time, my husband was already accepted as a volunteer abroad. Still I clung on to the hope that the harassment would pass. In spite of the surveillance I still continued my advocacy, conducting GST and assisting women who needed me. The surveillance and harassment stopped for a while because I reported it to the authorities, including the police, and to the WD, and of course shouted it out on Facebook!

In 2011, we decided to immigrate to Thailand. It was a half-hearted decision because I felt that I was leaving my responsibility to my fellow women. Actually, two weeks before we left, I was still assisting a young woman impregnated by a chief of police in our province and helping her in filing a case.

I am now in Thailand and continuing my advocacy and serving my fellow Filipinos. I also did some documentation on the struggles of the migrant women from Burma. In fact, many Filipino women and men here need gender orientation and information regarding our basic rights as migrants. Majority of the Filipinos here come as tourists and are legalized only after getting working visa from Thai embassies either in Lao or in Cambodia, but not in the Philippines. Thus, proper documentation and even their rights as citizens of the Philippines in foreign soil are new to them. In addition, Pinoy men bring the Philippine macho culture and the culture of their barrios to Thailand. These fall heavily on women, both those who are left in the Philippines and those who are with their husbands. Philandering is very common. Now, I am also into migrant issues which are heavily laden with gender issues. As of this moment, I am confronted with an incident that we are trying to settle. Again, as a feminist, condemning both the woman and the “other woman” is not our option. They are all victims of patriarchy and stereotypes. Yes, even far away from home – Thailand, which is a highly patriarchal society.

Being uprooted from one’s own country does not mean the end of serving my fellow-women (and men too), but a process of widening our perspective and extending whatever we have to others.

In the meantime, we will stay here.

*The author completed her degree in Master of Arts in Women and Development in 2011. She is currently based in Phitsanulok, North of Thailand. Ms. Novio is now back into writing, documenting the lives of the Filipinos aside from being an ESL teacher. During her free time she travels to the borders of Thailand to visit the refugees and other migrants.

Ka Nitoy by Cayetano L. Santiago, Jr.

Many relatives and friends have asked me to write about my experience. With relatives, especially the sons, included in their plea the “benefit for the younger generation and even in the generation to come.” And as I cross the threshold of being an octogenarian, the sound of urgency becomes more shrill. They must have heard me many times saying that I am grateful to the Lord for carrying me this far but I do not want to be greedy, especially in his eyes.

I have always felt close to UP and visit the Diliman Campus whenever I am in the Philippines. Of course the graciousness of the faculty and the enthusiasm of students, and stories of their exciting projects in different barangays in the country always revitalize my spirit.  There are historical reasons for  this feeling of closeness.

Early in my childhood, I learned that one must have education to get anywhere in this world.  Having been born to a poor family, the prospect of being sentenced for life to hard labor was enough push for me to be serious with my studies.  So in high school, I merged being a “cochero”,  and the president of the Junior Student Council and later the Torres High School Student Council. Actually, this was not a bad combination because at that time the “cochero” was the King of the Road. Being ranked fourth in a graduating class of 480 gave me free passage to U.P., the University of my dream, and honestly speaking, the only one my widowed, ex-school teacher, turned government employee father can afford.  A very understanding Head of the U.P. Department of Chemistry kept me as student assistant for two years  as his secretary, in spite of the countless times, I failed to recover needed correspondence from the filing cabinet.  I surmised later on that he must have valued more my utter ignorance of chemistry than my clerical skills, although I could take his dictation in short hand, because that meant I cannot give out information on tests to be given that were my responsibility to cut into a stencil and duplicate using a mimeograph machine.

During my third year in U.P.  — incidentally my senior year since I graduated with A.B. (Arts-Law) in three years by carrying overloads and taking summer classes, Carmen Talavera returned from her studies in the United States as a U.P. Fellow and a Rotary or Lions Scholar.  Upon her return, she instituted courses in social welfare.  That immediately caught my attention.  My heart was not really in law although it was my father’s first choice for me because even if I did not succeed in law practice I could always be a chief clerk.  I do not have any doubt that made a lot of sense to him who  worked as an assistant chief clerk, under his cousin-lawyer who was the chief clerk.

I decided to go into social work for two reasons:  I would be able to finish in less time than in law (At that time I had already been going steady with Abigail for five years.) but more important it will enable me to help people without making another person a loser.  After receiving the A.B. degree and enrolling for a master’s degree in social welfare, I was hired as a graduate assistant with teaching responsibilities.  I believe I taught Introduction to the Field of Social Welfare and did it for two years.  In 1953 I was awarded the degree of Master of Sociology and Social Welfare, the first recipient.   I left for the United States with a Fulbright Scholarship and U.P. Fellowship in the same year to enroll at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work of Washington University in St. Louis (Missouri).  After graduating with the degree of Master of Social Work, major in Medical Social Work, in 1955, I worked as a medical social worker at the St. Louis Chronic Hospital which gave me practical professional experience prior to returning to U.P. to assume teaching social work in 1956.  It was a short-lived career in UP but one well remembered because of the many brilliant students with whom I enjoyed lively discussions.  At least two of them taught in the College for sometime and Evelina (Asuncion) Pangalangan even became dean.  I remember Thelma (Lee) Mendoza keeping her smile even as she “argued” a point with me.  I would not exchange those two years for anything else.

Helping people was probably in my blood, transmitted through my parents.  When I was young, neighbors and relatives would come to our father seeking his advice, many times on relationship problems.  To him the ability to “makisama” is fundamental to a life of happiness and contentment and he was happy to enable his friends and relatives.  As a head teacher of a primary school, he was also involved in community development, at that time promoting livelihood programs in raising fruits and vegetables and chicken.

Life is a continuous process of learning, even scrutinizing one’s style of living.  Shortly after returning to the U.S., as an immigrant this time, in 1958,  and affiliating ourselves with a Presbyterian Church  — at that time, there were three of us in the family (Abigail, my wife, was a Methodist;   I was a Roman Catholic;  and our only son then, Louis, was baptized in a Presbyterian Church), I began to question the concept of a happy life as an adjusted life, a learning I attributed to my social work training.  To me,  an adjusted life is like a leaf flowing down the river without getting snagged by low-lying branches or a sudden curve in the river.  I just thought there was more to human life than a leaf floating freely.  So I read books written by Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich and started the journey on a life powered by God’s forgiveness of my sin, through Jesus Christ, and caring for, serving others.  Such a life is not free from anxiety, in fact it can be replete with anxiety, but it leaves you feeling whole and right.

I was privileged to live in the US in the sixties during the struggle of minorities for civil rights.  One of my early involvements was in voter registration in Montgomery, Alabama, shortly after the historical “Selma March”.   Before departing from Chicago, all five of us had to arrange for our bond money, in case we got arrested.  The fact that we were kept under surveillance while walking the neighborhoods, registering blacks to vote and even when we were eating in restaurants, kept our anxiety level on high.  The worst time for me was when we were rallied by one of Martin Luther King’s assistants to enter the local teacher’s college and dump all the classroom furniture through the windows to protest the suspension of black students who were suspended for their participation in the Selma March.  This was during our last night in Montgomery!  I kept on telling myself that I only volunteered for voter registration, not to participate in acts of vandalism.  As a daring coward, I learned then that you have to give up personal safety if you are to participate in protests of social injustice.

During those days, there was open admission that there was something atrociously wrong in the society but there was also the faith that something can be done about it and that each one of us could make a difference.  We knew we were involved in something historical.  My oldest son who was about ten years old at that time had that lesson in history after some cajoling from me.  Martin Luther King was leading marches for freedom housing in Chicago, the freedom to reside in a neighborhood of one’s choice rather than in a neighborhood dictated by one’s color.   I was going to march and invited Louis to go with me.  He did not want to.  He wanted to practice his pitching arm.  Maybe I was heavy handed but I asked him:  “Louis what will you tell your grandchildren when they ask you, “Grandpa, what were you doing when Martin Luther King was leading marches in Chicago?  Will you tell them you were practicing your pitching arm?”  Needless to say, shortly thereafter both of us  were shouting “Freedom” in response to the leader’s yelled question “What do you want” and “Now” responding to the question “When do you want it?”  – and with our fellow marchers, singing “We Shall Overcome.”

The struggle for civil rights was not just in urban areas.  My family, by then we were five in all, did volunteer work for a month with the Farm Workers Organizing Committee at the invitation of Larry Itliong a Filipino union leader who was an early organizer of farm workers.  In fact, the headquarters of the Organizing Committee was in the Filipino Union Hall.  Larry was Cesar’s deputy at that time.

I like to relive that part of history because it affirms in vivid colors the dignity of each person.  But such dignity only blooms as it recognizes another person’s dignity, that it comes from the same source as yours, from God.

It seems that the more years I live, the more I am told that I seem to be full of life.  And they probably refer to more than just having a flat belly at age 82 or they just don’t expect someone of my age to walk, talk, think, or dream of the future.

I have not found the Fountain of Youth.  Twenty years ago, all I was wishing for was to be able to live to January 1, 2000, the beginning of a new century.  I knew it would not be different but I just wanted to be there.  Of course my primary care physician wants me to live to 130 years old so he and I can get into the Guinness Book.  At this time, the number of years does not seem to matter as much as how those years have been lived out.

First and foremost for me is that whatever I do it will be in the context of saying thank you to Jesus Christ for saving me from my sins.  I have to share with others the unconditional love he gives me so I can fully realize that love.  Dean Lito Manalili likes to recall what I told the faculty of Torres High School in Tondo, Manila on the occasion of announcing an endowment for the school in the memory of my first wife, Abigail.  I told them that earlier I kept asking myself why God was choosing to keep me healthy at my age.  The answer I came up with was so I could give more help to others.  So I decided to return to work and then devoted the income to endowment, part of which went to the CSWCD.  I told them that in deciding how the money would be used, I asked the question “Who will Jesus Christ look for should he visit the campus of Torres High School?”  The answer came back clearly to me – the students in the lower sections, the ones who do not get the attention of teachers, at least not the same attention they give to those in the higher sections.   I would like the money to fund projects that will help the students in the lower sections achieve more so we can raise the standard of education in Torres High School by raising their achievement and not the traditional way of capturing more medals by those in the higher sections.

I try to be grateful, even for little things.  How about being grateful for being able to pee without struggling?  You know at my age that is very important.  When you are grateful, it means you are focusing on something positive, not negative.  Happy thoughts!

I like to keep on learning.  One day as someone with no less than 40 years of experience in ironing clothes, I got excited when I found out a way of ironing my pleated pants with the pleat flowing nicely to the rest of the crease!  I am into organic gardening nowadays and get fascinated by the knowledge of those who have been practicing it for some time.

There is always something concrete that I want to do tomorrow.  Sometimes this keeps me from sleeping right away because I like to explore all the angles in getting it done.

I like to try something new.  My latest creation is a toss salad made from the traditional lettuce or mustard green with malunggay, talinum, and pansit-pansitan, with pineapple, mango and any other available fruit thrown in.

I try not to appropriate someone’s problem.  For example when I encounter a racially biased attitude, I don’t make it my problem because the problem really belongs to the prejudiced person.  You will be surprised how you feel afterwards.  You are not even bothered by a feeling of hatred, not even the negative feeling of anger.  Of course, you have to feel secure in your feeling of your own self worth.

I believe that more of us can share more of our resources for the benefit of people outside of our families.  Try giving an amount you at first don’t think you can afford and you’ll find out that it does not make any dent in your life style.   Maybe a common person like me lives with less frills so that sharing 20% of the income is doable.

In the Philippines, parents don’t feel  they are leaving enough for their children.  I commented once that I did not feel obligated to leave so much for my children because when my father died I did not get a dime.  He actually did but the three of us ceded our shares to our eldest sister.  Yes, I did not get a dime but I got the invaluable inheritance of an open heart that pulsates as I reach out to those in need, a mind that seeks out new knowledge, a faith that does not let me forget from whom all the blessings flow and that it is in their sharing that I can savor their full value, and the conviction that only as I respect the dignity of the other person can I experience my own dignity.

It has been a good life and I thank my parents, brother, sisters, wives (just two, in succession!), children, grandchildren, great grand children, teachers, students and all the persons whom I have the privilege to know and most of all, our ever loving God.

 

February 7, 2011

Quezon City, Philippines

 

My Journey by Prescilla Dela Pena Tulipat

Involvement in women and development work
My undergraduate course was Development Studies so I needed to apply what I learned after graduation (1987). Initially, I was with the Development Academy of the Philippines where we crafted modules for the training of LGU officials.

From there, I joined a project on the 1987 local elections with the then UP College of Public Administration. It was the most exciting job I ever had because we went from one province to another interviewing local officials, church people, military and parliamentarians (national and local).  Simultaneously, we were also doing a research on women parliamentarians during which my interest in women was first ignited.

During this time, a pioneering course in women and development opened  in the  UP College of Social Work and Community Development.   I was very eager to enrol to learn more about women and politics.  Little did I know that my enrolment in the program would pave towards the healing of my childhood abuse.  In the program, I was introduced to different women and gender issues.  Particularly in my feminist counselling subject, I was able to reflect on my childhood years and this  led me to do a thesis on the dynamics and nature of incest,  which happened to me when I was a child.  I vowed to expose such abuse in public and I was successful in doing that.  My first involvement in a women’s organization was in Women’s Resource and Research Centre (now defunct) and my colleagues there were very supportive of my study.  We also did some researches and training with prostituted women and women workers.  In one of those studies, I was challenged to look into the connection of incest and prostitution.  This led me to reflect back on my college years when I also met several classmates who were sexually abused.

Next, I worked with WomanHealth Philippines ( of which up to now I am an active member).  From this women’s group, I was able to appreciate the links between personal and national health issues.  The comprehensive framework which we adopted  in viewing women’s health has been very useful to me up to now because I have employed it in my counselling work.  We did also a lot of training and education with rural women. In between,  I did part-time teaching  at the Philippine Normal University where I taught psychology and research.  I was touched recently when one of my former PNU students acknowledged in public that I was her mentor; some of them also gave me gifts to thank me for what I contributed to their lives.  These forms of  recognition I will cherish throughout my life.

After that short stint, I went up to the mountains of Tanay to teach barefoot doctor-students.  I introduced them to women and gender health issues, and to  Filipino  as the national language.  I was the only resident teacher who stayed in the place without electricity and computer.  There I learned community organizing;  we walked long distances just to be able to deliver health information and services to the indigenous people.

Eventually ,  I had to leave this challenging work because I had to attend to the needs of my family.  This was the time I got a research job at the Institute of Spirituality in Asia.  It was also very timely because I was seeking some answers on why I need to prioritize my family instead of doing organizing work.  There, I found several answers why spirituality has been the driving force for men and women who do fulltime community work and why some resort  to development NGO work afterwards.

In Manila, I worked as a crisis counsellor and advocacy officer at the Women’s Crisis Center where I learned more about feminist counselling especially applied to wife battering and rape cases.  We put up a national referral network where we can refer cases anywhere in the country.  This facilitated our work as helpers of women.  From there, I realized we cannot just simply attend to individual cases of women;  we must also see the systemic and systematic cause of violence against women and children (VAWC) which was the unequal power relationship between men and women at all levels (individual, interpersonal, community and societal).

At the personal level, it dawned on me that a counsellor can also be violent especially with a partner who  triggers  past memories.   I needed to be in a far place to thresh out this paradoxical truth.  In Mindanao, I found a university with a course  on peace building, where I also taught about guidance and psychology and at the same time reflected on the reasons why a ‘victim can also become a perpetrator’;  I started learning and studying about being violent and violence in general.  Fortunately, there was a course on Gender and Peace building in Costa Rica to which I was given a scholarship. Here, I learned more deeply about the roots and dynamics of personal and societal violence,  as well as the frameworks, strategies and techniques in addressing this.    I did my internship in Indonesia because I wanted to know how a men’s program is being run inside a Women’s Crisis Centre.  At present, I am applying what I have learned in my MA Women and Development and Gender and Peace building courses to our counselling program at  the UP Diliman Gender Office where I work as a guidance counsellor.

Insights from doing Women and Development Work

I  now look at things within a more expansive or comprehensive frame.  I learned to connect personal issues to bigger societal issues and from there create interventions at the personal, community and societal level.  I can also apply the gender lens in every issue.  As a  crisis counsellor, I began to appreciate the hurdles every woman has to overcome just to able to free herself individually before she can  work  in  a bigger sphere of life.  I can also engage in emotional matters without being drained.  More importantly, I became convinced that I have to work with men to be able to address VAWC effectively, knowing that more men are perpetrators of VAWC as well as potential agents of change.  This last realization was a big departure from my earlier stance where all my energies were spent on working with women.

What keeps my passion for women and development work burning

I practice Shibashi, Taichi and meditation daily.  I see to it that before I sleep in the evening I am  able to give thanks for  all the good things that have  happened in my life the whole day and derive lessons from the ‘bad’ things which might have occurred.  Also, I read a lot about my interests in life which are too many to mention here; e.g.,  astronomy, biology, zoology, painting, dance, among other interests.  I am so grateful there is an internet which assists me in gaining a lot of knowledge about these interesting features of life.   Other important sources of strength  are  my nieces and nephews.  For them, I envision a violence-free society and I keep my mind  focused on how to contribute to its attainment  for as long as I live.

Another inspiration for me are my groups of women friends with whom  I have regular conversations and socialization.  These groups offer different interests: some love to chat about food, others about politics,  arts,  and music.  Thus, I derive a lot of nourishment from life by just  being with them.  Of course, there are some men in my life, young and old,  which balance the equation (though there are fewer men compared to women friends).  I see to it that I can communicate my deep concerns about men with them so that I can draw some honest answers and compare them with the answers of my women friends.  This way, I can have a realistic assessment of how to view a certain gender issue or concern.

The expansive and inclusive framework I use in analysing women and gender issues helped me avoid cynicism and getting burned out.  I see the dots of life connected and interrelated to all issues.  In fact, I am looking at spirituality as deeply connected with sexuality and women; this viewpoint enables me to help women reclaim their wholeness despite being battered or raped at some point in their lives.  At this point in my life, I constantly nourish my spiritual well so that I can have something to share with my counselees.  As I noted above, I exercise physically and spiritually so that I can appreciate life wholly and fully.  I now recognize that I cannot possibly live with ideology alone; I need comprehensive and expansive frameworks to understand life across time, space and cultures.

What makes my work in women and development work meaningful

It is meaningful particularly in my counselling work when each person is able to overcome the harshness of life and I see them smiling once again.  This alone makes my work more fulfilling and meaningful.  Even if they say that counsellors do individual work and do not impact on a larger number of people,  I am always satisfied that each life I touched contribute to the betterment of society.

As to my other work such as an educator/teacher, a researcher, advocate for women,   I regard each work as a step towards the  realization of my dream of a violence-free society These kinds of  work turn out to be  even  more challenging and fulfilling whenever I mentor young women and men who later become  interested in gender and peace work.

I have arrived at a conclusion that development to be more meaningful must touch each person’s life: economically, psychologically, spiritually, among other aspects of being a human being.  This I have realized  throughout my life journey where I engaged with different people of different ages,  from different places, cultures and genders.  I hope the richness and diversity of life can be cherished by each person so that each of us will live and leave this Earth carrying the true treasures in our hearts.#

DAR, DAP, UP Agree to Develop Master’s Degree in Rural Dev’t

THE Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) forged today an agreement with the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) and the University of the Philippines-Diliman (UP) to develop a master’s degree in rural development to enhance technical skills of government employees.

DAR Secretary Gil de los Reyes said that the master’s degree – Master in Public Management, Major in Rural Development (MPM-MRD)– is a pioneering academic program that delivers a blended learning mode that has never been practiced in the country. He said classes begins on March 19, 2012.

De los Reyes stressed that the MPM-MRD is a customized masters program aimed at enhancing the joint efforts of the three main government agencies involved in rural development – the DAR, the Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which are also called the National Convergence Initiative (NCI) agencies.

De los Reyes explained that MPM-MRD will be taught not only on a traditional face-to-face mode but also on an online or distance education basis.

DA Secretary Proceso Alcala said the MPM-MRD “is targeting the field supervisors, technical/program staff and administrators of the NCI agencies to provide relevant enterprise, political, managerial and technical skills for an inclusive and sustainable rural development.”

DENR Secretary Ramon Paje agreed that the course will help in pursuing the main thrust of the NCI, which is enhancing institutional mechanisms of the NCI agencies, the economic empowerment for the rural poor, and in achieving spatial integration.”

For its part, the DAP will lead a consortium of prime academic institution called the “Educational Consortium for Rural Development (ECRD),” consisting of the Ateneo School of Government, Xavier University and UP-Diliman’s two component units: College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD) and the Diliman Interactive Learning Center.

The DAP and the ECRD will develop the curriculum, syllabus and training materials for the course including the deployment of faculty for the MPM-MRD.

The DILC will deploy a learning management system called the Open Virtual Learning Environment (OVLE) for the delivery of the MPM-MRD on an online mode.

Training on Supervision

Opening the year 2012, the Research and Extension for Development Office (REDO) held its first initiated training entitled Enhancing Mentoring, the Educational Function of Supervision. It was conceived to enable the supervisors to reflect on their performance in upgrading their supervisees’ capabilities and develop alternative avenues to ensure the advancement of their staff’s knowledge, attitudes and skills.

The training was conducted at the CSWCD Audiovisual Room from February 8-10, 2012. Twenty five participants, coming from government and non-government organizations as well as the academe attended the activity.

Accounts from the participants highlighted the value of the activity, specifically the importance of being proactive and systematic in enhancing the capabilities of the members of their staff, something they did not consider before.

Click here for more photos.

My Life Journey by Fleur de Lys Castelo-Cupino

I am a woman, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend.
I am a social development worker, an educator,
an environmentalist, a woman advocate… 

Growing Up
My earliest memory is happily living with in extended family that included my maternal grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins in a compound in Quezon City. Churchgoing and Sunday school in a Methodist Church were part of our family traditions. Despite being a Methodist, my mother enrolled me in Catholic elementary schools.  The differences in Methodist and Catholic practices and beliefs confused me a bit.  But the good outcome is that I learned to respect and be tolerant of the beliefs of others. When I was in Grade 4, I encountered an intellectual and spiritual question that haunted me for many years. I saw the contradiction in the religious belief that God loved all of humanity and yet, only those who believe in God can go to heaven. I wondered what would happen to the millions of non-Christians? How can God show them love if they could not go to heaven?

In early schooling, I also experienced how a foreign nun would humiliate a Filipino nun, or how a teacher would humiliate a student who failed to do an assignment.  These experiences made me aware that religious institutions are built by people and as such, may be fraught with human failings here and there.  I also learned to be critical of authority.  I learned to look at people and events and weigh them in accordance with values taught in family and Church.

In general, however, learning and school always fascinated me.  I enjoyed the intellectual challenges. In my upper years in elementary school, I read in the newspaper’s headline something about martial law.  I went to social studies class and asked what martial law meant but my teacher was clueless.  So I learned to be resourceful and seek knowledge outside of the confines of classroom.

I lived in an upper middle class neighborhood.  I played with neighbors under the moonlight and climbed trees with them. We spent many summers together.  But just a turn away is a block of homes of “squatter” families.  The socio-economic difference among the families in the neighborhood did not escape me. I also became aware of the socio-economic divide because my father, a local politician, would regularly bring me to poor communities during fiestas or meetings or as part of his minding us for the day, and I just knew and felt that they were quite “apart” from the social world I grow up in.

Actually, it was my father also who allowed me to live more closely with the economically disadvantaged.  He enrolled me in a public school.  It was a political move on his part but I accepted this as a challenge.  The difference between my socio-economic status and that of my classmates and schoolmates was apparent because I was the only student who went to school in a car.  I was a shy and quiet student but I knew that I had to survive four years in this new school with classmates from a culture different from mine. I tried to overcome my shyness and in a certain way, I became one of them, having developed close friendships along the way.

As I started high school in 1971, student activism and the renewed movement for nationalism and democracy was at its peak.  The next year, martial law was imposed.  But I was protected from the social unrest and I was ignorant of the harshness of Marcos rule. Perhaps this was because my sources of information were the newspapers and TV which were controlled by government after martial law, and my parents who were government officials and pro-Marcos. Even in school, the discussions on martial law were not critical of the regime perhaps because it was a public school which had to toe the official line. So I was exposed more on the gloss than on the flaws of Marcos rule.

Even when I went on to study in UP for my college degree, the atrocities of martial law did not dawn on me immediately!   I saw student activists protesting against high tuition fees and against martial law but I was afraid of their unruly nature.  So I just turned my face away and focused on my mission to get a degree.

Actually, I was somewhat lost in the big university.  I applied and was accepted to the BS Psychology program because I wanted to understand people but my mother discouraged me.  So I shifted to Statistics but found no meaning in cold numbers.  I really wanted to work with people, so I shifted again to Community Development but eventually graduated from the course, Social Work in the College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD).

I sought spiritual bearings to help me through university life. The UP Student Catholic Action (UPSCA) welcomed me and I was able to build deep friendships and find a second home in the organization.  UPSCA gave me an opportunity to integrate among the rural poor, in a Dumagat community in Antipolo.  Together with a team of seven, I lived there one semestral break and one week in the summer.  The next year I also integrated in a church-based urban poor program in Punta, Sta. Ana, Manila.

My UPSCA journey took a more political turn when we had a group discussion with the mother of Fr. Edicio dela Torre, a rebel priest imprisoned during that period. I also came into direct contact with police brutality when we organized a night with community leaders from the rural communities where UPSCAns integrated during school breaks.  We informed the UP Police about this activity but in return, the police raided our “tambayan” and arrested some students and community leaders. It was only then that I came face-to-face with the harshness of martial law.

UPSCA and my studies in the CSWCD, that included two semesters of field exposure in rural or urban poor communities, politicized me.  My spirituality took a political and social dimension.  My religiosity assumed a concrete expression.  UP and in particular, the CSWCD, introduced me to the intellectual discussions on politics and society while UPSCA introduced me to the theology of liberation, to a living Church that addresses the needs of the poor.

From Social Development to Revolutionary Road

I graduated from college in 1979.  Martial law was still at its height, approaching its seventh year.  But people were no longer afraid or quiet.  The eerie silence that immediately followed the declaration of martial law when leaders of organizations, activists, media people, and Marcos’ political opposition were arrested en masse was broken by the strike of La Tondeńa workers in Tondo, Manila in October 1975, defying the strike ban imposed by martial law.  By 1979, students, workers and other sectors of society boldly held protests, rallies and strikes calling for an end to the atrocities and dictatorial policies of martial law.

In the backdrop of this people’s movement, I went out to embrace the world, turning down a scholarship in MA in Development Economics in UP’s College of Economics.  I co-founded with six other colleagues from the CSWCD the Organization for Training, Research and Development Foundation, Inc. (OTRADEV).  Our first project was with the Mangyans of Mindoro. Flora Lansang was our mentor.  In the mountains of Mindoro, we had to face the military who suspected that we were fronting for the New People’s Army (NPA).  In fact, we were not (at that time).  So, we earned the ire of the military but at the same time, the radicals did not look well on our work because we “did not effect real change and simply propped up the existing unjust system”.

After four years of building OTRADEV, working in Mindoro and later among the fisherfolks of Laguna de Bay, and amidst the growing social discontent and street actions, questions formed in my mind.  The change we were effecting in OTRADEV was too slow.  I asked myself if community organizing was the real answer to empower the people.  I considered the radicals’ belief that without structural political and economic change, the lives of the majority will remain the same – impoverished, exploited and oppressed.  During the same time, a friend’s brother who was an NPA was killed in battle.  This made me take another look at the radicals – who are these people and what are they fighting for?  The “radicals” no longer are strangers shouting in the streets or people who looked down on us as reformists but assumed a human face, upper middle class, like me.  I thought deep and hard: what made him offer his life to a cause?

It was then that I engaged in dialogue with people from the revolutionary movement and after half a year of discussions, I was convinced that the movement was the correct path to change the status quo.  I left OTRADEV to work with labor unions in Marikina. I was 25 years old when I joined the movement, where I spent the next 17 years my life.  My involvement was well thought of, not a spur-of-the-moment decision of a young idealist.  Just a month or so after I joined the movement, Ninoy Aquino was killed and there was no turning back for me.  During those years, I was able to work with the trade unions, the urban poor, the department store workers, and the jeepney drivers.  I joined rallies, endless meetings, marches, and study sessions.  I remember rallies being tear-gassed, rained with bullets, dispersed violently.  I moved from one house to another to avoid arrest and keep safe.

I learned a lot from the movement.  The experience made me more sensitive to social issues; it made me more in touch with social realities.  It made me feel good in the sense that I was doing something to change the lot of people.  I did not simply stand by and live my own life. It gave me a sense of fulfillment. I met highly committed people. I also remember tender moments – sharing meals, protecting each other, singing and celebrating together.

It is in the movement were I met my husband, Bernie.  He was a student leader who stopped studying to join the movement full-time.  He lost one brother and one sister to the struggle for change. We are blessed with two children.  Raising children while in the movement was a big challenge.  I wanted to give them my all as a mother but I also wanted to give the same to the movement.  I wanted to be a very good mother and a very good activist.  After all, I was fighting for change so that my own children would benefit too.  But finding a balance was so difficult, especially with the security situation.  The leaders were often saying we had to sacrifice our personal happiness for the greater good of the Filipino people. I tried to embrace that idealism.

In 2000, I attended an international meeting of community leaders.  There I saw a number of creative initiatives being done by other groups and individuals from different countries.  I realized that revolution is not the only option. There are many other programs being implemented that can truly help the people.

With that realization, together with my dilemma in raising my children, and the toll on my health, I left the movement soon after.

The Journey Continues
By the time I left the revolutionary movement, the century has turned.  It was the start of 2001.  Social, economic and political problems still persisted.  People were still mired in poverty and President Erap Estrada was being ousted from power.  It was the age of globalization and information technology.

I involved myself in activities that would still define myself as a social development worker and give relevance to my life vocation while allowing me to attend to the important responsibilities of being a mother and my own person.

I took up my MA in Women and Development in the CSWCD and completed my course in 2006.  I felt at home in the same college where I completed by undergraduate course in Social Work.  I also enjoyed my studies that helped me reclaim and be proud of my being a woman. My thesis was on the lifestories of women revolutionaries during the First Quarter Storm.

I was involved in the promotion of the Charter of Human Responsibilities (CHR) in 2001.  Our group believes that beyond claiming rights, people should also exercise responsibilities. Our team implements local programs involving the youth to promote the concept and practice of responsibility.  My involvement in this group allowed me to travel to other countries to attend meetings and conferences; definitely widening my horizon.

On a fulltime basis, though, I worked in a foundation that provided free email to remote rural communities in 2002.  However, I left after two years because it seemed that the farmers were not ready for internet yet.

It was during this time that I got involved in setting up a high school that started as an extension school of St. Joseph’s College of Quezon City.  It was where my son completed his high school.  After two years, we repositioned the school to serve the lower middle class – children who would otherwise have gone to the public school were it not for an affordable tuition fee.  I was a member of the Board of Trustees and Executive Director in the founding years.  Today, I head one of the schools, the one located in San Mateo, Rizal.  In 2008, I decided to take up a PhD in Educational Psychology so I can be more attuned to the needs of the school in the larger context of social development.

Education can be a window to initiate my community and social advocacies.

As I journey on, I look back every now and then at how I have transformed as a person and as a woman.  I am happy with the many paths I have chosen and I learned a lot along the way.  I may have stumbled a number of times but the experiences became sources of personal and spiritual growth for me.  Today, I feel I still have a lot to do and to know. I still have a lot of questions I want answered and some dreams that may or may not come true in my lifetime. Life and struggle, joy and pain continue.  My life journey goes on as a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a colleague, a social development worker, a student of life.#

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We ♥ Milo! Its more fun @ CSWCD!

Sa ika-16 ng Marso 2012, mula 6-10 pm sa CSWCD, UP Diliman ay magkakaroon ng gabi ng pakikiisa at pagkalinga na pinamagatang “We ♥ Milo”. Ito ay naglalayong makalikom ng suporta para kay Milo Tanchuling, ipagdiwang ang ating pagkakaugnay, at magbigay kasayahan sa bawa’t isa bilang bahagi ng isang komunidad.

Si Milo ay isa sa mga pinagmamalaking graduate o alumnus ng CSWCD at kasalukuyang Director General ng Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC). Siya ay kabiyak ni Ging, isang guro sa CSWCD. Kamakailan si Milo ay na-diagnose na may metastatic colorectal cancer (MCRC) at nangangailangan ng 12 sessions ng chemotherapy na inaasahang tatagal hanggang July 2012.

Itatampok sa palabas ang mga natatanging talento ng mga mag-aaral, alumni, guro at staff ng UP CSWCD. Makikiisa at maghahandog din ng mga awitin sina Noel Cabangon, Gary Granada, Joel Saracho, Noel Kintanar at iba pang mga kaibigan ni Milo at ng CSWCD sa larangan ng sining at kultura. Maaring mabili ang ticket sa CSWCD, UP Diliman c/o Jane Demegillo at Monette Manaay (telepono 929-2477/ 929-8438). Hinihiling din namin ang inyong tulong sa pagbebenta ng mga ticket para sa palabas.

Ang ticket prices ay P200, P500 at P1000.

Kasabay ng palabas ay magkakaroon din ng Tiangge, Food Sale, Art Auction, Face Painting at Photo-booth upang makalikom ng dagdag na pondo. Humihingi rin kami ng mga donations na maaring ipagbili sa Tiangge at Auction.

Magkita-kita tayo sa Marso 16. Maraming Salamat!

We ♥ MILO!

PS: those who may want to donate cash may deposit to the following bank accounts:

Peso account:
Martin N Tanchuling
C/A 3990 0104 89
BPI Kalayaan Branch, 114 Kalayaan Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City 1101

Dollar account:
Martin N Tanchuling
S/A 1994 0123 35
BPI Kalayaan Branch, 114 Kalayaan Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City 1101
Swift Code: BOPIPHMM

Statement of the CSWCD on the Military Harassment of FI Students

On January 21, 2012 at around 12:20 p.m. Ms. Anna Pauline Paguia, a BS Community Development student from the College of Social Work and Community Development, reported to their faculty supervisor that three of her team mates were being harassed by alleged military men. Ms. Paguia was referring to Mr. Rafael Antonio Dulce, Mr. Ricardo Louis Flores and Ms. Marie Gold Villar. The four students at the time of the incident were doing their fieldwork in Katutubo Village in Brgy. Planas, Porac, Pampanga for their CD 180 and CD 181 courses.

The three students were on their way up to a neighbouring Aeta community in Brgy. Camias when a van passed by the group; four men disembarked and started asking questions about their identity. The questioning later turned into accusations that the three students were organizing for the New People’s Army. The i
Upon hearing the accounts of the students, the fieldwork team was instructed by their faculty supervisor to go to the nearest police station and file an incident report. They were accompanied by the college’s partner organization, the Religious of the Virgin Mary, in Katutubo Village and the community tribal leaders.nterrogation turned violent as one of the interrogators started shoving one of the students, in an effort to agitate him into a fist fight. Before the three students were let go, the four men had also taken the students’ photos without consent.

The students have since temporarily pulled out from the area in consideration of their safety and security, and have undergone debriefing with the faculty members of the Department of Community Development.

Staff Sargeant Alfredo Fernandez, Detachment Commander of the CAFGU stationed in Barangay Kamias, in a dialogue with College faculty, partner NGO and community leaders, pointed to elements of the Military Intelligence Batallion as having committed the harassment and branding of students as NPA sympathizers.

We, from the College of Social Work and Community Development, denounce in the strongest terms the harassment done to our fieldwork students. It is our institutional responsibility to provide students with security and support while on fieldwork in pursuit of their academic requirements. This incident threatens the viability of our programs and derails the practice of our legitimate profession.

We call on the
Thursday, February 2, 2012military chain of command, as the institution primarily targeted to conduct reforms in their operations that must be consistent with constitutionally mandated human rights provisions, to conduct a thorough, swift, and impartial investigation of the harassment incident, and deal accordingly with those at fault. We also call on them to recognize and respect the academic integrity and independence of the Field Work Instruction Program of the college, and to duly communicate this to their units in the field.

Weeds (Damo) by Paolo Pagaduan

A friend of mine once told me,“Kahit gaano kaganda ang iyong hardin, siguradong may damo pa rin” (no matter how beautiful your garden is, for sure there will still be weeds)

Weeds or damo in Filipino, are often belittled as a nuisance – the bane of rice paddies and manicured gardens. In his popular book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum once argued that dandelions, a common weed, are actually flowers.

To call something a weed means that they have to be undesirable in that specific area. If you have weeds in your garden and you want them there, then they are not weeds. Highly adaptable, weeds like grass can be found anywhere. They can be found even in places where some experts claimed they would not grow like the lahar fields of Pampanga. They also have their own beauty, their own role. I didn’t know it then. But now, it dawns upon me that in our field of work, we have to be like damo ourselves.

I came to CD in 1995. The college then was generally viewed as a last resort in UP – minimal grade average requirement, tons of electives that can be accredited, professors you call by first name, no attendance sheets. Math 1? Slackers’ heaven.
It was a time when you had classes with 15 enrolled students: 12 actively attending classes, and three delinquents (including me). CSWCD was then a small building behind the UP Chapel complete with its own cooperative store, a rather simple building much like the lifestyles of the people there at the time. Very quiet, and sometimes boring, isolated from the bustling multi-storey buildings of other colleges in UP. Though, we did have that mango tree, endearingly referred to as UTMT or ‘under-the-mango-tree’ nearby the old building.

I came to CD as a shiftee from a college where I thought would lead me to what I wanted to do in life – be a doctor, like my mother, and help people. I thought I liked it there until we had a discussion about Kapwa, or togetherness, which is the core construct of Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino Psychology). We talked about going from being Ibang Tao (other people) to Hindi Ibang Tao (not other people). This process goes through several levels beginning with pakikitungo (civility) all the way to pakikipagkaisa (being one with others).

In connection with research, our professor then, who is also a good family friend of ours, stressed that in order to be objective, we must not reach the level where we would be too attached to the people we were “researching.” She said that we should not reach the level of pakikipagkaisa. I remember having a rather long debate about this idea, that eventually got me thinking about my chosen field. How can we help people without being one with them?

Admittedly, I was no model student then. In fact, I already found my way to being a non-deg (non-degree student). Coming from a science-based curriculum high school, I was overconfident. I thought I already knew trigonometry, calculus, and the other hard sciences. We studied them for four years in high school. I was brash, bored but full of passion and idealism. It came oblivious to me, that knowing was not enough.
After one semester, I found myself no longer welcome there.

I spent a couple of semesters bouncing around classes as a non-deg before I had a talk with my aunt, Professor Maureen Pagaduan, about the college where she teaches – a college I did not even know existed in UP. My friends told me that CSWCD was the last resort. Last chance. In fact, I even signed a paper saying it really was my last chance in UP. Little did I know that it was there where I would find my true calling.

Like the sun where all life starts, I started living my new life when I entered the College.
My first CD subject was CD 11 under Ka Lito Manalili. I was thoroughly impressed with his own version of power point presentation (on Manila paper) and the way he delivers his lectures – full of energy and conviction. It didn’t hurt that there were also cute students from the College of Home Economics in the class, either.

Another class I took in the same semester was CD 100. Who could forget CD 100 – Philippine Realities? Professor Aleli Bawagan said in our first class after our first field exposure, “Kung nakita mo na, kaya mo pa bang magbulag-bulagan at magpanggap na hindi mo nakita?” (Once you’ve seen it, can you still act blind and pretend you did not see it?). Once you see the realities in the countryside – in our factories or in our streets – can we really pretend not to have seen it?
CD 100, as well as my other classes in CD sent me and my classmates to several places outside Metro Manila. At first, I was excited with the prospect of going out of town. A sort of vacation. I went to Mindoro to meet the Mangyans; to Tiaong, Quezon and met with a community who somewhat respects and sometimes even support what the New People’s Army were fighting for; Botolan, Zambales with the Aetas where I first heard about corrupt NGOs.

When you talk with the people you meet, you start getting a sense of what these “exposure trips” were exposing us to. I was born and raised in Metro Manila. I believed then, that what happens in Manila is the true Philippines situation. Once you go out of the metropolis, however, you realize that this Manila does not really represent the entire country after all. I started to see that a lot of people really needed help and being an Iskolar ng Bayan (scholar of the people) we were actually obligated to give back to the people who helped pay for our college tuition. And even if they didn’t, we are still obligated, being Filipinos, to serve our country. Like what Bill Gates said in his graduation speech at Harvard University years ago, we have the skills and sometimes resources to help those more unfortunate than us. What good will our brains be if we only use it for our own personal gain.

Then I finally enrolled in the crowning jewel of the BSCD curriculum – CD 180 and 181, Fieldwork.

All the field exposures were nothing compared to my one year stay in Anda, Pangasinan and another six years working for the College’s project there. Partnering with the fisherfolk of the island town in conserving their resources for sustainability – none of the previous weekends of field exposures could really compare to what I experienced then. I was so enthralled with Anda and the project that I decided to stay there a couple of more years. First as a volunteer, then as full-time staff.

The Anda Community-Based Coastal Resources Management (CBCRM) Program was, for me, unique among the other fieldwork assignments of our time. Being a project of the CSWCD, what we did in Anda was a direct application of what we were taught in college about community development. Unlike other areas where the fieldwork students were often seen as mere implementors of ready-made projects (straight from the mouths of the fieldwork students assigned there at the time) with little participation other than legwork. I thought that some of the other fieldwork sites were not really in line with the principles taught in college to begin with. In Anda, everyone had a say in the program direction and plans. There, we could get a chance to participate in the whole program life – from problem and needs identification, to development of project proposals to implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the project – practically applying all the CD subjects in my one year stay as a student. The Anda project may not have been perfect, but it was perfect for me.

In hindsight, I realized that it was not only the commitment to work with the people and to serve the people that gave me the conviction to continue what I do. What really helped me stay the course were the people I have worked with, especially to my host families who have accepted me into their families as I have accepted them as mine. I cannot stress enough how important my host families were in shaping who I am today. I feel sorry for the other fieldwork students who lived in offices or other spaces where they lived with no host families. They missed a lot.
The program ended after a decade, and as I left Anda, I got with me a hope that the people we have worked with will continue what we have started long after the program phased-out.

Like soil, Anda provided a fertile environment for me to grow.

Now, I work as a Project Manager for WWF. What started out as community organizing of fisherfolk in Anda, Pangasinan, eventually led to me learning the ins and outs of Marine Biology, Coastal Resources Management and other environment-related concepts which were not taught to us in College. Funny thing with the environment was that none of the development theories discussed in CD 110 (development theories) under Professor Oscar Ferrer really did consider the environment to a great extent as a major factor in development. What helps me now in my current work are the lessons learned from CD 131 (planning) under Professor Sammie Formilleza as planning is a large part of being a manager, and CD 126 (training) with Professor Mel Luna for his never-ending stories and very animated and effective way of facilitating workshops. Plus, CD 133 (resource management, under Professor Elmer Ferrer) which is a major part to what I do now, and the CD 180 and CD 181 (fieldwork) that taught me how to work with all sorts of people. Of all the tools of analysis discussed then, the one that still sticks to me is class analysis. Even though I don’t fully subscribe to the ideology, what remains today is my bias for the poor.

In Manila, one of the most expensive grasses used in gardens and golf courses is the Bermuda grass. As a child, I have often considered the Bermuda grass as a high-maintenance ornamental plant. It needed lots of sun and water to grow. I only see it on golf courses and in mansions of friends and relatives. But when I got to Anda, I found the Bermuda grass there thriving – in all places – by the beach! The Bermuda grass there grows so thick that I didn’t know they could be possible. Now I know that Bermuda grass really can grow even with high salinity water. What I thought was a pampered plant is also considered a weed, highly adaptive and resilient. After fieldwork, I have often compared my batchmates and myself to the Bermuda grass – born and raised in cities. Pampered, but then I realize that it was in Anda where we would truly grow.
The water in Anda helped the Bermuda grass to grow even better than in Manila. The Anda family nourished me throughout my stay there.

Posted on Professor Elmer Ferrer’s door on his room at the old CSWCD building was, “Bloom where you are planted.” Often cited as an old Afghan proverb, this short message would eventually play a big role in my life. Growing up in a city, I never thought that I would eventually leave the comforts of the urban life for the joys of rural living. Then again, CD prepared me well for that.

Like the weed, Bermuda grass, with the sun the soil and the water, it was there where I truly bloomed. #

College of Social Work and Community Development