Embracing Community Development as a Way of Life by Joltz B. Meneses

Let me begin when I was born. It was 3 a.m. on the 3rd of July in 1971 when I struggled out of my mother’s womb. I didn’t have any idea of what life was all about and how life was to be lived in the world outside of my womb-world. My birth was painful on the part of my mother considering the pains she felt during labor. The only defense I could make was to cry. I cried out loud and groped for a caring arm. My mother was there, with her caring shoulder to carry me. She was there to provide for my needs, being the new being that I was, helpless and dependent. That was my first lesson in love and compassion. The love I received from my mother is the same love I carried on to share with others, especially those who are helpless and forlorn.

Growing up in a rural town in Ilocos Sur, I often witnessed collective action of the community people. I was so fascinated with community actions such as gamal, saranay, etc… when every event from building a house to constructing irrigation to wedding ceremonies to burying the dead was done with full participation of the whole community. I was so naïve then that I did not know the significance of these community action. But I found them very close to my ideals.

I aspired to become a priest when I was in high school. It was my dream to go to Africa as a missionary to serve the people. But I was disillusioned. I reached a point when I raised questions about the theological indifference of the church to help improve the lot of the poor.
I stopped my reading of philosophy and I went to Vigan, as a youth volunteer of Integral Youth Ministry (IYM), in charge of youth formation in the interior parishes of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia. It was there that I began to raise my consciousness. It is not only through priesthood that I can serve God. I can remain a lay or an ordinary person as long as I am committed to serve the people of God. It was at this juncture that the Third Look at Jesus written by Fr. Carlos Abesamis was introduced to me by Fr. Albert Rabe.

With my passion for service starting to ignite, I took social work at Saint Louis University in Baguio City as I believed it was a noble profession. Indeed it was. It led me to the path of service, though social work had earned a bad reputation as a profession of relief goods and sardines- active only during calamities. But I ventured into community organizing, believing that work for charity must be coupled with work for justice.

Eventually, I was agitated to serve more and I began to imbibe the fervor for social justice and empowerment. I took my masters in community development as I believed it was liberating and empowering. Indeed it was. During my study of community development at the College of Social work and Community Development in the University of the Philippines, I learned to define community development as a process designed to create conditions of economic and social progress for the whole community with its active participation and the fullest possible reliance upon the community’s initiative. This definition is rather academic but it somehow brought me to the substance and context of the Gospel. Community development is an expression of loving our neighbors. Economic and social progress means abundant life for the whole community. The College with its accommodating and friendly faculty prepared me to be critical and analytical. I seriously learned to debunk conventional views of helping the poor. Community development emphasizes dignity rather than charity by teaching a man how to fish rather than giving him the fish. It is not only enhancing social functioning but also instilling social accountability. It was a significant moment to embrace the people-centered philosophy of development from the mentoring of Dr. Angelito G. Manalili, known to many as Ka Lito. Community development is serving the least, and those who have less in life. Community development is Christianity in action!

Then I thought of trying to work with the government. I still have a vivid recollection of my job interview in a government agency under the Office of the President. One member of the panel of interviewers asked me a startling question; he started his query by presenting a simple association of the title community organizer with being a communist. He opined that I was a community organizer intending to work with the government, but to his knowledge, he said, community organizers are communists and even subversive. Then, he asked, “Can you comment on that?” I was tongue tied but after a while I regained my composure and replied: “Sir, as a community organizer my task is to facilitate community development processes in the community. I didn’t know that I would be considered a communist but I like the idea of being a subversive for it is true that what I am doing is a version from below, indeed it is sub version because I work with the grassroots, with the marginalized, with the disadvantaged and with the poor. ” I felt and thought that my comment was apropos. On that very same day, after my interview, I withdrew my application. Then later I found myself working with a church-related institution of the United Methodist Church.

It was here that I came to enrich community development in the context of theology. Community development as a theological discourse is to talk of God who is in the side of the poor and who blesses collective actions of the people to change their dehumanizing conditions. This is the orthopraxis of community development.

Community development is a right action to protest poverty. I was always reminded of this social reality: behind the lavish private residences in some parts of the city, which exhibit the wealth enjoyed by the very few, the chasm between the rich and the poor is so wide and is so scandalous to ponder about. From the traffic intersections, they impatiently wait for the traffic light to turn red. Then they appear, knock the windshield of the car, and do the hand-to-mouth gesture. They look sick and handicapped, hungry and hopeless. They are the ebyon or the one who desires or beggars or the one who is lacking something and who awaits it from another. They are in a degrading human situation because of poverty. It is so disturbing to see these people’s suffering without doing something about it. It is alarming when Christians are resigned to apathy and powerlessness because they think that such is the will of God in their lives. Poverty should never be understood as God’s design. The church must reject scandalous poverty. In the bible poverty is a scandalous condition inimical to human dignity, and therefore contrary to the will of God. As a protest to poverty and in solidarity with the poor, community development programs should be carried out by the church.

Community development is a right action to salvation. The Latin root of the English word “salvation” is salus or salutis and its basic meaning is health or wholeness along with derivative meanings such as beneficial, salutary and wholesome. The Hebrew word for salvation, yesha, has similarly wide meaning standing for such diverse things as happiness, wealth, prosperity, victory, and even peace. It is this fundamental connection with health and healing that enables us to recapture the biblical understanding of salvation as dealing with the whole person. Salvation should not be seen as quantitative and extensive like counting the number of souls saved, the possibility of being saved and the role which the church plays in this process. Salvation is qualitative and intensive like when people renounce their selfishness and seek authentic fellowship among human beings. That is where community development process is heading to. It is basically concerned with the people of God – the whole people of God.

My community development background also led me to take the path of volunteerism as I always loved to do mission work. Volunteerism is turning away from erudition and spending time among the poor in the community. There is the need to move from cloister to the grimy arena of those who suffer everyday and throughout their lives. I responded to the call of sharing my talents and skills as a volunteer. I served as a Bahaginan-VSO volunteer in Pakistan in 2004. I worked with Bunyad Literacy Community Council (BUNYAD), a Muslim NGO working with women and children as a Community Development Adviser and in 2008 I re-volunteered in Mongolia as a Social Work Adviser with the Save the Children-UK. Through these humbling volunteering experiences in the international setting I personally came to know that volunteerism is not at all grand act of heroism; it is a small act of kindness, an act of free will — doing something for somebody which may not even be recognized.

Still guided by the framework of community development, after my international volunteering stints, I returned to Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. – the first venue of my employment where as a young man, my orientation on participatory development haf been shaped. I came back to once more savor its caring and liberating tradition that is anchored on ecumenism and people-centered development.

For reasons of my own economic poverty, I was almost enticed to shift my career to more lucrative ones like going into business. But I opted to stay in the ambit of community development for I believe that this is the right praxis of my spirituality and faith. Community development brings me to fulfill my gusto to serve those ebyon, dal, anawim and the ptokos in biblical terms — the poor who are branded today as marginalized and disadvantaged. All this I owe to the College of Social Work and Community Development which serves as my “seminary” for a caring and liberating service to humanity.

2012 Valedictory Address

Gusto rin kitang batiin dahil hindi mo nakita ang mga grado bilang sukatan ng iyong pagkatao. Bagkus, mas pinahalagahan mo ang mga aral na napulot mula sa iyong mga karanasan at ang epekto ng mga ito sa iyong pagkatao. Mas naunawaan mo ang kahulugan at saysay ng iyong buhay, dahil nakita mo ang ugnayan nito sa buhay ng iba. Hindi mo nakita ang iyong sarili na angat sa kanila, dahil sa iyong pagtingin, ikaw ay kapantay ng lahat. Hindi ka lumipad sa ere sa kabila ng iyong mga natutunan, bagkus ay ginamit mo ang mga ito kasama ng iyong mga kakayahan upang paghusayin ang nalalaman ng iba. – KAHLILLE JOLLY L. SERANILLA, BS Community Development, Batch 2012

Click this link for the Valedictory Address delivered by Ms. Seranilla during the 2012 Recognition Rites of the UP College of Social Work & Community Development on April 22, 2012, at the Bulwagang Tandang Sora, CSWCD.

45th UPCSWCD Alumni Homecoming

Save the Date! 25 August 2012 for the 45th UPCSWCD Alumni Homecoming. Sama-sama nating Ipagbunyi ang (Ka)Bayanihan ng CSWCD Alumni.

Calling all Host Batches ’62,’72,’87 & ’97. Please invite your batchmates.

For details please contact upcswcdaa@gmail.com.

2012 Pagkilala sa Magsisipagtapos

Kinilala ng Kolehiyo ng Gawaing Panlipunan at Pagpapaunlad ng Pamayanan ang mga magaaral nitong magsisipagtapos ngayong pang akademikong taon 2012, noong umaga ng ika-22 ng Abril sa Bulwagang Tandang Sora ng Kolehiyo. Iniharap ng College Secretary na si Dr. Aleli B. Bawagan kay Dr. Rosalinda P. Ofreneo, ang Dekana, ang limampu’t walo (58) na magsisipagtapos. Kinabibilangan ito ng 31 mula sa kursong BS Community Development , 9 mula sa kursong BS Social Work, 8 mula sa Master of Community Development, 3 mula sa Master of Social Work, at 7 mula sa Master of Arts in Women and Development. Mayroon ding 7 BS CD at 2 BS SW na nagkamit ng karangalan ng Cum Laude.

Para sa mga magsisipagtapos mula sa undergrad degrees, nagtamo ng may pinakamataas na grado si Kahlille Jolly L. Seranilla na magtatapos ng BS CD. Si Leavides D. Cabarrubias naman mula sa hanay ng Master of Women and Development Studies ay ang nagtamo ng pinakamataas na grado sa postgrad degrees.

Ang panauhing pandangal na nagbigay ng keynote speech ay si Bb. Evelyn Balais-Serrano. Si Bb. Serrano ay ang Asia-Pacific Coordinator ng Coalition for the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ibinahagi niya ang kanyang personal na karanasan ng pagsusumikap at pagtatagumpay na makapagtapos ng pag-aaral sa gitna ng limitadong kakayahan ng kanyang mga magulang na mapag-aral silang 8 magkakapatid. Kanya ring isinaad ang kanyang karanasan sa gawaing pagpapaunlad ng lipunan at pagsusulong sa karapatang pantao.
Binigyang diin niya sa kanyang pananalita ang karangalan at kabuluhan ng paggawa para sa sangkatauhan. Hinikayat niya ang mga magsisipagtapos na ito ang tunguhin at huwag ang pagsisilbi sa mga call centers. Binigyang pugay rin niya ang mga magulang na sumuporta sa kanilang mga anak na siya tapusin ang mga kursong nakasentro sa paglilingkod sa sambayanan at sa mundo. Sa huli, binati niya uli ang mga magsisipagtapos, ang kanilang mga magulang at kaibigan at mga propessor na kasama sa paghubog sa mga magsisipagtapos. (I-click ang link na ito para sa keynote speech ni Bb. Evelyn Balais-Serrano.)

Pagkatapos ng programa ay nagkaraoon ang munting salu-salo bago tumulak ang mga magsisipagtapos sa University of the Philippines Amphitheater para sa aktwal na programa ng kanilang pagtatapos, ang University Graduation. Ginagabayan ang grupo ng magsisipagtapos nina Prop. Justin Francis Leon V. Nicolas at Prop. John Erwin Bañez na pawing mga graduation marshalls.

I-click ang link para sa karagdarang mga larawan noong 2012 CSWCD Pagkilala sa Magsisipagtapos.

2012 Recognition Rites Keynote Speech

…When we work with the less privileged members of our communities –and we help them reach new heights in their struggle for better lives and for dignity, for independence and freedom. We bring LIFE to humanity! We take humanity to a higher level of its existence and new level of achievement. What could be more noble, more meaningful, more beautiful than being part of this work for humanity! Ms. Evelyn Balais-Serrano

Below is link for the speech delivered by Ms. Balais-Serrano as the Keynote Speaker of the 2012 Recognition Rites of the UP College of Social Work & Community Development on April 22, 2012, at the Bulwagang Tandang Sora, CSWCD. Ms. Balais-Serrano is the Coordinator for Asia-Pacific, Coalition for the International Criminal Court.

2012 CSWCD Recognition Rites Keynote Speech

Rainier Almazan: From Ex-DQ to Changemaker

As told to Gerald Paragas
Rainier Almazan knew where of he speaks when DQ was mentioned in his story-telling. He might have been ‘disqualified’ from a course of his first choice, but that was the anticipated compromise because of his political involvement. No regret for him though, as what shaped him to be an activist also became the crowning glory of his college days: his active membership in the UP Student Catholic Action.

“In my student organization, I am sort of an activist engaged in what people call as social apostolate,” Almazan said, recounting his pre-occupation as a Biology student with an organization known for a time as a prime mover of campus politics. “From high school to college, I was too involved in the student catholic action movement in general.”

An organization of Catholic UP students, UPSCA taught Almazan some alternative themes and ideas from Catholic philosophy, social justice and theology of liberation. It was like taking additional units or double major from theologians and political thinkers like Gustavo Gutierrez, Saul Alinsky and Paulo Freire, whose practices and writings revolved around pro-poor political movements and grassroots community organizing.

Because of his work in UPSCA that involved working in the barrios, Almazan got DQ (disqualified) in the College of Arts & Sciences and opted to take the natural extension of his advocacies. Owing to his activist background, choosing Social Work was a default move until he found himself comfortably juggling both political work and academic obligations.

Soon after finishing his undergraduate studies in 1980, National Manpower and Youth Council (now TESDA) recruited him as management analyst. Out-of-the-way at first, but Almazan later matched the work demands with the organizational development skills he learned from an UPSCA chaplain. However, his employment was short-lived as his connection to the underground movement was tipped off to the military, triggering his resignation from the NMYC.

That horrendous moment, sparked by the arrest of a colleague, did not deter him from resuming his grassroots activities. While many of the progressive groups were subjected to repression with some individuals either being eliminated or apprehended, Almazan engaged in convening urban poor groups for the Don Quixote Center of the Community Organization Philippine Enterprise or COPE. Then newly licensed as a social worker, he reached out to peasants and industrial workers in his stewardship of peasant and workers’ organizing programs in the Jesuit-run La Ignaciana Apostolic Center in Sta. Ana, Manila.

It was while working in this social action center when a plum offer from his ‘Jesuit boss’ struck his interest: getting a master’s degree at the Asian Institute of Management. In 1990, he joined the maiden batch of graduate students to take up a master’s degree in Development Management. That academic journey perhaps led him to where he is now: teaching for the UP College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD).

“I am a classic example of ‘pinabili lang ng suka, pagbalik ay professor na (he was asked only to buy vinegar and when he came back, he was already a professor’),” Almazan humbly joked when asked how he got himself into the College. The 55-year old professor is certainly not an accidental teacher although he did not intentionally seek a teaching job in 2004; his microinsurance office for a national peasant organization PAKISAMA was situated just a stone’s throw-away from the College, and news from friends in the network about teaching possibilities came around easily.

His academic credentials and CO-related work background as program staff for a social action center (La Ignaciana, 1981 to 1992), trade union educator (Union of Filipino Workers, 1986 – 1990), Executive Director for a rural development NGO (Center for Agrarian Reform & Rural Development, 1992 – 1997), National Coordinator for a national peasant organization (PAKISAMA, 1997 to 2004), and Lecturer in Development Studies (Ateneo de Manila, 2001 to 2002), proved to be very useful to him.

Working for seven years as faculty member of CSWCD has been a rewarding experience for Almazan. According to him, the College provides him a venue to practice his profession while he makes an impact on social change. This “retirement job”, according to him, fits his advocacy, and enables students to propagate what they planted in the field of community organizing.

Amidst reports of being regarded as a “terror teacher,” Almazan takes the student feedback lightly. “I don’t think so, or maybe because of the kind of requirements I have for them. It may be unorthodox, but I want to teach people to be analytical and not just depend on rote learning.” He admitted anyway that he is labeled as such, as he receives similar opinions from colleagues, and from the SET (student evaluation of teachers).

But as he explains, “If my students say I am terror yet they learn a lot from me, that’s a compliment. “ For this Social Work professor, teaching social administration and social policy should go out-of-the-box; complicated and technical terms can also be” laymanized.” Echoing a lesson learned in graduate school, he said that the expertise of a social worker must not be confined in one subject matter, and that he or she must also have a heightened capacity as future policy-makers.

“In CSWCD, we prove that social workers are not just for distribution of relief goods. You are not a social worker just because you’re doing philanthropic work.”

Explaining his own style of incorporating Statistics in his classes, Almazan noted: “I explain to them that, say, distributing cans of sardines involves a lot of science and mathematics, because that is a logistical problem, and there must be a framework for finding how many recipients should be targeted.”

Asked for a better salespitch to convince students to choose CSWCD, based on the molding of a Professor Rainier Almazan, he said: “The College gives you a chance to meet a lot of people and to be involved in something bigger than yourself. All you have to do is stare poverty straight in the eye.”

And he ended it with a postscript: “Social workers and community organizers are adequately paid, and you won’t starve even if you’re raising a family. If you want to be rich like the tycoon Henry Sy, then this course is not for you. But if you want to continue the tradition of changing the world, then CSWCD is for you.”#

2012 CSWCD Recognition Rites

The College of Social Work and Community Development Recognition Ceremony for graduating students will be held at 11:00 am, on the 22nd of April 2012 at the Bulwagang Tandang Sora, CSWCD. Ms. EVELYN SERRANO, Coordinator- Asia & Pacific Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) will be the Commencement Speaker.

Pagpupugay sa magsisipagtapos na Iskolar ng Bayan!

Department of Community Development Faculty

Ma. Theresa V. Tungpalan

Position: Professor, Department of Community Development
Director, Doctor in Social Development Program

Degree: Ph. D. Education, UP Diliman

Specialization: Community Development, Development Education and Social Development Research

Education and career:

1995 – Ph. D. Education, UP Diliman
1987 – Masters in Rural Social Development, University of Reading (UK)
1980 – Masters in Community Development, UP Diliman
1975 – A. B. Psychology, UP Diliman

Current Research interests: Children organizing, Child labor, Organizing older persons, Abuse among the Elderly, Human rights-based approach, Participatory evaluation, “Blended” quantitative and qualitative research methodology


Department of Women and Development Studies Faculty

Teresita G. Villamor Barrameda

Position: Assistant Professor

Degree: Doctorate in Social Development

Specialization : Women and Development; Community Development

Education and Career:

1982 graduated from the College of Fisheries (major in Fish Processing Technology), University of the Philippines- Diliman; 1999 graduated MA in Women and Development Studies and 2001 Masters in Community Development, University of the Philippines-Diliman; 1985-2001 worked in various non-government organizations in the fields of community organizing, community theatre & creative pedagogy/education, women organizing and human rights education, counselling abused women, HIV/AIDS education, and advocacy work on women’s issues as Regional Coordinator and Program Director; 2000-present, Consultant to various NGOs and international organizations on gender planning and program development, manuals development and program evaluation; 2010-present renders volunteer services to people’s organizations and grassroots NGOs on planning, project development, community education & creative pedagogy, theatre arts workshops, disaster and environmental education, and gender mainstreaming.

Current Research Interest:

Women and social protection; food security and sustainable livelihoods among rural women; gender and disaster; privatization and local government; gender mainstreaming and utilization of the GAD budgets by LGUs; and role of women migrants’ remittances in local economy development.

Email: tvbarrameda@yahoo.com; tvbarrameda@gmail.com

Department of Women and Development Studies Faculty

Nathalie A. Verceles

Position: Assistant Professor
Degree: Doctorate in Social Development
Specialization: Feminist Economics
Education and Career:
1987 BA Philosophy University of the Philippines Diliman; 1990 BSc (Hons) Economics University of London; 2003 MA Women and Development Studies University of the Philippines Diliman; 2014 Doctorate in Social Development
Current Research Interests:
Women in the informal economy; the solidarity economy
Email: nverceles@hotmail.com

College of Social Work and Community Development