JOYCE TADURAN CARAGAY: “You can only hasten the process of change” (Based on an interview conducted and transcribed by Gerald Paragas)

Where does the professional development of a student start, and where does it end?

This was the dilemma that bothered young Joyce Caragay, soon after she graduated UP College of Social Work and Community Development and began working for a training program. Teaching for UP’s Interdisciplinary Program on Community Health, she was then assigned in Bai, Laguna, where all that she wanted to do is to help the marginalized sector.
The caveat however soon dawned upon her: she was there as a faculty member tasked just to train students in managing social issues and problems of the community – nothing more, nothing less.

“Kasi sa direct practice at nasa community ka, di mo naman pwede sabihin na magtuturo ka lang sa estudyante…masasangkot ka rin sa social issues and problems, “ Caragay said. “Yon ang challenge ko — address a problem , or confine myself to my function as a faculty training students?”

Caragay recounted sleepless nights thinking about this dilemma during her first direct exposure in social development work. It was on a resettlement issue faced by Makiling farmers in Laguna as they were threatened with eviction by UP Los Banos administration to give way to developmental projects. According to her, who served as a faculty-trainer, the farmers insisted that the lands were owned by their ancestors and their only source of livelihood.

She considered the stint her first challenge after graduating in CSWCD. “Kasi parang di ka pa confident sa sarili mo, at parang gusto mo tulungan ang mga magsasaka. Pero hindi yon ang trabaho mo kasi faculty ka,” the social worker said. It was more of a soul-searching curve, as she explained: “Kasi saan nagsisimula ang pakikipagtulungan? Parang ginagamit lang ba natin ang mga tao para matuto ang mga estudyante?”

She likewise cited her immersion in barrio work in Lian, Batangas as yet another ‘crystallization’ of what she learned during her undergraduate days – the concepts of pakikipamuhay, pakikipagtulungan, pag-oorganisa. With the encouragement of her dad and then Prof. Thelma Lee Mendoza, she took the job to replace colleague Malou Alcid in anchoring the Rural and Social Work Placement Program of the college.

The experience in barrio work, during and after college, molded her in community organizing. The academic program gave her the freedom to be herself and to be what she should be. Included in the list of opportunities that came her way afterwards are a 16-month research fellowship in the United Nations, stewardship of the College’s Research and Extension Development Office (REDO), and a teaching career that blended so well with her personal and professional life.

Following are excerpts of the interview in getting to know more of Social Work Prof. Caragay:

Bakit kayo nag-Social Work?

Kasi Good Shepherd product ako, kumbaga combination ng Daughters of Charity at Good Shepherd. Doon ang early exposure ko sa kanilang mission work at sa pakikipagtulungan. Lalo na noong high school ako at nago-organize kami ng cooperatives. Hindi lang academic kundi providing opportunities sa mahihirap.

Would you know any misconceptions about Social Work na gusto nyo i-debunk?
Iba’t iba naman ang field sa practice ng social work. At multi-method ang social work kaya talagang you work with individuals and communities, so mayroon talagang tibak, mayroong hindi. Depende yan sa organization mo, at sa consciousness mo at sa gusto mong gawin.

Mahirap ba ang pera sa Social Work?
Depende yan, yong level of comfort mo o kung ano ang hanap mo. Ang palagi kong sinasabi sa estudyante, maaring hindi ka yumaman — di lang material ang rewards mo kundi pati psychic rewards. Pero di naman living very poorly kasi di ka naman talaga makakatulong din sa iba kung talagang hirap na hirap ka sa buhay. Mapi-preoccupy ka sa paghanap ng pagpuno sa kulang. Marami din naman opportunities sa social work. Ako nagkaroon ng opportunity to work overseas. Turning point ko rin siya kasi doon mo naa-appreciate kung ano ang mayroon ka at the same time realizing din na hindi lang pala ideas mo ang magaling kundi marami ring iba.

Ano po kaya ang matatanaw na utang na loob nyo sa CSWCD as an institution?
Siguro yong opportunities na ibinigay sa akin. Di ako naging limited sa isang direction lamang kundi I found the freedom to be myself and to be what I think I should be and what I want to be. Kahit papaano because of the academic program, libre ka mag-create kahit yong curriculum or syllabus mo. Kundi di ako tatagal dito, naiisip ko. Maraming tao dito kahit mababa ang suweldo di sila umaalis. Sa tingin ko, it’s the freedom of being able to do what you think you should do and express who you are. Kahit sa personal level, nakapagpalaki ako ng mga anak ko kahit nagtatrabaho ako. Medyo liberal and very considerate ang pag-handle ng mga bagay-bagay. Madaling balansehin ang personal and professional life, kayang i-blend sa setting ng college without prejudice sa iyong work performance.

Ano maswerte ngayon sa kabataan ng college, or ano yong lagi nyong sinasabi sa kanila?
Wag silang tatamad-tamad, kasi noon for readings magbababad ka talaga sa library at punta sa hard cover. Iba yong discipline noon. Noong college naman ako, di naman ako straight-out na libro nang libro, lumalabas din ako. Pero siyempre balansehin mo yon. Sabi nga ng magulang ko, kasi taga-Bicol ako, doble ang gastos mo kapag galing ka ng probinsya, at kung mababa grades mo ay sige titigil ka sa pag-aaral.

Natutunan nyo sa CSWCD na para sa family life nyo? Iba ang alaga kapag mayroong social worker sa pamilya.
Pag tumatanda ka, parang nai-integrate mo ang professional values mo sa personal values mo. Noon, masyadong dichotomized. Halimbawa you talk about social injustice. Kung isinasabuhay mo ang prinsipyo mo, ang trato mo sa kapwa mo like sa katulong mo, maiisip mong itama ang trato mo in the perspective of promoting social justice. Tapos sa pamilya din, mas bukas ang isip mo. Sabi nga ng isang estudyante, nang tanungin ano ang pagkakaiba niya, sabi niya ‘in social work we never cease to understand.’ Parang di mo huhusgahan at tuluy-tuloy mong bibigyan ng puwang; di mo pinuputol ang understanding. Halimbawa rin ay non-performance. If she does not keep up with the standards, iri-rate mo siya at di mo biglang aalisin kasi iinitindihin mo situation nya.

Any contribution nyo sa CSWCD or gusto nyo mangyari dito?
Na maging maligaya ang mga tao. Kasi ang kulang naman sa kanya ay yong pagkakakitaan kasi maliit naman talaga ang sweldo sa UP kaya sana may source of extra income. At sana yong mga tao, whatever the level or position sila, nai-involve sila sa larangan ng social development para naiintindihan nila ang makipagkapwa at makipagtulungan. Kasi trabaho dito, walang katapusan. Pero kapag naiintindihan mo at naiinvolve ka, from your vantage point kung ano ang pakikipagtulungan, di ka mabuburyong.

Paano nyo maienganyo mga estudyante na mag-CSWCD?
Sabi nga ng aming posters, ‘Do you want to make a difference?’ Kasi yong fulfillment mo in the profession in making a difference in the lives of others ay source of inspiration at motivation mo.

Thank you sa lecture. Ganun pala ka-komplikado ang social work to change this world.
Kapag bata, parang walang bukas. Kaya nga sabi ko, as you mature, you gain equanimity. Hindi mo pasan ang daigdig. You can only hasten the process of change. But you cannot change everything. Tutulak ka lang, kasi ang tunay na makakapaggulong ng pagbabago ay mga tao mismo. Buhay nila yan. Kasi nandyan ka o wala ka, mabubuhay sila the way they want. Pag nandyan ka, either bibilis lang kasi may tulak, may bagong inputs, may direction. Pero ang determining factor ay sila rin. Yan naman ang prinsipyo ng pakikipagtulungan at hindi naman yong idea mo. At di ikaw ang bubuo ng mundo nila. Hindi ka magpapakamatay kasi di mo nabago ang daigdig. #

Aimee Albino’s Story – What Jubilarians Talk About (Response to an email interview sent by Ma. Corazon J. Veneracion)

What do Jubilarians talk about when they see each other fifty years after receiving their ABSW degree? I’m guessing that they usually ask the following, especially if they had not seen each other for years: Are you still working? Or are you retired now? What work did you do? Did you always work in the field of social work? What do you do now? Do you have grandchildren?

MCJV: “How have you put to use your university education? What was your practice like?”

I hope I can answer what I think Jubilarians talk about and what you are asking with the following:

MY SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE:
My university education (ABSW ‘62; MSW‘79 from UP; Certificate in Social Development in National Development Planning, University College of Swansea, Wales ‘75) was my passport to the work world. My full time jobs had always been in social work. My part-time jobs were mainly in teaching. I practiced social work both in the Philippines and in the United States. It is interesting to note that my first and last jobs were in Psychiatric/Clinical Social Work (the current nomenclature is Clinical Social Work). In between, I held the following jobs:

In the Philippines: School Social Worker at Manila Department of Social Welfare; Social Welfare Analyst in Family and Child Welfare at the Department of Social Welfare and Development; Social Welfare Specialist/Head of Planning and Evaluation Division, Department of Social Welfare and Development; Social Work Lecturer at Maryknoll College.

In the United States: Counselor in Remedial Education for Social Welfare Clients, at Economic and Social Opportunity, Inc.; Counselor for Pre-and Post Training Program for Refugees, at Economic and Social Opportunities, Inc; Manager, Pre- and Post Training Program for Refugees, at Economic and Social Opportunities, Inc.; Employment Analyst, at Department of Social Services, County of Santa Clara; Clinical Social Worker, at Agnews Developmental Center, Department of Developmental Services, State of California; Lecturer/Coordinator of Pilipino Emphasis, Bilingual Special Education Program, at College of Education, San Jose State University.

My first job after receiving my ABSW degree in 1962 was as Psychiatric Social Worker at the Department of Neuropsychiatry of the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Hospital. This was a teaching hospital. I worked as a member of an interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, psychologists, and occupational therapists. Part of my job was to give a lecture to Medical Clerks and Medical Interns being assigned to the Neuropsychiatry Department about the role of the Psychiatric Social Worker in the treatment of psychiatric patients. As a young social work practitioner, explaining to the world the role of a social worker in the treatment of the mentally ill was a daunting task. I had to ask myself: What distinguishes the social work profession from all the other professions that are involved in this particular setting?

In the various social work jobs that I held in the years that followed, I realized that it was very important as a social work practitioner, that I always explain what a social worker does, separate and distinct from what the other professionals do. My last job, which I held for 19 years, was as Clinical Social Worker at Agnews Developmental Center, a state hospital for individuals with developmental disabilities. The interdisciplinary team could be very big, depending on the complexity of the needs of the client. The team usually includes a doctor, nurse, psychologist, social worker, nutritionist/dietician, individual program coordinator, physical/occupational therapist, recreation therapist, art therapist, teacher, residence manager, parent/family/conservator/legal guardian.

I retired in 2009, but I do volunteer work up to the present. I also do church work nowadays and I find that my social work skills can come in handy here as well. I remain actively involved in my professional social work group here—and I take continuing education classes!

RECOGNITIONS RECEIVED DURING MY PRACTICE:
The Consumer’s Research Council of America, an independent research company based in Washington, DC that evaluates professional services throughout America, included me among America‘s top mental health professionals in its 2006 Edition of “Guide to America’s Top Mental Health Professionals”. No fees, sponsorships, donations or advertising are accepted from psychologists, therapists, social workers or medical treatment facilities to insure an unbiased selection.

For eleven years, 1987-1998, while working full-time as a social worker, I was teaching part-time in the Graduate Program of the College of Education at San Jose State University. I was Lecturer/Coordinator of the Pilipino Emphasis Bilingual Special Education Program for teachers pursuing their Master‘s degree in Special Education. I developed the details of the Pilipino Emphasis Bilingual Special Education curriculum. One of the courses I developed, which had a very strong social work feature, was Counseling Parents of Pilipino-American Special Education Students. I believed that teachers in Special Education must acquire the skill to counsel parents because parent involvement is especially important in the education of a child with special needs. As the title of the program indicates—Pilipino Emphasis—I developed every course for the teacher to learn the Pilipino culture in particular and use this knowledge in teaching the Pilipino-American student in a culturally relevant manner. In the same light, the subject on Counseling Parents emphasized the need for the teacher to understand the Pilipino culture and to use that knowledge when counseling the Pilipino-American parent. In addition to classroom teaching, I also served as Thesis Adviser and Member of the Panel for the Oral Examination.

When there was a nationwide evaluation of all Special Education Bilingual Programs for teachers in the different universities, I found out that at that time, the Pilipino Emphasis Bilingual Special Education Program at San Jose State University was the only one of its kind in the entire United States!

I am stating all of these not out of pride, but in humility. I give credit first to the Lord God Almighty who makes all things possible, and second to UP for providing me a firm educational foundation for my chosen profession.

MY MSW DEGREE FROM UP EQUIVALENT TO AN MSW DEGREE IN AN ACCREDITED SCHOOL IN THE UNITED STATES:

I’ll repeat—that I am very grateful for the education I received from UP. ( I follow the advice of St. Ignatius of Loyola: “Develop an attitude of gratitude”). I’ll tell you why in concrete terms.

When I came to California, I decided that I should take the State Board Examination to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, which is considered here as the highest level of social work practice. An MSW degree from an accredited US school of social work is required before one can apply to take the State Board Examination. Since my MSW degree was obtained outside the United States, I was required to have it evaluated by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) for equivalency to an MSW from an accredited US university. (While preparing to submit the required papers for the equivalency evaluation, I found out that in some US universities, a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work is not a prerequisite to enter into the MSW program).

Because of my UP education, I believed then, and still believe now, that the foundation in social work in the bachelor’s degree program is important before one enters the master’s degree program. So, I deemed it then that to show the extent of my social work education, it was best for me to submit both my ABSW/MSW diplomas and transcripts from UP, plus my Certificate in Social Development in National Development Planning from the University College of Swansea, Wales. With these, CSWE determined that my MSW was equivalent to an MSW from an accredited US university. With the equivalency, I prepared and took the board exam. With blood, sweat and tears, and a lot of prayers (as what we used to say especially during our first year at UP, the adjustment year), I passed the State Board Examination composed of two separate parts: first, a written exam and after passing the written exam, an oral exam.

The same MSW equivalency requirement was needed for my regular membership in the National Association of Social Workers here in the US. I maintain my NASW membership even now that I’m retired. I am a member both at the national level and at the state level (California Chapter). The Pilipino American Social Workers’ Association (PASWA), of which I was a founding member, is a Council of the NASW California Chapter. I am the present Secretary of the PASWA Council . Currently, I am also a member of the California Chapter’s Political Action Committee.

Not every non-US MSW graduate who applies for equivalency at CSWE receives an equivalency status. It is not uncommon for MSW graduates of non-US universities to attend school here in order to get an MSW degree from the US because of the non-equivalency problem. Now, you can see why I am very grateful that I received my ABSW and MSW degrees from our Alma Mater, the University of Philippines! By the way, they are the same degrees that qualified me to teach at the Graduate School level at San Jose State University.

MCJV: “Did you find the curriculum then, relevant, in some respects, to Philippine Social Work or social development practice or social welfare? Was education then irrelevant in some aspects?

In one of my first social work classes, we were asked to individually write a paper why we chose to major in social work, right there in class. I don’t exactly remember the details of what I wrote, but in essence, I believe I wrote that I chose to major in social work because it is a very noble profession in the service of others. Every class in social work that I took reinforced this idealism I held for the profession, thanks to the dedication of the UP Social Work faculty. I am grateful for the strong Liberal Arts foundation of the bachelor’s degree in Social Work at UP. It gave a wide perspective of understanding life—mine and of the people I serve, and of those I work with. After graduation, as I faced the real world and its many challenges, I realized the need to return to the university and learn more in order to be a better social worker. I pursued a Master‘s degree in Social Work.

As in my elementary and high school, except for the Pilipino and Spanish classes, all the books we used in the other classes were basically American books. Therefore, you learn from an American perspective. Looking back, and having worked here in the US, I can say that our curriculum then, was very American-oriented in theory. As a student, I found nothing wrong with that. I loved to learn from as many perspectives as possible.

During my fieldwork placement, however, translating and applying an American theory to the realities of the Philippine setting was difficult. But this earlier difficulty, in my actual practice when I worked later on, helped me to become adaptable and creative in dealing with particular situations. I always reminded myself on how to apply theory to practice with questions or guides such as: According to the book, if this is the hypothetical problem, then this is the corresponding possible solution (s). Now, with an actual problem, what would be the best corresponding workable solution or solutions, given the resources I have?

When I became Head of Planning and Evaluation at DSWD, the biggest challenge was social welfare planning at the national level. I did not have that learning experience when I was taking my MSW at UP. My additional education in social development in national development planning at the University College of Swansea, where the program was really geared for developing countries, helped me a lot in my work in planning especially at the national level. But as I had mentioned earlier, one has to be creative and adaptable in translating a theory into actual practice. Every developing country has its own social development challenges. I do not know if social development (local and national) was part of the Community Development curriculum at CSWCD. Is it? Or if the new MSW curriculum at UP has developed a subject in social development in national development after I had graduated from my MSW program.

MCJV: “What happened to your batchmates; What became of them?”

First, I want to say hello to everyone in Class’62 who will be there for the Jubilee celebration. I can’t make it to the jubilee celebration but I am there with you in spirit!

After 50 years, this is what I remember. Please forgive me, dear classmates, if the memory is not accurate. If you are there in the celebration, please provide the correct information:

Cora de Leon, who was our President of UP Social Service Society in our undergraduate years, became Secretary of DSWD. With other UP/DSWD colleagues, we had a get-together in San Francisco some years ago.

Lita Flores migrated and worked in the US and Canada as a social worker and for a while was working in the UN program for refugees in the Philippines.

Juliet Orzal migrated to the US and lives in Washington, DC. She is now retired. She practiced social work, and before retirement, was long-time director of the organization that provides meals to the underprivileged in Washington, DC. Hillary Clinton, I understand, would volunteer there when she was First Lady. Juliet and I had not seen each other in person, but we remain in contact by phone and greeting cards.

Jovita Ramos. I last met her a few years after we graduated in a get-together of fellow UP grads. At that time, she was not practicing social work. She was raising a family. Her husband, who is a lawyer, was then actively involved in YWCA where Juliet Orzal was the then Executive Secretary.

Manolita Santos migrated to the US and became a nurse. She came to visit me at my home a few years ago.

Remedios Vicente became a principal in high school in Mindanao after she got married. That was a few years after we got our ABSW degree. Her husband is from Mindanao.

Ernesto Pulido became a journalist in radio/tv(?) in his home province. We met at DSWD way back when, at the funeral of the DSWD Auditor who happened to be his province mate.

Have a wonderful celebration with my fellow Jubilarians!

God bless us all—
Aimee

The Story of Benilda Albao

While many  women nowadays consider marriage or being ‘in a relationship’ a test of gender faith and femininity, Benilda Albao carved out a niche of her own battle. She chose the  track of being a community development worker who based herself in war-torn areas immersing with people caught in the crossfire.

Being one of the maiden graduates of Women and Development at the then Institute of Social Work and Community Development (ISWCD) in UP, Benilda can easily  evoke  an air of toughness and diligence based on experience and knowledge of issues.  She took her undergraduate degree  in CD, Batch 1981, during  a period when the norm for ISWCD students was to respond to the call of activism.

Noong time namin, puro kami noon rally. Yon yung time na pagdududahan ka as DPA (deep penetrating agent),” Benilda recalled of her tibak days. “Yon ang time na nagsusunog kami ng libro kasi baka ma-identify kang kasama ka, na baka documented noon ang pagra-rally namin. “

Her reading fixtures then were complemented by the works of Karl Marx et al.,  and this almost got herself  into trouble with the authorities in search of suspicious possessions. Fieldwork in Quezon which was part of their community extension services  witnessed  the peaking of her activism days. “Back then, if you do not do anything about it, then hey, you totally do not care in this world,” she noted, explaining her option of taking the legal means that veered away from the armed struggle.

The same view guided her  to her first NGO work exposure. Based in Cagayan Valley, then a highly militarized region, she helped organize  sugar cane workers for the Agency for Community Educational Foundation, a non-government organization. That time, according to her, was a real situation that could never  be detached from herShe imbibed the plight of the peasants in that are, eespecially the sugar workers  and toiled as community organizer

Asked if her activism back then was driven by the institution, Benilda said: “Kasi yong klase ng pag-iisip, nagsusuri ka. Unlike other systems of education, na nagmememorya. Dito kasi nagtatanong ka and you are seeking for answers.” The CSWCD was an instrument  for how she looked at things; the curriculum contributed a lot to her hierarchy of values and decision-making.

Benilda also credited her  life’s  basic lesson as her foundation. “Mahirap din kami, hindi hypothetical, you know it by life, nasasabuhay mo yong tanong at paghahanap ng sagot. Nasasabuhay mo yong questions kasi nasa mahirap kang kalagayan, maa-agit ka.”

Her experiences from Mendiola to the remotest of the countryside brought her afresh to what she  now calls a life mission. And since it is an overseas job, the struggles and sacrifices take the form of physical threats and the unfamiliar culture hostile to  greater challenges .  Refugee camps and dangerous transnational border hubs proved to be  witnesses to her dedication as a social development worker of the United Nations.

With assignments spanning from Bangladesh, North  Sudan, Sri Lanka and Bhar el Ghazal State in South Sudan, Benilda  described her mission  as ‘very fulfilling.’ Though risky sometimes, like in Sri Lanka where a bomb exploded just a few meters away from their temporary shelter, the Quezon City-born CD graduate said: “I learned a lot, and experienced  fulfillment  in life  though those stints were small and  may not  have created a  dramatic impact on  those vulnerable souls  imprisoned  in a no- way – out situation.  This realization tells me that I am on the right path  to the role that I am supposed to play in this world  and  reckoned   to continue this.”

Her first foray abroad started in 1998 when she volunteered for the  UN to coordinate an assessment mission using  social mobilization  process  ( or Community Organizing process  in our language ) for refugees and internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka. It was after her 15 years in NGO work when she decided to work in post-conflict areas. “Kaya mas pinili ko doon kasi feeling ko mas marami ng tumutulong dito. Compared sa Pilipinas, mas nakakaawa  ang kalagayan nila.”

She then served in Bangladesh as a Protection Officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), addressing the rights issues and safety complaints of refugees from Myanmar, as well as the activities related to voluntary repatriation movements of the refugees. In 2007, after her two-year stint in Eastern Sudan as Resettlement Focal Person, she was designated in the  then  Southern part of the State as its International Rule of Law Specialist under the UNDP’s Rule of Law  and Access to Justice program.

As a   Rule of Law officer, Benilda coordinated support to State-based justice providers including the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development, Police, Correctional, Peace Commission and the Judiciary. She observed in South Sudan that women are under-represented in policy-making and in court proceedings. So in capacity-building efforts in field sites, she helped them to  understand the peace agreement that must be followed by the parliamentarians and the traditional justice systems.

In her view, that makes sense  in terms of enhancing  the role of women in development. On her added source of confidence, Benilda had this to say: “So ang mga tao at babae kapag nakikita nila ako na kasama ko mga justices, judges and lawyers, and being associated with powerful men, nakakalungkot, pero  baka nai-inspire ko sila  as a woman involved  in  the political  work, traditionally the turf of the men only..” A firm believer destined to lead and to promote gender equality, Benilda took it upon  herself to serve as an example  in this Arab country where cows are more valued than women.

“Maybe my life is not a very common  one,” Benilda answered when asked how her family life is. In fact, she seems to be so  passionate in this nation-building job that until now (at mukhang hindi naka-lista  doon sa grupo ng mga  mag bubuo ng sariling pamilya) ,  she remains single and fulfilled.

If she had already wanted –and accomplished – an inspiring life project  that treads  a challenging  path , then what can she ask for more as a mission?

“I want to delve now on the spiritual aspect of my life, if God would permit it — since back in my UP days, I did not believe in that.” After fulfilling the mission and vision of going into dreaded areas, which were quite different from our relatively peaceful country, she  realized that indeed nothing is permanent in this world.

“When I wake up everyday, I pray na hindi masayang ang buhay ko, na  maging makabuluhan ito sa akin at sa kapwa ko .Kasi you do not know kailan ka mawawala sa mundo at para di ka magsisi sa death-bed mo.”

By Gerald Paragas

 

My Social Work Experience


It has been fifteen meaningful years of social work practice since I graduated from the College of Social Work and Community Development of the University of the Philippines. I never regretted having chosen this great profession. It took me to places I never would have imagined going to and served so many people from diverse backgrounds responding to needs as basic as access to clean water, to issues as complex as mental health, and challenging systemic issues such as racism and discrimination.

It has been fifteen great years of practicing the social work profession bringing with me basic values and principles which were entrenched in me by my great professors and mentors from the College. I admire the fact that I was taught the basic principles of social work but more significantly I was shaped to become a strong leader and advocate for the vulnerable and was trained to work at the highest level of professionalism.

I remember having fun in the College especially the moments of our exposure trips which turned out to be eye openers to get a feel of the social issues affecting real people. We travelled in a group to Oriental Mindoro on one stormy day to integrate with the Mangyans, a well-known indigenous group. We climbed the mountain and slept where the goats slept for we could not fit in the small huts of the Mangyan families. We devoured the content of their deliciously cooked “wonder” rice while sharing our humble packs of sardines.

It was not all fun, though. We learned how our Mangyans were being discriminated against because of their origin, color, and even hair type. They were driven away to the mountain which obviously does not have the basic necessities and services they need, and they were slowly losing their ancestral domain to greedy and dishonest people. It was disheartening to hear their sad stories, and to learn how inequality destroyed generations of their families.

I started out as a community development worker with the Institute of Social Order in a coastal community in Bataan. I brought with me my fresh experience as a social worker. I was not sure how I survived amidst a male dominated community but from what I recall, it was a fun and meaningful experience working with the fishers to protect marine life against commercial fishers. What I clearly remember was strategizing to get the fishers to attend the meetings which meant that drinking sessions had to be on the agenda at the end. I also learned not to set a meeting when there was a boxing match set for the day for not a single soul would show up. This is when the social work profession gets to be exciting. We do what people love to do, and then facilitate the agenda for change.

I have worked in several non-profit organizations in the Philippines. I jumped from one organization to another, advocating for children’s rights and their participation in social reform at PLAN International, and promoting corporate citizenship among businesses at the American Chamber Foundation.

I finally worked overseas when I volunteered with the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)- Bahaginan and was assigned in Bangladesh for more than two years. My first day in Bangladesh was surreal. I felt like I was just dreaming. People dressed up totally different from what I was wearing. I did not understand any word said to me. My mouth burned from chili peppers from the food we ate everywhere, and I heard loud speakers from several mosques surrounding us when it was time to call for prayers, on a daily basis. I ate with my hands every day together with our staff in our communal kitchen, and travelled to beautiful, rural villages everywhere to monitor and evaluate our projects.

The only part that was different about me traveling to many places there was that I was not backpacking for fun and adventure. I was traveling to witness with my own eyes the hardships of the people living in the countryside, evaluate the impact of my organization’s projects and recommend improvements to better serve the people. It was hard to see so much poverty, Iworse than what I had witnessed in the Philippines. I witnessed very young girls being arranged for marriage to older men who had some income to support them. The newspaper always has some news about women getting killed from not being able to pay dowry. Girls were not sent to school because they were treated as disposable individuals practically having no other future but marriage. But I also had the honor of meeting strong leaders of the women’s movement who fearlessly advocated in their own capacity for women’s rights. It was not an easy task to do.

I also had a short opportunity to meet members of several community based organizations who were mostly impoverished fishers at remote flooded areas of Battambang and Banteay Meanchey in Cambodia where we encouraged participation in evaluating their project in natural resource management. I admired the impressive participation of women fishers in these communities who actively involved themselves in the critical analysis of their situation and identified solutions to improve their project.
Anywhere I worked, I realized that social problems were not any different, whether these be found in the poorest or richest countries of the world. When I came to Toronto, Canada in 2006 as an immigrant, I thought that life here would be more convenient and a lot easier. It was the opposite of what I had expected. The cold, enduring, harsh weather, lack of family support system, and expensive labor cost for extra help were unbearable. We do have a reliable health system that takes care of everyone regardless of economic status and skin color but we still have an increasing number of people struck with mental illness due to isolation, depression, anxiety, and lack of family support. In addition, we also have problems of higher rate of unemployment especially among immigrants, indicating racism and discrimination.

I was fortunate enough to be able to get a job in line with social work within two months of landing here which saved me from any potential harm as a result of lack of employment. This does not happen to all immigrant professionals, whose experiences could be totally heart-breaking. There was a funny joke saying that you do not have to worry about having a heart attack in a cab in Vancouver because the driver in most cases would probably be a doctor. This was not just a joke, this was a reality.
We have a multitude of professionals who are underemployed and whose skills are underutilized or worse, unutilized. Foreign-trained professionals are treated as second class and immigrants. Newcomers have to go back to school to gain new set of skills or maybe just to have a Canadian diploma. The immigrants have become the main customers of money-making businesses such as schools and accreditation bodies who profit out of this horrendous situation. Social isolation is a common problem due to lack of support system. Children are sent to daycare centers even when they can e barely walk since their parents have to go to work.

When an immigrant finally gets a job, keeping the job is itself another struggle. There is a lot of discrimination in the workplace and immigrants have to put up a fight against this as part of their daily struggles. I work at a non-profit organization in Toronto, the Agincourt Community Services Association, and serve the needs of new immigrants. I also handle a coalition-led community engagement project to help communities come together to prevent youth from getting into gang-related activities. It is an exciting kind of work dealing with such a diverse population, and responding to extensive needs ranging from language barriers to dealing with immigration issues of refugee claimants and people who were on the verge of deportation. I serve a lot of Filipinos here who are mostly skilled professionals, sponsored dependents, and live-in caregivers. Just like people from other cultural backgrounds, Filipinos are faced with issues of unemployment, underemployment, long time separation from families (especially for live-in caregivers who needed to leave their families behind to work here), unrecognized qualifications from back home, etc.

I am forever grateful to the fact that I have been working on the ground and trained to be in the frontline. I witnessed real live experiences of people and helped them in several ways to enhance their well-being in a way that they do it themselves with me just playing a supportive role. This is what I like the most about the social work profession. Social workers work behind the scenes and even though we may remain unrecognized, the joy that the profession gives us is invaluable, especially when we see a broken person who came up to us one time for help, eventually become an empowered individual again. These sre the little victories of life.

Having learned my lessons from the College of Social Work and Community Development of the University of the Philippines, gave me the edge to do things differently. I do my work wholeheartedly, without any hesitation, not in a half baked fashion , but just putting my heart into it. The social work profession is a profession for individuals with strong hearts and will power. It is not meant for the weak but for people who have an abundant source of patience, optimism, and creativity. Whenever I face challenges or feel dissatisfied, I go back to the basic lessons of social work and reflect on the wealth of my experiences — and these make me feel better and invigorated.

I would encourage the younger generation of social workers to explore and get into the world –and contribute to the magnitude of our impact in changing the world to what it used to be, peaceful, abundant, and accessible to everyone. I would like to end this by providing a great insight from Mahatma Gandhi who once said, “You may never know what results come of your action but if you do nothing there will be no result; be the change you want to see in the world”.

 

by Jamillah T. Mananghaya-Poernama

Interview with Florence Flores-Pasos (BSSW,1990; MSW, 2007)

Interview with Florence Flores-Pasos (BSSW,1990; MSW, 2007) , Program Operations Manager, ERDA Foundation
(Conducted and transcribed by Gerald Paragas)

Bakit Social Work ang kinuha nyo noon?
Siguro dahil rin tatlo sa family members, at ilan sa mga kakilala ko ay social workers, at mahilig din ako makisalamuha at makipagtrabaho sa mga tao.

Any unforgettable experience sa Social Work?
Isa rito iyong pagtuturo ni Prof.Thelma Lee Mendoza. Siya iyong teacher namin sa Introduction to Social Work in 1988. Passionate at magaling siya, at experienced. Siya iyong author ng book na ginagamit namin. May similarity kami sa personality – iyong tipong looking good at poised siya all the time maski nasa field . She has a positive aura. With her lessons, I was really convinced to continue Social Work.

Any moments sa fieldwork?
Na-assign ako sa institution-based fieldwork doon sa Veteran’s Hospital kung saan nagkaroon kami ng group work together with the war veteran patients. Sa ospital, inaalagaan na lang sila dahil matatanda na sila at may sakit unlike noong nakalipas na panahon, mayroon silang silbi sa serbisyo. Ang ginawa namin, nag-organize kami ng groups at nilabas namin iyong kanilang work and life experiences, sharing their moments of childhood para manumbalik ang kanilang zest.

Ano po nag-sustain sa inyo to continue studying Social Work?
Iyong experience sa field ng medical social work , at iyong experience na ang social worker ay treated as somebody na significant member ng team sa hospital. Naka-hospital gown pa ako noon, kaya nagkaroon ako ng confidence, nagkaroon ng affirmation as a big part of the team. This was so unlike doon sa ibang image ng social worker na tagabigay lang ng relief goods or dole outs.

Nag-graduate kayo noong?

I finished BSSW in 1990 at noong 2007 ay MSW. And I am looking forward to enrolling in the Doctor in Social Development Program, soon. Sa MSW nagkaroon din ako ng ibang agency placement. Halimbawa, I worked with the Rotary Soup Kitchen ng District 3780 kung saan nagkaroon ako ng chance na makatulong sa mga bata at sa National Council for the Welfare of Disabled Persons kung saan na appreciate ko ang worth ng mga persons with disability at nakita ko kung paano sila nabibigyan ng pagkakataon na mabuhay nang normal.

Eto pa ang di ko makakalimutan, di ba going 22 years na ko sa ERDA Foundation which is my first job: One semester before graduation in 1990, dinala ako ni Prof. Joyce Caragay as a student kasi magpa-practicum na ko doon sa Community Organizing. Nagkataong ka batch nya ang Executive Director ng ERDA that time, si Mrs.Lorna Gabad (chair now of Board of Examiners, Social Work), at si Prof. Caragay ang aking adviser. Recently, Prof Caragay came back to ERDA and akalain mo yong student naman nya ang magpa-practicum/field sa ERDA na taga-Australia at ako naman ang agency supervisor. Imagine, kasi I never left ERDA since 22 years ago, like after practicum and passing the board exam and applying sa ERDA. In that agency.

How time flies, kasi yong batchmate ko na kasabay gumradweyt din ay nagwork sa isang government agency as analyst for P8000, at ako at that time around P2600 naman as community social worker. Sabi ko, never kong sinabi na iiwan ko ang ERDA for that P8000. Paano ba naman kasi, ang ERDA ay may working president na Jesuit priest at naturalized Filipino, aged 60, known to be a living counterpart ni Mother Teresa. Noong dumaan siya minsan sa harap ko when I was taking may exam sa ERDA, nagkaroon ng impact ang dating nya sa akin. Then I wanted na to work under him, not necessarily in his office. At na-assign ako sa community sa Bagong Silang at isang opportunity yon. After one year of being a community social worker, may dumating na funder from Japan, nagkaroon ng orientation at nagsalita ako doon at andoon si Father Tritz. Nakita nya ako and after that I learned that he wanted to work with me. He, indeed offered me to work with him.

Tinanong nya ako in an exam: Ano ang nakikita mo na strategy ng ERDA para mag-expand siya pero konti ang funds? Then isinulat ko ang sagot ko na it would be best for ERDA to have a scheme na makikipag partner lang sya sa iba’t ibang organizations sa ibang lugar for the implementation of its programs. Expanding ERDA’s services pero makikipag-tieup sila sa mga organizations kung di nito kayang mag put-up ng field offices. I never tried to find out how it started pero up to this time ERDA has this tie-up scheme partnering with some 150 organizations nationwide to implement its educational assistance program.

Mula noon hanggang ngayon, I have always received affirmations, at kahit maliit lang natatanggap ko na salary, nakikita ko ang fulfillment from that. May family ambiance at supportive ang mga co-workers. Hinahayaan ka nila na gawin ang trabahong alam mong nagagawa mo nang maayos. May freedom to decide and share ideas. And there is this sense of being honest in your opinions and feelings kaya very open ang mga discussions. In the process, mas lalo akong nagiging creative and fulfilled as a social worker. Pero may mga pagsubok din, kasi may mga problems din, like yong pagpapalit ng staff, some management styles na nakakaapekto at physical exhaustion, nada-down ka rin minsan sa work. Pero di yon hadlang, enjoy pa rin ako sa work.

What exactly is your position?
Program Operations Manager of ERDA in charge of the ABK 3 LEAP (Livelihoods, Education, Advocacy and Protection) Project. Marami na akong nahawakang projects since 1990. I was a community social worker in Bagong Silang dati at nasa implementation section ako, pero na-cutshort yong pagka-social worker ko at nalagay sa admin. Technical assistant ako dati ni Fr Pierre Tritz for eight years sa ERDA President’s Office. I was in charge of correspondence with funders, reporting. Pero kahit noong technical assistant pa ko, binigyan ako ng chance na i manage ang scholarships ng mga elementary and high school students na special cases — meaning may mga personal correspondence sa funders nila. Then after that, na-assign ako sa Mindanao for three years to handle tieup partners, or coordinators sa mga less-than-40 partners sa Mindanao and provided inputs kung paano mapaganda ang implementation, partnership, at monitoring sa projects.

After 10 years, nagkaroon ako ng chance to apply sa isang big project funded by US Department of Labor na child labor project ABK o pag-Aaral ng Bata para sa Kinabukasan. Phase 3 na ngayon ito; Phase 1 in 2003 reaching out sa mga batang nasa worst forms of child labor and Phase 2 na ako pa rin ako project manager. Tig-4 years kada project phase. Ngayon, na-promote na ako from being program officer in ERDA to Program Operations Manager handling the child labor project. With this project where I am currently supervising 14 staff, napa practice ko ang administration skills particularly administration of social services, which is my major when I took up my master’s. Kung ano ang pinag-aralan ko, yon ang nagagawa o nai aapply ko ngayon, kaya mas lalo akong fulfilled. Through my various work with ERDA and with other networks, I have had a chance to attend conferences in Thailand, United States and Cambodia which also enhanced my social development capacities. At this point I would like to acknowledge my long time supervisor Ms. Dolora H. Cardeno, Executive Director ng ERDA. Sa kanya talaga ako maraming natutunan mula sa knowledge, sa skills at lalong lalo na sa attitude.

And what makes you proud to have as a brainchild.
The successful management of a big child labor project is in itself an achievement for me. Marami kaming innovations sa project, alam naman ntin naa ang main program ng ERDA ay education and promotion of children’s rights. Andami na naming na-organize na barangay children’s associations kasi we also develop children leaders and advocates. Yong sa National Anti-Poverty Commission, dalawa na magkasunod na child commissioners ay bunga ng aming pag-oorganize para maka-participate sila sa local governance kasi di rin maganda na basta kumuha lang ng bata at ilagay sa isang structure; nawawala ang essence ng participation ng mga bata as part of their rights kung di sila na involve sa organizing process.

Let us just look at the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK); most of the reps there ay hindi galing sa mass-based organization ng mga bata or youth. Dapat kasi organized para makaparticipate meaningfully. Pag sinabi nating organized they are trained and made aware of their issues and concerns, their rights, organized and mobilized. E di naman lahat nakakapag-organize ng barangay children’s associations (BCAs). Dapat may mga bata na representative sa mga councils, kasi concern nila ang kanilang issues and rights. Kaya tinutulungan din namin ang Brangay Children’s Associations and SKs to work together sa ground level.

Dahil education ang primary strategy namin, mayroon din kaming catch-up program through mobile schools where storytelling is the primary strategy. Naisip namin why not integrate our advocacy against child labor sa mga creative story telling sessions for children and youth? Through the catch-up program may educational exposures din sa iba’t ibang lugar. Through the ABK project and opportunities for education, the children get to see, hear, taste, experience, and love learning. We do scheduling with schools and learning centers and train story-tellers as BEST or barangay bulilit educators and storytellers, so venue rin ito for community partnership with local government officials: mayors and barangay captains na nagbibigay ng counterpart at community volunteers. At ngayon, may youth employment component na rin ang ABK 3 project, para ma enhance ang economic capacities ng household members. Children 15 and above can actually start working but only in non-hazardous types of work. Pwede mong sabihin na isa ako sa mga tumulong para buuin ang konsepto nitong mobile school at pati yong operations nito. Pati rin yong pagdevelop ng ABSCBN sa kanilang TLC or Teaching, Loving and Caring na mobile school, isa kami sa nagshare ng aming experience sa kanila. I was also able to contribute sa isang human rights project, funded by New Zealand, na may BCAs involved, like involving children sa pag-advocate ng human rights in general.

Given all those efforts, what’s with the children’s cause?
Siguro yong childhood ko was very happy, kasi even as a child, lagi akong naa-affirm. Ako daw yung unang may stroller sa lugar namin at maraming nag-aalaga sa akin. At kumakanta daw ako noong two years old ako, ng ‘Once there was a Love’. I was given so many exposures and freedoms to explore, play, draw, make mistakes, make friends, eat, study and read books. Idagdag mo pa diyan na yung grandmother ko was a teacher at naging playground ko ang kanyang classroom noon and most of my aunts ay mga hardworking and good teachers. As a result , nag-excel talaga ako sa school at extra-curricular activities. Kaya gusto ko ring iparanas sa mga bata ang ganitong experience at ipalabas sa sa kanila ang kanilang talent at creativity, to give them a fair chance in life. I want every child to enjoy fully his/her rights. This is my lifetime advocacy.

Sino po yong mga influences nyo sa College?
Siyempre si Prof. Thelma Lee Mendoza, kasi siya yong naging teacher ko sa Introduction. At si Prof. Joyce Caragay, magaling siya sa community organizing at pakiramdam ko forte ko rin yon. Both are passionate in teaching and this had a good influence on me. Pati si Dr. Romeo Quieta, former dean, na nagturo sa amin tungkol sa organization, supervision, program development, project management, policy. Then si Dr. Veneracion, ang aming professor sa Research nglang beses, magaling siya. Noong comprehensive exam ko sa master’s, nagcomment siya na maganda ang pagkabuild-up ng sagot ko sa research. Nakakatuwa kasi lima kami na nag-comprehensive exam at ako lang yata ang nakapasa nang walang conditions at nagawa kong tapusin ang master’s ko kahit fulltime ako sa work. Sabi nga nila noon, based sa result ng comprehensive exam result ko, I can be a good professor daw.

Kaya ngayon siguro, nagtuturo na ako ako sa Asian Seminary Christian Ministries. Incidentally, ang nagput-up ng program doon ay kabatch ni Thelma Lee-Mendoza, at ang itinuturo ko ngayon ay yong itinuro nya, Introduction to Social Work. Siya si D. Zonia Tappainer, director ng MSW Program doon. Siya yong first social worker na may PhD dito sa Philippines. Si ma’am Zonia, ang lagi nyang tanong everytime na magkita kami,

‘So how are you enjoying your teaching?”
And I really love this question. Two years na ko don. At nagtuturo na rin ako ng NSTP sa LaSalle, for first year students in Community Work. Now that I am an officer of the UP CSWCD Alumni Association I also have a chance to work with our current Dean, Dean Rosalinda Ofreneo and I am amazed at how she can be very empowering and supportive, down to earth, very knowledgeable, a great advocate of women’s rights and at the same time a person with a good command responsibility. She takes note of every little accomplishment or contribution of each of us in the alumni association. Si Dean Inday ay isang inspirasyon para sa akin.

Ano po ang tatak UP sa inyo?
I think I may never see myself working outside the Philippines. I can go to other places, but not to stay there permanently. Pwede kong ienhance ang aking nalalaman, pero I will always come back and serve here. I don’t get the point na iiwan mo ang mga anak mo, ang pamilya mo. Paano sila lalaki, e ang purpose mo sa humanity, na makapagnurture ng mga bata at tao na magiging contributory sa society, at para di maging continuous ang cycle ang poverty which is of course not only economic in nature. Di ba meron ng alternative lyrics ang UP Naming Mahal, na ‘Malayong Lupain Hindi Kailangang Marating, Dito Maglilingkod sa Bayan Natin.’ So many have left the country, nakalulungkot. Pero ang aking choice, dito ako sa Pilipinas. I think tatak UP ito sa mga panahon ngayon.

Ano naman ang tatak-CSWCD sa inyo?
Very democratic, participative at mapagpalaya ang bawat proseso. Simula pa sa practice sa community, itinuro na sa atin na dapat magsimula sa isyu ang lahat ng aksyon. Before deciding on something, kaillangan mayroon kang mga data. Start where the people are. Believe in the capacities of people to change and act on their problems and issues. Ako, I ask many questions first before saying my piece because I always want to be objective. Sa lahat ng decision, kailangan may karapatan pa rin ang tao na masabi nila ang side nila. Participatory processes, yan ang tatak CSWCD. At siyempre, excellence. Give your best in everything that you do.

Despite so many frustrations, like corruption of the young, dysfunctional families because of the absence of parents na OFW, etc, paano nyo nasusustain ang passion?
Ang gusto ko ring I emphasize ay, it is about time to think about partnerships in the truest sense. Government and the private sector, private-public partnership is the call of the times. Tama na yung masyado tayong umaangal sa pamamaraan ng ibang sector na magtrabaho; let us look at our own ways and see how we can help. Hanap tayo ng common ground to work together because we will never have the same approaches, the same strategies. Complementation and convergence — ito ang emerging themes ngayon to make the lives of people better.

Around 52,000 children ang makikinabang dito sa ABK 3 para makapag-aral sila. Kasi consortium ito, with ChildFund and World Vision and three other agencies including UPSARDF. At para maging effective, nakikipartner kami sa other NGOs or networking with them para macomplement namin ang ginagawa ng government. Di naman competitive ang mga NGOs. I think they, together with government are working hand in hand.

Bakit pala sa CSWCD ako magpapa-enrol?
Of course, sa CSWCD ka para maging relevant ka sa society. Ano ba ang kailangan ng society ngayon? With all the issues ngayon, pangunahing makakatugon nyan ay mga social workers, community development workers, pati mga advocates of women. Sino pa? Yong doctor, iti-treat ka nya, pero does he go out of his way to look for resources and support for you to be able to pay your medicines and hospital bills? Isa lang yan sa pwedeng gawin ng isang manggagawang panlipunan. Ang Social worker mali-link ka nya sa resources. Sa mga disasters, sino dapat ang nasa frontline, mga social workers. Kaya nga I tell prospective college students to consider going to schools na may course ding social worker at community/women development. When a social worker is true to his or her work, she/he can save the world. They can be in different fields and play different roles.

Kamusta po ang pasweldo sa pagiging social worker?
Masuwerte na ang bagong social worker if there is P20,000 as a hiring salary. Just do your best para ma-promote ka. Be one of the best, para makuha mo gusto mong suweldo. Pag naging consultant ka, you can name your price. At gusto ko rin i-emphasize, be a hopeful, innovative, beautiful and creative social worker! Radiate positivity!

Note: Ms. Yen is married to Engr. Arsenio “Jopy” Pasos Jr. and has two children: son Kyle, 17 and daughter Kairen, 14.

From the Institute of Social Work and Community Development (ISWCD) and Beyond: 36 Years as a CD Practitioner

 

Graduating from high school in 1972, I thought I knew what I wanted to be! Pursuing my ambitions to be in the field of law, I enrolled as a political science major at the University of the Philippines.  The political  and social  changes of the ‘70s, an era of radical change, influenced my career deci

sion after my first year in college.  The then-Institute of Social Work and Community Development (ISWCD) impressed me  with its dedication to improve people’s quality of life and advocacy for social and political change. That small ISWCD building  housed  professors and students  who showed their passion and mission to build a better world! I knew then I wanted to be part of the ISWCD,  and Community Development had become the pillar and foundation for  my college education and my profession!

 

Like all  new graduates of Community Development in 1976,  we all  ventured into different areas  of community development spreading our wings to be  CD practitioners. For me, that professional journey  has been challenging as I searched to translate my community development education into real life experiences.

Having been offered an  opportunity in the academic field,   I  became   a part-time Instructor for  CD courses at UP College in  Tacloban  for the summer and   intermittently  after graduation.  However, as  a  new graduate,  I realized that I did not have the  real- life  experiences  which are important  to bring to the classrooms to be effective.   My community development education  must continue beyond the University of the Philippines  to  the real world!

 

In October 1976, it was a privilege for me  to be selected as part of the Philippine Delegation to become Ambassadors of Goodwill  for the Ship for Southeast Asia Youth Program (SSEAYP).  For two months,  the Ship Nippon Maru carried all delegations from the Philippines, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand around the Asian region  for cultural exchange and  understanding of regional socio-political  and  economic issues. My interest centered on rural and community development in this  Asian region as I participated  in  dialogues with institutions and social organizations  promoting  economic and  development projects,  community self-sufficiency programs and regional planning.  This international experience  brought  development issues beyond the borders of our countries. More importantly, I made new international friends who are  currently making some differences in their respective countries.

 

Coming back from  SSEAYP ’76 and after visiting many different urban centers,  my interest in urban planning prompted me to accept  a job with  the former Human Settlements Regulatory Commission/Ministry of Human Settlements. With community development as background,  it gave me the tools  and knowledge as  Regional Coordinator to work with communities in the development of  general land-use plans/zoning ordinances for  Regions I and X for the next three years.  Having been assigned in various communities in Luzon and Mindanao, I learned more about the development needs  of our country.

 

In 1979, an opportunity for higher education  opened when I was selected by the  Rotary International Education Foundation to be an Ambassador of Goodwill to the  United States of America.  Having been a planner in the Philippines, I enrolled in the  Masters Degree Program for Urban Planning at Michigan State University  while performing  civic duties with Rotary International.   Being an  Ambassador of Goodwill, I had the opportunity to share  the development issues of the Philippines  and learn  the same from many communities in Michigan and other parts of the United States.  I got a good exposure to rural America!

 

It was in Michigan where I met Tom Duranceau, my husband of 31 years now, who was also pursuing his Masters in Urban Planning at the University of Michigan.  We were married in 1981, and decided to establish our family with our son, Alec,  and our professional careers in the US. Despite my desire to go back home to the Philippines, my family came first!

 

After graduate school,  job opportunities took us to the American Indian Reservations in Arizona as planners.  As the Economic Development Planner for the Quechan and Cocopah Indian Tribes,  I was initiated to a whole new world of American Indians, their culture and  socio-political  issues.  It is interesting to note the similarities of the American Indian  community development issues to those of the  Third World Countries. The elements of poverty and development are universal.  I felt “at home”  working with the American Indians especially when I was  adopted by them as  “COCO-PINA” – an abbreviated  name for  Cocopah Indian and Filipina!

 

Like for most communities in the Philippines, economic development was very important for American Indian Reservations.  Most of the significant  development processes and projects I worked on were related to job creation and  promotion of self-sufficiency through education and training.  On a personal note, the highlight of my  experience working with the Cocopah Indian Tribe  was being  part of a professional and legal  team tasked to draft and introduce a legislation in Congress  (Washington, DC) to return  the original  Indian Reservation land boundaries to the Cocopahs. The successful passage of the congressional legislation  expanded the Indian Reservation boundaries and provided incentives for economic development for the Cocopah Tribe.

 

Planning and community development  education  provided me a good professional background for my subsequent   careers in  local governments  in Arizona. In  Mohave County, Arizona, I  started as a   planner  in the front line,  developing community general  plans, and   now as Deputy County Manager/Administrator and Community Services Director. Despite my new appointment as  one of the top executives for Mohave County, I  opted to retain my community development programs.  My 25 year- career in Mohave County is a reflection of my commitment as a  CD practitioner.

Mohave County established its first social service agency  in the early ‘90s  -Housing and Community Development  Department —  and I was appointed  as its first Director. With federal funds from the US Housing and Urban Development, the Community Development Block Grant Program  was established to build community infrastructures to improve the quality of life of the residents   such as water and wastewater systems, senior and community centers, road improvements, social programs and public services to alleviate poverty. I learned from my CD education the importance of citizen participation and community organization which  have been the cornerstones for our successful CD projects. Imagine a Filipina lady conducting a citizen participation meeting in rural America!

 

The need for affordable housing led to the creation of the Mohave County Housing Authority (MCHA)  which was also housed in my Department. The Housing Rental Assistance program, Homeownership and Self-Sufficiency Program, and Housing Rehabilitation Projects, provided housing assistance to low- and moderate-income families. With pride, MCHA has garnered the “Most Valuable Partner Award” from  the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in the last four years for providing  successful programs and projects as building blocks for the our communities.

 

As the department reinvented itself as  a Community Services Department, I became an advocate for the One-Stop Centers for social services and workforce programs. Employment and training programs  were added to the newly created One-Stop Career Centers which  completed  the menu of social services for  families. However, the recent budgetary constraints for these programs became  catalysts  for  the formation of partnerships  with the private sector and community-based organizations to leveraged resources for employment and training.

 

As we provide better housing conditions for the elderly/handicapped, homeless, veterans  and low income families, as we assist families and older workers laid-off from employment  in their transition to new job opportunities and training, and as we provide education/vocational training and work experience to the youth—we create better  and self-sufficient communities!

 

The CD programs and projects we create and administer touch the lives of many people in our community.  Likewise, the professional satisfaction of  CD practitioners comes from seeing the improvement of the quality of life  of those they serve, thereby creating a better world for today and tomorrow!

 

As Mohave County, Arizona,  honored me in 2009 as one of the Women Making History for my profession,  I traced back my  roots—a graduate from the University of the Philippines in the field of Community Development! This important education provided the “seed” for my profession and career and  the person I am today!

 

I am thankful to the ISWCD which is now the College of Social Work and Community Development, to all my CD teachers and professors who mentored me as a student and  instilled in me the same passion and mission to create a better world  even beyond the borders of the Philippines. I hope I lived up to their expectations as a CD practitioner in the last 36 years!

 

By Susie Parel-Duranceau

BSCD  1976

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Home Grown and Growing”

 

I missed the First Quarter Storm at UP Diliman . I entered UP as an AB Broadcast Communications major in June 1972. Martial law was declared on the Saturday I was to make a report in my Social Orientation class at the College of Home Economics. Classes were suspended. I wasn’t sure Marcos would reopen UP  so I began to explore other life options such as baking and selling macaroons . And  I did bake and sell macaroons to a neighbourhood school while waiting for resumption of classes at UP. I also made up my mind that when UP reopened , I would shift to another course. I did not want to be a mouthpiece of the martial law regime. Martial law  was declared  on the Saturday I was to make a report in my Social Orientation class at the College of Home Economics.

I shifted to B.S. Social Work. Why social work (SW) ? Because I had been socialised into Catholic notions of  love for your “fellowmen”, charity, and social responsibility.  Like my four sisters, I studied from pre-school to high school in schools run by the Religious of the Virgin Mary, then the only all-Filipina religious congregation in the country. Our parents, Col. Simeon C. Alcid, a military dental surgeon from Vigan, and Evangelina Lallab, a public secondary school teacher of Home Economics from San Enrique,Iloilo, were good  Catholics and taught us respect for others, compassion and integrity.  My childhood ambition was to be a missionary in Africa. Social work was the next  best thing to being a missionary.

Our Insti (Institute of Social Work and Community Development)  was a pre-fabricated  one-storey building.  Engineering students -who were courting or in a relationship with Social Work majors- compared it to a chicken coop, especially since majority of the students were female, colloquially referred to as “chicks.” In the second semester of my sophomore year,  I started going there for my first social work subject (SW 140 or Introduction to Social Work) under Prof. Ma. Corazon J. Veneracion who was in her first year of teaching. The class consisted of at least 20 students coming from different batches and had shifted from other courses. Many were members of  the UP Student Catholic Action (UPSCA)  with headquarters just behind the Insti. Some were national democrat activists. Altogether, we were a boisterous, irreverent and critical lot.

Up to now, we like to brag among ourselves that ours was the best and most beauteous batch. Not without basis, mind you. Ulirat was the Insti student organization which was founded and headed  by my classmates. It won  1st Prize in the 1974 Pasiklab singing competition at the UP Theatre , and in a women’s basketball tournament.  Moreover, our batch (without me, though, because  I had already graduated) was also responsible for the proposal to revise the BSSW curriculum with emphasis on rural development which was eventually approved.  This was part of Prof. Flora Celi Lansang’s SW 143 (Social Action) class.   In the 1976 social work licensure exam, we took at least seven slots  in the Top Ten, including the first two places. But I’m going ahead of my  story.

Our batch had at least three subjects under  activist Prof.  Lansang . Flora was not the most organised teacher.  But her love for the downtrodden shone through. She taught with passion and commitment. She introduced us to the structural bases of impoverishment, to critical thinking, and the pursuit of  social justice and transformative social work. She was ahead of her time, always brimming with ideas on how we could make a difference in people’s lives.  Social action became real as she engaged us in concrete advocacies such as the defense of ancestral domain of the  Alangan Mangyans, and the revision of the BS Social Work curriculum.   Social work ceased to be a charitable profession for me. It became a means to engage the oppressed in organising, consciousness raising, and collective action  towards building another society totally different  from, and opposed to  Marcos’ Bagong Lipunan.  Flora was a major and lasting influence  on me and my batch.  She was a beloved  teacher, mentor, colleague,  and friend.

In the 70s,  population control was already one of the social issues discussed  at the Insti. And the stance of the activists (which I supported) was that overpopulation was not an issue, and that population control was part of the US imperialist agenda in Asia.

Another hotly debated issue then was:“Do we change people’s values first or do we change social  structures first?” I was for “structures first”.

At UP Diliman, I met activists who claimed to be communists, including one who became significant in my life .  Initially, I was scared. But, they turned out to be good people — exemplary and courageous, in fact.  They were ready to sacrifice their lives for the movement for social transformation.  I began to reconsider the church teaching that communism was godlessness and that all communists would go to hell.  I decided God wasn’t so narrow minded.  I read the red books of  Mao Tse Tung  (now Mao Zedong) and Marx and Engels’   dialectical –historical materialism in an effort to understand my significant other, and found their tenets compatible with social work.

I completed my studies in three and a half years. My mother thought I wanted to get married. I told her I merely wanted to be financially independent.  But income was not a major consideration in my choice of work. If it were, I would have betrayed  my Insti education. I was young, single and raring to take on the world.

My first job was with the famous freedom fighter of a newsman, Jose Burgos , Jr. He headed the Community Relations and Information Office (CRIO) of the then newly set up National Housing Authority. I was with a  batchmate and good friend, Agnes Lopez Manasan. Some old former employees of the defunct People’s  Homesite and Housing Corporation asked us who our “backer” was. They were incredulous when we told them that  we were hired  based on merit, not connection.

We were in the frontlines, deployed to  urban poor communities to encourage them to be relocated. The process we undertook enabled the people to make informed choices. We facilitated visits to relocation sites. And in case the community wanted to resist relocation, we connected the leaders to militant peoples’ organisations — unofficially, of course.  We also received delegations of urban poor communities whose organisers  were our Insti batchmates.  After barely six months, I resigned. I  thought I was inadvertently allowing myself  to  be used by the government to project a pro-poor image for the agency.

Thus, the homecoming to the Insti. The late ‘70s was the time the Insti began to operationalise participatory development and its rural development thrust through direct partnership with  rural poor communities. I feel fortunate that I was part of two such major initiatives: as a Training Assistant of  Prof Veneracion in her  project “ Training Program  for Paraprofessionals, Farmer-Leaders and Study Groups” which was implemented in  Brgy. Lalangan, Plaridel, Bulacan; and as  a young faculty of the Department of Social Work recruited mainly to be Co-Director of the “Rural Social Work Field Placements Project,” and one of three faculty supervisors of the students deployed to our partner communities in Lian, Batangas.  My area of assignment was Brgy. San Diego, a coastal and farming community.

I enjoyed and learned so much from the interaction with rural communities that I made rural development  my field of specialization. I was also attracted to the idea of setting up an NGO at a time when you could count the number of NGOs with the fingers of your  hand.  So, with nine other SW alumni of the Insti , most of whom had been my students, we founded the Organization for Training, Research and Development Inc. (OTRADEV) in 1979.  This was to be our vehicle for developing programs that promoted participatory development. Prof Lansang  shared with us financial resources to continue a health program with the Iraya Mangyans of Puerto Galera. This health program eventually expanded to become the OTRADEV-Iraya Integrated Rural Development Program (OIIRDP).  The partnership with the Iraya continued until the ‘90s when elements of the New People’s Army forced us to leave. OTRADEV also got involved in organising, advocacy and socio-economic work among small fisherfolk in Laguna de Bay. Moreover, it  became a  platform for promoting voluntarism among students  and young professionals, and a training ground for BS Social Work field work  students from UP and other schools. For some of its  members,  OTRADEV made them realise the limitations of  development work. Hence, they chose to join the underground movement for change.

I took up  my master’s degree (M.S. Rural Development Planning) at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand in 1980-82.  My thesis was about rural women’s lives. I studied feminist frameworks, and made sense of my life and choices  as a woman.   I  resigned from UP in 1983 so  I could devote fulltime to OTRADEV.  I was bored with life dictated by the academic calendar.

A personal crossroad occurred in 1985, which led to my acceptance of an offer to go and work in a newly set up non-governmental regional office in Hong Kong . I was an “expatriate” on a missionary stipend. The work was trailblazing, meaningful and  challenging.  It  was the start  of my long-term involvement with the sector of  overseas Filipino workers,  particularly women  domestic workers.

I missed the EDSA uprising in 1986 as I had just left for Hong Kong.  I was with the small group of Filipinos picketing the Philippine Consulate when we received news that the US government had airlifted Marcos and family to Hawaii, signalling the fall of the dictatorship. We had our own small celebration with Filipina domestic workers.

While the sector and locale were  different, the core competencies I brought into the work in Hong Kong were the same. But I did learn new ones such as case work with a progressive and rights-based framing; policy advocacy in an international context; and organising press conferences, coordinated mass actions and campaigns in  foreign countries.  I also became good at writing  position papers, and letters to the editor as part of our advocacy.

I lived in a shelter for  domestic workers with employment problems. Daily, I  listened to their stories and the hard choices they had to make, mainly to ensure the survival of their families in the Philippines. The courage,risk-taking, and capacity for self –sacrifice of  Filipina domestic workers  impressed me, and made me realise the exploitative character of “family.”   We organised, educated and conducted regional campaigns for OFW rights and welfare.  I  travelled  extensively for research, advocacy and networking.  I learned to  link national with regional and global action. Integrative social work was something I did although the label did not come until years later when I went back to teach at the Insti, which had become a college.

Until 2004, I straddled two worlds- development work and teaching at UP.  Direct engagement in development work ( specifically in the fields of socio-economic work and  international labor migration) as trainer, NGO executive, and advocate gave me the grounding and space necessary to practise transformative and gender responsive, social work. It gave me  lived experiences and models to imbue my teaching with soul and substance. It enabled me to challenge students to dare to  think and act beyond the immediate and practical. And to broaden or create spaces for engagement with communities, governments, and other stakeholders.

In 2004, because of medical reasons, I opted to focus on teaching, thereby  reducing  my involvement in  the challenging but stressful work of  running a social development agency, and advocating for migrants’ rights. I  gave more time to  myself ,  my two daughters, and friends. As my health improved, I gradually  took on projects that I enjoyed doing and advanced human rights, regardless of pay.

My first love , rural development, and second love, international migration, no longer run  along parallel lines. They now intersect as I have come full circle in the migration cycle. I am a student of local economy development in rural areas  and reintegration models. And  my participation in the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, an NGO based at the CSWCD, helps sharpen  the feminist framing of my  work.

At the College of Social Work and Community Development, I have found a collegial community that strives to operationalise the values and principles it stands for :  pro-poor orientation, critical thinking, academic freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and diversity, gender equality, and solidarity, among others.  It is a life  still governed by the academic calendar. But my mind now sees the opportunities and spaces the calendar provides for  community-engaged scholarship, and for influencing social work education in the country as we assume leadership roles in  professional bodies.

To the question of “which should come first: changing values or structures?’ my answer  now is “both.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Akda ni Ma. Estrella Penunia B.S. Social Work, 1978, Coordinator, Asian Farmers’ Association

Ako ay tubo at laking Pasay City. Kahit na taga Leyte ang aking mga magulang, minsan lamang nila ako dinala sa probinsya — at ito”y noong ako’y tatlong taon pa lamang. Kaya wala akong kaalaman sa buhay lalawigan, maliban sa mga nobela at mga textbook at artikulo na binabasa sa klase. At sa pailan-ilang piyestahan at sayawan, sa imbitasyon ng ilang kaibigang taga Siniloan at Pampanga. Noong ako ay nasa ISWCD (pa ang tawag noon), minsan lamang ako nakarating sa isang nayon— ito ay sa Tagaytay , klase ni G. Ponciano Bennagen . Isang araw lamang ang bisitang iyon, at ang pinaka-naalaala ko noon ay ang madudulas na bato na aming inaakyat at ang napakasimpleng tahanan at masarap na kapeng barako ng mga magsasaka.
Kaya noong ang batch namin ay kailangang tumira sa San Diego, Lian Batangas, sa loob ng limang buwan para sa praktikum – magkahalong pangamba (lalo sa aking ama –baka kung ano ang mangyari sa akin, baka ako ay makapag-asawa ng hindi nagtatapos ng pag-aaral, ako pa naman ang inaasahan ng pamilya) at excitement (dahil magiging first time ko ang pagtigil sa isang nayon) .

Hindi ko namalayan na isang buwan na pala akong di nakakauwi sa bahay. Nag-e-enjoy pala ako kasama ang mga magsasaka at mangingisda. Sumama ako sa pangangawil kahit may pangamba dahil di ako marunong lumangoy. Siyempre gumawa din ako ng mga kawil. Nakipaglaro sa mga bata, nakipag-usap sa mga ina at ama, nakipagkuwentuhan, nakikain, nakinig sa kanilang mga problema. Sabi nila, dati hindi daw ganoon ang ilog nila, malinis daw iyon. Sabi ko, ano po ba ang hitsura ng malinis na ilog? Kasi, ang alam ko lang na ilog ay ilog Pasig…. Naamoy ko ang mabahong amoy galing sa pabrika ng molasses na nagdudulot ng sakit ng tiyan at kawalang ganang kumain.

Marami kaming magkaklase na magkakasama sa Lian. Tahimik lamang ako sa maraming okasyon dahil ako ay sadyang mahiyain at di palakibo, ngunit ang mga asignatura ( magtanong, makihalubilo) ang nagtulak sa akin upang lagpasan ang pagkamahiyain. Di nagtagal, napansin ko na lamang, naiibigan ko ang mga ginagawa namin sa praktikum na ito . Masaya ako sa pakikisalamuha sa mga magsasaka at mangingisda. Simple lang sila: mapagmahal, maalagain, mabait, matuwain, handang makipagtulungan . Masaya ako sa kapaligiran — dagat, sakahan, gubat – pagpitas ng mga “wild berries”.

Sa praktikum ding ito naranasan ko ano ibig sabihin ng kakulangan ng hustisya. May isang pabrikang nilason ang ilog na pinagkukunan nila ng tubig at isda at nagbibigay ng masamang amoy sa hangin aming hinihinga. May isang sugar mill na pinagdadalhan ng mga tubo, at sa kabila ng pagod, ay kakarampot ang binibigay na bayad sa kanila. May mga nagkakasakit na hindi madala sa manggagamot dahil sa kahirapan. Mga ama’t ina na ang pangarap ay makapagtapos ng pag-aaral ang kanilang mga anak. Masaya ako sa pagtanaw ng mga tao na nakakatulong kami kahit paano sa unti-unting paglutas ng kanilang problema.

Iba kapag nararanasan ang nararanasan nila , iba kapag nakakausap sila at nagsasabi ng mga problema at pangarap. Iba kapag umuwi kayong masaya dahil naging maganda ang pakikipag-usap sa mga tauhan ng pabrika. May naantig na damdamin ng pagkakaibigan, ng pagkakaisa, ng pagdadamayan. Hanggang sa pakiramdam ko, hindi lamang ito basta trabaho, basta grado —- ito ay pagtataya.
Huling semestre ng kolehiyo noong ako’y pumunta sa Lian. Bago ako pumunta roon, hindi malinaw sa akin kung saan ko gustong magtrabaho . Nguni’t bago matapos ang praktikum sa Lian, naramdaman at narinig ko ang tawag ng Diyos sa akin — ang maging isang Christian rural development worker –ang makipag-ugnayan sa hanay ng mga mangingisda at magsasaka. Dama ko siya sa puso at sa isipan.

Pagka-graduate ko, nag-apply kaagad ako sa National Irrigator’s Association ngunit ako’y di nakapasa. Dahil kailangan kong magtrabaho, pumasok ako sa isang ahensiya base sa Ateneo na tumutulong sa mga maralitang tagalunsod. Dalawang buwan pa lang ako nang malaman kong may opening sa UP-CCHP, idedestino sa Sta Maria, Laguna, at salamat sa Diyos, ako’y natanggap. Apat na taon ako doon, lingguhan kung umuwi. Nakilala ko ang isang magdudoktor doon na may isang samahang tinayo — – Lingap Para sa Kalusugan ng Sambayanan (LIKAS) . Pagkatapos ng proyekto sa Sta Maria, lumipat ako sa LIKAS, at apat na taong tumira sa Tayabas, Quezon bilang isang Parish Pastoral Worker. Apat na ahensiya pa ang aking pinagtrabahuhan pagkatapos, lahat ay sa nagtratrabaho para sa pagsasakapangyarihan ng mga maliliit na kababaihan at kalalakihang magsasaka .

Tatlumpu’t apat na taon na pala simula nang nagpraktikum ako sa Lian. Parang kailan lang. Nakikita ko pa sa isipan ang mga mukha ng mga bata at mga ina at ama na nakasalamuha namin. Siguro di ko na sila makikilala kung magkita muli kami. Minsan lamang akong nakabisita sa lugar pagka-graduate ko. Pero, naipangako ko sa aking sarili, minsan, bibisita ako rito, babalikan ang lugar na nagbigay direksyon sa aking buhay — ang San Diego, Lian, Batangas.

A Calling and a Passion: Working for Disaster Risk Reduction in Community Development

A Calling and a Passion: Working for Disaster Risk Reduction
in Community Development
Emmanuel M. Luna
BSCD (Cum Laude) 1979; Ph.D. Urban and Regional Planning, 2000

The beginnings

I entered the university of the Philippine in 1974 as an engineering freshman:naïve yet ambitious; filled with fervor for academic excellence, but unmindful of the then political turmoil; excited by the new life and environment, butmade insecure by the same; poor, yet struggling with the hardships and challenges of being a “Iskolarngbayan”. After three years of real studying, I shifted to geology, then attempted to take environmental planning, only to be told that it was a graduate program. By that time, my love for nature and the desire to conserve the environment had crept in, but still without any political tint.

Like many other first year students in college, the choice of one’s course and ultimately one’s career is often motivated by personal, as well as parental desire to become materially successful. But when I decided to leave the course that can give me a very lucrative job and was asked by a professor of the Department of Community Development, Prof. Eva Esperanza, how I would see myself in five years-time, I readily answered “I want to be a missionary in a tribal community.” I thought that I would not be accepted because of my response. At 17, I realized a new faith as a born again Christian through the U.P. State Varsity Christian Fellowship and this changed my perspective about life, my purpose, and my vocation. I said that Community Development would be a good preparation for mission work I would venture in.

Many things had happened since then. The new course opened the doors to new ideas, I was frequenting the newly inaugurated Third World Center for avery inviting collection of materials on development and underdevelopment. I was exposed to the unorthodox way of teaching, to every-now- and- then narratives about my life and the lives of others, we call talambuhay, and to field trips to different communities. I found myself actively campaigning for a position in the ISCWD Student Council, the third student council to be established in U.P. at the height of martial law. My senior year was spent in the rural communities of Quezon province that taught me what real life was in the countryside, experiencing the romanticized hardships and sufferings of the people in the farm, seeing the corruption in the local government, the exploitative relationships among peasants and their landlords, as well as the struggles to survive and their efforts to change the conditions amidst adversities.

At a young age, confused with what I saw and experienced, I thanked my dear classmates, known as LINKOD Batch 2, who trusted me with their commitment that we can be together in a more organized way of affecting change. But this was without struggles, for many times, I had to isolate myself due to contradictions within myself. I was then convinced that when God’s people are being oppressed by injustice, martial law and the structural evil, then they can be instruments for change towards righteousness through God’s war, as shown in the many stories of how He liberated the Israelites from centuries of slavery in Egypt and led them to the promise land in Canaan.

I continued to work in the community as a research assistant after graduation. I was in the constant company of farmers who longed for services like irrigation and credit. The women were a joy to be with even in barikan (lambanog local wine drinking session) and in summer, we would walk with young men and ladies three to five kilometers to attend a pasayaw (community dance) on ground that could shower you with dust as the youth did their John Travolta stance.

I graduated in 1979, more than three decades ago, but the memories of my field work as a student and a young community organizer remain fresh and bring me joy. I have no regret in shifting to Community Development and pursuing a career in this field.

A calling for change

All through the years, my perspective has been anchored on Christian faith, believing that it is part of one’s calling to effect change and transform society. After a short stint in the private sector in the field of water supply development and completing my master’s degree in urban and regional planning, I went back to U.P. CSWCD as a training associate in January 1986. One of my initial tasks was handling alternative classes in protest against the election fraud and organizing and mobilizing students for the People’s Power revolution that ousted Marcos. It was one of the highlights in my personal and professional life. This was repeated in 2001.

That Tuesday afternoon, I was speaking to a group of Korean missionaries at the U.P. Hostel and they asked me what would happen if President Estrada would be acquitted. I readily said that a People’s Power 2 would most likely happen. True enough, that Tuesday night was the start. I was the Chair of the Department of Community Development then. Together with some of my friends and neighbosr like Prof. BenetteTayag, we initiated a noise barrage in the U.P. Village and into EDSA right after the walk out of senators during the impeachment trial of President Estrada. Staying the whole night at Ortigas, I prayed hard that the crowd would be sustained till the morning when new ones would come. I cancelled the DCD faculty meeting scheduled that Wednesday and urged everybody to proceed to EDSA with the rest of the U.P. constituents.

The U.P CSWCD is the ground where my perspective found expression through teaching, training, research, advocacy and other extension work. The field work supervision of students brought me to communities which enabled me to see what real organizing is, in Central Luzon and Bicol provinces. I was caught in awe as I witnessed farmers, older persons, women, and young people analyze the socio-economic conditions, relating imperialism and multi-national corporations to their poverty and sufferings. These people never reached college, even high school. However, their words and actions show the kind of commitment they had for a changed society.

A new passion to the end

In 1990, I had just returned as a U.N. Fellow at the United Nations Center for Regional Development and was assigned as faculty FW supervisor in the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement in Nueva Ecija. We were having a meeting with my three students when the great earthquake happened that afternoon of July 16, 1990. A chandelier fell on where I used to sit, and thank God for the instinct to get out of the living room the moment I felt the shaking. I witnessed the trauma of death at the Central Luzon State University and in a high school in Cabanatuan City that collapsed. In the succeeding meetings with my students, they asked me what they should be doing as organizers in the midst of disasters, where many communities were isolated due to landslides. I just responded “Use CO principles in doing disaster work”.

This experience caused me to deal with disaster management and see how this could be integrated in Community Development. The next year, Mt. Pinatubo erupted and this made me more concerned about the need for a disaster-sensitive community development. I started teaching Community-Based Disaster Management as a seminar course in planning. In my dissertation for my Ph. D. in Urban and Regional Planning, I focused on the endogenous system of response to river flooding, the first dissertation in the U.P. School of Urban and Regional Planning dealing with disaster management. When the Master in Community Development was revised, new courses on community disaster risk management and rebuilding displaced communities were instituted. A CBDRRM course was also instituted in the BSCD curriculum.

The passion for community-based disaster risk management led to my engagements with the national government agencies, NGOs, humanitarian organizations and people’s organizations. It was like “ a small voice in the wilderness”, with those in the disaster sector advocating for disaster reduction, but only a few would hear. In the first few years of the new decade 2000, I became the Chair of the Philippine Disaster Management Forum (PDMF), a network of local and international NGOs concerned with disaster reduction. We advocated for the passage of the new law, but the Congress and Malacanang were not keen about the proposal, not declaring it as a priority bill.

With the advent of disasters in the succeeding years such as the 2004 flashflood REINA, Quezon, 2006 landslide in Guinsaugon, St, Bernard Leyte, 2006 flashflood in Albayand 2008 flashflood in Iloilo due to typhoon Frank, the PDMF members focused on disaster response. The group was re-convened by the Center for Disaster Preparedness in 2008 and a new network was born, the Disaster Risk Reduction Network Philippines (DRRNet Philippines). With the CSWCD’s Executive Board’s approval, I represented the CSWCD in the network and pushed for the passage of a new law in DRR. It took an Ondoy flashflood before the national leaders and lawmakers saw the urgency of the new law. In 2010, the RA 10121 became a law.

Today, in addition to voluntary work in vulnerable communities, I remain as an academic trying to meet the challenges posed to the University and the international community by DRR. My researches with international institutions such as the British and Danish Red Cross, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center in Bangkok, International Development Studies in U.K., International Recovery Platform in Kobe, Japan, Oxfam GB, UNESCO Jakarta among others enabled me to explore and learn about specific DRR concerns such as CBDRRM, impact of disasters in education, accountability in DRR, disaster recovery, emergency response, and indigenous and local DRR knowledge in coastal and small island communities. In 2001, 2007 and 2012, the University of the Philippines awarded me International Publication Awards for publications dealing with DRR. Today, I co-edit the Disaster Prevention and Management Journal, an international journal listed in the International Scientific Information (ISI), published by Emerald and based in UK.

In end, I could say that life is a risk in itself that is to be managed well to bear fruits. And I thank my God for that.

The Choice

The Choice

By Mark Anthony D. Abenir

I got to indirectly encounter CSWCD at the time when I was in my Philosophy sophomore years in UST. Back then, my goal was to take up law after I finish the AB Philosophy program, afterwards become a corporate lawyer, and then hopefully one day be renowned in the law profession and be rich in the process. But all of that changed when I met Joey Cruz, Joltz Meneses and Ka Puroy Alipao (in that order) in the school year of 1999-2000. They received their Community Development education from CSWCD and began working in UST as community development officers. Their significance cannot be left untold since in the year 2000, there was no community development program in UST — only a community service committee under the jurisdiction of the Office of Student Affairs. But through the activism of Joey, Joltz, and Ka Puroy, they became the pioneers of the University Community Development Program (UCDP) of UST which brought forth the creation of the Office for Community Development in 2002 that later on became known as Simbahayan (Simbahan, Tahanan at Bayan) office in 2012.

Where was I in the course of these events? During the years 1999 to 2003, I became the protégé of Joey, Joltz, and Ka Puroy as a community service student volunteer. It is because of them that I learned the praxis of community development principles such as conscientization, participation, empowerment, collective action, and people-centered development. In addition, through the help of Joey, Joltz, and Ka Puroy, I also got to meet Ka Lito Manalili, Ka Oski Ferrer, and Ka Tex Gabo of CSWCD who further elucidated and gave me a broader picture of what community development was all about in the country. I was so enamored with community development that it became a topic of my undergraduate thesis where I delved deeply into all the written works of Ka Lito and made a philosophical comparison and synthesis using the lenses of a postmodern philosopher, Martin Buber. The title of my thesis in college was Martin Buber’s Philosophy of Dialogue as a Foundation for the Filipino Concept of Development that was given a very high rating and was recognized enough for me to receive “The Best Thesis Award“ conferred by the Faculty of Arts and Letters of my university.

So what now after college? I asked myself. The words of Ka Lito resonated in my ears. During my encounters with him when he speaks in a community development seminar organized by UST, he would often say there are two kinds of people in the world – those who work for themselves to become rich (and contribute to the growing inequality in the process) and those who work with and for the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized to achieve social justice. With these powerful words, I chose to change my path and work towards the latter. Thus in 2004, after working in contemplation in Aquinas University of Legazpi, Bicol for one school year as a philosophy instructor, I went back to UST to work as a community development officer and at the same time study hand-in-hand community development in CSWCD under the master’s program. My master’s education further professionalized my training in community development which guided me as I honed for three and a half years my skills in community organizing in one of the partner communities of UST which was Barangay 228, Tondo, Manila. In addition, my co-curricular studies in the MCD program of CSWCD which consisted of various community exposures per subject/course taken and the required fieldwork conducted in partnership with COSE (Coalition of Services of the Elderly) helped me focus my attention in the field of social planning and administration – with a special emphasis on participatory evaluation. Through these co-curricular activities, I experienced first-hand the joys and pains of what community work is really all about and what it really means to put these famous community development credo into action:

“Go to the people
Live among the people
Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Work with the people
Start with what the people know
Build on what they have
Teach by showing, learn by doing
Not a showcase, but a pattern
Not an odds and ends, but a system
Not piecemeal, but integrated approach
Not to conform, but to transform
Not relief, but release.”
– Credo of Rural Reconstruction;
– Motto of Dr. Noburo Iwamura of Japan
– Inspired from the Chinese Sage, Lao Tzu

Since then, I was able to prove to myself that I could help more people through this field as compared to my original dream to become a lawyer. I realized I wanted to become a lawyer for the wrong reasons and my CSWCD education further fortified my resolve to work with and for the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized to achieve social justice.

My engagement with CSWCD did not end after completing the master’s program. I immediately enrolled in the Doctor of Social Development Program as soon it was offered in 2009. Many of my friends were asking me why I should study again in CSWCD when it was feasible on my part to take doctoral scholarships abroad or take a different doctoral course in the Philippines that could further improve my understanding regarding the social phenomena enveloping our country. But I told my friends and myself that CSWCD had an abundance of wisdom that I had yet to learn. Besides, I could not imagine myself going to other schools since I believe that CSWCD is one of the best schools in the country and in the world that offers studies in the field of development work.

True enough, the difference of the doctoral program from the masteral is that I learned to better understand the “why” of things more than the “what” and “how” which dominated my masteral years. This is so because during the masters, I was interested more on how to apply what I have learned in CSWD to aid me in my community organizing work. Since I was done with that phase, I became more interested in knowing the theories behind community development principles which the Doctor of Social Development program was able to provide. Aside from that, the multidisciplinary approach of the college, the egalitarian relationships coupled with the wealth of knowledge and reflective learning experiences I gained from my DSD professors (such as the likes of Inday Ofreneo, Amar Torres, Tess Tungpalan, and Guy Claudio) and most especially from my classmates helped me see different situations through the use of different lenses. I truly was able to experience what holistic education is all about.

The DSD program has helped me to change in profound ways by having a renewed interest and deeper appreciation in critical social science and socialism, gender studies and feminism, and disaster risk reduction management and human rights-based approach to development. The program has also helped me become better in my teaching and research profession in UST. Since my enrollment in the DSD program in 2009, I have mainstreamed in my teaching and research agenda the use of critical and socialist perspectives, gender perspectives, and human rights perspectives. I began to introduce into the subjects that I teach topics on CEDAW, UNCRC, rights of PWDs, DRRM, MDGs and many more coupled with the use of selected social development theories for students to better understand where these things are coming from. My students have been giving me wonderful feedback regarding the things they learn from me to which I reply: I am only sharing them the things I learned from CSWCD. In the field of research, I make sure that I put critical, gender, and human rights perspectives in my conceptual frames and methodologies.

But my ardent involvement in development work due to great the influence of CSWCD does not come without a price. I have to give up things like the promise of a financially wealthy life and to face the everyday odds of a world dominated by neoliberalism, patriarchy, sexism, racism, consumerism, and materialism. I do find it hard when people find me odd due the principles I believe in. There also times that tensions arise in me, finding myself giving in to the wishes of a world that works against the concept of social justice. For in the end, I too am human, subjected to the same weakness of being seduced to achieve and experience a life of luxury. Nevertheless, every time I fall I learn to pick myself up through my own volition and through the help of professors and friends I met directly and indirectly in CSWCD. In the end, the teachings of Ka Lito still resonate in my ears. It always reminds me of the choice I made in life, the destiny I am willing to happily carve out till death – that is to work with and for the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized to achieve social justice, and perhaps, due to the negative social impacts of climate change, work for environmental justice as well.

College of Social Work and Community Development