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

| Written by CSWCD

joyce caragayWhere 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. #