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PAG-AALAY NG PUSO
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A Condition of Violence

Towards the end of the Marcos dictatorship, the Philippines spiraled into a cycle of intense violence. In August 1983, the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, the only political rival to the dictator, resulted in the utilization of the military against so-called "communist" groups, but in reality a brutal ploy to smash any opposition to Marcos and his ilk. At the same time the New People’s Army of the Maoist National Democratic Front, taking advantage of the situation of military brutality gained more and more adherents. In the armed campaigns between these opposing forces in remote and rural areas non-combatant civilians were often the innocent victims.

Exodus

From the central Visayan islands and the southern rural hinterlands of the island of Luzon thousands were forced to migrate to Manila in order to escape the confrontations between the military and the Maoists. Arriving in Manila, however, they found no welcome place. So they squatted whereever they could find a vacant private or public property. The long expanse of the right-of-way on both sides of the railroad system intersecting metropolitan Manila became favorite sites for settlement. Local Barangay captains had no gumption nor the political means to turn away the hundreds that swarmed into their areas of jurisdiction. A few of the more enterprising ones saw opportunity in the human maelstrom to exact fees in exchange for settlement or even to organize them in locating them in unoccupied areas around cemeteries, public parks, the banks of esteros, under bridges.

The Settling of Bagong Silang

A group of provincial refugees discovered vacant shore areas around Manila Bay and such was the situation in the Navotas area in 1984. Situated some kilometers beyond the sprawling north harbor area which provided berth for shipping from the rest of the archipelago, many settled here in a place euphemistically called Bagong Silang or "New Birth."

Where is Bagong Silang?

Bagong Silang lies between the public cemetery of the municipality of Navotas and Manila Bay. On this small stretch of 5,600 square meters a community of over 500 families squatted. The area was a garbage dump and the mountains of refuse often found unidentifiable dead bodies summarily executed and dumped there by criminal elements or the military. It was upon this shaky, rotting, fetid ground that people erected their shacks and embarked on their new lives away from the killing fields in the provinces. Soon, shanties suspended on long bamboo stilts stretched out into the Bay. When even these shore areas soon overcrowded, some began to build their lean-tos in the cemetery proper on top of the tombs of the dead.

The Given of Squalor and Crime

Immediately apparent was the subhuman living conditions of the first Navotas migrants. Dwellings were thrown together from pieces of castoff wood, cardboard, paneling, paperboard. In many places the walkway connecting one hovel to another is a single piece of rotting lumber atop the stagnant dirty water upon which the refugees dumped their offal, their refuse, their garbage. Huge rats scampered unchallenged in this underground water kingdom. Families usually occupied a single space, if that could be called a room, just enough for ther get together, for sleeping, cook and eat. There was no other place where to cook or to bathe. There were no toilet facilities and people just dropped their waste into the space between the catwalks. One basic problem was the water supply its supply and distribution a matter to dream about. The settlers would stay awake till dawn to collect water from a private house in the vicinity paying 1.25 pesos for a five gallon container. There was nothing to sustain a family in dignity in this new birth place.

Eking Out a Life

Forty percent of the women did the laundry in the more affluent upstream section of Navotas to bring in income. Others tried vending fish, vegetables, fruits. The refugees coming from Visayas are actually fishermen in their home grounds and so they continued to eke out a fishing livelihood from the infested waters of Manila Bay. Some families attempted to run small, sari-sari or dime and cent stores. Many of the men lined up for employment as dockworkers in the Navotas shipyards or stevedores in the North Harobor area.

Active Nonviolence

It was into this human social laboratory that a group of young Filipino professional men and women responded to the Gospel call "to proclaim the good News to the poor." A new movement called Active Nonviolence had taken place in the strugle against dictatorship which taught that change was possible, even political change, without violence and based upon action founded on absolute respect for the human person, even the oppressor, the enemy. Providentially this movement saw God’s plan for the Philippines unfold with the EDSA Revolution where the military establishment of the dictator capitulated to millions of smiling, praying, unarmed civilians. During that time, volunteers in this movement began searching for the meaning of their faith among the poor. Many of them, eventually becoming PPF staff, and joined by Japanese friends, began to visit the refugees in Bagong Silang, Navotas. There they were shocked to discover a place where 80% of the children were severely undernourished, where hit men and prostitutes lived, where one could be held up or killed for the contents of his pocketbook.

First the Mothers and the Young

The volunteers first established rapport with mothers and youth. Then, in 1988, a Japanese journalist who had been planning to commit suicide came with these Filipino volunteers to Bagong Silang for a visit. She was moved to tears. She asked herself why she, who had all her material needs amply provided for, was thinking of killing herself, while before her were these poor people who possessed nothing and yet were happy and hopeful about continuing to live.

Why Kill Yourself

She decided to reach out and with the support of this journalist together with Mr. Shigeru and Marian Tanizaki, a Philippine Peace Concert was held in Japan, and an exchange of hearts began: the Japanese giving material assistance and Filipinos sharing of themselves. Pagaalay ng Puso (meaning A Sharing of Hearts) Foundation, or PPF fopr short, was officially born. It was registered with the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission in August 1988. Its vision: Human Communities founded in Faith in God through Jesus. Its task: to work to build human communities as a sign of God's kingdom, and to proclaim God's love in our work. After the concert, there was a small amount of money to start a project in Bagong Silang.

“We Need God”

The PPF volunteers asked the people, "What do you need and when do you want us to start?" And the people said, they needed God, and asked first to reconstruct the chapel because the chapel built of bamboo was near to collapse and was continually threatened by floods. So in December 1988, PPF staff and volunteers together with the people of Bagong Silang, Navotas started to built a concrete building chapel on higher ground in the center of Bagong Silang.

10 Years Later...

The service of PPF to the poor of Navotas has expanded into other eight poverty blighted areas beyond Bagong Silang itself.

There are now 15 adult faith sharing Buklods in 9 areas including Bagong Silang, each group meets regularly once a week, and then there are 6 youth prayer groups, and 10 catechism classes conducted once a week. Today, Bagong Silang has become a center for youth, child and adult evangelization.

People are friendly and hospitable, some women and youths are active leaders - they voluntarily go out and reach out to other poor areas and extend help with the support of PPF staff, then other leaders in areas that were assisted also go to other poor areas and start to reach out for help. The filthy alleys have been fixed and many houses now have bathrooms and toilets.

PPF continues the struggle to work with the poor for the Kingdom of God. The PPF Foundation staff, volunteers, and all members hope to share Faith in God founded in the unconditional love of Jesus, our Redeemer, the sense of the absolute worth of every human being made in His image and likeness, and so make visible to the world what is a truly human community.

Why Do We Think We Have Succeeded?

Our chairman likes to think that PPF is the most succesful of the NGOs that he has handled through the years. He was Managing Trustee or Executive Director or Corporate Secretary in the A. Soriano Foundation, the Culion Foundation, the Philippine Business for Social Progress. Whjat is the reason for all this, he asks?

We believe it is the spiritual dimension of our involvement with the poor that has made the difference, unlike the others, and this is said with great reluctance, who concentrate on the human side of community development, the imparting or sharing of human technology, the preference for livelihood projects.

It is Christ our Redeemer who sends His Holy Spirit in every moment of our care for His poor and unwanted. He is the Difference.

Programs at Pag-aalyng Puso Foundation

Values Education Program

Scholarship Project

Day Care Center Project

Exposure

Vocational Training

Christmas General Assembly

Youth Development Project

Youth Summer Camp

Health Project

Dumagat Outreach to Indigenous Peoples

Foundation Support


We care.......... through building humane communities




| Values Education | Scholarships | Day Care | Exposure |
| Vocational Training | Christmas Assembly | Youth Development |
| Summer Camp | Health | Marriage Enrichment | Foundation Support |
| Contact the PPF Fountation |

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This page is a cooperative effort
of the Tertian Community
of the Assistancy of East Asia and Oceania
and the PPF Foundation
and is hosted by Le Moyne College,
the Jesuit College of Central New York.

E-Mail: bucko@maple.lemoyne.edu

Page Last Updated: January 27,1999