Payatas — Archived
PAYATAS — Lupang Pangako ... The Promised Land
Many FCJ Sisters have collaborated with the Vincentian Fathers in ministry to the people of Payatas, Manila.
For those of you who would like to know more about Payatas, we offer this short account ...
Where is Payatas?
In Quezon City, which is part of Metro Manila, Philippines. Payatas is one Barangay, divided into two parts: Payatas A and B. It consists of 3,019 hectares and includes La Mesa Reservoir which is the water resource for Metro-Manila.
In 1990, 290,700 people lived in Payatas, and the estimated growth rate per years is 15 %.
Payatas B occupies 172 hectares of land and 80% of the population of the whole of Payatas live there. It is in Payatas B where a 16 hectare open dumpsite for solid waste disposal is located. It has been operating since 1973 but it only came to public concern after the closure of the well-known "Smokey Mountain of Tondo", Manila, in 1993. Even after the tragic mud-slide in July 2000, in which several hundred people were buried in the mud, the daily dumping of about 800 tons per day of trash continues without any specific precautions, just preparing for the next tragedy.
Who lives in Payatas?
The community is mainly composed of people who come from calamity stricken parts or zones of conflict in the Philippines.
Many lost their homes and meager livelihood as tenants, small farmers or fishermen, through typhoons, earthquakes or other natural disasters. Others left their provinces because they became involved in or were victims of armed conflict between military groups and the Communist New People's Army (NPA). They migrated to the city in search of a better future for themselves and their families - often settling with relatives already squatting there.
At least 40 - 45 thousand people are living in this fast growing squatter-colony of Payatas B. It is estimated that 10,000 people from "scavenging families" rely mainly on the dumpsite for their daily subsistence. Even the children are involved in the tough and dirty job of augmenting meager income gained from scavenging. The people who scavenge supply the recycling business with cheap recyclable materials like paper, glass, plastic, metal etc. Pressing poverty, lack of education or vocational training, or a criminal past, do not allow them to find formal employment or an alternative job.
A Hopeful Future?
In 1992, the Congregation of the Mission (The Vincentians) took charge of the Parish in Payatas B, called "Ina ng Lupang Pangako" which means in Pilipino "Mother of the Promised Land". They set up a Foundation which touches all areas of Parish life - the elderly, the disabled, youth, pre-schoolers, mothers, medical assistance, savings groups, housing plans, while seven chapels spearhead liturgical, catechetical and sacramental programs.
In 1993, FCJ sisters joined in the "Child Rehabilitation Program" (CRP) which is specifically for Scavenger Children but where any child between the ages of 5 years and 18 years is cordially welcomed. Its basic aim is education. Schooling both in the local elementary schools and public high school is fostered while informal education is offered to those who are out-of-school or who lag behind; art, singing, dancing are encouraged.
Card making, sewing and finally computer literacy have their place in the development of the CRP. Mothers from Payatas B are running this center with the help of a trained teacher ensuring that the children are getting the best of what is possible. In 1999, the FCJ sisters set up a scholarship program for skills training in preparation for employment. By 2001, ten boys and four girls had completed their training.
For 2001 - 2002 seven girls and six boys have begun their training in Tertiary Colleges in a variety of courses: Computer Design and Programming (1), Office Technology (2), Business Management (2), Hotel & Restaurant Management (2), Automotive Mechanics (1), Mechanical Technology (3), Electronics (2). The Courses vary from two to four years.
Hope? Promised Land?
Whatever is being done seems at times to be just a drop in the ocean of pain and helplessness. Yet, "if we can help improve the life of one scavenging child or two or three, maybe it helps towards breaking the cycle of poverty. And they in turn may help others." (Sr. Teresa Hennessy FCJ)
A new future is possible. When one looks into the eyes of children, one would want to do everything possible to open these eyes to a vision of hope and new life. We walk together, supporting each other, towards the PROMISED LAND
Ministries of the FCJ Sisters in Manila
Teresa says her job now is to take it easy - but don't you believe it! She says, "As I am elderly, my main work is BEING elderly."
Teresa dearly loved her previous work in Payatas working with the Child Rehabilitation Program and still works with the older adolescents - some sixteen boys and six girls who have completed High school. Some are attending a two-year Trade Course at Don Bosco Trade School, Makati. Others are doing on-the-job training. One received a scholarship to study computer programming, and another got a scholarship in Hotel and Restaurant Management. Others are attending a three month job training course with TESDA, (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority), a program run by a government agency.
Teresa recently attended a course for returned missionaries and is now living in her native Australia.
Veronika has recently set up the FCJ Project in Bagong Silangan and is responsible for its good running and for the development of the programmes that it offers. Veronika is full of ideas and always engaged in something interesting.
Before coming to Manila, she lived in Naga, Zamboanga del Sur, where she started a cooperative which the people now run themselves. She also initiated paper making from cogon grass. From this paper, greeting cards using Filipino designs are made by people in the local villages.
Veronika writes: I come from a beautiful mountain area in Germany. But I have also lived in Belgium and France. I was one of the first FCJs to research the possibility of FCJ Sisters coming to Asia. Following that visit we decided to stay in the Philippines. I am very interested in Asian spirituality.
After 19 years of service in the Philippines and 46 years away from her home country, Veronika has now been missioned to her native Germany. Read more ...