The students at Sitio Payong share a few photos as a look into their praxis time.
The students at Sitio Payong share a few photos as a look into their praxis time.
Spending time at Sitio Payong has been one of the most incredible parts of our Casa Bayanihan experience so far. Each praxis day brings a new adventure, and the smiling faces that we encounter fill us with joy and life. While at Sitio Payong, we have had the opportunity to learn from the community members, while also spending a lot of time with the children. Ate Fe (our wonderful host) welcomes us so warmly when we arrive each Monday and Wednesday. Sometimes, Ate Fe will teach us some of her favorite recipes (like fresh vegetable lumpia or maja blanca) in the morning to eat for lunch that day! YUM. We love any time that we get to spend with Ate Fe and her family – especially her cousin, Ate Daisy, and her niece and nephew, Alliah and Puchoy.
Most days, before our delicious lunch prepared by Ate Fe, we will all go down and visit the Sitio Payong feeding program, where we have the chance to hang out with the children and talk to their mothers to hear more about their stories. In the afternoon, after cleaning up from lunch, we love to go out and play with all of the children! Our activities vary from day to day, but we try to plan at least one structured activity each week. In the past, Chaz has taught everyone some basic German while Moriah shares her French skills. Casey loves to teach the kids kapuera – a Brazilian martial art. The kids (especially the boys) love it! We also enjoy spending time with the kids by reading a story book, coloring, doing the Hokey Pokey, and learning as many Filipino games as we can. We have absolutely loved our praxis experience at Sitio Payong so far, and we look forward to all of the new adventures that the next month brings!
Hello from Sally, Daniel and Nebu! We are the students over at the San Damian Center in an area of Metro Manila called Bagong Silang. We should probably first explain the title of our post. We have created our own language in our praxis group and we call it the “A’s” which is an abbreviation for “abbrevs” which is in turn an abbreviation of “abbreviation.” So, in English, the title translates to “Are you down to San Damian in Bagong Silang?” As you will see, Filipino English, is loaded with acronyms and abbreviations!
The San Damian Center is run by the Sisters and Brothers from the Congregation of the Sacred Heart and, with their community partners, they run many social programs in the area like a school for People With Special Needs (PWSN), a Pastoral Care for Children (PCC) program which provides assistance in the form of milk powder and a food supplement for pregnant and nursing mothers and infants, Vasos ng Gatas which provides a glass of milk to about a 1000 first graders every school day, and a scholarship program that allows children to attend public schools by removing financial barriers like uniform fees, and money for school supplies and transportation. With PWSN, PCC and AMPAPP (short for Ang Muling Pagkabuhay ng Ang Panginoon Parish…or Parish of the Resurrection of the Lord) the Sisters and Brothers are totally D with the A’s, if you catch our drift. We spend most of our time with the PWSN program and doing home visits with the Nanays (mothers) that run the PCC program.
Left to right: Daniel, Nanay Tess, Nanay Duday, Sally, Nebu and Nanay Hermi making polvoron, a delicious Filipino treat!
Sally, Daniel and Nebu in their matching Bagong Silang polos. #SWAG
In the PWSN program, we sit in on classrooms and assist in their morning classes. One in particular with Teacher Rowena, Annabelle, Avijoy and Norina is particularly fun because we get to learn sign language! Annabelle, Avijoy and Norina are deaf students, and while Annabelle is very fluent and is working on bettering her English, Avijoy and Norina are very young and are still learning the basics of sign language and we get to hop in on the fun as well (that’s right! In Bagong Silang you get to learn two languages for the price of one: Tagalog and sign language! Step right up!).
Teacher Rowena teaching Avijoy the sign for the letter “Q”
Being in a deaf classroom has really opened our eyes to how, despite our differences, we really can relate, on a very human level, to our Filipino friends. None of us really know a lick of sign language, but it is relatively easy to understand the essence of what these three are trying to tell us. They are very talkative (sometimes Teacher Rowena has to chastise us for being distracting) and their spot-on facial expressions and the very literal nature of sign language pretty much do the translating for us. For example, the sign for “good morning” involves mimicking a sunrise! Annabelle in particular was one of our first friends at the Center and is always happy to see us in the mornings and never fails to welcome us with her beautiful smile. Avijoy and Norina on the other hand, pretty much use Daniel and Nebu as transportation to and from where they tell us to go. This involves locking the feet and arms tightly around us and then pointing to their destination. They are one of our biggest joys in praxis and, while confronting the reality of Bagong Silang has been very challenging at times, our relationships with people like Annabelle, Norina and Avijoy, and the Nanays make our time in Bagong Silang unforgettable!
In light of family and friends visiting this week, we’ve done a lot of reflecting on family lately, and we’ve been resting in the gratitude of being part of so many families! Over the course of almost four months here in the Philippines, Batch 4 has created a special family with each other, Bahay Kapwa, the ates and kuyas of the Filipino staff, and our praxis sites among many others. This week, we have the treat of welcoming our families from the states to the Philippines!
Our first event was a visit to Calatagan on Sunday. Calatagan is the fishing village filled with another one of Casa Bayanihan’s families - the residents of Sitio Rodriguez are people with whom we’ve been cultivating relationships for the past three years, and this week is the first time we’ve brought families to students to the village. Even though parents had gotten into the country the night before and were dealing with jet lag and a whole new, hot world, many braved the trek south to immerse themselves in Calatagan, just as their children had done in September! The parents had a marvelous time meeting many of the host families, playing with the children, and walking around the village and to the beach. Seeing so many ‘families’ (in the widest sense of the word!) together on Sunday was an incredible blessing!
Last week, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda, locally) slammed the Philippines with torrential rains and destructive winds that caused ruin on an immense scale. While this country made headlines across the world, all we could do was wait out the storm while we were on retreat. We’ve been making a home in this country for three months, but in some ways, we’ve felt very far from the tragedy; Luzon, the island which houses Manila and the retreat center we were in during the storm, was affected by rains and strong winds, but we endured nothing compared to what hit many islands farther south. We hear the facts and figures that just tell a part of the story - over 10 million people affected, over half a million houses damaged, hundreds of thousands of people left homeless. It seems unreal. But just when we feel far away, we are reminded that we are very close; we’ve heard tales from friends and neighbors who haven’t heard from family members or someone in our praxis community whose hometown was leveled in the storm. We have seen an overwhelming number of images of destruction, we have read stories of people in desperate need of food, water, and shelter, and we’ve prayed our hearts out thinking of those affected. The effects of the typhoon have been undeniably devastating, leaving the living with not much other than each other and a pile of rubble. Somehow though, people have held on so strongly to their faith.
'Faith Stronger than Storm' was the headline in today's paper. To make a claim like that in light of the terror wrought by the storm is to say something quite profound - it speaks directly to the motivation of the Filipinos and all the more underscores this will to life that comes only from a deep belief in something greater than themselves. It seems that faith is the catalyst for so much; even amidst these harsh realities, there has been an enormous amount of mobilization to provide aid to the affected people. Every time we go onto campus, we see people packing relief goods under the covered courts. Each time we enter a grocery store, there is a box for donations for those who were in the path of the storm. We've seen children, who are often hungry themselves, carrying a can of sardines to donate in their schools. People who have next to nothing are giving what they have to help their Filipino brothers and sisters survive.
With the same spirit of generosity, students in Casa Bayanihan have offered hours out of their weeks to pack bags of relief goods. President Aquino called for the Ateneo de Manila, the home university of Casa Bayanihan, to pack 75,000 relief bags in one week. On Thursday, the count was around 27,000 but students and staff from the Ateneo worked through the night, literally tirelessly, to pack over 83,000 bags. (Read more about the students’ participation from the perspective of our lovely students, Alex, Moriah, and Katharine, here: http://4months3girls1philippines.blogspot.com/) Of course, Casa was only a small part of a big, big effort, so we’ve been trying to do what we can. We had some simpler meals last week and put the extra funds toward purchasing shoes and food. Some attended Mass last week, and the second collection saw over 11,000 pesos brought in from the congregation for typhoon relief. And of course, we pray because that’s what we can do. We pray that our faith is stronger than the storm, we hope in our faith being stronger than the storm, and as the days go on and people continue to pour out their love, we know that our faith is stronger than the storm.
It’s unbelievable to think that Haiyan was one of the most powerful storms to make landfall in recorded history. Maybe that’s what made today’s headline all the more striking. Faith stronger than that storm has got to be unbelievably strong. Like record-breaking, earth-shatteringly strong. But what the people of the Philippines have shown us, especially in the aftermath of this storm, is that they have that faith that is stronger than any storm and a hope that can weather any sort of tragedy. While we hope a calamity like this never happens again, this faith certainly carries on through anything that this country faces. We in Casa Bayanihan are privileged to be witness to that faith, their hope, and the love so present in the Philippines. Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and your prayers; continue to hold the Philippines in your hearts as the people rebuild after the typhoon.
If you feel moved to donate, Casa Bayanihan recommends coordinating donations through the Philippine Jesuit Foundation (PJF):
• Donate online by visiting: https://www.phjesuits.org/pjf/share.php
• Checks in the U. S. can be addressed to The Philippine Jesuit Foundation, P.O. Box 312, New York, NY 10028. Please ask your contacts and friends to indicate in the memo “Yolanda Calamity Fund” to avail of the free service fee. PJF Donors can also earn tax credit for every donation made.
• Bank transfers in the U.S. can be made through Merrill Lynch bank (Account # 176-04A01).
If you’d like to keep updated on the situation in the Philippines, there are a number of news sources that can provide the perspective from the ground. The Philippine Inquirer (inquirer.net) is a steady source of reliable news, while USA Today and the NY Times also provide informative perspectives and images. Some articles that may be of interest:
"Faith stronger than storm": http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/529181/faith-stronger-than-storm
"Clean water flows into Tacloban": http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/529217/clean-water-flows-into-tacloban
"Preserve the spirit of bayanihan": http://globalnation.inquirer.net/91517/preserve-the-spirit-of-bayanihan-un-urges-filipinos
Art fund drive for victims: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/529853/baguio-artists-start-fund-drive-for-yolanda-victims
President Aquino in Tacloban: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/11/17/philippine-president-tacloban-typhoon-haiyan/3617959/
Before and After images from USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/11/13/typhoon-haiya/3517837/
As some of the first people to welcome us to the Philippines, the residents of Santo Nino Street in our neighborhood have always been close to Casa Bayanihan. Carrying on that marvelous hospitality, they threw us a Halloween party last week to continue to get to know the students in a casual and fun setting. We danced, ate a lot of delicious food (helloooo spooky cupcakes!), and showed off our cool costumes. Check out our pictures for a view into one unforgettable night!