Sunday, March 2, 2008

Nothing to Complain About

A heartwarming article in the Philippine Star website proves that CFC is on the right track, and because of it, the Aetas are now much better off, with nothing to complain about.

Gawad Kalinga reaches out to Aetas
By Patricia Esteves
Sunday, March 2, 2008

In a Gawad Kalinga village in Burog, Bamban town, Tarlac, neatly dressed Aeta children gather inside a Sibol classroom, GK’s pre-school facility, listening intently as their teacher reads books and counts numbers.

Their parents, meanwhile, are out in the field, harvesting fruits and vegetables or tending to livestock.

A few years back, Aeta children and their mothers picked through trash for bottles, metal scraps and newspapers that earned them around P50 a day, while others simply roamed around the city begging for food.

For a time, Aetas in Tarlac have been used to living in poverty, with misery and ugliness all around them, and people paying little or no attention to them.

But today, things are different. The 100 Aeta families in this town now live in brightly colored, clean and sturdy homes and are beneficiaries of free schooling and sustainable livelihood.

Apart from this, Singles for Christ (SFC) and Couple’s for Christ (CFC) members continue to care for the Aetas through various “Kapatiran” and fellowship activities meant to “reinforce GK’s thrust on building not just homes but more importantly, relationships.”

CFC members conduct values formation programs among the Aetas.

Last February 12-14, SFC members from Zamboanga Sibugay, Metro Manila, Tarlac, Canada, Australia, United States and the Middle East spent three days in GK Burog to bond and interact with the Aetas.

After having built more than 150 houses for the Aetas, GK said that by bringing volunteers to the Aeta sites, they are able to show that GK genuinely cares for them.

SFC members like Delson Villanueva, an engineer from Qatar who participated in the event dubbed “Kapatid, sa GK walang Iwanan,” said they did not only teach the Aetas but also learned their culture, history and way of life.

“The event wanted to highlight the beauty and the treasure within the Aetas. It also aims to awaken participants on some social issues affecting the Aetas,” GK champion Tony Meloto said.

‘Survivor series’

The SFC participants did not just construct houses but activities, patterned after the “Survivor Series”, were integrated in the building process.

A total of 33 participants were divided into three tribes such as Manwelek, Oyha, and Abukay, Ayta Mag-antsi for a large forest rat, deer and civet cat, respectively.

Some of the workshops/challenges were the “Hunt”, where participants were taught how to use the bow & arrow used by the Aetas for hunting; and archery.

The participants were given an overview of the history and culture of the Aetas and were oriented on the Mag-Antsi language of the Aetas.

The indigenous people harvest and sell papaya, the main source of income in GK Burog, for only P10 pesos per kilo (farm-gate price).

‘Love the other’

Filipino-American Justin Claravall said he felt a profound calling to “love the other” when he spent time with Aetas in Burog.

“When I first got off the minicab and saw the children playing, shouting, rolling on the dirty ground, a thought invaded my head: ‘These kids are dirty.’ How embarrassing it was for me to judge these kids so immediately,” Justin said, recalling his first visit to a GK site.

He said he reflected on his guilt and asked for God’s forgiveness and this drove him to be close to the children.

“After a couple days, the Aeta children returned love in spades. Little girls followed me around, hugging me and telling me they’ll cry when I leave,” Justin said.

“From the initial prejudice up to the time we left, I felt more accepted and I cared more for the well-being of the villagers, especially the children, who lavished me with so much affection,” he added.

In totality, he said the whole experience brought him closer to God by showing him that to love Him, he must learn to love his neighbors.

Justine was raised in California and is a member of the GK Builders Corp for six months.

Delson, who also spent time in GK Burog, was introduced to GK by SFC-Qatar. As an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), he realized that GK was the perfect vehicle for him to express his love to his poor kababayans, particularly street children.

“Everytime I do GK work, I’m very inspired because I know that it is full of love – love for people, love for country and love for God,” Delson said.

“It’s a different experience for me. We were very happy to be welcomed by the Aetas. You can see that they were very willing to learn and improve their lifestyle. They do not want to beg but they would rather crave for attention, understanding and love,” Delson said.

“My commitment to GK is to continue to support their program and as an OFW, I will continue promoting GK in our area in the Middle East particularly in Qatar. By God’s will, I want to be a full time GK worker someday. We in SFC-Qatar have a GK pledge and that is going to GK San Martin every year, that’s the place we want to build a village,” Delson said.

The Aetas’ homes, free school education and livelihood programs are part of GK’s Indigenous People (IP) program, which aims to help indigenous communities build ecologically sound and sustainable villages, sharing a common vision that is economically progressive, promoting social equity and providing a good quality of life.

“So we are bringing in the programs for health, education, food production together with improvement of shelter that respects the history, tradition of indigenous peoples,” said Meloto in an interview.

Their goal is to preserve the beautiful culture and unique qualities not only of Aetas in Pampanga, Zambales and Tarlac but also of the Mangyans in Mindoro, the Dumagats in Aurora and Rizal, the Palawonons of Palawans, the Bilaans, Tibolis, Mamawons, Subanens and other indigenous peoples in Mindanao.


Anonymous said...

im part of this sfc build!truly being sfc is a blessing from God.i always thank God for the anointing of GK in our community, and truly its a gift not only for our community but for everyone!SARAP MAGING SFC!i dont care what other says about GK and CFC, i believe God will be our true defender for those who try to delay his work.

Daniel John said...

so what's FFL complaining about --

heard Tito Frank over DZMM earlier .."he said he left the corporate (CFC) name but never left the CFC spirit"

If he decided to leave the corporate name why try to register a corporate identity bearing the same name?

And if he remained in the spirit why bother with the same name, can the spirit work only with the CFC name?

Just asking (am not complaining..)
Love you! ... yes, especially you!

Sleepless and Desperate said...

I'm glad that Gawad Kalinga is doing great. After all, it is GK: God's Kingdom. GK is the most concrete case that CFC is showing love for one another, just as Christ called us to do so.

However, I'm still concerned about this case. This post accuses GK of giving "a piece of hell" to another group of Aetas (in Pampanga) by disregarding their cultural way of life.

Although it's just one community, the fact that the guy who wrote this post entitled it as "The MYTH of Gawad Kalinga" (emphasis mine) meant: a) he has a malicious intent of using one case for a general conclusion, or b) we are living a "myth", an illusion that we CFC and GK people could unite the country just by bulldozing our cultural heritage and replacing them with rainbow houses.

How come no one from GK has made an official comment on this? How can we CFC and GK redeem ourselves in the eyes of these Aetas (as well as to the guy who wrote this scathing story)?

PS. It appears that someone has asked this question in the DefendingCFCForum, and with apologies (and some alterations in italics) I am pasting those questions here:

1. Did the Aetas really feel this way?
2. Were the CFC from Mabalacat (or the GK workers, whichever the case) really incompetent as this article implies them to be? (I hope someone from the ground there could answer this one.)
3. Has any steps been taken to contain whatever damage was made among the Aetas there? Did the CFC and/or GK people there apologize for whatever damage was made? Was there really damage at all?
4. Is GK culturally insensitive? Are we cultural imperialists? By promoting GK, are we really trampling upon indigenous culture as the article insists?
5. Where is the town in Cebu that allegedly turned down GK? Is there any evidence that GK work in Mindanao is not as good as we portray it? Are there other instances where GK failed to live up to expectations?
6. Who is Martin Perez? Has GK received any letter from him? Has GK responded to him in any manner? How involved is he in GK to write this?
7. Did the FFL use this article as evidence of GK failing its purpose? Was this article part of the compiled documentation used to portray CFC as veering away from its mission and vision? Was this article discussed and given possible plans of action during the Pastoral Congress and/or other activities following the FFL's separation?

Please, is there anyone who can give me peace on this matter?

C.D. said...

To Sleepless and Desperate:

First of all sleepless, I'd like to ask if this case is really causing you to lose sleep and feel desperation? It seems that you may be reacting a bit too much to just one case in a thousand. While this isn't an excuse at all, wouldn't it be akin to saying that fertilizing a field is a failure because one blade of grass still died? From the start, I'd suggest ample rest and maybe a walk in the park (Try UP, it's great there on sundays) to really appreciate God's creation and get a feel for our place in this world. No need to be desperate, there are many, many opportunities to show your love for others.


If you read the entry, you will see that the comments have all but addressed his points, yet he clings to the notion that "something must be done."

Also, the author is prone to using incredibly misleading blanket statements that are not at all justified, like for particular:

"But that was two years ago, and like all things, perceptions change. Truths come to light, and eras come to an end. In its campaign to eradicate slums, violence and poverty, Gawad Kalinga is also subject to the same pitfalls the mighty colonizers from the West bringing civilization encountered when they got to the East — universalism, superiority, intolerance and misplaced righteousness . They had good intentions, but so was the paved road towards hell."

It seems that he is using one case to make a sweeping judgement on all GK projects. The author appears to be making the mistake of believing in his cause/point too much to see the bigger picture. Ironic, because that's the same exact thing he is accusing GK of. Maybe he believes he's seen enough in his 25 years of life that he can already jump to this conclusion. Funny, I know people twice, and three times his age who admit to still having much to learn. I hate having to disagree with him, because from reading his blog, we share the same tastes for movies and Calvin and Hobbes.

As one who keeps insisting he's not a polemicist (meaning:the practice of disputing or controverting religious, philosophical, or political matters.), he is once again, ironically practicing it by claiming to "have the facts" on Tony Meloto and GK, and not publishing it for fear of a libel case. For one, I doubt Mr. Meloto would stoop to such, and for another, why fear libel if they ARE facts? The title alone of his entry "The Myth..." evokes thoughts of GK being "untrue", myth being generally defined as: "..something that is widely thought to be false", unless of course he meant to go with the academic/religious meaning, which I doubt. I feel the entry is more about his trying to prove his single point, than actually studying what GK is, what it has accomplished, and maybe drawing attention to where it may have been lacking.

The author also uses such sweeping statements as "...A lot of Aetas have gotten sick because of their new homes." without justifying it or stating actual causes. He claims that the GK community has threatened their way of life, but does not address the fact that many ,many aetas make their way to the city to beg for food and alms. Is this their traditional way of life too? It might also be pointed out that the "traditional" way of life, while a historical and sociological aspect that by no means should be downplayed or forgotten, might not be sufficient for the aetas' basic needs. Lets deal with reality and how their "traditional" way of life will keep up with the basic necessities of modern needs.

I'm also trying to understand the need for the insertion of that issue about the korean spa and 2 aetas that have sadly killed each other. In an article about GK, why include something unrelated? And if you think that it may be, please explain why the building of shelter for Aetas is in any way related to the commercialization of their land.

Anyway, the author in closing states that "Many have been touched — and continue to be touched — by the GK experience. Many more will forever attest to the healing power of a beautiful home, clean surroundings, and the grace of God’s love. I am convinced that GK is capable of a great good.

However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t do their job even better."

And that I think is the gist of what GK is, we are all trying to make things better for our fellow man, but being imperfect, we will make mistakes along the way. The important thing is to learn from it. Losing sleep and getting desperate is only a step backward, when the obvious direction the Lord wants you to take is forward.

To answer your questions:

1. I guess you would have to ask them that, I'd be interested in knowing the answer to that too.

2. CFC and GK is mostly made up of volunteers. Incompetence (whether implied or actual) in this case is a matter of perspectives. I believe that they sincerely believed they were helping. Maybe a proper sociological study would be prudent in cases dealing with indigenous people.

3. Another good question, and one I'd likely ask your nearest CFC and GK representative/volunteer. I am sure such information can be freely had.

4. I think to call GK such a term would be a blanket statement that is unfair both to the program, and to the thousands of well meaning volunteers who give their sweat and time to GK. You have to remember that indigenous people are but a tiny percentage of the many thousands that GK has helped give shelter to.

5. If this really happened, I'm sure a quick google search will satisfy you. The press is usually quick to jump on such a sensational story.

6. Good question. You may check the about me section of his blog, which you linked. He also explained how he got involved with GK in that very article. Did you miss it?

7. The FFL supposedly did, according to his post script. As for the discussion in the pastoral congress, I am not aware of it being brought up. I'm sure other readers may have more information it.

So, as the song goes, "don't worry, be happy..." but I'd like to add one thing: "Love One Another."

Surely there are ways to relieve your sleeplessness and worry brother, the best I think, is to give love freely and without prejudice.

Take care and God Bless,


I'm not in the habit of defending GK, as I believe Bro Tony Meloto does that just fine, I just felt the need to respond to this since I did post that article. Back to defending CFC!

mike said...

what the aetas really feel?

i was among the close to 6,000 in attendance, who witnessed the Aetas shared how they felt God's embrace thru CFC (SFC) and its work in GK.

In front of this large crowd during the recently concluded 15th SFC-ILC, an Aeta couple narrated how their lives were changed for the better.

Together with their kids they are grateful for the opportunities being afforded them.

Thankful for chance to a lead a new life and a brighter future.

And with the realization that they are part of God's plan of salvation.

Anonymous said...

Humble Founder:

GK is a work in progress it is not claiming perfection but in the absence of another model let us rejoice that it is gaining some degree of successes for the poor. i think before anybody makes negative comments a little reminder:
a. what have you done to address poverty? because if you have a working model then lets adopt it...walk your talk
b. honor and respect what the volunteers are doing...not pretending to know it all but simply following the heart of Jesus loving the poor.
c. the aetas are our equal they are also God's this is not about your studies about them but 1st and foremost we need to ask how can we concretely show them love according to God's standard.
I hope all who profess to love God, esp ffl start to behave and act according to how Jesus would behave loving one another!

Anonymous said...

please add an article about the success of the concluded SFC ILC =)

6,000 delegates! The old leaders left and new faces with the real heart to serve stepped up to make the conference a success! =)

God Bless!

mike said...

here's the SFC ILC sharing

Anonymous said...

Hello CD,

Maybe we can remove sarcastic remarks like this: "So, what's the FFL complaining about again?"

I don't think this helps. It gives a negative image of CFC. We should be more considerate. What do you think?

This is nice site. keep it up!