Posts Tagged ‘Philippines!’
“What is Happening to our Beautiful Land?” – Irresponsible mining practices are a global issue
“…Our country is in peril. All the living systems on land and in the seas around us are being ruthlessly exploited. The damage to date is extensive and, sad to say, is often irreversible…
We ask the government not to pursue short-term economic gains at the expensive of long-term ecological damage.
We suggest that the Government… promote an awareness of the fragility and limited carrying capacity of our islands’ eco- systems and advocate measures designed to support ecologically sustainable development.”
An extract from the 1988 Filipino Bishops’ Pastoral letter entitled: What is happening to our beautiful land?
Much like this summer’s Youth Solidarity Trip to the Philippines, in 2007 Development and Peace members and staff were forcibly reminded that irresponsible mining practices are not exclusively the domain of some Canadian companies when they visited the area around the Rapu Rapu mine, operated by the Australian mining company Lafayette Mining Ltd, on this island in the Albay Gulf, in Luzon province, the Philippines.
To help us understand the situation of the Rapu-Rapu communities I want to share with you a letter, written by Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon Diocese, Philippines, imploring the Filipino government to suspend operations at this Australian owned and operated open pit gold, silver and copper mining operation on the island of Rapu Rapu.
… The Lafayette mine is more than a financial mess. It is an environmental and social failure. How many of us forewarned the Administration and the DENR that the project is not socially, technically, environmentally and financially feasible but, still, they allowed it to proceed.
Should they not be held accountable along with Lafayette to rehabilitate the island and compensate the local residents for the damages done by the mine? They also must ensure that enough rehabilitation funds are available for the affected people in the Island….
Throughout our Solidarity Trip I was often asked “Who was your favourite partner we visited with?”
I always had a difficult time answering this question because I could not choose, and did not want to. Our partners share a common thread in that they are involved in creating change and developing a better Philippines. They each approach this through different means (which you have become familiar with throughout our blog), and in doing so, address different struggles that Filipinos are faced with.
From seeing how our partners have been active in the Philippines, I feel proud that I am a part of an organization that supports home-based organizations. Development and Peace has done an excellent job in creating solidarity with partners who can stand on their own, and are building the movement of Asian development so that Filipinos themselves, can stand on their own. That, would be my answer to the question.
I was asked about how my understanding of SOLIDARITY has grown…
This opportunity to “be in solidarity” is allowing me to bridge the gap between Canadians and Filipinos. The kind of knowledge I have gained is intended to be shared, and because it came from people who will continue to act for change after we have returned to Canada, the sharing of it must continue.
That is what we, as Canadians, can do for those we share this world with.
I have enough moments from this solidarity experience to fill two notebooks, but this is one that had a very deep effect on me:
The Hardest Moment…
The first two months of this summer I was taking sociology courses for my program at the University of Victoria. In June we discussed “global stratification” and how social inequality exists in the world – poverty and low income were themes. The opening photo of our chapter was of a boy who lived and worked in one of Manila’s garbage dumps, Smokey Mountain. Even then I struggled with the realization that the kind of society and family you are born into determines much about the life you may end up leading.
If my parents had not immigrated to the Canada and I had been born in the Philippines, how would I be living right now? How do some of my family members in the Phiilippines live in relation to this boy? Does this child know that his image is being studied by Canadian university students?
At the time, I did not know that two months later I would be standing in his home, in his place of work. And when I was, the reality of how different our lives are was so heavy. It was as thick as the Manila air (filled with the humidity and the coal fumes) that I was breathing.
An elderly man was singing “We are the world, we are the children” before we boarded the jeepney to depart. It was a very audible contrast to what I was seeing visually, but it reminded me that: yes, although my world may be very different, this is theirs. And after our time at Smokey Mountain with our partner, Urban Poor Associates, I know that the residents have been able to build a community with whatever they have.
Much of Filipino history has been dominated by spurts of colonial rule that has had lasting effects on many elements of current Filipino society. Our partners in the Philippines were able to shed light on many of the ways that years of Spanish and American rule continue to impact the country. One of the persisting effects of colonial rule is in land ownership.
On August 18th, we had the opportunity to observe a demonstration in Legazpi City pertaining to the Hacienda Luisita struggle. Close to 6,500 hectares in size, this sprawling piece of land has been used as a tool for oppression since the 1800s under Spanish rule. After being handed over to the Americans for a brief period, when it became a sugar plantation, it was finally purchased in 1957 by Don Pepe Cojuangco. Cojuangco was father-in-law to then rising politician Ninoy Aquino, who later became the opposition leader to the Marcos dictatorship. Current president Benino Aquino and his family remain part owners of the Hacienda.
One of the stipulations upon purchase was that in 10 years time, the Hacienda Luisita land would have to be redistributed to its tenants – the peasants that lived on and worked the land – at terms and costs that were reasonable. But 10 years came and went, and the Cojuangco-Aquino ownership refused to hold up their end of the bargain.
The result has been a decades-long, ongoing struggle to have proprietors redistribute the land to which the tenants are legally entitled. In 2004, during a blockade by plantation workers and union leaders, soldiers and police dispatched by then president Gloria Arroyo fired at least 1000 rounds of ammunition at the blockade, killing 12 and injuring hundreds. The event is known as the Hacienda Luisita Massacre. To date, no one has been charged for this heinous crime. Other attempts to pacify the farmers – rightful owners of the land – have included offering short-term monetary compensation and stock-options, rather than the land itself.
August18th was a National Day of Outrage call-out to stand in solidarity with the farmers against the compromise deal being offered by the current hacienda owners. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hold an oral hearing on the Stock Option Deal. Farmers and allies from all over the country organized different actions in their respective cities to ensure their voices were heard in the court dispute. It was in this action that our group was participating.
The Centre for Environmental Concern, one of Development and Peace’s partners that hosted us during the trip, is part of a multi-sectoral alliance that organized the action. The demo we attended was held outside the Department for Agrarian Reform regional office in Legazpi City. While the issue was new to all of us, it was important for us to get a small taste of the activism and mobilization that is happening around agrarian reform in the Philippines.
To date, there has still been little action on revoking the stock option deal and ensuring that the farmers get the land that they are entitled to and have been struggling to attain for decades. As human rights advocates and as supporters of a just and sustainable world, we all must stand in solidarity with the farmers of the Hacienda Luisita and our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world fighting for their rights.
Educating Through Theater – PETA
Our final two days in the Philippines were spent with PETA (you can check them out at www.petatheater.com). PETA is acronym for the Philippine Educational Theatre Association. The organization began in 1967 and is in it’s 43rd theatre season. Their purpose is to “perform and educate.” They have a vision of “theatre in service of common good.”
Artist-teacher-cultural members of PETA educate Filipinos on social change and development through theatre. They do this through facilitating workshops (both nationally and internationally) and running projects and programs that teach Filipinos technical theatre skills alongside education on issues of the Republic. For example, their Children’s Theater Program trains young Filipinos and their educations to be successful in performance, while also focusing on child’s rights and youth participation.
PETA also networks with other theatre organizations in the Philippines and internationally. They make theatre available to schools and the greater community (including other provinces in the Philippines) through their mobile shows, and make their shows available to those who cannot afford them so that their form of education can be accessible to all Filipinos.
PETA has written, directed, and performed about 300 plays, the way true Filipino theatre should be, and strongly believes in producing productions that are “quality theatre”. We were invited to attend their adaptation of Asian poet and playwright Rabindranath Tagore’s “Post Office.” The story is of a young boy, Abel, who is nearing death but is determined to live fully in spite if never being able to leave his windowsill. He does this dreaming of the arrival of his letter from the King and sharing his visions with those who cross the path in front of his home.
The play centers on themes of children and death. For children of the Philippines, it expresses the capacity of the human spirit to dream of a life of happiness and to be alive in what they do despite the realities of poverty and disaster that make death a close neighbour.
The play was in Tagalog, and although I was able to understand most of it, there were moments where I was lost in translation. Yet in those moments where spoken language was a barrier to me, the layout of the performance, the body language of the actors, and their facial expressions were still more than enough to carry Abel’s story. As French and English speaking D&P participants, this expression beyond words was important for us and a testament to the exceptional quality of PETA’s productions.
We had been visiting PETA at the PETA Theatre Centre, what has been called a “landmark theatre in Art and Culture” in the Philippines. D&P was one of the patrons who supported the creation of theatre and PETA’s move to the heart of Quezon City in 2005. Our farewell program with all the host partners we had been in solidarity with over our two weeks was at this theatre, hosted by artist-teachers of PETA. It was a time for everyone to share in what they learned from one another over our visit and to look to the future and building the movement of development in Asia.
I am blessed to be a part of this movement for social change and development. I have seen what Filipinos are doing for other Filipinos to create a better Philippines. And I have been educated by PETA that we should cultivate our talents to serve the better good. Their achievements as a catalyst for social change provide an example of this for other educational theatres across the world.
Meet the Center for Environmental Concern…
Our Solidarity Trip afforded us the opportunity to meet many great people and organizations; one of these organizations was the Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines (CEC). The CEC is an NGO based in Quezon City, Metro Manila, which works at the grassroots, national, and global levels of the environmental movement.
The CEC’s areas of focus are “Addressing Environmental Challenges” and “Defending Communities and Ecosystems”, and “Working for Sustainable Alternatives”. They are not only fighting global climate change, but localized threats as well. Threats like the impact of extractive industries on local environments and the livelihoods of the people, as well as aggressive development by large corporations being backed by powerful politicians.
We met the staff of CEC on our second day in the Philippines. We learned about the organization as a whole, and the environmental issues in the Philippines they are facing and responding to.
We were told we would be visiting the island of Rapu Rapu on days 10, 11, and 12 of the trip to see how the open-pit mining for gold has affected the environment, and thus, the people of Rapu Rapu. We were all very excited about this opportunity, as was the staff of CEC.
On Day 8 we met Aubrey from the CEC and Dr. Rose from Sorsogon State College, who along with her students would be joining us on the journey to Rapu Rapu. The next day we travelled to a protest at the Department of Agrarian Reform before going to see a presentation at Aquinas University on Rapu Rapu and open pit mining.
It was a very intriguing presentation on how the company lied, denied, and would try to and blame anyone/anything else for the fish kills and water contamination on Rapu Rapu when it was quite clear that the tailings ponds (the mining waste water) were responsible. My personal favourite of the company’s excuses: “oh, the fish drowned…”. You can find out more about what we learned, and the struggle of the Rapu Rapu communities, on the movement’s blog: http://saverapurapu.blogspot.com/
The next day it was off to Rapu Rapu by ferry boat and smaller boat. Before we boarded the boat we were joined by our awesome guides: Aubrey and Rick (CEC staff), Dr.Rose, and the Sorsogon State College veterinarian students & Rong and Ryu (CEC interns). Check out CEC’s site too: http://www.cecphils.org/
After a few hours on the water seeing the awe inspiring landscapes of the island, ocean, and rock we made it to the other side of the island where the open pit mining had ravaged the landscapes = we were left speechless by the devastation.
We arrived at a Barangay (village) on Rapu Rapu where Yayi (CEC staff) and the community were waiting to welcome us. As per usual with Filipino hospitality, we were welcomed with open arms and gracious gestures.
The next 3 nights we would be staying in host families and learning of the issues, intimidation, and hardships that the people of Rapu Rapu have faced, and are still battling with because of irresponsible mining practises. After the 3 knowledge/experience packed days it was time to jump back on the boat(s) home. Once back in Legazpi we had to say our goodbyes to Aubrey, Dr.Rose, and the SSC Veterinarian Students. Our group then hopped on a bus with Rick, Yayi, Ryu, and Rong which was 12-13 hours back to Manila.
On our last day in the Philippines a few of us walked over to the CEC office to say our farewell as it was only a couple blocks from our hotel. Although we were only with our friends with the CEC for a handful of days, an immense amount of knowledge and experiences was gained, along with lifelong friendships created.
Shawn – Saskatoon, SK
August 13th 2010 – Baseco Barangay, Manila
For the past 24 hours we have been with the community of Baseco, hosted by the Kabilikat community group, who are allied with our partners – the Urban Poor Associates in Manila.
After spending the night and having breakfast with our host families in Baseco the group reconnected in the morning at the Kabilikat offices.
Time to take our fourth mode of transportation – ’ tricycles’ (motorbikes with side cars)! Squeezing fourteen people on to 4 trikes was a challenge but not a problem.
We appreciated the trickiness of local travel considering what we have learned about transportation costs here and how it relates to the tribulations of the job-seekers of the urban poor in Manila.
We visited 3 urban poor communities and learned about their different struggles – the threat of eviction, the unsafe conditions (like living on the side of a large speedway), floods and fires, lack of services (like clean water, or sewage systems) and the constant struggle to find work. Under all these threats, the people have come together to organize themselves, to advocate for their needs and to request their municipal leaders to provide services to the urban poor communities. This kind of organizing happens all over the world – it’s each of our jobs to remind our elected officials of their responsabilities to the people.
After the noisiest meeting in front of one of the houses on the side of the busy highway, we left by jeepney for the next community we were visiting. I heard Marlon, a Community Organizer from UPA, say that the next place was the worst place to live in Manila. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The South Port is the garbage dump of Manila, where all of the garbage from the city arrives. From the port nearbly, the garbage is loaded onto boats and taken somewhere else. No one could tell me where the garbage goes. Walking into the site was intimidating, where we were about to see some of the most shocking poverty. How do you prepare yourself for that? I started by putting on my rubber boots.
From the moment we arrived we were walking on garbage and when we weren’t, we were walking through mud. We were one of the few people in the community with shoes on. Marlon tried to have us walk through the actual dumpsite but the leader of the families did not think it was safe. The garbage acts as fill, so that the people can build housing on land that is regularly swamped by water.
The people build their houses out of the discarded materials and make a livelihood out of converting wood into charcoal and by recycling plastic water bottles, a kilo at a time. Collecting a kilo of plastic water bottles brings about $0.50 Canadian. That’s a lot of plastic bottles.
The conditions in which these 1,000 families live would not be passable in North America. The smoke from the charcoal production hung above the site, and after walking for an hour I tried to re-apply my sunscreen but I was so covered in dirt that I ended up just rubbing dirt around on my arms and legs. In that moment I hated the part of me that wanted to go back to our hotel, shower and nap in the air-conditioned and clean room.
The big difference between the urban poor communities we met in Baseco and South Port - the people of Baseco have basic housing but no income to meet their needs, there are not enough jobs, even garbage collecting. The people of South Port have a steady source of income but terrible housing conditions. I can’t imagine how the people coming to Manila from the different regions choose -dangerous work or dangerous housing? You leave your home for the dream that there might be work in Manila.
On this trip we are learning that there is no single cause of poverty. You can’t say the urban centres are rich and the rural people are poor, or vice-versa. It’s complicated. We are also seeing the amazing work of our guides – the Community Organizers, like Marlon, and how crucial it is to support the efforts of the urban poor communities.
Building Family in the Philippines – Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs)
Our days with NASSA (Caritas Philippines) took us from north of Manila (where we visited the demonstration farm at Nueva Ecija and Misereor Village) to southeast of Manila, to all over the Bicol Region.
When I look back at our first full day in the Bicol region (August 16th), I am still overwhelmed by how much we participated in that day. By the end of that day we had visited four communities, traveled by jeepney (colourful, community bus) and railroad trolley, and connected with several leaders and community members we now call friends.
Our second community visit that day was to Camagong Cabusao in Camarines Sur. Here we were welcomed as the “Canadian Team” to a Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC). The BEC is one of NASSA’s programs that organizes parishes into smaller groups, with the purpose of giving the community a sense of family. Each BEC has programs for health, farming, faith, and more. The BEC of Camagong has 15-20 smaller groups/families that they call “clusters”. Each cluster has a “cluster leader” with many helpers.
When we arrived at this “barangay” (community) everyone was at the entrance shaking our hands as we entered their main building. One cluster leader expressed that they were happy to be chosen to have us visit: “We open our hearts and arms to you.”
A different cluster leader educated us on what kind of programs the BEC has established:
- a communal garden that allows members to practice the Filipino “bayanihan” (everyone working together).
- monthly faith activities: for example - in April, they have the procession of a patron saint that is brought to each house for prayer and adoration. In keeping with building a sense of family in the community, they ensure that the saints are always brought to the house AND fields of the farmers, as they are always busy with their work.
- “self-help groups” that include a livestock project.
We were invited to walk around the barangay and “enjoy strolling with them under the heat of the sun.” I had not taken this literally and have never felt so welcomed by a group of people. Everyone walked with us along the road to where we would plant rice. We were no longer their visitors – this was what being a part of their “family” was about.
Under the shade of her umbrella, one cluster leader said to me as I looked around: “This is how abundant we are at this barangay. Anyone who needs something…all they have to do is knock on someone’s door.” She asked me why we were there, and I explained the work of Development and Peace and our roles as participants on the solidarity experience. From my reply, she said: “You’ve met the cluster leaders here and now you will be the cluster leaders when you are home. Share our story.”
At the BEC, not only did I learn about how NASSA helps parishes apply activities that foster total human development, I also learned about how families can be. The sense of family that BECs have achieved seems to have connections that run deeper than blood relations. I am more grateful now that I have been able to experience a form of this with the Filipino community I grew up in in Ontario.
The community sang “for he’s a jolly good fellow” to us before our departure and ended it with Connie Francis:
“Good luck, good health, God bless you, and guide you on their way…” I wish the same for our friends and mentors at Camagong.
Wow – It’s so hard to keep track of the days now. The trip has been an amazing experience so far. Today we are with NASSA and in the diocese of Libaman.
Last night we stayed in a GAWAD KALINGA Village – What a moving experience! When we entered the community hall after having shared a beautiful meal with the leaders, the children of the community came running to us and took our hands and touched them to their foreheads. This is a sign of respect in the culture here in the Philippines to do this to people who are older then you. The evening commenced like many others with speeches and warm welcomes, but then the solidarity truly began. There was much music and dance, with people of every age. The cultural numbers they had prepared were out of this world and the talent was like nothing I’ve seen before.
The night ended with all participants going to host families to experience life with the locals. I stayed with a family whose father works with the vegetable garden as a part of his livelihood. The welcoming feeling and hospitality was great, but it wasn’t until the next morning that I got a feeling that I never got before. The father and I went for a walk through the community and he explained it all to me, from the beginning until the point they have currently reached. He introduced me to every neighbor and told me the story of the community being built. He told me about a line of a hundred people that passed the blocks to build the homes. He also could not stop from continuing to thank me for honoring him and visiting his humble abode.
He took me to the gardens where he works and makes his livelihood. He explained that each family has a section of donated land that they each plant stuff in. He was especially proud pointing out his spot – so I made sure to capture the moment and the smile on his face. We walked to where the pigs and chickens are kept. He explained to me about the organic farming they do. He showed me the chickens and explained that they are separated out and taken care of by groups. Specifically divided into 5 groups of which he is in group three and he therefore takes his turn on Thursdays to maintain them.
We walked in silence some of the way, but he kept turning back and smiling at me, sometimes continuing to say thank you so much for coming. It was not long after that we had to prepare to leave the GK Village, but the memories they made for us with their wonderful welcoming hospitality is something that will last a lifetime. The visit may have had to come to an end, but a future partnership of solidarity is sure to be shared for a lifetime!
Scotty Joe Smith
The Philippines is a deeply religious country. About 80% of the population identifies as Catholic, and the Catholic Church is very influential in all sectors of society. Upon first hearing these facts, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I’ve always found the separation of Church and State to be a really important factor in determining government policy and respecting diversity within a country’s population. But in the Philippines, the Church has intentionally taken on a very different identity than that of my typical notions of Church in the Global North.
On our first day, we visited with one of our Manila-based partners – the Urban Poor Associates (UPA). UPA works to organize and empower the poor in urban centres to fight for their land rights, to secure affordable housing and disaster relief support, and to build and strengthen community. Our first introduction to their work was a talk from Denis Murphy, one of the staff at UPA. While the context of the urban poor and the work of UPA were central to his introductory remarks, the role and inclination of the Church was explained first.
What does the Church look like in the Philippines? In 1991, the Church of the Philippines held a council in which it was decided that the Church would strive to become a Church OF the poor. The Council saw poverty and its elimination as central to its work in Philippine society and re-visioned itself as an institution that would seek to serve, fight for, and live among the poor.
Since the council was held 19 years ago, the Church has been one of the poor’s foremost advocates. They’ve issued pastoral letters condemning mining abuses and calling on politicians to deliver on land rights and services for the poor. They’ve supported and led social movements calling for gender justice, sustainable agriculture, child and youth development, and skills training. The Church in the Philippines is truly one of the poor’s closest allies. While they still have a long way to go before achieving the goal of truly becoming the Church OF the poor, most would agree that they’ve made substantial progress.
We witnessed a really stunning example of liberational church in action when we visited the community of St. Bernardine, a rural parish in the Diocese of Libmanan, supported by one of D&P’s partners – NASSA, or Caritas Philippines. In the past couple of years, it has held consultations and discussions with its parishioners, as well as outside clergy and church officials, to develop a model for the intentional development of a liberational church.
It sees the traditional model of church, where the relationship between self and God is central to spiritual life – as an insufficient model for a faith community committed to gospel-inspired justice and service. Through capacity building, child and youth development, community organizing, and institutional shifts, it is working towards becoming a church where God is served in relationship with one another; where sacraments, prayer groups, and other exercises in personal spiritual reflection complement, rather than overshadow, justice work and community development. The model is still under construction, but it seems very much like something that could be replicated in parishes all over the world.
Witnessing the meaning of Church in the Philippines has truly renewed my faith in the institutional Church in Canada and around the world. As Catholics, we are called to be liberators and revolutionaries as Christ was. The Church in the Philippines takes that call to action seriously. That the Global South is leading this revolution in Church life is an exciting and hopeful prospect, and I am so grateful for this opportunity for renewal and spiritual replenishment.
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On our Solidarity Trip we were hosted by 3 partner organizations of Development and Peace. We had a chance to learn about the realities and the community organizing taking place amongst urban poor, farming, and fishing communities in the Philippines.
For the first part of our trip we were hosted by the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), based in Manila, an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit human rights organization. http://urbanpoorassociates.blogspot.com/
UPA is an organization campaigning for the protection of housing rights and the prevention of forced evictions and illegal demolitions.
It was established to educate families in housing rights matters and assist communities in eviction crises. Since they began UPA has educated over 285,000 families in housing rights and assisted 510 communities in eviction crises.
With UPA’s amazing Community Organizers as our guides we visited 3 urban poor communities. Baseco, an older and the largest of the urban poor areas; Route 10, a temporary community near the port and on the side of a large highway; and thirdly, Stormy Mountain, a community of the poor in a difficult housing situation, who recycle garbage as a means of livelihood.
The next segment of our trip we spent NASSA – Caritas Philippines, http://nassa.org.ph/ who are about total human development with a preferential option for the poor. We were blessed with a chance to meet with Bishop Bapillo, the auxilliary bishop of Manila, http://bishoppabillo.blogspot.com/ who taught us about the work of NASSA, as the social action arm of the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines.
NASSA has over 80 social action centres across the country that organise and direct local social justice activities. They have also developed an extensive and popular system of Basic Ecclesial Communities, who are led by committed local people to put justice, peace and community in action.
We met with lay-people, priests, farmers and families and experienced their incredible community-building, faith-developing, and hospitality.
With NASSA we travelled to Bicol region to visit and spend time with rural communities to learn about sustainable and organic farming, along with the important issue of land and agrarian reform. More first-hand experiences at farming to come!
Our last leg of the trip we spent with the Centre for Environmental Concern, http://www.cecphils.org/about.php who accompany communities in addressing environmental concerns. The Philippines is incredible bio-diverse, and is in fact the most bio-diverse centre of the world when it comes to fish, corals and ocean life. With CEC we discovered the impact of mining on the environment, livelihoods and communities of fisherfolk.
CEC has volunteers who give new meaning to the word commitment. They address environmental challenges, defend communities and work for sustainable alternatives.With them, we travelled to Rapu-Rapu where our host families, fisherpeople for generations, are unable to put fish on the table, nor drink from their wells, as a result of mining environmental abuses on the island.
We met with the people most impacted by extractive industries and who are accompanied by CEC in tackling this critical issue through education, action and advocacy.
On our trip we met with alot of inspiring people and learned about alot of difficult issues and people-first solutions. Stay posted as the 12 of us continue to share with you our stories, experiences and reflections!