veteran’s village, quezon city: area 5 kids.

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The other day I had the opportunity to tag along with some community workers to Veteran’s Village in Quezon City.  A local church organized a feeding for the children in a section named Area 5 and we were invited to conduct educational activities for the kids. 

The Children’s Rehabilitation Centre (CRC) invited me along to document the event and for my own damn good.  An opportunity to see and experience yet another side of The Philippines.

The day started when I met with Sarah and Chikai who would be my guides into the village and also the head facilitators for the day.

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We then met with the local youth facilitators for orientation to get them familiar with some of the activities and the songs that they’ll be singing throughout day.  They were all teens and tweens and coy as most Filipina girls are.  When they first arrived they all huddled in a corner whispering to each other and were hesitant to join us in the middle of the room.  When the orientation started they refused to sing with any effort until I left the space.  There were supposed to be some young men facilitating but they too got shy when they heard that there would be girls there.  It was all very cute.  After awhile I think the girls saw that past the handsome face, I’m just a goof.  That made it more comfortable for everyone involved.

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After orientation and lunch we started making our way to the church that was to be the site for the activities.  It was about a 45 minute walk.  Veteran’s Village is an urban poor community sectioned into about 6 areas.  The church was in Area 5 and we were in say . . . Area 3.  Originally, the Village was one large spread out community.  But recently sub-divisions of middle and upper class housing have been put up in the middle of the community.  Separating one area from another and displacing many of the residents.  So what would have been a 10 minute walk became nearly an hour because we were not permitted to take a shortcut through the gated subdivision.

There are stories of locals getting shot by security guards for trespassing.  In turn the local men would single out the guilty security guard and snipe him out.

That’s cool, we’ll take the scenic route.

The village is a maze of semi-paved and dirt paths lined with modest hollow-block and tin-roof homes.  Each lot will have around 5 homes on it as the land allotted for living space gets smaller and smaller to make room for the sub-divisions being put up.  Just behind the the lots there are fences separating the village from the gated communities.  It’s an interesting contrast and came to be a recurring theme and symbol during my travels in The Philippines.

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Area 5 is an especially depressed community because the section was physically disconnected from the rest of the village.  A sub-division was built right through it, disconnecting the people from their parish church, the main jeepney routes and streets into town.  So the folks here are more hard-up and receive less social programs and assistance.

Despite these injustices so in my face and the hot hot heat, the walk was a fun trek.  I couldn’t believe we were still in the city.  Lush greenery and surprisingly fresh air, despite the giant garbage dump nearby.  We had to cross over make-shift bridges and over creeks.  Sometimes walking right through some folks’ backyards and being greeted by curious smiling faces the whole way.  Another recurring theme and symbol.

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When we finally got to the church we were met by about 80 kids between the ages of 6 and 13.  The church was an open-faced hollow block shelter that could have been mistaken for an unfinished hall except for the alter. 

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After prayer the activities began.  We started by registering all the kids, by taking down all their names and ages.  Sarah had the children separate into kids who knew how to write their own names and those who didn’t.  Some kids were confused by all this and just decided it was best to spin in circles or roll around on the floor.  I forgot how patient you have to be with children, especially in large groups.  They’re like drunks.  Luckily, I got the queue of kids that knew how to spell their names because I soon learned that I spoke a different kind of Tagalog then they were used to- bad Tagalog.  I was able to get by by blurting out keywords and pointing.

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The first games were aimed at getting the kids comfortable and familiar with each other.  “All the kids who’s name starts with the same letter, get in a group.”  “All the kids that are the same height.”  “Who has red slippers?”  Each time they were asked to state the name and age of the others in their group.  Like drama class.

The main activity was to separate into groups and have the children draw pictures that expressed their day-to-day life in the village then to explain what they’ve drawn.  Most kids drew houses with kids playing out front or doing chores.  Many of the children did not attend school in the day either to help their parents around the house or simply because their parents could not afford to send them.  Most of their parents were out of work or working temporary gigs like construction or domestic help.  They all had several brothers and sisters, so life was hard-going financially for the parents, but you couldn’t tell by meeting their kids.  Not one complainer in the room.

One kid drew a robot and simply said that she usually plays with robots and shrugged.  That was pretty cool.

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ROBOT!

Each group put together a small presentation summarizing the topics discussed about the pictures.  Little plays depicting a normal day in the life.  Some dances.  One group performed an Eraseheads song (“how how how, the caribou”).

Then I sat down and fell asleep.  Oops.  Some documenter.  Sleeping on the job.  Apparently, I missed a host of songs the kids learned.  The songs the youth facilitators wouldn’t sing unless I left the room.  So, maybe I did them a favour.

When I woke up the food had arrived.  Two giants vats of Lugaw.  Which is a rice porridge (or Congee) usually served with a hard-boiled egg.  The modest feast signalled the end of the day.

And it was a successful day.  It’s hard to keep children’s attention for more than an hour and the facilitators were able to keep them interested for a good four.  Being so segregated from the rest of the community, the kids were more than happy to participate in activities that seldom make their way into their parts.  It also gave them a fun and creative outlet to address their situation.  Through the activities they’re able to learn their rights and ways to cope with their hardships if needed.  I hope the work done there translates into a stronger community and ultimately a tangible sense of hope.  But I think it’s best for us adults to worry about those things and just let the kids have fun.

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This is the first of a few projects I’ll be involved in with Salinlahi and the CRC.  So hopefully better pictures and the articles get more engaging.

Leaving Area 5, I thought I’d take a shot of the gated sub-division running through Veteran’s Village.  And I got yelled at by a security guard. 

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On our way out we took a walk through Payatas, the giant dumpsite nearby, to catch a ride home.  I wasn’t able to get close up to get some good shots of the mountain of garbage.  But I got some looks at the way of life around the area.  Folks in these parts salvage old foam mattresses and bedding material, chop it up, re-stuff them into new fabric, package them, and sell them as seemingly brand new mattresses.  They’re super cheap in the markets.  I’d usually see the maids sleeping on them at my relatives’ house.  Now I know where they came from.

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I should be returning to the Payatas dumpsite very soon to conduct some interviews with some of the kids and compile a few stories.  If there’s anything you folks on the other side would like to know send me any questions you’d like me to ask or find out about.  I’m also available to deliver hugs to relatives and strangers.  But that’ll cost you.

-mlv

www.oldeyorke.ca

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~ by mlv on 23 June, 2009.

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