The miracle at Payatas 13
In his online homily last April 25, former Ateneo president Fr. Bienvenido “Ben” Nebres talked about how Fr. Manuel “Manoling” Francisco (known for liturgical songs such as “Hindi Kita Malilimutan”) of Tanging Yaman Foundation and Carmela Oracion of the Ateneo Center for Educational Development and their teams were providing food packs to health front-liners and needy families in Metro Manila and other areas.
In Gawad Kalinga (GK) Blue Eagle Village at Payatas 13, Quezon City, where Ateneo has been working with residents since 2003, the community reenacted the biblical multiplication of loaves and fishes.
Cesar Torres, the Kapitbahayan president, told Father Ben: “Para mabigyan po ng reliefs ang buong Trese, hindi lamang ang GK beneficiaries, napagkasunduan po naming hati-hatiin ang reliefs na ipinagkaloob po sa amin. (To make sure everyone in the village of [Payatas] 13, not just GK beneficiaries, gets relief, we decided to share with them what we got.)”
Father Ben said 187 food packs were repacked to make 453 bags of goods for neighboring families. “They kept for themselves less than half of what we sent,” Father Ben said.
A week later, Evelyn Ariza, Kapitbahayan president of GK St. Theresa’s College (STC) near Sto. Domingo, said she and her colleagues did the same thing.
“Hinati ng GK STC ang ibinigay na tulong para mabigyan ang lahat ng families kahit hindi member ng GK, dahil sa panahong ito, ang lahat ay nagugutom. (We distributed the goods even to nonmembers of GK, because everyone’s hungry during this [difficult] period.”
“The poor are proclaiming to us the gospel of caring and sharing,” Father Ben said. “Like the widow whom Jesus praised, they are giving from their scarcity, all they have to live on for the coming week.”
Father Ben and Ateneo have been working with GK Payatas for 17 years, helping people build homes and providing for their basic necessities. The beneficiaries are also trained in entrepreneurship, thus empowering them to become responsible citizens.
“Some developmental programs lack efficacy because other aspects are not [considered],” says Got Heart founder Melissa Yeung-Yap in a book dedicated to Father Ben.
“Some programs just look into the health condition of the community, but if the unsanitary environment … is not addressed, [they] would still be vulnerable to disease. Some concentrate only on education, but when children are hungry, they won’t … absorb information … Some groups look into livelihood programs, but when people’s values are compromised, money would only lead to more vices and broken families,” she said.
In 2004, Melissa, then a development studies major, was tasked with working with Payatas teenagers, who like many in impoverished areas, had dropped out of school and were into gangs and vices.
Thanks to Melissa’s care and friendship and the formation activities created by Ateneo students and faculty, “the teens gradually discovered their gifts—in song, dance, work—and they were transformed,” Father Ben remembered during a dawn Mass in 2006.
Calling themselves Siga (Soldiers in God’s Army), the teens eventually built their youth center, did the design and carpentry, set up the computers. They apologized to their principal for past troublemaking, vowing to help her deal with gangs and other problems.They talked to peers, too, in other squatter areas. “We were also where you are and you can change for a better future and we will help,” they said.
Father Ben said: “Lost and confused youth finding themselves, because an angel, in the original meaning of angelos, messenger, came to them and called them to their truer selves. And they in turn become angels, messengers of God’s hope and love to others.”
During this pandemic, we in our companies, families, civic groups and schools are rightly providing the needy with food, drink, medicine.
But we pray that when the danger recedes, we continue accompanying them in the more complex mission of dialogue and formation, so that “we may yet look back to this time of trial and see the Spirit renewing the face of the earth.” INQ
Read Fr. Ben’s homily at Radyo Katipunan’s Facebook: www.facebook.com/notes/radyo-katipunan-879/homily-by-fr-bienvenido-nebres-sj-saturday-of-the-second-week-of-easter-feast-of/2412593369031381/
Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at www.lazada.com.ph or call National’s Jennie Garcia at 0915-421-2276. Contact the author at email@example.com.
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