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Damayan, Our Source

of Strength and Hope

(Aldana, Las Piñas City)

 

 

 

            It was in the latter part of the 90’s that our MKK (Mumunting Kristiyanong Kapitbahayan) Kantarilya or BEC started to gradually weaken.  After more than a year of having been organized into a community, I thought that I was seeing the end of a once beautiful community, a promise of a better life for us neighbors living in Tramo St., Balite, Barrio Aldana, Las Piñas. 

 

            Though I was not one of the elected leaders of the community at that time, I thought it wise to actively be of service to the core group of our MKK.  Since I had been a part of this MKK for quite sometime already, I found it disappointing that our MKK would just end this way.  Deep in my heart, I didn’t want to give up.  I knew I could still do something for our community.  But how to do it, I don’t know. 

 

            It was sometime in 1997, when our MKK was already inactive, that the answer to my prayers came.  A neighbor approached me to ask my help if holy communion can be brought to her sick relative.  Together with my husband who is a eucharistic lay minister, we went and visited the sick, gave him communion and off we went.  A few days after, I received the sad news that he died.  During this moment, I thought of approaching our neighbors to ask for some contributions for assistance to the bereaved family.  I was surprised to find out that not only were they willing to help financially but I also didn’t have a hard time soliciting their help for the prayer service to be done for the wake.  I think that was the start of my seeing hope to revive our MKK.

 

            This event was followed by the celebration of our town fiesta.  When the image of St. Joseph, our patron saint, was assigned to our area for an overnight vigil, many of our neighbors readily donated a little something for the occasion.  Some cooked soup for those who will keep vigil during the night, others donated a can of milk, sugar, coffee, etc.  I still remember that during my vigil, I prayed to St. Joseph for the intention that our community be “alive” again. 

 

Even in our Araw ng Parokya (parish day) celebration, people in our neighborhood were just willing to participate in the parish program when we were asked by our village coordinator to join.  In fact, we were one of the MKKs who had a big number of participation on that day.

 

These past events gradually brought back hope to our community.  The signs of “damayan” were just evident in our day-to-day life.  I saw this spirit present in the community during the flood of 2001.  Since we were living close to the fishponds, the flood water rose to waist-high, if not submerging the first floor of the houses in water.  I still vividly recall how one neighbor, with her family stranded atop their roof, was asking for a platter of rice since they had nothing to eat.  Those who had, little as it seemed, were ready to share their food and clothing to these people.  “Even if our stomachs were empty, everyone’s participation brought us joy.” 

 

When my father-in-law died, we didn’t have a difficult time coordinating for the wake services since many volunteered to help – some readily fixed the place for the wake, helped in cleaning, cooking, etc.  They were just there to be with us in prayers and support in these difficult times.  I was surprised to see them doing this and expressed to them my gratitude for being with us in this time of loss.  They simply told me, “You need not ask anymore for our help.  We’re here anytime you need us.”  Truly, I felt like we’re one family, or even more than a family.  It’s like every one of us drinking from one and the same cup.

 

These successive events paved the way for us to meet once more as a community.  We began to meet again regularly.  We revived the Bible Block Rosary.  And after a series of meetings, we also started holding once more our MKK sessions.  Although most were women participants, we had a regular attendance of more or less 20 neighbors.  Couples were recruited to join the couple movement of the parish.  But these couples also became active members of our MKK. 

 

Life was going well for us until the night of December 12, 2002.  Most of us just were just on our way home from a Christmas caroling when we saw the red sky hanging above us.  Then came the news that there was fire in Balite, the exact location where our neighborhood was.  It was too late when we reached the place.  Most of the houses were already burned down.  We had to relocate in the covered basketball court of our barangay.  Although our house was saved from the fire, we joined in the relocation just the same because we were affected by the demolition of the houses that came days later.  Closed to a hundred families sought refuge in the court.  Those of us who were able to save a few things shared what they had to the rest.  Neighbors gave food, native mats, clothing, and other things to the victims.  Other MKKs also gave their support.  Times had been difficult but it was during this period that we were able to strengthen all the more our sense of community.

 

Even when we had to relocate, we didn’t stop meeting together, although this time it was not as regular as when we had our own homes.  We continued with our Bible sharing and formation sessions.  Our membership even increased.  Sometimes, we meet in the place where our houses got burned, not anymore with sadness but with a hopeful heart since a few days from now, we shall be going back to our “homeland.”  The area where our homes once stood will be given back to us, but this time with the option to own them.  We shall be paying an affordable price for our piece of land.   

 

Looking back at all these, I consider the journey that we had as our exodus.  We were brought out of our land to experience difficulties and hardships.  But our experience of togetherness and being community pulled us through these seven months.  Now, we’re almost there, looking brightly to our “promised land”, a land which is not necessarily new to us but a place which we can now truly call our home.

 

 

                                                                                    Contributed by: 

 

                                                                                    Emy de Guzman

                                                                                    BEC Leader – MKK Kantarilya

                                                                                    Parish of St. Joseph

                                                                                    Las Piñas City