Thursday, November 15, 2012

Smokey Mountain, Tondo, and Priesthood.

On November 3, 2012, I attended the book launching of “Faith and Struggle On Smokey Mountain”, Hope for a Planet in Peril by Fr. Benigno P. Beltran, SVD. It is published by Orbis Books. The event was sponsored by PALM led by its President, Mitzi Pickard.

I bought the eBook version at Amazon before the event so I was able to read and appreciate its contents before joining the group at Sweet City Desserts – a Filipino-owned and the newly awarded Best Bakery in Vienna, Virginia.

The book is about a huge garbage dump called Smokey Mountain. It is a place where abject poverty and hunger are depicted in the lives of scavengers poring over whatever could be salvaged of what others “wasted” and dumped.

The book is also about the life and experiences of a selfless priest named Fr. Ben Beltran who lived, communed, dreamed and prayed with the scavengers for at least 30 years hoping for a better tomorrow.

I always had great admiration for priests and nuns.  Foremost reason was the commitment to Vow of Poverty and Vow of Celibacy. I have a first cousin  (Fr. Vic Arenas Maynigo) and a nephew (Fr. Cornelio Maynigo Casanova) who actually became priests. Fr. Vic is currently a parish priest at Staten Island, New York. Fr. Cornelio died dedicating his life, until his last breath, to the service of God and his fellowmen. My only brother and a few other relatives went to the seminary. They never made it to priesthood but all became happy and great “fathers”.

I knew I would never be called. A fortiori (with more reason) I would never be chosen. :) I could probably commit to Vow of Poverty, but definitely not to Vow of Celibacy. :)

I had some exposure to the garbage problem in Manila, to the Smokey Mountain, and to Tondo that hosts the garbage dumpsite  - for a brief period during my student days.

To focus on the garbage problem, students belonging to YCSP - the Youth Arm of the Christian Social Movement, for 10 straight nights followed and monitored the dump trucks that picked up the garbage up to the time the waste was dumped at the Smokey Mountain. We called it “Operation Basura”. We made a report on our findings and Armando Doronila of the Daily Mirror published it.

Our project culminated in a rally at the City Hall where Mayor Tony Villegas met with us and discussed our report. We told the Mayor that we were concerned not only with what we observed but also for the extremely foul odor. (Kami ay nababahala hindi lang sa aming nakikita kundi sa aming naaamoy.)

To make the City officials realize the seriousness of our cause, we dumped a pile of garbage in front of the residential houses of some selected officials the night before so that they would experience the sight and smell of a garbage dump.

Fr. Ben also discussed the housing project in Tondo.

My participation was in an earlier period where the squatters of Tondo were involved. President Marcos promised the residents who had been living in Tondo’s public lands, titles to the lands.  As a “Community Organizer”, I was one of those who developed a plan to force Marcos’ hand.

We planned to march to Malacanang carrying nipa huts and shanties to occupy the frontage.  Scheduled to march with us were children, babies and seniors who had lived there for years.

JUSTIFICATION: In the elections of 1969, Marcos was accused of cheating and therefore not entitled to occupy Malacanang – a public land. He was therefore a squatter.  The Tondo squatters were to join him.

Their leader, Restituto de Leon was originally from my home province of Pangasinan.  Cleverly, Marcos sent Agrarian Secretary Conrado Estrella who was also from my hometown Rosales, Pangasinan to talk to de Leon.  He also delivered a few titles and promised to process more.

More “persuasive” than the title giving was the detention of de Leon and other leaders on the eve of the march. With no leaders, the squatters gave up the march. A student “Community Organizer” like me could not match or counter Marcos’ awesome “persuasive” powers.

In the first election after People Power revolution, de Leon was a Barangay Chairman. He helped us in the winning campaign for the Senate of Raul S. Manglapus.  

One of my first dates with Tina who became my wife was in Isla Puting Bato in Tondo during what we called “Student Revolution”. :)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the brief background on why my grandfather had been detained during martial law. Most of us heard his torture story from either our parents or kin but never really knew why He was arrested. Maari din naikwento sa akin pero nalimutan namin yung part na yun dahil natanim sa isip ko yung part kung paano siya tinorture... his genital electrocuted,They force him to eat cat shit,whip him and drown him and so on until He finally made his torturer leave him alone by pretending to be mentally ill which give them reason to put him in a mental institution, where he almost, really lose his sanity. Now your former classmate, the evil president of the Philippines, Duterte. is declaring MACOY as hero..what a shame.
    Anyway I write for 2 reason sir, 1 to slightly correct your barber, My grandfather was never a Barangay Chairman. He did campaign for Honorable Sen. Manglapus. I also saw how he campaigned for Former President Ramos. I grew up seeing how people run there like his house was a satellite office of cityhall but He did what he could without a govt. position. My brother and I would also like to make a narrative or short story regarding my grandfather. I hope you can help us with some details like date of this march. Salamat po