The new year is just a few hours away and in my thoughts are snapshots of my community organizing work from January 2013. How did the year go in my working life? In my personal life?
Early in January of this year, I was expecting for the publication of my first book of poetry Wounds of My Landscape. The publisher, CASDI (Collaborative Action for Sustainable Development), a Naga City-based publisher composed of intellectuals from Naga City, was busy preparing for the book launch set for February 2.
How does a community organizer feel about a poetry book launch? I have been attending book launches and I knew how book launches went. By the way, this was not the first time that my poems were to be read in public. I had poems published in different anthologies in the past but the book launch was not just about my works. This time it was to be my work not just as a single woman working with poor communities but as a Bikolano bringing into my book the flavor and color of my experiences. The book launch went well. There had to be another launch in Manila. That launch went well too. Something to remember in the Manila launch – my bosom friend who read one of my poems and was a joy listening to had a cardiac arrest while performing at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on June 28. On July 5 she passed away.
The good feeling I had for seeing my poems finally in one collection was reinforced by my own
mother’s happiness about the dedication in the book. I dedicated my first poetry collection to her for teaching me how to be a good neighbor. It was good that I was able to talk to her in February before I returned to my work in Manila because later in March she had to be in hospital for a month until the later part of the month after which we had to say our last good bye to her. The first quarter of 2013 was a multi-colored tapestry of emotions for me. I thought, in surreal terms, that my mother would live forever. I thought I could keep coming back from a 550 kilometer distance because of work and never think of one day seeing my mother’s coffin pushed into a cold enclosure of cement. On another plane I think I haven’t lost my mother. The things that she loved are in me – her music, her laughter, her sorrow…her hopes.
In May, there was the May 15 deadline for the urban poor living along the danger areas in Manila. May 15 had to be the last day of 20,000 families living along the water ways of Metro Manila. While I was doing my share of advocacy work, the emotions that the deadline brought into my mind were inexplicable. To cut the story short, with our community organizing intervention, the government came to acknowledge the People’s Plans that the poor presented as an alternative.
In June until July, I was sharing the task of helping out in the implementation of the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) program of our organization. Thank God, the communities we were working with had a more systematic preparedness plan. There was the Habagat flooding in August. In short, the communities were able to survive the floods and were able to bounce back into their normal economic activities soon after.
The last quarter of 2013 were busy months for our work in pushing for the in-city housing for the urban poor. The Aquino administration has initiated an in-city socialized housing program for the poor in the danger areas of Metro Manila. Despite the President’s pronouncement and an allotted funding for the construction of homes, the pre-construction requirements were very complicated. Like an uphill battle again.
And Typhoon Yolanda struck. While it spared Metro Manila where I work and the Bikol Region where my siblings are, the issues of rehabilitation and reconstruction of the areas hit by the typhoon are everybody’s concern.
What will 2014 be like? It will be a year of more challenges in my work and personal life.
I hope my classic guitar playing after a long hard day would see me through the many pressures coming my way.
I welcome the New year with open arms; with a grateful heart that another year is here for me to be better than what I used to be; with a prayer for strength that another year is in front of me so I can be a better citizen not only of my country but of the entire planet.
Happy New Year to readers of this personal sharing!
Good music is a source of strength for the community organizer to be able to face the many challenges ahead
Another source of strength for the Community Organizer:
Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole
I thank whatever gods
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of
I have not winced
nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of
My head is bloody, but
Beyond this place of
wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror
of the shade,
And yet the menace
of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait
How charged with punishments
I am the master
of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
In the coming year, there will
be more community effort
towards disaster preparedness
and resilience. Poor
communities will be fighting for
their right to stay in the city
while the government will
continue to ask them to leave
the "danger areas" of the city.
There's a lot of work to do
along the line of middle class
support for the urban poor's
housing rights in the city.
Generally, there is still a
prevailing anti- poor
perspective from the general
public. The poor are still viewed
as "eyesores" and therefore
should be evicted from the city.