“Kapag kailangan ako, GO! (When I’m needed, I go!)”
True to their advocacy of disaster preparedness, Elvira Tangente is more than willing to attend to the needs of Ugnayan ng Mamamayan para sa Kaunlaran ng Payatas (UMAKAP), a people’s organization in Barangay Payatas, Quezon City.
Uniting to Embrace the Community and its Needs
Their primary advocacy is preparing the 200,000 or so residents, spread over the 774 hectares of Payatas, against fires, floods, landslides, and earthquakes.
“Maraming namatay dahil wala kaming paghahanda, (Many died because we weren’t prepared)” laments Josefina Asuncion, alluding to the infamous landslide of July 10, 2000. More than 300 people were buried under a mountain of garbage in what is now dubbed the Payatas tragedy.
While the barangay has some disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) projects, these would come and go with the elected officials.
“Paiba-iba kasi iyong nauupo [sa barangay], paiba-iba iyong nagte-train (Officials in the barangay are always changing, so trainers always change as well),” remarks Josie.
Thus, the need for a people’s organization that could withstand the ever-changing political climate arose.
“Noong una ayaw nila, ganoon din ako, pero noong nakita ko iyong kahalagahan, nagkaroon ako ng pagpupursigi para sa community (At first they were reluctant, I was like that as well, but when I realized the importance, I worked hard for the community),” Josie, as Josefina is known, recounts. She is now a board member of UMAKAP.
Individuals from all three areas within Payatas, Area A, Area B, and Lupang Pangako, all came together to form UMAKAP.
“Talagang bigkis-bigkis ang pagkakaisa namin para sa [DRRM] (We are really united for DRRM),” says Josie.
The Community Embraces UMAKAP
After attending trainings and workshops that Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan facilitates, UMAKAP members then share this knowledge to their community through training sessions. They also give talks in schools. Moreover on June 9, 2014, they executed a barangay-wide simulation drill dealing with major hazards to the community.
In March, a house fire in Lupang Pangako put these preparations to the test.
“One hundred katao nagtulong-tulong doon, (One hundred people helped)” exclaims Josie.
When the firemen arrived, residents had already put out the fire, she adds. The same quick response was seen in another house fire in April.
“Nagkaroon ng kamalayan ang mga tao (People gained an understanding [of DRRM]),” Josie observes, “Iyong paghahanda nai-apply nila (They were able to apply that.)”
Subtle, but significant changes are also occurring within the community.
“Iyong mga basura, sine-segregate na [ng mga kapitbahay] (The neighbors are segregating their garbage now),” Elira observes.
To increase their impact, members regularly sit in meetings of the Barangay DRRM Council. They see themselves as partners of the barangay.
“Kami ang kaagapay, katuwang para sa komunidad (We are guides, partners for the community),” was how Josie described their relationship with the local barangay.
UMAKAP President Jacquelyn Bernardo admits that her voluntary participation brings her more work and headaches. Why does she still do it?
“Kapag nag-thank you ang tao, iyon na yung bayad, (When people say thank you, that’s the repayment)’” she joyfully responds, “‘Salamat po ah!’ Naintindihan po namin!’ Iyon ‘yun eh, iyon na ‘yung bayad (‘Thank you! We understood it!’ That’s it, that’s the reward.)”
Helping other people understand DRRM convinces Jackie, as Jacquelyn is known, that all her efforts and headaches are worth it. She adds that she is happy because she enjoys what she does.
Meanwhile, Josie, who also works in the Barangay Community Service Brigade, sees her work as directed not toward herself or to the organization, but to the greater benefit of their community.
“Pangkomunidad, hindi pansarili, (For the community, not for myself)” says Josie, “Hindi para sa amin, pangkalahatan (Not for us, but for everyone.)”
With the positive response of the community, UMAKAP members continue to plan new projects that would be relevant to the community. In addition to their DRRM efforts, they have also conducted a feeding program.
Inviting Others to Embrace Their Own Communities
Jackie hopes that other barangays and communities would also have a similar people’s organization with genuine concern for teaching DRRM skills since these are relevant for a lifetime.
“Kailangan lang naman sa [komunidad] iyong agapay (The community only needs a guide),” Jackie advises to those wishing to form a similar group, “Kailan makakita sila ng basehan na seryoso kang suportahan [sila sa] kanilang problema (They have to see evidence that you are serious in helping them solve their problems.)”
She hopes that UMAKAP would be able to help other communities form similar people’s organizations with genuine concern for their communities.
“Iyong kaalaman na libre mong natutunan, i-share mo rin ng libre doon sa mga wala pang ganitong pagkaunawa (Whatever you learned for free, share it to others who don’t have this kind of understanding),” she explains.
UMAKAP is a people’s organization formed with the assistance of Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan. SLB is the non-partisan, socio-political apostolate of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus. SLB aims to live a faith that does justice. Their projects include disaster risk reduction, response, and rehabilitation as well as seminars on the national political situation.
-Aaron Jason Salvan