Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tondoman’s last flight

Commentary : Tondoman’s last flight

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: December 27, 2008

I once wrote a short story about a Filipino superhero by the name of Tondoman. He could fly like other superheroes, but unlike them he could be wounded and even killed. Like all of us he had to risk everything when he went to help the poor. He wore a blue and white costume with a long red cape and a golden “T” on the chest.

He was active in Manila’s Tondo district in the 1970s. You may remember the many good things that happened to the poor during those years. He was at the height of his powers then, but he was already in late middle age and soon after his powers disappeared.

We don’t hear much about the old age of superheroes. It is not a nice time. They can never marry, so they are alone in their last years. They are poor since they cannot take money for their services, much like the true faith healers. They have no close friends and most leave their families behind when they became superheroes. In many ways it is a curse to be a superhero. The life of a superhero calls for total dedication to the cause of justice, a life that is rewarded with an old age of loneliness and near poverty. They do receive a small pension—and powerlessness.

The following is what happened to Tondoman in the last years of his life.

He lived alone and very simply in a small apartment on Leveriza St., a kindly old man who was well liked by his neighbors. No one there knew about his past feats. Then one day a woman by the name of Maria who was about half his age came to see him. She told him the country needed him.

“The poor are suffering,” she told him. “Come back and walk among us once again.”

She was the daughter of one of the leaders he had worked with in Tondo years before.

“I have no powers,” he told her. “They’ve left me.”

“We will pray together and in the morning the powers will be back,” she said with the assurance of the true believer in the value of her cause.

“I don’t think I want to go back. I’ve come to believe it’s not good in the long run.”

“I hate to hear people talk about ‘the long run,’ Tondoman. It’s usually bad for the poor.”

“But it’s true, Maria. Look at Gotham City. Have the people learned to solve their own problems? Not at all, and neither has Police Commissioner Gordon. Whenever there’s a problem, they flash the Bat sign on the night sky and Batman comes to save them. It’s no good. The people never develop.”

“That’s the long run. We need you now. It’s an emergency.”

He remembered the many times people had come to him with emergencies. He smiled remembering some of the things he had done. Soon he was lost in reverie.

He remembered that years before, he had one day snatched the president of the country from the golf course, took him 2,000 feet in the air and told him that he would drop him if he didn’t give the urban poor people of Tondo the land they wanted. It was only a threat. He didn’t intend to drop the president, but something went wrong, the president moved suddenly or something, and Tondoman lost him. Down the president plunged screaming at all the world. Tondoman fell like a rock and caught him just a few feet off the 18th fairway. They were so close they could smell the grass. Then he took the president up high, and made believe the fall was intentional. He told the president he would drop him for good if he didn’t give the land. Sure enough, the people got the land.

He returned back from his old memories. “No, I don’t think a superhero is good for the people. They should do things themselves and not rely on superheroes or politicians or anyone. That’s what I feel now. After we won in Tondo, everything stopped. They weren’t ready for the next problem.”

“Tondoman, please come and talk to us anyway. I boasted I could get you to help us. Come to our meeting with your costume on and talk to us. Say whatever you will.” They prayed and the next morning his powers were back.

He flew off to the meeting, remembering the great flights of the past. The crowd at the meeting cheered when he arrived, but he sat them down and told them what he had told Maria.

“Yes, you must have supporters, but you yourselves must decide what you want to do and be in your lives. You must lead. Don’t rely on anyone, even on superheroes. Rely on God. God alone is always dependable and always seeks your good. It’s bad for your leaders to rely too much on them. They are then free to do as they want. We should instead watch them to make sure they do their work properly.”

“We can’t fly or do all those other things. We need you.”

“You really don’t. You have no idea how much strength and wisdom you have within yourselves until you begin to depend on yourselves and not others. Jesus told us, if you have faith you can say to a mountain get up, fly to the sea and throw yourself in! If you have faith, you can fly, at least as far as God intends you to fly. Believe in yourselves, believe in God.”

There was a thoughtful silence when he finished. They sat quietly, some with their eyes closed. Time to leave, he told himself.

He barely made it home. He flew just above the treetops. He couldn’t go higher. He was like a plane running out of gas.

He made it home, hung his costume in the closet for the last time, and sat down to have a night cap. Now for the rest of my life, he thought.

Denis Murphy works with the Urban Poor Associates. His email address is

©Copyright 2001-2008, An Inquirer Company

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dave’s wish

Youngblood : Dave’s wish

By Shella V. Espineli
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: December 23, 2008

Dave is a timid 10-year-old boy, who is small for his age. He is the fourth among six siblings and a hard-working Grade 5 student of mine. Three elder brothers and a sister are somewhere in Davao. He is the oldest among his brothers in Manila, and so his mother expects many things from him. He has to do the household chores—marketing, cooking, cleaning the house, washing dishes, doing the laundry and baby sitting. Before all this, he has to sell pan de sal and maja blanca starting at 4 a.m. and kamoteng kahoy at 10 a.m. He attends a tutoring class late in the morning and regular school in the afternoon. He sells tahong on weekends.

Whatever he earns he turns over to his mother to buy their food for the day. Sometimes he saves P3 to buy bread, or for his baon or to keep it in his coin bank, wishing to save enough to buy a pair of beautiful shoes for school.

No matter how tired he is, Dave never absents himself from the tutoring program and tries his very best to understand the lessons. He comes even without lunch, though sometimes he brings a small amount of rice. If he has viand, it’s fried tadpole (which may be poisonous), or stir fried chicken skin with soy sauce, or powdered milk. Quite often, his classmates share their food with him.

One time a teary-eyed Dave told me he wished he could play, dress and eat like the other children. They, too, are poor but have a little more.

Dave’s mother wants the young boy to do everything, and sometimes he is scolded. His stepfather just got a job in construction but his income is insufficient for the family’s basic needs. Dave can’t stop selling early in the morning with his best friend Joshua, 11. They share everything: left-over bread, family problems, home work—even dreams of what they want to be when they grow up. According to Dave, they have promised each other that they would remain friends whatever happens. They believe education is the key to success.

For Christmas, Dave wishes that his savings will be enough to buy a pair of second-hand black shoes he has been eyeing in a neighborhood ukay-ukay. He says they are of good quality and he can use them in school. They cost P15.

If he has still some money left, he will buy clean clothes and if there is some more, he will buy food. He thinks fried chicken, spaghetti, mixed vegetables and ice cream would make a nice noche buena.

He also wants things that are a little harder to get: a happy family and finishing school together with Joshua. Surely someone who is up and selling pan de sal at 4 a.m. and never misses tutoring class or regular school, deserves a break some time. Isn’t that what Christmas is for?

(Ivy Shella V. Espineli, 26, tutors 50 poor children in Baseco as a member of Kabalikat, a people’s organization.)

©Copyright 2001-2008, An Inquirer Company

Monday, December 22, 2008

By the side of the road in Tondo

Commentary : By the side of the road in Tondo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: December 22, 2008

WE sat with 12 women leaders of the urban poor at the edge of the homes that line the R-10 road in Tondo. Across the road stood the North Harbor piers. The women discussed the meetings they had had with the Maynilad water company about securing regular water in their area. It was hard to hear them over the roar of the big container van trucks that came within a few feet of us. It had rained a little while before, so the air was fresh, but not for long with all the trucks. Young boys and girls still half naked from playing in the rain squeezed through the group to get to Aling Marieta’s sari-sari store to buy candy or food items for Mama.

The women began with water, but later talked of hunger in the area, politics and family planning. When they talked of family planning Aling Marieta gave her opinion that the best method was to vasectomize the men. All the women agreed, even those who said they were pro-life. To the women it seemed eminently fair.

The families now pay on average P30 a day for the water they buy from private persons, or P900 a month. For this money they get 200 liters a day, which is below the minimum of 250 liters recommended by the World Health Organization for lower-income families. If the women can’t afford the amount of water recommended, they can’t clean the children or dishes and can’t take good care of their sanitation. Diseases result, but then there is no money for medicine.

If they had the Maynilad water, they would pay about P4 instead of P30 for the 200 liters they now buy, or a savings of about P780 a month. With this money they can increase their family food budgets by 25 percent a day on average; they can send all their children to school; they can afford medicine, storybooks, copybooks and new clothes and they can buy all the water they need.

The big obstacles are the fees charged by Maynilad: for a mother meter that would provide water for 30 or so families the fee is at least P20,000; for individual meters the fee is P7,000. The people are willing to pay, but little by little out of the money they save on water. They cannot easily manage a big down payment.

Cannot Maynilad and the people sit down and work out a solution to this fee problem? It seems a public utility backed by the government has some obligation to provide affordable water to the poor. Lawyers say there is a social welfare concept inherent in such an enterprise. In the worst of Metro Manila’s slums—the so-called danger areas—almost no family has legal and inexpensive Manila Water or Maynilad.

Legal electric connections could provide similar savings for the poor. An effort by the government to make sure the poor have affordable light and water would be a wonderful anti-poverty measure (families could save about P1,500 per month). There is little room for corruption in such a program.

Hunger, the women said, is increasing in the area. Most families now combine breakfast and lunch. They talked of the “pagpag” chicken business which flourishes there. Scavengers get the garbage of Jollibee, sort out the chicken remains, wash them and package them into: bones with a little chicken still on them, which sell for P20 a kilo, and bones with a good amount of meat which cost P40.

The women seemed to enjoy sitting together in the late afternoon and appeared rather lighthearted when they talked of politics and family planning. It was hard to know if they were really serious. When they came to politics, they mentioned support for only one candidate: Joseph Estrada. “Erap pa rin,” they repeated. They discussed vasectomy with devilish delight.

We all felt better after having talked with the women. They are poor, but they are buoyant, thoughtful when they have to be and caring of one another and their families. The families can thrive if the children could get a good education and they had a decent place to live and enough food. What a waste if they can’t.

Denis Murphy works with the Urban Poor Associates. His e-mail address is

©Copyright 2001-2008, An Inquirer Company

Friday, December 19, 2008

Joseph and Mary's search for lodging dramatized at UP Diliman

12/19/2008 | 06:46 PM

Speech delivered by Chairperson Leila M. de Lima of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) upon receiving the "Urban Poor Person of the Year Award"


on the Occasion Organized by the Urban Poor Associates

Palma Hall, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City
19 December 2008

delivered by
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines

Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat.
In the past six months, we have gained so much ground in our fight to promote the right to an adequate standard of living and more specifically, the right to adequate housing. All the efforts of the Urban Poor Associates had paved the way for various forums and dialogues, where we have gotten the attention of the personalities who can most efficiently enact the changes that we need in relation to housing and forced evictions.

Patapos na ang binubuong draft amendments ng Urban Development and Housing Act, ayon kay Senador Noynoy Aquino. Pinag-aaralan na ng Korte Suprema ang aplikasyon ng Writ of Amparo sa mga kasong sangkot ang economic, social and cultural rights, pati na rin ang mga kaso ng iligal na demolisyon. Ipinahayag na ng Komisyon noong ika-6 ng Nobyembre ng taong ito sa Omnibus Resolution on Forced Evictions and Demolitions ang panawagan na pansamantalang itigil ang lahat ng demolisyon habang hindi pa nakabubuo ng panibagong patnubay mula sa Metro Manila Council sa pamamalakad ng sapilitang ebiksyon. Kamakailan lang, ipinarating ng Komisyon ang Omnibus Resolution sa United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at lubhang sinusuportahan ng pandaigdigang komunidad ang mga hakbang itinutupad natin para sa karapatan ng mga maralitang nananahanan.

Maraming salamat sa karangalang handog ninyo para sa akin at sa Komisyon. Ngunit naayon lang na palakpakan din natin ang ating mga dakilang bayani sa Urban Poor Associates, na pinangungunahan ni Mr. Denis Murphy. Palakpakan din natin ang ating mga sarili, ang mga komunidad na ipinaglalaban ang kanilang mga karapatan sa pamamagitan ng pagbubuklod at hindi sa paraan ng dahas. Ang karangalang ito ay para sa ating lahat.

Hindi natin alam kung ano ang tunay na dahilan kung bakit hindi na natin nababalitaan ang mga malawakang demolisyon sa kasalukuyan. Ito ba ay dahil may nangangarap na tumakbo sa eleksyon ng 2010? Hindi rin natin alam kung totoong pinag-aaralan na ng Metro Manila Council ang mga panibagong guidelines para sa demolisyon. Sa mga nakabasa ng Omnibus Resolution, hindi natin alam kung nagbabalak ang Department of Foreign Affairs na irekomenda sa Executive Department and pag-iimbita sa UN Special Rapporteur para suriin ang totoong kalagayan ng maralitang nananahanan.

Sa ngayon, mas marami pang tanong ang naidulot ng ating pagtugon sa problema ng kabahayan. Kung tutuusin, wala pa tayong tunay na tagumpay na nakamit. Ang mga nawalan ng tirahan, wala pa ring makamtam na relokasyon at pabahay. Bukod sa Omnibus Resolution, wala pang LGU ang nagpahayag na ipinagbabawal ang demolisyon sa kasalukuyan. Sa ngayon, hindi natin alam kung kailan isasabatas ang panibagong UDHA, at kung matutugunan nito ang mga kahinaan ng naunang batas.

There are still many more questions left unanswered. While we wait to see if the enormous efforts of the Commission and the Urban Poor Associates will bear fruit, we must remain vigilant. Hindi maaaring mawalay tayo sa ating minumungkahing makatarungang polisiya sa pabahay. We should not waver in our effort to organize communities, to generate further support for the cause of protecting the right to adequate housing.

Pansinin ninyo kung saan tayo nagtitipon ngayon. Unibersidad ng Pilipinas – home to the brightest Filipino youths, the most active student movement in the country. It is home to the most diverse set of students, rich and poor, militants and moderates. The most open, exposed and compassionate minds of the intelligentia are here. The struggle to bring to their attention the conditions surrounding government efforts for urban renewal must be made known not only to the urban poor, but to everyone, and it can start here in UP. Maaaring kakailanganin natin ang mas malawakang supporta para sa mga mungkahi natin. After all, human rights are for everyone, and therefore it is of every person's concern to protect them.

There are many who turn a blind eye to the plight of informal settlers. Mga nagbubulagbulagan ba. Yet, how can anyone who cherishes his or her own rights not be concerned about the rights of his neighbors? Ang hinihingi nating pagmamalasakit ng ating mga kababayan ay hindi nakabatay sa awa. Nakabatay 'to sa kung ano ang makatarungan.

To those of you who are here today, the urban poor groups, to the students of UP, to the public in general, this assembly here represents not an appeal for sympathy, but a show of power - the power of collective action, the power of organized civil society, the power of collaboration between the government and its constituents, the power to bring change to circumstances that are not just, that are not humane. I ask all of you who are here today, whether you are part of the urban poor groups who continue to suffer from inhuman evictions, or part of the student community, or the general public, to stand in solidarity with us. I ask all of you to speak to everyone you know about the struggle to retain dignity in an age of modernity and so-called civilization. Hindi pa natin nakakamtam ang tunay na katarungan para sa maralitang nananahanan. For this reason, we must never let up, we must never be lulled in our own comfort, we must never stop supporting the causes that work to bring justice to every Filipino.

Adequate housing is only one right among a deluge of rights. And yet, to some people, it is almost everything that they can ever have, a humble symbol of their own dignity in a world infected with inequality. Iilan lamang sa kabuuan ng mga karapatang pantao ang karapatang magkaroon ng sapat na kabuhayan, sapat na kabahayan, mamuhay nang may dignidad. Ngunit para sa maraming Pilipino, ang sariling bahay ay siyang pinaka-simbolo ng namumuhay ng mayroong dignidad. It is such a small, yet important thing that we take for granted. For this reason, this deprivation should not continue for anybody.

More work has to be done. I ask all of you to be steadfast, patibayin ang inyong mga kalooban. We have not achieved enough yet. Gather your courage, gather your families, your friends, neighbors, gather your employers, your employers' children, gather your customers, gather people on the street... tell them what a failure Urban Renewal has been for decades. Tell them about the failure of our laws to protect the dignity of informal settlers, of ordinary Filipinos. Tell them, so that they may know, and that they will someday join us in our struggle.

Muli, maraming salamat sa karangalang ito at sa pagkakataong dumalo sa pagtitipon ninyo. Thank you. Mabuhay po kayong lahat.

Urban Poor Re-enact Joseph and Mary’s Search for Shelter


Urban Poor Re-enact Joseph and Mary’s Search for Shelter

19 December 2008. In celebration of their 22nd Panunuluyan, over 500 urban poor people marched this morning at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City repeating the question asked by Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem: "Do you have a decent place where we can stay?"

Aside from the dramatization of Nativity story, there was also a Mass and the awarding of the “Urban Poor Person of the Year Award”, an annual prize given to the person who has done the most for the poor that year or in his or her lifetime.

The prize this year was given to Chairperson Leila de Lima of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The award cites Atty. de Lima for the “compassion, legal skill and courage” she has shown in defense of the urban poor people’s housing rights.

Led by children in angel costumes, urban poor people together with housing rights advocates marched from the Oblation to Palma Hall of the UP College of Social Sciences and Philosophy.

Participants included old people, victims of demolitions, relocated railroad families, leaders of people’s organization, various non-government organizations, urban poor friends and sympathizers from all over Metro Manila.

On the steps of Palma hall, marchers were greeted by clouds of angels announcing the good news and prophetic trumpets.

The event is sponsored by the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE), Urban Poor Alliance (UP-All) and Partnership of Philippine Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA).

“Panunuluyan exemplifies that what happened to Jesus is happening again to the urban poor now. The sufferings of Jesus are the sufferings of the urban poor today. Jesus had no place to live as a baby and at the end he was oppressed and killed by the powerful,” said Ted Añana, deputy coordinator of UPA.

“Basically the urban poor issue is the same as that of the farmers pushing for agrarian reform. Both are concern with land. The farmers need land to till while the urban poor need land to live on,” Añana explained.

There have been successes in the urban poor in 2008. According to UPA, there were fewer evictions during the last months of the year. UPA noted the efforts of the CHR particularly its Resolution No. A2008-052 issued last November 6 recommending the imposition of a moratorium on evictions and demolitions of homes of underprivileged and homeless citizens.

The following are some other victories the urban poor wish to celebrate this Christmas: Plans to evict everyone in Baseco, Port Area have been junked; Advances were made in respect to people’s housing rights and amending the Urban Development and Housing Act; the release of P300 million for relocation in Montalban of evicted families and the commitment of a large sum for similar work; preparation of Tanza, Navotas as a relocation site for the thousands of families who will be moved from the R-10 roadway; in-city or near-city relocation became the norm for evicted families rather than distant relocation to sites 50 kilometers and more away, according to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who also said relocation sites will be fully prepared before people are transferred; progress on the local housing boards in Quezon City and elsewhere have been made; there are no large scale evictions. Plans to evict the people of Del Pan and in other sites along the Pasig River and many esteros were cancelled. -30-

Monday, December 15, 2008

MEDIA ADVISORY: Panunuluyan 2008

Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists


The urban poor request your presence at the 22nd annual celebration of their Panunuluyan to be held on December 19 (Friday) beginning at 8:00 AM.

Led by children in angel costumes, over 500 urban poor people will march from the Oblation at the UP-Diliman to Palma Hall of the UP College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, where a 15-minute skit will be staged.

The Panunuluyan re-enacts the search of Joseph and Mary for a shelter where the child Jesus might be born. We see this event in the light of the urban poor’s search for homes, peace and a decent life.

We will have Mass, a dramatization of Panunuluyan, a review of the year’s successes, and the awarding of the “Urban Poor Person of the Year Award”, an annual prize given to the person who has done the most for the poor that year or in his or her lifetime.

The prize this year will be given to Chairperson Leila de Lima of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The award cites Atty. de Lima for the “compassion, legal skill and courage” she has shown the urban poor in defense of their human rights.

There will be games for children, singing and lantern-making contests. We will provide lunch. Please join us and bring your friends.

The event is sponsored by the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE), Urban Poor Alliance (UP-All) and Partnership of Philippine Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA).

Photo ops: Clouds of angels, prophetic trumpets, and more on the steps of Palma Hall.

Panunuluyan 2008
Date: December 19 (Friday)
Time: 8:00 AM - 12:00 NN
Assembly Point: Oblation, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City
Venue: Palma Hall, U.P. College of Social Sciences and Philosophy


8:00-8:30AM : Assembly @ UP Oblation
8:30-9:00 : March to Palma Hall
9:00-10:00 : Photo-Ops
10:00-10:05 : Doxology / Opening Prayer
10:05-10:20 : Short Skit
10:20-10:30 : Introduction of the Urban Poor Person of the Year
10:30-11:00 : Awarding of the Plaque
: Message from Chairperson Leila M. De Lima
11:00-12:00nn : Mass
12:00nn : Lunch
1:00-1:30pm : Presentation of Victories, etc.
1:30-2:30 : Lantern Contest/Games
2:30-2:45 : Announcement of Winners
2:45-3:00 : Final Remarks/Closing Prayer

Task Force Anti-Eviction
c/o Urban Poor Associates
25A Mabuhay Street, Brgy. Central, Quezon City
Tels (632) 426–4119/ 7615 Telefax (632) 426– 4118

Monday, December 08, 2008

MEDIA ADVISORY: Urban Poor To Support Farmers’ Final Effort to Push Land Reform

Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters


Urban Poor To Support Farmers’ Final Effort to Push Land Reform

Unless a miracle happens, Congress will be writing finis to an unfinished reform program - the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Urban poor settlers will support farmers’ final effort to push for extension and revision of CARP, which is set to expire on Dec. 31.

Just like the landless farmers, leaders of the urban poor sector believe that equitable sharing of land and resources will help cure the root problems of poverty and urbanization.

An estimated 16.5 million, roughly 30 percent, of the urban population continue to live in informal settlements and slums, sometimes built on riverbanks, railroad tracks and other high-risk areas, with limited basic infrastructures and services, without legal security of tenure and under constant threat of eviction.

In this regard, the Urban Poor Associates (UPA) request your presence at a press briefing to be held at the Max’s Restaurant tomorrow (December 9) 11:00 AM.

The farmers, in solidarity with similarly poor urban communities, their advocates and the religious shall join hands on December 10 (Wednesday) to press for the dawning of equity and justice through the passage of CARP extension with reforms.

Date: December 9, 2008 (Tuesday)

Time: 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Venue: Max’s Restaurant, Elliptical Road, Quezon City Memorial Circle

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Running Priest in Baseco for CARP extension

Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists


Running Priest in Baseco for CARP extension

As part of his 157-kilometer run for the extension of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), the running priest Fr. Robert Reyes, together with some 30 community leaders will stage a run today (Dec. 6) starting at 8:00 AM from the Herminigildo Atienza Elementary School at the Baseco, Port Area in Manila to the office of Department of Agrarian Reform in Quezon City.

There are serious concern that once the year ends without passing a law extending it and by including reforms, the plight of landless farmers will hang in the balance; and that those who are supposed to be beneficiaries under the CARP, would have no other means or legal remedies at all to seek ownership of the lands they till.

Two decades after the land reform law took affect, thousands of hectares of land all over the country have failed to be awarded to farmers.

Date: December 6, 2008 (Saturday)

Time: 8:00 AM

Assembly Point: Baseco, Port Area, Manila