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Urban Poor Reenact Joseph and Mary’s Search for Shelter
Manila, 15 December 2009 (Tuesday). Over two thousand urban poor people will march along the streets of Manila today repeating the question asked by Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem: "Do you have a decent place where we can stay?"
Led by Joseph, Mary and the three Kings, urban poor people in costumes will march from Gomburza Plaza in front of the old Senate Building along Padre Burgos Avenue to Manila Cathedral carrying lanterns, belen, stars and other Christmas symbols.
Participants include children, old people, victims of demolitions, scavengers, relocated railroad families, people’s organizations, various non-government organizations, friends and supporters.
The theme of this year’s Panunuluyan of the urban poor is “Umaasa at kumikilos tungo sa isang masagana at mapayapang lungsod”.
The Panunuluyan is sponsored by members of Task Force Anti-Eviction composed of non-government organizations such as Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE), with the help of various NGOs and people’s organizations.
“The urban poor’s problem is homelessness. We realized that at Christmastime, homelessness was also the problem of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. So we tried to connect those two. We were not the first one who thought of that because there is the old custom of Panunuluyan in the villages (barrios). So we decided to reenact the old tradition of Joseph and Mary going from place to place looking for a place to settle in and where Mary can have a baby with the modern problem of homelessness of the people,” said Denis Murphy, Executive Director of UPA.
“We’ve done that every year since 1987, twenty two years. And I think over those years we’ve educated the poor people to understand that God understands what it is to be homeless after the experience in Bethlehem. And I hope we have educated the powers that be that they understand also in a small way that to leave the urban poor homeless or to make them homeless even worse is to render God homeless as the powers that be did in Bethlehem,” Murphy added.
This year urban poor people will have a drama. They will have the reenactment of the search of Mary and Joseph for a place to live. And then they will go into the church for Mass with Bishop Broderick Pabillo at 9:30 AM. After the mass, people will have contests – singing contest, carol contest, belen contest, dancing contest, costume contest; and lunch.
During the mass they will give some awards. One award is for the Urban Poor Person of the Year. This is for Myrna Porcare of North Fairview, Quezon City who was shot by security guards when she was trying to defend the homes of her fellow urban poor people.
They are also giving awards to the following: Congressman Leonardo Montemayor, Aba-Ako Party-list representative, for introducing House Bill 6675, the Omnibus Amendment Bill for Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) to protect the housing rights of the poor; Lawyer Jose Midas Marquez for his work reconciling the Supreme Court decision to clean up Manila Bay with the need to relocate the poor and give them adequate notice and consultation; Father Anton Pascual and Radyo Veritas for their unflagging advocacy on radio for the issues and concerns of the poor; And former Senator Joey Lina for his authorship of UDHA (R.A. 7279) that guarantees the right of the urban poor to adequate housing.
They are also giving a citation to a poor woman, Cirila Bulagner, in the name of all the members of Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE), an elderly people’s organization, for her years of service to the elderly in providing home care and teaching others how to help the elderly.
According to UPA, there are thousands of homeless families in Metro Manila mainly because of forced evictions, illegal demolitions, lack of access to affordable housing and public services, labor contractualization, high cost of living, globalization, commercialism, displacements due to armed conflicts, rural to urban migration, graft and corruption, urban poverty aggravated by greed, selfishness and indifference. -30-