Nothing could exactly describe the lives of the residents of Southside Dumpsite, San Antonio, San Pedro, Laguna but this song of Heber Bartolome. In fact, the lines of this song might still be modified as- Isang Kalahig, Isang Tuka.
Kalahig is the, curved and pointed rod used to seek and sort garbage. It also refers to the act itself of using the same. Kalahig is for the mangangalahig as sthetoscope is for the doctor. If the garbage is their bread and butter, kalahig is their spoon and pork.
Southside Dumpsite is the melting pot of garbage from all walks of life and from all parts of San Pedro and nearby towns and cities. This is Laguna’s version of the infamous Payatas. While the most of us can’t wait to get rid of the stinking wastes, mangangalahig can’t wait to forage on our trashes. For them garbage smells like supper on their table. And every “ting” the kalahig makes when it comes into contact with scrap metals, tin cans and any other junks of higher value sounds like music to their ears. Tunog-lata, as they say.
Children are not spared from this way of living. While ordinary kids spend most of their time on schools, young mangangalahig spend theirs on the dumpsite. The mountains of garbage are their workplace and playground as well.
With no safety coats and barefoot sometimes, they trek on piles of dilapidated papers, torn plastics and dangerously cut metals. No breakfast and lunch these overlooked angels feast on the foul odor and on the imminent danger of waste just for the sake of supper.
When they were asked “Sa mga nakikita n’yo sa paligid, kumuha kayo ng isang bagay na gusto ninyong maging katulad” during one of our outreach activities, one of them brought in a pair of slippers and with no qualms said- “Gusto kong maging panyapak na kahit na gaanong kabigat ang mga problemang sumakay sa akin ay hindi ako bibigay.”
Later when they were told- “Pasensya na kayo, medyo na-late ang tanghalian natin.” They replied- “Okay lang po yun, minsan nga po hindi na kami kumakain eh.”
GIVE A TOY-SHARE A JOY, BIGAY-PUSO SA PASKO, STEP-UP, ETC.
The RACSPE has been helping the Dumpsite Kids since 2004. In fact, Rotaractor Kaye Espadilla has made a pact that she would carry on her project dubbed as Bigay Puso sa Pasko.
Since December 2004, Kaye has been facilitating the project. The project starts with fetching the Dumpsite Kids from their houses. Each Rotaractor is obliged to adopt kids for that given day. Each guides his or her adopted children and sees to it that the kids are in good condition. Each gives what the kids demand. The children are being brought to places where they have never been before.
Another is the annual “Give A Toy, Share A Joy” (GATSAJ). A simple thought of this project never fails to give me a soulful smile. It brings back the joyful memories we had on the very conception of this project and even on the Rebirth of RACSPE.
It began with an idea of donating solicited toys and goodies to ABS-CBN Bantay-Bata. But upon the course of donation, something big which we never thought would happen took place. Tina Monson Palma, head of Bantay-Bata directed us to ABS-CBN Sagip Kapamilya. We thought we were going to give the toys and the goodies to Sagip, but it was the other way around. Sagip gave us truckloads of toys and goodies. We received a thousand-fold more than we intended to give. And the best place to distribute them to- The San Pedro Dumpsite. The project was indeed corroboration between ABS-CBN, RACSPE, SPCBA, JPIA, JBEC, The Sphere and Philippine National Red Cross.
(Some cynically reacts with the Project Title: Give A Toy, Share A Joy. But for God’s sake, for the sake of art, for the benefit of the doubt-Please let it is as it is! We have the Poetic License, anyway.)
Moreover, Medical Missions, Feeding Programs, Book Donations among others are being held on a regular basis.
On August 09, 2008, the Rotary Club of San Pedro East-the Sponsoring RC to Rotaract Club of San Pedro East launched the STEP UP Project. STEP UP Project is basically the giving of a significant number of STEP-INS (layman’s term for pairs of slippers) to a significant number of Dumpsite Kids.
On this note, my memory flashed back to me a project RACSPE once held in 2004. The project was a sort of Recollection/Retreat for the Kids. It was held in a Novice House somewhere in Biñan, Laguna.
The children were given time to reflect on their lives which they don’t normally do amidst the harshness of their environment. During one part of the program, the children were asked to bring in tangible things which they would like to be (symbolism). One brought in a pair of slippers which she colloquially named as “Panyapak” (The Case of the Dumped Angels). All were teary-eyed when this girl confessed:
“Gusto kong maging panyapak, na kahit na anong bigat ng problemang sumakay sa akin ay hindi ako bibigay.”
(I want to be a pair of slippers that no matter how heavy my load is-I’ll never give up) The young girl gave a dose of her awesome use of figurative language crafted and furnished through the years by the quality of the place she is living in.
The countenance the children wore during STEP UP perfectly manifested what they have inside and outside. Dull eyes, blemished skins, rusty hairs and unclad feet to name a few approximated the features of the environment they are in- shanties, boondocks of garbage, unemployment and illiteracy (again to name a few).
The long queue of sardine-packed kids under the humid air and scorching sun was somehow turned into circuits of smiles as kids got their rations of STEP INS and Stuffed Toys. Rotarians and Rotaractors thought they would rest- assured that the once unclad fragile feet were then clad by the Step-Ins they gave. However, they saw some, still barefoot despite the fact that they were actually given their shares. According to them “Ayaw kasi naming maluma kaagad” Some even said they would save them for Christmas Season.