It was the crack of dawn and I haven’t been able to write about my experience in Payatas. First off, I just wanted to explain what we were doing in Payatas was that we were joining Kabataan Partylist in their Medical Mission. I was informed the night before that were going to join them and I was notified to wake up at 6am. I’ve been waking up first in the group for the past week and it is just out of the eagerness of myself to be able to take in every moment and every second I breathe here in the Philippines and with the National Democratic Movement. So I initially thought that we were leaving at 7am to head to Payatas with the Medicine.
Troy from KPL (Kabtaan Partylist) told me the latest we’ll be leaving would be around 9 am. We got in our collective and decided to pick what tasks we wanted to take part in during the Medical Mission. The tasks laid out were the Medical Mission, Telling stories to the kids in the neighborhood, and the final task was to help outreach for KPL.
Payatas is an urban poor community located in Quezon city where the entire community is living next to and in the dump site. I won’t lie, for I held thoughts about what the smell would do to my health and the ever increasing list of Kasamas feeling ill. We all boarded a Jeepeny filled with Medicine and the ulam (Lunch) we would be having, along the way we picked up 3 Doctors from Sacred Heart who would be providing the Medical Check-Ups for the community. We had to stop by the Barangay Hall first before we headed to the Phase 2 (A Basketball Court). As we arrived on site, Waki our guide reminded us that we would have to speak Tagalog as our Primary language. I’ve been able to speak Tagalog more than ever during this trip and I must say it has helped me create dialogue and share stories here in the Phils. I came in thinking that I was going to be part of the Medical Mission and help check blood pressure and give out medicine as a Pharmacy tech.
I hear Faye shout my name and along with Roger of KPL I joined the outreach team that would help notify the Community about the free medical mission and be able to recruit for Kabataan Partylist and hand out an LFS Brochure as well. I was surprised on how my role changed, but I felt open minded and my attitude towards it was far from negative at all. We began to walk around the community in Payatas A and Rodger held a speaker and wireless mic as me and Faye would directly speak to the members of the community. I found it challenging that I was going to speak to random strangers, but this trip for me has been rewarding at the most when I’ve completely opened myself to the integration with the masses. I’ve never seen such outreach in my organizing life, I was at awe at how Roger was doing his outreach and even tho he held a speaker and mic, for every person he walked by he talked to them personally. Right when we got to the entrance of the dump, Roger told me that there were communities in Smokey Mountain and even tho the trash has been a little less than before, it still was filled with trash. We continued our outreach and then I met these two little kids, brother and sister. Her name was Angelique and I got to high five them and we continued on.
We crossed over to Payatas B and my Tagalog at this point was on some next level, and we were doing the rounds of outreach and Rodger was trying to meet the people where they were at, we were in the alleyways of the communities, in front of the Sari-Sari stores. As we started to head back to Phase 2 or the Basketball court, I notice there had been some kids that had followed me back… I answered with a “Anong pangaalan mo?” (What’s your name?) So I was introduced to Marcus, Emerson, Dexter, and Kevin. These boys were all friends with each other and I got to talk to Marcus for a bit, his mother is abroad in Kuwait, his older sibling is no longer alive, and his dad builds houses around the barangay but is never home. Marcus and all his friends gathered to play some basketball, but before all that had happened I was amazed by how much all the outreach we did in the last hour or so yielded results and the community filled up the basketball court. The organizing here is so strong, the needs are the community are real, and I’m so grateful that I got to experience it first hand.
I was smiling so much playing with all the kids and I forgot the stench that filled Payatas. I taught some of the kids he handshake Gemma taught me. As I sat down and glanced at the line for the medical check ups. Seeing people I actually talked to who were actually present made me want to remold how I’ve done outreach back in the U.S. Those small things and building relationships with the masa go so far.
The day went into the afternoon and the stench started to come back when I’m reminded how how the conditions really are in this urban poor community… One of the kids started to cling onto me and I thought he was going for a high five, but he was going after my drink. He was thirsty… The grip he had on me was strong and I needed Marvin to to help him off me. I walked away and sat down, he then made his way to the pharmacy table and drank every water bottle he saw. I knew at that if I had given him my drink, the other kids would have asked as well and by that time a big group was around me. The stench started coming back when a lady I had met while outreaching came back to get her prescribed medications. Ate’s story was that that her teeth had been hurting and from what I gathered from the day was that the most needed medical attention was for Dental and Kids under 15 years old. The doctors weren’t checking up on the kids all day because they didn’t specialize in Pediatrics. So Ate approached me and asked “Kuya pwede ba dalawang prescription?” I didn’t know what to say, Lianne said that she already got hers. I was flustered in the moment and I felt so helpless. I didn’t want to steal for her, I also didn’t want to break the principle that KPL had a procedure of how the Medical Mission would go.
I needed to walk away… I brought Faye with me away from the Basketball court. I cried. I couldn’t hold back what I was feeling anymore and that after building relationships with the community I felt their desperation. For the rest of the day I the kids would continue to shout out for me “Kuya Ian! Kuya Ian!” I didn’t know how to feel and by the time we left Payatas, I knew that the kids, the community had a piece of my heart. It’s been a couple days since then, it’s still so vivid I can’t help but express by how emotionally affected I was. The medical mission wasn’t in our program, but I know everything we will experience here is susceptible to changes.
The rain is falling and we’re about to head to PUP and outreach for SONA.
Ian Jerome Conde
IPIS KILL COUNT: 7