Revisiting Villasis GK Namnama Village

August 1, 2013 at 8:56 pm Leave a comment

By Virgilio Sar. Maganes

VILLASIS- With barely three years after it was established, the Gawad Kalinga (GK ) Namnama Village here deserves a closer look. Were there in the lives of the villagers? Did the core homes become havens of the intended beneficiaries? What assistance are still needed to sustain the village operations?
The GK Village started in 2005 when Peter and Soledad (Obedoza) Montilla, who were based then in Virginia, USA attended a meeting of Couples for Christ in Washington D.C., USA. The meeting was attended by more than 100 people from all over the world, some of them were sharers of Gawad Kalinga. The Gawad Kalinga is the ministry arm of Couples for Christ for the poor.
Sol Montilla, in an interview, recalled how the Philippine situation was presented in that meeting particularly the mountains of trash at the Payatas (Quezon City).
She said she was touched by the videos showing how poor is the Philippines particularly the street children scouring for food in the piles of trash. It was a sad experience to her that after the video showing she cannot help but cry.
From there, she and her husband asked wisdom from the Lord on how to help her compatriots and then they committed themselves for the GK initiatives and advocacies. Sol and Peter actively participated on fund raising for the establishment of GK villages in Aurora Province (Hampton Roads Village I), Bicol Region and Bulacan (Philippine Nurses Group based in USA).
How GK Village started in Villasis? In 2008, Sol was immersed in a GK Village in Orion, Bataan where her group was shown the situation of the beneficiaries who were living in shanties at the beach.
“They were so poor and living in the morass of poverty,” she said.
Back here, she asked her siblings about a parcel of land in Piaz village she inherited from her parents, which she and her husband decided to donate for a GK Village site. The lot which has an area of 1.75 hectares was donated to the Municipality of Villasis on February 2008.
On October 8, 2009, the town was devastated by a flood caused by Typhoon Peping. Lipay village in the eastern part of the town was greatly affected when the dike was breached, destroying houses of more than 30 villagers. Some of the affected villagers were screened and became potential beneficiaries of the GK village.
Beginning of GK and LGU-Villasis partnership
Nationwide, Gawad Kalinga is envisioned to build a nation empowered by people with faith and patriotism; a nation made up of caring and sharing communities, dedicated to eradicate poverty and restore human dignity. Its mission is to end poverty for 5 million families by 2024 anchored Land for the Landless, Homes for the Homeless and Food for the Hungry.

On December 9, 2009, GK Main Office forged a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with LGU-Villasis which committed to undertake site development and land preparation. GK, on the other hand, will undertake fundraising campaign and the conduct of seminars and teambuilding for the caretakers and the beneficiaries.
On February 11, 2010, groundbreaking of the site was conducted after the initial development of land preparation and construction of access roads by LGU-Villasis.
In September that year, the construction of the initial five units core houses was undertaken after the beneficiaries were selected by the caretakers under the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO). The beneficiaries were trained and oriented to prepare them to be part of the GK community. The construction of 15 units ensued.
On January 18, 2011 the first five core houses were awarded to beneficiaries followed by the awarding of the 10 units on June 15, 2011. On December 3,2011, the remaining five core house units were awarded to beneficiaries coinciding with the groundbreaking of the multi-purpose hall. The hall has started its construction last June 2013. To date, the GK Village has 20 units core houses , which are fully occupied with a Mabuhay House- being used as the Village Wellness Center, and the GK Office.
By middle of 2011, the Catholic Church decided to put up a parish church within the area to be named as Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Church, to cater to the spiritual needs of the faithful from Caramutan village, Piaz village and Carusocan Sur and Norte villages in Asingan town.
Montilla and a priest -representative from the Catholic Church approached the municipal mayor for the site. Mayor Libradita Abrenica acceded and requested the Sangguniang Bayan to give her an authority to have a portion of the GK site for the church. This eventually caused misunderstanding between the lot donor and LGU-Villasis, the donee.
Invoking the separation of state and the church, the Sangguniang Bayan of Villasis opposed the construction of the church-the property being owned by the municipal government.
Nonetheless, the construction of the rectory and church pushed through with the approval of the donor. To remedy the situation, the Sangguniang Bayan of Villasis through an ordinance in November 2011, gave authority to Mayor Abrenica to convey the donated lot to Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation (GKCDF).
As of this writing, the title of the land has yet to be transferred to the GKCDF. But Montilla is keen that the donated land to LGU-Villasis will be re-conveyed to her as per advice of the Registry of Deeds in Lingayen.
In a telephone interview, Mayor Abrenica said the conveyance of the land to the GK management has not been perfected as the latter does not want to accept it.
She also said cannot be re-conveyed either to the donor or any individual because LGU-Villasis has already spent government funds to develop the area.
“ It is GK, being a NGO that should accept the conveyance since the village is their project. But up to now, GK has not accepted the conveyance of the land title,” Mayor Abrenica said.
The groundbreaking of the Church was done last December 12, 2011 and was in full operation using the social hall as temporary structure last August 2012.
With this development, the original MOA between GK and LGU-Villasis will no longer be in force as theland ownership will no longer be that of the municipal government. The GK village, according to Montilla, will now be operating on its own.
“It hurts me considering that the LGU as a partner should be in charge with the power, land development and other activities that GK could not do alone,” Montilla said.
She said that at present, the GK Village will now be contented with the 20 units until other partners will come in to construct other core house units. “ I hope LGU-Villasis will still come back as partner and will support the village.”
Walking through the GK Village
The 20 unit- core houses are now what they call homes to 20 families in the GK Village. The houses in four rows with five units each are now painted with various colors. The frontage are fully developed and planted with flowering ornamental plants. At the back, extensions have been constructed for kitchens. The houses are no longer empty and bare. Two bedrooms were constructed by the occupants leaving spaces as salas where their television sets are placed.
Each row was given names inspired by the books from the Holy Bible, that of Epistles of St. Paul- Corinthians, Colossians, Thessalonians and Galatians.
“ We are glad and happy having been given the opportunity to live here. Although the village lacks other amenities, this is now a home for us,” said Rolly Mingarine , a beneficiary whose former house was affected by the flood in 2009.
Juanito Abungan, another beneficiary and one of the first recipients of the core house units, said that his stay in the village has given him the chance to make a living.
“ After the flood, my family and I don’t know where to go. Our future was bleak. We have nowhere to go. Thank you to the GK for providing us homes we own,” Abungan said.
During the visit to the village, the villagers were doing their normal daily chores. Housewives were busy laundering their clothes near the two artesian wells constructed by LGU-Villasis. Family heads were busy planting vegetables in their gardens. Their children were in school at the nearby Piaz Elementary School.
Perlita Torio, vice president of the GK Village Association, said the village is still bereft of livelihood opportunities. She said that the village has given her and her family the opportunity to earn a living.
“ We have now a two-hectare common farms where we plant palay twice a year. We are renting the land from Betty (Gorgonia) for P50,000 a year. After harvest, we divide the income among ourselves equally. We plant vegetables in our gardens so we no longer buy them at the market,” she said.
Torio further said there is unity among the villagers. Peace and order is controlled by the officers. Although there are times that male villagers also resort to drinking liquors, they behave properly as this is not tolerated within the village.
“ We live and work here as one family. We also venture into fundraising activities to finance some of our projects,” she said.
Inside the village, there is a Namnama Wellness Center (Ganda’t Kalusugan) that offers body massage (combination of reflexology, Swedish massage and shiatsu), beauty care (haircut, manicure, pedicure) and counseling (family/marital, pre-nuptial and individual counseling by appointment).
The wellness center is managed on rotation basis by the members of the GK village who were trained on the said services, according to Torio.

Kind-hearted donors

Building GK villages and communities thrive from volunteer donors and workers either institutional or individuals. It is usually anchored on building institutional partnerships and working on the ground with various community programs.
The Villasis GK Namnama Village is lucky enough to have kind-hearted groups and individuals who have contributed their efforts and funds to construct the 2o-unit core houses.
These are the following: LGU-Villasis, Cesarand Ruben Evangelista, Pete and Sol Montilla, Sandy Sayson Fraser, Team Hampton Roads, Elvira Ordinario-Abordo, GK Chicago thru Glenda Terrado, funds from Llorente Samar, GK Singapore and locally raised funds. The Mabuhay House and GK Office were funded out of the donation of Mayor Libradita Go-Abrenica while other individual contributed during fundraising and special events.
Other partners who contributed to other activities like Clean and Green Project, Bayan-Anihan Fund and other livelihood seminars include: Dr. Lilian Tamayo, Dr. Ireneo Ramat , Ven Abalos, Ms. Gloria Ramat , Guia Caliwagan of GK Hampton Roads and Ms. Risa Obedoza.
“Although we are experiencing problems now, I am confident that the GK Namnama Village is here to stay and will reach further heights. We have to help our poor town mates. We will give them shelters to live, livelihood for their living and enrich their values to become productive individuals in our communities. That is the GK way,” said Montilla.

Entry filed under: News.

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