Immersion

I had my social immersion this weekend. See, our university requires
that all graduating students spend two and a half days living among
the poor so that we can get an idea of what their life is like. I
actually enjoyed it. It wasn’t too bad. Actually, it was kinda fun
watching my groupmates freak out. Shhh.

We learned how to cook some of the things the vendors sell on the
street. We slept in their shanties, ate their food, and (to the horror
of some of my groupmates) showered in their tiny bathrooms equipped
only with a bucket of water and a small pitcher. I’m sorta used to it
because of camping. =) Not a kind of life I’d want to live
permanently, but I made do.

Most of the time, though, we listened. They have interesting
stories. Apparently most of them are from a few provinces in the
Visayas, and they left because they feared the insurgents in the
area. They’ve been occupying that lot for some 30 – 40 years now, and
a few generations have grown up there.

As part of our social immersion program under Fr. Padua (our theology
teacher), we looked into the issues that united and divided their
community. A major bone of contention for the different groups in
these slums is a small chapel. Hardly a chapel, even – just a clear
space with a roof over its head and a small altar for Mass – but it
has resulted in deep rifts. Fr. Padua and the other people we talked
to seem to think that one of the families there is trying to maintain
control over this chapel for somewhat less than admirable
reasons. It’s apparently quite a lucrative venture – P2,000 for a
wake, when the actual costs are so much lower! Other people complain
about the drinking and gambling going on there – sometimes even inside
the chapel. Accusations of nepotism abound, especially since the
controlling family seems to be exploiting the common space for their
own personal gain.

Of course, I feel vaguely uncomfortable at hearing only one side of
this. I wonder what they would have to say.

We’ll probably be focusing on that for our report. Anyway, look – I survived
immersion. Cool, yes?