February 27, 2007



It was 4 a.m., the aftermath of super-typhoon Reming when young couple Mr. and Mrs. Nelson and Sonia Verdejo left their evacuation hideaway, their grandmother’s place, to check on their rented house in Sta. Cruz Poro, Naga City. They came across a group of baranggay operatives doing early rounds and got the news that their abode for four years was now a total wreck. It was a good thing that they were able to leave the place, saving their two daughters and their few appliances from devastation.

Right after, it was work as usual for Nelson, 34, a utility personnel assigned at the Four Pillars and Nursing Department of Ateneo de Naga University. He went about his business fixing the ravaged campus, unaware that he qualified for the Bahay Atenista program until a co-worker who saw the list of recipients was all too happy to tell him about it. He did verify but found out that there was a slight problem—he had no land ready where they could build the house.

Good thing that earlier, they had availed of the city government’s urban poor housing project; only that when ADNU people went for inspection they found it wanting of landfill. And so they asked for help from Mayor Robredo, begging for a viable relocation. After three days, they were given a small lot in Pacol, they paid six thousand pesos for equity and that was it. Pretty soon enlisted graduating students and volunteers for the College Outreach Program (COP) were all over the place, doing basic carpentry, mixing cement and paint.

This was a welcome occurrence for Sonia, 32, an AB Education graduate of ADNU. She is yet to find a more stable teaching job to help Nelson produce income for the family. In 1995-96, she worked contractual with the Bureau of Lands and since then, dabbled in tutorials with elementary and highschool kids as tutees.

Industrious but hard-up families like the Verdejos are the main beneficiaries of the Bahay Atenista program, a communal project by the different organizations (co-curricular, extra-curricular and religious) of the Ateneo de Naga University (ADNU) with the leadership of Tabang-Atenista and under the guidance and supervision of the Center for Community Development (CCD). It aims to establish a strong partnership that integrates the diverse skills and talents of the participating organizations in planning, organizing and building indigenous simple houses in the selected communities in Bicol. In the long run the project will serve as the grounds for exchanging goodwill between the underprivileged and the privileged communities.

It has a dynamic organizational structure composed of the following: 1.) Council of Advisers and Consultants (BACAC) with moderators, faculty members, staff and offices that will: (a) Monitor the development of the Bahay Atenista project; (b) Suggest new ideas and strategies for the project; (c) Serve as mediator for any disputes or misunderstanding among the participating organizations; (d) facilitate foreign volunteers and (e) Facilitate reflection session among the volunteers; 2.) Working Committee (BAWC) made up of the different student organizations president or representative (co-curricular, extra-curricular and religious) that will: (a) Decide on the division of labor, planning and implementation; (b) Sourcing of funds; and (c) Design of program; and 3.) Volunteer Corps (BAVC) of students and members of the different organizations (co-curricular, extra-curricular and religious) who will build the house and serve as the work force for the activity. At the same time, the program welcomes volunteers from respective donor organizations and partner groups outside the university or even from outside the country.

Truly, as microcosm of society, all families deserve a home where cultural customs and proper values are inculcated to the minds and hearts of the young. It is also a way to preserve the dignity of humans as sons and daughters of God. The Verdejo sisters, only in grade 1 and 3, saw this after their simple Bahay Atenista house was constructed. They mused: “Ay, mayaman na kita, dakula na an harong ta! (Ay, we are now rich for we have such a big house!)”

For more information regarding the program, please contact: Mr. Leo Borras, Project Coordinator, Bahay Atenista Program, Center for Community Development, Ateneo de Naga University, Ateneo Avenue, 4400 Naga City.



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