MANILA, May 13, 2004 (STAR) By Cynthia Evidente  -  Fifteen years ago, a colony of urban squatters occupying close to a hectare of prime lot in Makaturing, Mandaluyong City dreamed of owning their own parcel of land and, with this, the right to decent lives.

Threatened in the late 1980s by high-rise condominium projects that almost saw the demolition of their shanties, and the pressures of surviving and raising a family amid unemployment, "makipagsapalaran" best described what life was all about for them.

Today, the 216 families residing in #81 Makaturing St. are proud landowners in their own right, having persevered as an organized unit under the Makaturing Neighborhood Association Inc.

Not only have they transformed their community from a former quarry site into a decent neighborhood, but more importantly, they are in the process of acquiring their lots over a period of 25 years under the national government’s Community Mortgage Program (CMP) initiated in 1990.

Building on their hard-won achievements, however, continues to be a challenge. Says Delia Millona, MNAI president for the past three years, on what community leadership is about, "Ikaw ang magulang. Lahat ng problema sa asosasyon, sa kabataan, sa iyo ilalapit." And notes MNAI vice president Conrado Estinor Sr., "Kabuhayan ang problema namin dito…paano kumita. Trabaho ang wala."

This is the reality of a striving community where less than 10 percent of families are steady income earners as taxi or tricycle drivers and clerical or construction workers, where poverty continues to hamper access to even the most basic telephone service, and where cellular phones remain a luxury item beyond anyone’s reach.

Taking On The Makaturing Challenge

For a struggling community like Makaturing where "employability" is a factor of both education and computer or IT skills and literacy, the impact of exposing the youth, as well as community leaders, to hands-on computer experience and training cannot be underestimated.

Thus, Globe and Innove believe that investing in the community’s youth who comprise over 50 percent of Makaturing’s total population is a definite move toward raising the level of their state in life.

Last March 15, Globe Telecom – along with members of the Ayala group of companies and in coordination with the Habitat for Humanity Philippines – officially took on the task of "co-adopting" Makaturing under the integrated Kalahi ng Ayala program.

The integrated Kalahi ng Ayala brings together in one community the many successful outreach programs of corporate entities under Ayala. Assembled into a comprehensive package, these programs contribute their individual strengths to a "collective pot," thus creating impact through synergy given a common approach to help in the government’s poverty alleviation programs.

Specifically for Globe Telecom and its subsidiary Innove Communications Inc., sharing their corporate resources and technological expertise have found expression in the setting up of a computer laboratory to benefit the youth and community leaders.

These comprise of the donation of two personal computers (with Internet access), two Globelines connections (with NDD and IDD capabilities) with free monthly service fees, a printer-scanner and other computer paraphernalia. Also included are computer training courses within the year in coordination with Ayala Foundation Inc. (AFI).

These are on top of the "sweat equity" put in for the day by some 20 Globe employees for the house rehabilitation of two partner families under the Habitat for Humanity program, as well as financial contributions for the house construction.

Parallel to this are similar efforts by other Ayala companies, among them the provision of two water hydrants by the Manila Water Co. (MWC), a micro-lending program by the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), MWC and AFI to provide small livelihood loans to unemployed women and youth, and a solid waste management program by AFI to further reduce residual garbage in the area.

Significantly, MNAI leaders confirm that today, only a small number of young kids aged five to 10 have actual computer knowledge (beyond "palaro-laro" or tinkering). Likewise, less than 50 percent of the high school and college students are familiar with computers, with access obtained mainly from their schools or nearby Internet shops within walking distance of the community.

ICT Benefits For Makaturing

While medium- to long-term benefits of the computer facilities have yet to be seen, the immediate and direct benefits of having a computer laboratory for multimedia learning have started to be felt.

For Fel Jane Tumacas, a 19-year-old incoming fourth year BS Architecture student at the Rizal Technological University (RTU), having the computer on hand at the second floor of the Makaturing Multi-Purpose Hall has meant easier Internet access. Research work on school topics and assignments such as the Philippine Building Code, design and building utilities can now be done without the usual one-week waiting time to use the school’s computer facilities.

Jennifer Gilao, an 18-year-old incoming BSBA Management student at RTU, finds merit in augmenting Science and Math-related school lectures with actual Internet research. Implied but not stated is her desire to be in a better position to help her 50-year-old father who is an auto electrician and her 49-year-old mother who is a housewife.

Perhaps more fortunate than their peers in Makaturing, siblings Zaida Rose, 15, and Conrado Estinor Jr., 19, have more computer exposure and experience since they belong to one of the few PC-owning households in the community.

While Zaida hopes to pursue an IT-related course in college, Conrado is an incoming third-year English major whose interest lies in Web design. Both see the computer laboratory as a vital knowledge tool as it augments whatever they learned in school and the computer facilities they already have on hand.

And for parents in the community, having the computer facilities right in their neighborhood has translated into peace of mind, knowing that their children no longer have to visit nearby Internet shops until midnight just to finish school research work and assignments.

Indeed, profiles of the Makaturing youth affirm recent survey findings released by AC Nielsen Philippines indicating that today, four out of five Internet users in the Philippines are below 29 years old.

With the Internet now more accessible through schools, offices, libraries and Internet cafés, students have made Internet research a fun way to study and an alternative source of information and entertainment.

However, given the cost of owning personal computers, AC Nielsen notes that more than half of those with Internet access among the 2,000 people surveyed (aged 12 to 60) from Classes A to E belong to upper and middle classes. Class D respondents accessed the Internet mostly from Internet cafés or schools.

Today, the Department of Education recognizes the need to set up computer laboratories in over 4,600 public high schools nationwide as a means to raise the level of competitive skills possessed by the potential members of the country’s workforce.

Last March 25, Education Secretary Edilberto de Jesus issued Department Order No. 23, series of 2004, stating that all teachers and students in public high schools must have free access to the schools’ computer laboratory – its centralized multimedia learning resource center. This embodies the shift from teaching/learning about the technology (computer literacy) to teaching/learning with technology (integration of ICT in teaching/learning across all subjects).

Looking Forward

Viewed within this context, Globe and Innove’s ICT contributions to Makaturing’s efforts to uplift their standard of living gain more relevance.

This as Globe, Ayala, Habitat for Humanity Philippines and the MNAI continuously aim for the holistic development and transformation of the community, given the residents’ proven desire to continuously improve their lives and build on successes already achieved over the past 15 years.

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Cynthia Evidente is head of corporate communications of Globe Telecom’s PR Division.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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