Belong Neighborhood Association

Hidden in the sea of middle class subdivisions in Banaba, San Mateo, Rizal, we found an island called “Belong compound”.  It is a densely populated urban poor settlers’ community where at least 105 families reside.  According to the Belong Compound Neighborhood Association, Inc. (BCNAI) members, the whole area, including the subdivision, used to be a vast rice-producing agricultural area, now converted into a residential area.

In 1999, a certain Isabelo, who BCNAI identified as the co-owner and tenant of the land that their houses occupy,  offered to sell them residential lots.  Isabelo initially sold them “rights” to settle in the area and promised that they can amortize for the lots they occupy once the on-going court case regarding land ownership is settled.  From the first eight settlers families, the community rapidly grew.  The residents shared that most of them work as workers, vendors, drivers and junk trading.

Banaba compound Community Center

Recognizing their isolation from the surrounding subdivision communities, the residents concluded that only they could help themselves in improving the compound they consider their home. This strengthened cooperation and friendships among the residents.  They organized BCNAI in early 2002 and registered it with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a non-profit organization in the same year. Since then, it has successfully spearheaded the residents’ efforts to gain access to electrical services, constructed graveled path walks, a multi-purpose center made of light and temporary materials, a crude but more organized drainage system. The organization also enabled the community to successfully request a deep well, a “metering wall” (a communal cemented wall where all electrical meters in the community are installed by the electrical service provider) and a cemented “half court” basketball court from the municipal government.

Banaba compound Community Center

In May 2006, BCNAI requested the Antipolo Seminary Foundation, Inc. (ASF) to assist them in strengthening the learning center that they established in 2005.  Though it has operated for a year, the center remained in its formative stage. Noting the community’s need, the ASF extended financial management and planning assistance to BCNAI.  Key members of the parents’ organization participated in the Basic Nutrition training conducted by the foundation on July 18, 2006. Through this training, the parents learned how to make a menu and recipes that maximize low costing but nutritious food for the supplemental feeding component. They also created schedules to manage food preparation and cleaning.  Key members of the parents’ organization also participated in the Basic Christian Leadership training conducted by the foundation last August 12, 2006.

Banaba compound Community Center

The center currently has 14 students. It uses the community’s multipurpose center as the site of the learning center. According to the representatives of the parents’ organization, their children eagerly attend their classes even though their school has no walls at the moment. The parents also contribute P50.00 per month to the learning center fund to help augment the para-teacher’s allowance.

Within the school year, BCNAI hopes the foundation can help them train new para-teachers. The leaders and parents also plan to construct a comfort room and improve the multi-purpose center as soon as they generated sufficient resources. They also expressed eagerness to participate in the planned finance management training.