Filipino and Biblical Spirituality A research project submitted to
Azusa Pacific University
in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree Master of Transformational Urban Leadership
Candice Maclang, July 25, 2014 Acknowledgements
I wish to thank Dr. Viv Grigg for always making the time and effort in editing and looking over my work to guide me to the right direction with this research project.
I also wish to thank Attorney Raineer Chu who gave me this opportunity in the first place. Although, he is a well-sought after leader in the Christian community, he has always made the time to meet with me to discuss my thoughts and concerns.
Abstract Candice Maclang
Masters of Transformational Urban Leadership, 2014
Azusa Pacific University
Advisor: Dr. Viv Grigg, Ph.D.
The issue of land rights is one of the most prevalent issues in Metro Manila. As one of the three basic necessities of a person is reliable shelter, we are called to love mercy as well as seek justice.
While the Community Mortgage Program has been the most successful method of legalizing land for the urban poor by means of a government loan to purchase the land on their behalf, it inevitably divides the poor into the poor that can and cannot pay. What then does it look like to meet the needs of the poor and at the same time integrate Biblical themes of land and land rights in the Filipino land rights process?
By using the Pastoral Cycle as well as the participant observation method, the researcher spent 2 months in the Payatas community, assisting them in the land rights process and attending their formal and informal get-togethers.
Throughout my engagement with the community members, as well as the integration of my interviews with Attorney Raineer Chu, a land rights expert, and some local readings, the study highlights the important cultural, spiritual, and religious values within the community that impact their values regarding the land rights struggle.
These themes indicate that active integration of Biblical themes in the land rights process involves (i) the importance of incarnational living for the outsider as the first step to holistically address faith and justice (ii)
the church at the center (iii) specific holding of Bible studies on land rights was not indicated as being significant.
Chapter 1 Introduction
“Don’t worry, they’re very kind, welcoming people,” Attorney Raineer Chu told me when I met with him to get all the maps and paperworks. “And by the way, those are all the original copies, so if you lose them, you’re dead,” he said with a laugh in his usual joking self. A few days before I was introduced to the community, Attorney Chu gave me a quick debrief of how to read the blueprint map, land titles, tax forms, and master list of member names with their block and lot numbers. He had only informed me of this case by the end of April and had emailed me a list of things that needed to be done, as well as phone numbers of who I needed to contact.
“Payatas is a land title legal nightmare.” Attorney Chu and his team had worked and ministered with the community for more than 5 years, helping them gain rights to their land through the Community Mortgage Program (CMP). The Community Mortgage Program purchases the land on behalf of the informal settlers, and then requires them to pay back the fund over the next 20 years. Now, five years later, the community members are still in the heat of the process as their association is turned over to a new leadership for the third time with the threat of eviction being even closer.
Before handing off all the paperwork to me, Attorney Chu highlighted two of the greatest needs of the community: transparency and unity.
In this paper, more focus will be placed on the possible approaches in achieving unity amongst the members. Utilizing the Pastoral Cycle method and being a participant observer, I will highlight and delve into the cultural, spiritual, and religious values of the community that propose the importance of incarnational living, for the outsider coming in, in order to culturally and effectively minister to the community holistically, instead of holding Bible studies on land rights. Initially having assumed that Bible studies would be of benefit to the members, I explore, analyze, and integrate the process of my participation and observations in the community with secondary sources proving its irrelevance.
By analyzing the cultural, spiritual, and religious values of the people, what approaches are optimal for integrating Biblical themes of land and land rights into a Filipino land rights process?
Figure 1. The cultural, spiritual, and religious values of the Payatas community that affect how they view land and land rights, suggesting the central role of the church and incarnational role of the outsider in the community.
Entering into the Payatas community, I was first confronted with the cultural importance of relationships, which is evidently shown through their generous acts of hospitality. Filipinos highly value this sense of togetherness with people as they find their identity in others. However, it is not only the relationship with others that give them identity, but also their relationship with the cosmos. Their relationship with the spiritual and physical world is so integrated that this can easily be missed by an outsider coming in. For the Filipinos, there is little or no distinction between the physical and spiritual world, thus, revealing this stark contrast of beliefs between the outsider, or in this case, the Westerner, with the Westerners’ high regard for science over the supernatural. While the Filipinos stress the significance of experience, the Westerner emphasizes the importance of words that show the irrelevance of Bible studies in this context.
Nevertheless, looking at the correlation between the people’s cultural, spiritual, and religious values, their deep sense of interconnectedness influence the way they view land and the issue of land rights. I elaborate more on this connection throughout the paper and emphasize the central role of the church in the community and the incarnational role of the outsider coming into the community.
One of the head leaders, Attorney Raineer Chu, of the Mission Ministries Philippines Christian organization offered me this opportunity to work alongside the leaders involved in the land rights process in Payatas. After having him and his team assist this community 5 years ago, he hoped that I may be able to continue assisting them and building relationship amongst them. As the split between the members who can pay and the ones who can not or refuse to pay widen, unity is crucial.
Nonetheless, because the vice president of the association involved in the land rights process is a pastor and the president of the association is also a Catholic Christian. Having this Christian leadership at the top of this issue of land rights makes it all the more possible for the church to be at the center in fighting for both unity and social justice.
Action-reflection theological framework
Before coming into the community and being briefed by Attorney Chu about the situation in the community, I assumed that since the vice president of the association is a pastor, there would perhaps be Bible studies held that would focus on the relationship between land, people, and God. If were would not be any, I assumed that it would be of benefit and of encouragement for the community members to have such Bible studies to be able to recognize that their years of patience and struggle in obtaining rights to their land is deeply significant to the journey of their Old Testament forefathers. If the members realize this, then they would recognize that their efforts are not meaningless and be encouraged to take more ownership and responsibility towards their required payments.
However, when finally coming into the community I soon realized the irrelevance of implementing a Bible study on land rights. I utilized the Pastoral Cycle (Holland & Henriot, 1983) and participation observation method and have come to realize the importance of the central role of church in the community and the incarnational role of the outsider coming into the community being more strategic and culturally acceptable than holding these Bible studies in hopes to bridge the gap between faith and justice.
Assumptions or Presuppositions
As a Filipina-American Christian who was brought up in an upper-middle class environment in Los Angeles my whole life, my worldview and theology is mostly Western. Although I have grown up around many Filipino-Americans, there is still a huge cultural difference in comparison to Filipinos born and raised in the Philippines.
I have been raised in a culture where being direct and upfront with your words and actions are necessary. To be immersed in a culture where they are incredibly accommodating to the outsider and indirect with their words and actions, I predicted that I will find great difficulty in being able to read their verbal and non-verbal communication.
Because I was not daily immersed in the way of life in the community, I was not able to recognize their deep connection with the spiritual world through their interconnectedness of their history and faith. I assumed that because they were not explicit about this knowledge, having Bible studies that would connect certain passages and verses would shed light on this gap between their current land rights issue and the significance of land in the Bible.
Population and locations
I gathered most of my findings from the community in Payatas through limited participant observation and conversations with the members. Assisting the community in their land rights process through formal and informal meetings, I also attended a couple of the Sunday church services and Wednesday Bible studies to discern not only the land rights issue at hand but also the relationship of the members with each other. I would meet with them at the Payatas Family Church, the Saint Anthony Catholic Church, which is right across the street from the Payatas Family Church, and in the home of Pastor Fred, right next to the Payatas Family Church.
In this section, I will first be addressing the present issue of land in Manila, the reasons why obtaining rights to land for the poor is difficult, and how the Shalom House model plays an important role in bringing about transformation in a community. By looking at this issue of land within the larger picture, I hope to create a basis of understanding as to why incarnational living is crucial for an outsider coming into a community undergoing the land rights process.
Present Issue of Land in Manila
Throughout the years, the Philippines has been working hard to make a name and image for itself in the global arena; and one way they did this is through the development of a capital. According to Shatkin (2006), it is the national government’s perspective that “the development of a capital is an opportunity to express a vision of an idealized national future, to impress both domestic and foreign observers, and to legitimate their rule” (579).
Hence, to grow and be successful in globalization, national governments want more “public buildings, monuments or facilities, such as museums, parks and squares; the building of monumental infrastructure, such as broad boulevards; exertion of control over what Kong and Yeoh call ‘quotidian’ landscapes, for example the space of housing, places of worship and cemeteries; and efforts to make the capital exemplary in social, economic, and cultural development” (580).
The main focus of the national government was on the interests of the middle class. The national government took the reigns on “establishing public-private partnerships around real estate ‘mega projects,’ the development of large-scale infrastructure projects, [and played a significant role] in tourism-related development” (591).
The increase of these centers of business and commerce, nonetheless, shape the idealized meaning of power and wealth for the country, “while public spaces communicate ambivalence about past government efforts to share the symbolic meaning of urban space” (594). Hence, because “utopias of present-day Metro Manila are being built by the private sector and being built for profit,” the poor who cannot afford housing are left on the sidelines, ignored.
Various Methods for Obtaining Land Security
With the issue of lack of affordable housing and need for land security for the poor, there are three most popular and effective ways for the urban poor to attain rights to their land: land proclamations, the usufruct, and the Community Mortgage Program (CMP).
Presidential land proclamations are “the disposition of government-owned lands to their informal settler occupants through a land proclamation has been an established policy and practice in the Philippines for providing secure tenure to urban informal settlers” (UN Habitat, 2012, p. 10). Usually, the proclamation takes the form of an executive order issued by the President or through a negotiated purchase between the national government and the privately-owned land, that is then given to the intended beneficiaries. Although this process is rather simple, it also takes a long time to formally process due to “unclear institutional accountabilities and lack of funds for the survey works and land acquisition” (p. 11).
Another option is the usufruct. Through this method, simply put, the urban poor are able to use and borrow the land, but not own it. According to UN Habitat, “its practice is limited to a few local governments and private land owners who take initiative to allow poor people to use their lands” (p. 69). Under this approach, “some local governments have made available land owned by them for low- income housing developments.” By doing this, urban poor have access to land but not land ownership. The land is borrowed or rented for about 25 to 30 years and the contract is renewable if mutually agreed upon. Nonetheless, “because the users do not have to pay for the cost of the land, amortization payments are affordable. The beneficiaries under a usufruct agreement are entitled to enjoy nearly all rights of ownership except the right to have a legal title and to alienate or dispose property.”
Lastly, there is the Community Mortgage Program, which has been proven to be the most successful method of the three. To improve security of tenure for the urban poor, CMP has been the “most highly utilized approach to secure tenure” (Porio & Cristol, 2003, p. 207-208). The CMP was administered by the National Homes and Finance Mortgage Corporation (NHFMC) and the Land Tenure Assistance Programme of the National Housing Authority (NHA).
In 1987, during the Aquino administration, the CMP was formulated when a number of NGO leaders served the government (p. 209). The findings claim CMP as most responsive to the urban poor’s need for housing and land security as it has benefited about 137,000 households in over 1000 urban/rural poor communities. Basically, the CMP acts as a tenure instrument, allowing the poor people “to acquire land and build houses without putting up collateral on their own since the land to be acquired serves as the collateral for the mortgage loan.” So, “in a sense, CMP is an instrument for legalizing unauthorized settlements (on-site development) or for informal settlers to acquire tenure security in relocation sites.”
The Community Mortgage Program is quite successful in Manila and other Philippines cities.
Berner (2000) explains this success:
Tthe CMP offers the chance for a compromise between contradictory logics of action: the owners can sell their land and ‘revive’ dead capital, albeit at reduced prices, without the incalculable costs and risks of demolition; the squatters can ‘buy security’ and preserve their settlement from the permanent threat of eradication that has never been calculable for them. (p. 561)
However, there is too high of a demand and the shortage of funding limits this program. According to a report of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC, 1991; Berner, 2000), “the demand for participation by far exceeded available funding from the beginning of the program.” At the start of the program, 10,000 plots were purchased in 1990 when it suddenly slowed down. Among such other problems such as loan recovery and the divisive impact of CMP in a community, this program has still been a major step in assisting the urban poor in securing their land.
Biggest Drawbacks of CMP
However, its drawbacks cannot be ignored. As successful as CMP is, two of its biggest obstacles have been the poor repayment rates from the borrowers and its divisive nature among the poor and the poorest of the poor. “For about one third of the population, mainly the poorer ones,” according to Berner, “it meant that they had to pay for the land they used to live on for free, and pay more than they could afford” (p. 562). Throughout the process, the relationship between community organizers, officers, and beneficiaries usually becomes tense as there are those who cannot or refuse to pay their dues. Berner explains this tension quite clearly:
What starts as a process of internal division — often documented by the founding of counter-associations — almost inevitably turns into open and violent conflict. After the transfer of property rights, the association has to pay for the land, more precisely, for all of the land; the owners are not interested in selling scattered plots, keeping those whose occupants wish to remain squatters. Thus, the beneficiaries not only have to pay for their own land but also for that of non-members. On the other hand, there is plenty of demand for the land in question from inside and outside the settlement. Many residents would like to amplify their congested living conditions, build rooms to rent them out, or invite relatives in the province to move to Manila; for others, the former squatter land is simply an outstanding bargain. The result is a fierce campaign against ‘squatters’, starting with insults and threats and frequently ending in violence and bloodshed. (p. 563)
Shalom House Model
The Shalom model of community development, shown below, represents the core foundation of the word of God to sustain a community (Chu, 2012, pg. 4).
Figure 2. Shalom House Model
The Shalom House Model was made popular by the Basic Needs Survey illustrating:
The house as the church, the people of God. She [the church] is the catalyst for change in the slums. The church is founded on the Word of God, the Bible. Shalom is the roof, it is the goal of the church. The columns of the house correspond to the four minimum basic needs of the urban poor, viz. health, livelihood, education and housing. The beam binding all the columns is community organizing (CO); It is what provides sustainability. .
Attorney Raineer Chu, a Christian lawyer and missionary in Mission Ministries Philippines, has worked with this model in his service to the urban poor in Manila. Along with his team, Attorney Chu has worked with the Payatas community for more than 5 years helping them obtain rights to their land. He could not refuse the opportunity as it was the biggest land acquisition in the whole of Payatas, occupied by more than 500 families, covering 2 hectares of prime land (Chu, 2004).
Throughout the process of mediating and negotiating between conflicting neighborhood associations who claim ownership of the land, his biggest nightmare was actually realizing how there would be a number of people that would have to be evicted. “Just imagine, a Christian community worker, seeking to help the poorest of the poor, kicking them out!” According to Chu, “the usual candidates for these evictions are the widows, abandoned mothers, the sick, and the elderly-- precisely the people of the church we’re called to help and protect” (Chu, 2012, p. 11). Hence, how must Christians and churches respond to this issue if “economic justice, social justice and accessible land rights are inextricably linked to godliness, bringing righteousness into urbanization (Grigg, 1988, p.7)?”
Hence, it is this issue, that generated the research question for this paper, in a search to understand how the church can bring unity in the midst of a divided situation.
Although there are numerous resources on the topic of the lack of affordable housing and accessible shelter in Manila, this broad overview of the national government’s preoccupation with their notion of “development” offers to shed light on how their efforts, in many ways, seem to hurt and marginalize the poor even more. Within the success of the Community Mortgage Program, a socialized housing program of the government, it still has its drawbacks as it divides the poor and poorest of the poor.