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  •  The Jewel of Barangka

    Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013

    Every neighborhood has its unique personality, right? But it’s questionable how many communities boast such a vibrant personality as our neighborhood here in Barangka. From the brightly colored homes to the daily sounds of vendors selling their products door to door, Barangka is lit with cultural vitality.

    However, the secret of Barangka emerges in the afternoons, when exuberant greetings and invitations to play in the park ring out in the narrow streets. The kids in the neighborhood are truly the jewels of this place. They welcome us into seeing life in the Philippines through their eyes, eyes that marvel at the smallest details of a tropical flower and light up at the mention of a piggyback ride. The ordinary becomes spectacular when we spend time with the kids in Barangka.

    As a Casa Bayanihan community, we spend one afternoon a week facilitating games in the park with the kids and their mothers. It’s a unique opportunity to learn more about our neighbors and the culture of the neighborhood. Barangka pulses with life, and the kids in particular continue to welcome us into their realities with liveliness and imagination.

    We invite you to come and encounter the vibrancy of the Barangka community for yourself.

    Find more pictures and stories from the Philippines here

  •  Story of the Week from the Philippines

    Monday, Feb. 4, 2013

    Meet Sister Mariek

    By Sullivan Oakley, Comunity Coordinator at Casa Bayanihan             

    She is a woman religious from Belgium who came to the Philippines at the age of 29 to work at Tahanang Walang Hagdanan (House Without Stairs), an NGO that provides just and meaningful employment, housing, and education for the differently abled. Sister Marieke is an astonishing woman who has made a life of giving attention and love to the marginalized, to those who have been forgotten. She is a collective memory of the stories and lives of the people whom she has encountered, and her example reminds us of the importance of each person we meet and each moment we share. “They might seem small to you,” she says, “but they aren’t. These small moments mean everything.”

    Casa Bayanihan has the privilege of knowing Sister Marieke through Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, which serves as one of our praxis communities that Casa students visit twice a week during their time here (read more about TWH & Casa Bayanihan’s other praxis sites here—> 

    You can find Sister tending to the gardens on the grounds of Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, biking around the property donning her famous tie-dyed jumpsuit and greeting everyone she meets, or sharing the unbelievable stories she has collected from working with the differently abled for more than 40 years. 

    “I have so many stories,” she repeats, “so many stories…and they are unbelievable.”

    We invite you to come to the Philippines. Meet Sister Marieke, and hear some of her stories.


  •  Moments in Praxis

    Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012

    Casa Bayanihan students spend two days a week accompanying community members in marginalized Filipino communities.  Their classroom expands into Metro Manila as they build friendships and learn through experience about the daily struggles and joys of the people

    Fisherfolk spend the afternoon teaching students how to plunge the water for fish.
  •  The Beauty of Taal Volcano

    Friday, Oct. 12, 2012

    This past weekend Casa Bayanihan students and staff took a day trip to hike Taal Volcano, just an hour and a half drive outside of Manila. The day's adventures took us to the lake shore town of Talisay, where we took a relaxing boat ride out to Taal Volcano. We then began the 45 minute hike, enjoying the lush views of the surrounding ridges and the lake on the way. Upon reaching the peak, the view of the sulfuric lake, Crater Lake, inside the volcano was stunning. The beauty of nature in the Philippines was both serene and rejuvenating for all of us, and we left feeling inspired to keep seeking out all that the Philippines has to offer!

  •  Some Thoughts from the Philippines

    Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012

    "I have no grammatically correct sentences that can adequately portray the feelings, experiences or insights I’ve brought back with me from Calatagan. All I have is awe. Awe for the fishermen who go out to sea early in the morning, awe for the women who go out to the market to sell, awe for the children who constantly carry with them the hospitality and love of their parents and awe for the entire province for their trust and loyalty with one another. "

    -Amber Cavarlez, USF

    "There was something very peculiar about the energy of Calatagan that reminded me of my father, so I wrote this poem the last day I was there. After having lost my father five years ago, it was refreshing to know that his presence still remained in what I encountered in this very special and sacred place."

    I will remember the rain.

    I will remember the ways in which it poured down, washing away my tears

    and reminding me that my father is still here.

    There is something sacred about this place.

    My father's spirit dwells with me here.

    In the dancing of the tree branches in the wind,

    in the gentleness of the ocean waves in the shallow,

    in the drops of rain that fall-sometimes light,

    sometimes powerfully falling down, fleeting.

    In the love that is shared, through the spirit that is Angel.

    When I look out at this beauty I imagine myself

    seeing through his eyes.

    I will remember the rain.

    -Jules Peithman, UC Santa Cruz

  •  Students Learn from Gritty Reality

    Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012

    Written by Edward Carpenter, USF Magazine.

    Returning to the Philippines to study this past spring, Teresa Cariño ’13 anticipated a kind of homecoming. The Philippines is her parents’ homeland, after all. She had visited many times. What she found were families crowded into shanties and children living on the streets—scenes she had previously only glimpsed from the security of her family’s car.

    "It’s been intense. There is no other way to describe it,” Cariño, a theology and religious studies major at the University of San Francisco, wrote in an email from Manila. For Cariño, Casa Bayanihan has thrown back the curtain on a world of injustice that she knew little about from family vacations.

    Thanks to an anonymous donor, six other USF students were with Cariño during the spring semester—all studying tuition-free and accompanying members of underprivileged communities as part of the Casa Bayanihan program.

    The study abroad and immersion program—jointly administered by USF, Santa Clara University, and Ateneo de Manila University in Manila—just completed its second semester. Unlike other study abroad programs, Casa teaches by immersing students in marginalized communities and pairing those students with residents or nonprofits working for change. The pillars of the program are accompanying residents of marginalized communities; rigorous academic study; community living, including eating simple meals, washing clothes by hand, and taking cold showers; and spiritual formation.

    Students study the Philippine economy, culture, and society; gender equality; Tagalog; and more. Two days a week, and occasionally on weekends, students take what they’ve learned in the classroom into the field at praxis sites, learning from locals about the realities on the ground. The richness of the program lies in the combination of what students learn in the community and in the classroom, and the dialogue that ensues.

    Indeed, Casa isn’t about students “parachuting” in to aid needy Filipinos. Historically, that approach has damaged cultures. Students are taught to resist that impulse and reminded that, prior to using the benefits of privilege and power to help others, they must walk humbly with them, and be instructed by their daily reality, said Mark Ravizza, S.J., the Jesuit-in-residence at Casa Bayanihan.

    “We aren’t here to help. We are here to learn,” said Cariño, recalling a quote that was recited during her Casa orientation: “‘If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.’” (Lilla Watson)

    For Cariño, accompaniment meant building friendships with disabled Filipinos, who often face discrimination, and learning how they manage daily tasks such as cleaning, cooking, and traveling around town. Cariño also tutored special education students and packaged medications from a local pharmaceutical company. For other students, accompaniment meant improving the construction of shanty homes in squatter communities, helping nonprofits educate street children, or learning how micro-loans are administered to small business owners.

    Class assignments, community-based research, films, and weekly discussion groups all relate to students’ experiences in local communities. The program’s integration of classroom, real-world, and spiritual lessons are key to students developing an awareness of and compassion for those who experience harsh realities, to advancing a deeper knowledge of themselves, and to living more justly with others, said Grace Carlson, Casa co-director.

    Casa challenges students’ thinking about poverty and privilege, the role of faith, the factors that give rise to the suffering they see, and what it means to “help” people. Students stepping outside of their comfort zones is what Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., the 29th superior general of the Society of Jesus, had in mind in 2000 when he issued a new imperative for Jesuit higher education: “Students,” he said, “must let the gritty reality of this world into their lives, so that they can learn to feel it, think about it critically, respond to its suffering, and engage it constructively.”

    Colleen Curry ’13, who completed Casa in fall 2011, said the realities she encountered in the Philippines broke down barriers that let her close herself off from others’ problems. “It exposed me to a new way of living,” said Curry, an English major. “No longer do I just exist in my California bubble, but in the greater world reality.”

    Filipina American Tara Peithman ’12, who also completed Casa in 2011, called the program the most valuable part of her USF experience. “It changed what I want to do after graduation,” said Peithman, who accompanied families living in a squatter community, helping to build homes, teaching art to children, and painting church pews.

    Peithman plans to apply for work as an advocate for the Asian community. She’s also pursuing opportunities for development work in the Philippines. “Living in community with others in solidarity and developing a spiritual dimension has completely empowered me,” Peithman said.

    Peithman’s experience illustrates Casa’s transformative power.

    Through the “gritty reality,” Fr. Ravizza said, students witness the beauty, hope, and faith that, in spite of immense struggles, can remain strong in a broken world.

  •  Ready to Start!

    Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012

    Casa programs are ready to start both in the Philippines and El Salvador. We are glad to introduce our new Community Coordinators!

    El Salvador: Michelle Lally, Diane Fitts, and Chris Campbell.

    Philippines: Sarah Young and Sullivan Oakley.

  •  Financial Aid for Casa Bayanihan Students

    Thursday, May. 3, 2012

    Good news about financial aid!

    Thanks to the generosity of a donor the cost of the program for the fall 2012 semester is $5000, which includes tuition, room and board.  (This does not include the additional expenses such as airfare).  If you or someone you know is interested in the fall 2012 semester, please contact Heidi Kallen or Grace Carlson right away! Application deadline is May 9.

  •  Casa Bayanihan: Community a World Away

    Friday, Mar. 30, 2012

    Written by Edward Carpenter

    Published on 'From the USF Newsroom'

    As the daughter of Filipino immigrants, Teresa Cariño ’13 has memories of the Philippines that come mostly from the stories she was told growing up and what she glimpsed on visits from the backseat of the family car.

    Now, Cariño, a theology and religious studies major (at USF), is back in her parents’ homeland. Thanks to an anonymous donor, six other University of San Francisco students are with Cariño — all studying tuition-free and accompanying underprivileged communities as part of the Casa Bayanihan program.

    The scholarship includes room, board, and tuition, leaving only $1,000 in fees for students to pay. Likely as a result, more than double the number of USF students are taking part in the program as compared with fall 2011, when three made the trip.

    In its second semester, Casa Bayanihan, a jointly managed study abroad and immersion program with Santa Clara University, and Ateneo de Manila University in Manila, is modeled on the successful Casa de la Solidaridad program in El Salvador. The pillars of the program include: accompanying marginalized communities; rigorous academic study at the local Jesuit university, Ateneo de Manila University; simple community living; and spiritual formation.

    Students study the Philippines’ economy, culture, and society; gender equality; Tagalog; and more, as part of their coursework. Two days a week, Casa Bayanihan students work with local nonprofits or in disadvantaged neighborhoods to serve the disabled, learn from poor farmers how they grow crops in a community with no potable water or electricity, advocate for street children, or provide small businesses with micro-loans.

    By accompanying the disadvantaged in these ways, students learn from locals about the realities of their daily lives and the factors that contribute their struggles.

    As the world moves toward Asia, the mission of Casa Bayanihan offers students a more complete perspective on how changing economies and social systems affect the most vulnerable members of society, said Grace Carlson, Casa Bayanihan co-director.

    The program provides a safe environment where students can learn and step out of their comfort zone to see the privileges they benefit from. Hopefully, in their professional and personal lives, they’ll find a way to continue to use their education and their talents as advocates for the marginalized, Carson said. “We want to form healthy young people grounded in faith, rooted in justice, who can look at the world with critical eyes, relate to the struggles of others, and respond together in community.” 

    Cariño, who understands a good deal of Tagalog but doesn’t speak it, sees Casa Bayanihan as an opportunity to immerse herself in the language and culture of the Philippines she never knew. “My biggest challenge is separating my understanding and experiences of the Philippines of my childhood vacations and the nitty-gritty reality of the suffering and injustices that affect most of the country, as well as the hope and light that is there in the midst of all that,” Cariño said.

    Teresa Cariño (red dress) sharing with some neighbors and Bayanihan students in Manila.
  •  Earthquake Update from Philippines

    Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012

    Greetings from Manila,
    As you may have heard, there was a recent earthquake off affecting the islands of Cebu and Negros, Philippines on February 6 2012.  A tsunami alert was issued for residents of the coastal regions of Cebu and Negros, but lifted at 2:30pm February 6.  
    We, in Quezon City (Metro Manila), which is 356 miles north of the epicenter, are safe. 
    As always, we will continue to monitor for student safety.

    ~Casa Bayanihan

    Read news about the earthquake

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