fresh no ads
Of hard hat restorers and seraphic helpers |

Young Star

Of hard hat restorers and seraphic helpers

IN A NUTSHELL - Samantha King -

In this day and age, the world revolves around mass-scale status-anxiety. Obsessing over social status is at an all-time high, with the most devout worshipers declaring that you’re only as good as your status in life. Of course, since status is currency, how can anyone not want the reverence inspired by being a high-powered lawyer or CEO?

But work is work, and to make a living through honest labor of any kind deserves nothing less than full-fledged respect, status fetishism be damned. Lives run more smoothly precisely because of the hairdresser who ensures that your hair doesn’t develop independent motor function, or because of the carpenter who saves the decaying woodwork of your Spanish-era house.

That said, it’s always a pleasure to encounter people who, in contrast to those more concerned with the further promulgating of the exclusive, bourgeois type of learning, have instead directed their energies to the much-needed skills training of today’s disadvantaged youth… and then some.

Heritage Savers

Few talents can compare to the legendary (albeit metaphorical) ability of hitting two birds with one stone. It’s accommodating, time-saving, and, when done right, fulfilling in more ways than one.

Just ask anyone working on Escuela Taller Intramuros (ETI).

A joint project of our government with Spain’s — since the original program of Escuela Taller is a Spanish brainchild — ETI (the local version) endeavors to create order from the chaos of Manila’s unemployed and uneducated youth with the ailing state of the city’s heritage sites. And while you’re wracking your brains trying to figure out how the two could possibly come together, ETI has done just that.

 By setting up a vocational school marrying the need for skills training with heritage restoration work, ETI has undeniably hit those two birds by having their students practice their craft directly on the cultural site. In this case, what better site to work on than the Walled City itself? Of course, the students aren’t limited to just one site of practice.

Architect Mico Manalo, project head of ETI, shares that their students have come in to help restore other deteriorating structures like the idyllic Barrio San Luis, made up of colonial houses much in need of sprucing up.

Though ETI largely steers its students towards the construction trade, that’s not to say the curriculum suffers from any lack of variety. In fact, students can pick from a number of specializations ranging from the modern art of plumbing, to ye olden trade of masonry and woodcarving.

But wait, there’s more! Before getting down to the nitty-gritty of deciding which craft they’d like, consultation with teachers as well as exposure trips to the trade application ensures that the students ultimately choose a craft they’ll enjoy.

Indeed, as I was toured around the school (itself located in an elderly building dating back to the 18th century), I couldn’t believe that students had actually created several of the beautiful items dotting the school grounds. I mean, elaborate flower woodcarvings don’t just come to life — unless the hands that made them really enjoyed what they were doing.

Before I forget, I must mention that ETI is a non-profit program sponsoring disadvantaged youth to study in their school, no strings attached. If anything, it’s an environment of mutual reliance, where the heritage sites and the students both benefit from each other.

And before you think that all this is just a way of glamorizing the construction industry, think again.

“Sure, we’re a school for the construction trade, but these kids can do more than just that,” says Manalo. “Our students are trained with the restoration part in mind, and that translates to precision and care, down to the smallest detail. That said, while they can restore something in the finest manner possible, these kids can also fix your house for you.”

Right now, with a population of only around 75 students, ETI hopes to further extend its reach in the years to come, eventually moving out of Manila and into other heritage sites throughout the country. And while the Intramuros administration, TESDA, DSWD, and the NCCA have all been an integral part in making this project come to life, Manalo shares that it wouldn’t be too bad to have private individuals and corporations onboard as well.

“After all, it benefits the country in more ways than one,” he says. “Not to mention being a humbling experience to work with kids like these.”

Hark The Angels

The thing with charity is that there’s usually some kind of hidden catch. Maybe that’s just me, but charities run by groups looking to be advertised for their holier-than-thou deeds don’t exactly count as “charity” to me. Which is why you’ll be hard pressed to find another organization like Angel Brigade (AB), which not only helps out of concern for the less fortunate, but chooses to remain anonymous as well.

“That’s what angels are supposed to be anyway, right?” says AB founder Tisha Bautista. “Nameless, faceless — indistinguishable from anybody else.”

An organization set up in the wake of Ondoy, AB dedicates itself primarily to the initiation of relief operations, and in the months since its inception, has grown from 10 to over a thousand volunteers.

Thankfully, the streak of natural disasters ravaging the country has been absent for a while, leaving AB to set its sights on further promoting the skills training of the working class youth. Through the help of one barangay captain Max Bernardo and in a tie-up with ETI, AB has managed to put up a livelihood center in Barangay Concepcion of Malabon City.

In the case of Captain Bernardo, Bautista cannot help but talk about him with tears in her eyes, overflowing with emotion for the respect she has for the diligent captain. Meanwhile, ETI’s role in the project dovetails nicely with its own students’ needs as well as the needs of AB: ETI’s kids actually get to hone their craft by building the livelihood center themselves!

How’s that for a tie-up?

* * *

People as dedicated as those in ETI and AB are few and far between. So while I’d love to sing them more praises, both groups insist that it’s their students, the people they help, that make it all worthwhile. And as the students themselves are passionate and proud in doing what they do, indeed, who could care less about the elitist idea of status? People like them make the world go round.

vuukle comment











Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with