Confessions of a Payatas Volunteer
Back in my scholastic days, I always succeeded in circumventing activities involving outreach and social involvement. Volunteerism was outlawed in a calendar filled with academic priorities and officer duties. Today I chastise myself for this absurdity. For selecting geek-ness over charity, immersion is the only way to check if I do have a soul. I fear I lost it when I first rode the Ikot.
And so for the infamous Payatas—my first time came in the most unusual invitation of all, a Payatas Football Club clinic and Grand Opening of the FFA drop-in center. More on those strange terms later.
Join the (Payatas Football) Club
Partly representing Global FC, I came to Payatas in my most fail-safe get-up, dreading to co-facilitate the football clinic because in all honesty—despite owning a legit Lazy Black Cat jersey—I do not play football. Still I went there with the expectation to help, try to teach, to make up for my decades of social complacency and lastly, to learn what in the world is this Payatas Football Club.
At least prior to this, I already knew that such a club exists and no longer felt the shock when I spotted a barangay of children playing barefooted football in a basketball court. I don’t even walk barefoot at home, and there they were, hordes of little ones playing football on their feet like nothing else mattered in the world. Welcome to Payatas.
As it turns out, the Payatas Football Club is coached by British but Payatas dweller Roy Moore. It seems that Roy exemplifies the genuine volunteer’s life; he lives in Payatas and holds this clinic on a weekly basis—no setbacks. Shame on those who’ve never even heard of Payatas.
With 60+ children populating the court, the group was divided into 2 age groups and instinct made me gravitate me towards the little ones—and boy, were they little! It was rather amusing to watch these kids (I’m guessing 7 and below, but I could be wrong because they were all small for their age) kick the ball which was half their size. They wanted to learn football and did the drills with almost perfect compliance. They performed the burpees so effortlessly, it seemed that they were filled with air.
I repeat, they were so great with their burpees, so impressive, that I lost my self-esteem for a minute. Okay, make it a day.
Of course the “Club” isn’t complete with the children alone. The “others” (a.k.a. volunteers, friends, supporters and Roy’s friends) also make up the party. There are some staple Kaya FC faces and followers, a few from Global FC and little kids who join in the drills—and manage to do the burpees too!
Families are most welcome to join in the volunteer fun and foreigners are common sights. Roy’s mate, Chris became a newfound acquaintance as the chat on tattoos became a topic of interest. That, and why Lexton Moy decided to go barefoot during the exhibition match. Make friends, not war.
Let’s go, Global!
The exhibition game that followed was action-packed with a bit of drama of scraped knees and a bloody forehead on the side. Being there with Global FC (not for or on behalf of ) I should’ve cheered on their side, but with their opponents made up of barefoot and sando-clad kids who kicked harder than my Muay Thai classmates, oh dear, my cheer went straight to them.
How hard was the kick, you might ask? A horribly strong kick—my wrist hurt from deflecting it! If not for my defense tactic, I’d have one less tooth today and you’d have one less whiny food blogger. And please don’t say, “Keep the balls coming!”
Global FC, represented by Miji Gonzales (not a player but looks like one) and Amani Aguinaldo (the player and U-23 Azkals) played in separate groups alongside new allies from Kaya FC. This made it more of a Friendship Game as they played against the toughest from Payatas FC.
As earlier mentioned, their toughness and strength are unquestionable and so if you are in need of those traits, outside the area of football, you know where to find them.
No wait, I know where to find them, but I won’t just tell you. (Hint, hint)
Play Fair or Fair Play?
Apparently all these activities fall under the umbrella of this Foundation I just learned of. Everyone kept on referring to The Foundation, I felt like I was in a Resident Evil movie, sans the umbrella and zombies. Turns out they were talking about the Fairplay for All Foundation (FFA) which was printed on the shirt of Lexton Moy, which I was staring at while he was chatting away with Miji.
Right. Now it makes sense!
Foundation. Football. Fairplay. Empowering kids on and off the pitch. You can read about them in their Facebook page, but I prefer to quote Miji Gonzales of Global FC:
There are so many CSR and outreach programs out there, but this (FFA) is the one that I support because for some reason, it just feels right for me.
Awww.. As they say, birds of the same feather rock together.
Roy Moore, the famous face, is just a co-director of the FFA and a lot of people and families are behind this Foundation. They support and organize the activities and campaigns for the Payatas children. A lot has already happened and I feel like such a late bloomer, only learning about this foundation last week.
I’m sure I share this sentiment with a few other football advocates, but fret not. We are not losers in this field; we can make up for lost time. I mean, you can make up for lost time since I’ve already been there.
It doesn’t matter if you’re late, that you can’t play football or are too cholesterol laden to participate in the drills (I didn’t, don’t worry, and they won’t judge you). What matters is that if you volunteer, you won’t regret it and yes, it’s a free pass to get to play football every Saturday!
Good deal huh—I thought so too!
Drop in, not Drop out!
Last thing on my list was the opening of the drop-in center. I earlier envisioned a rummage sale or an evacuation site for dropping off donations, but that does not make much sense when tied to Fairplay and Football. Again I was wrong—as expected.
Calling it the drop-in center was quite an understatement. It’s the “FFA Headquarters” which hosts a school and play-welfare center for the children. It has teachers (Math and English), a playroom and a rooftop with one heck of a view. It sells various snacks, like those awesome pizzas and vegan burger, and for a small institution, it has a vision that involves getting children to learn, to have a live and gain access to a future.
We planted seeds as a symbol of the FFA’s quest and I do hope my plant lives to see these children prosper.
If you ever drive by Payatas out on a whim, do drop by that place. The pizza is only P15, the place is fab and the kids + Roy will surely make your day!
V for Volunteer
Having avoided the V word (volunteer) all these decades, it felt as if I crammed all my years of lost charity into this half day at Payatas, to be capped off with my run in the typhood-floodwater with Amani and Miji. It was also my first time to run (not bathe) in the rain, and it was NOT fun despite what everyone says. Actually I will never understand why people find joy in this activity because what I got from this was load of soiled clothes. From Payatas with love was the note. Joy.
Still, the Payatas Experience sans the floodwater run-in, was striking, heartwarming and will be the theme of my dreams for many more nights. I may be a food blogger but this encounter warrants a post from my blog and yes, a spot in my newly found soul. I guess I do have a soul and somehow it surfaced when the football nearly gave me a concussion in the head. “Wake up!” it seemed to scream in my face.
Uh-huh, I am now.
Photos, despite their abundance, will not be able to capture the essence of the situation in Payatas, but I will try my best to express them in words:
Traumatized by corruption in the country, I have never been a proponent of charity, considering this a venue for political gain. However my actual duty in Payatas—albeit brief—rendered a lasting impression of the actual situation of poverty. The children’s longing runs beyond the physical which we already are aware of but touches a different realm—one which necessitates an emotion that no Peso equivalent can match. They yearn for company, for laughter and parental love. They need actual caring and affection, not just a pat of a random stranger who will forget them right after. Clothes, shelter and food form basic needs, but nothing will match the comfort of a real home and a mother’s warm touch. These are things we as volunteers cannot give them—but the simple joys we can provide, even for a couple of hours are enough to give them lasting smiles. As volunteers we are not expected to replace an existing family, but instead, give hope to these children and bridge them to a future. These drills and games are transient but the support and inspiration we give, will give them a tomorrow.
I guess it doesn’t matter that I don’t play football. While I do support the game and write about it—here’s another chance to show my love for it. The real kind, where fairplay and football are promoted—with a promise of a future. I think that’s fair enough.