Do you recall the setting of the very first "Pangako Sa'yo" being inspired by the Payatas garbage slide that happened on the year of its first broadcast? Did you know that the place where the deadly tragedy happened was ironically called "Lupang Pangako"? Do you remember the "Bangkang Papel Boys" of Payatas, who became poster boys of Gloria's first promises in her reign? What happened to the promises uttered to them?
At the peak of the so-called Thalia fever in the Philippines, ABS-CBN introduced its first drama series to be called a teleserye, a film and soap hybrid. "Pangako Sa'Yo," starred by Kristine Hermosa and Jericho Rosales, was a typical love story of a poor lady (Yna Macaspac played by Kristine) and a rich guy (Angelo Buenavista played by Jericho) who both fought for their love despite the objection of the rich guy's mother (Claudia Buenavista played by Jean Garcia). It also portrayed the story of a resentful mother (Amor Powers played by Eula Valdes) who thought she had lost her daughter in a garbage slide and pledged to take revenge on her former boyfriend (Eduardo Buenavista played by Tonton Gutierrez), who happened to be the patriarch of the Buenavista family. Little did she (Amor) know that her daughter (Maria Amor) survived the tragedy and now lives with another name (Yna).
With its social relevance that captured its masa audience, the soap gave Mexican telenovelas a run for their money after reaching a massive hit during its run. A TV rating of 64.9 percent for its final episode was attained, considered the country's highest-rating TV finale. The show also gained international prominence, being successfully distributed in 14 countries.
But do you believe that misfortunes from teleseryes happen in real life? It’s somewhat a yes for those who took the “promised land” as the stepping stone for the flourishing life they hoped for a lifetime. By its name, “Lupang Pangako” gives its history away.
In 1990, informal settlers from different parts of Quezon City were relocated to this side of Barangay Payatas by the city government under then-Mayor Brigido Simon. The chief executive placed them under a Community Mortgage Program that allowed them to gain lot ownership. However, the land of promise turned into a land of hell. The metropolis used a large portion of its lot as a dump by the following city administration.
On July 10, 2000, the “mountain of garbage” approached the housing site and eventually collapsed on the houses with as many as one thousand died (though the government acknowledged only about 260) and hundreds of injuries. The dumping ground was immediately closed by then-President Joseph Estrada but was reopened weeks later by then-Mayor Ismael Mathay, Jr. to avert one huge stinking nation’s capital.
Years later, legislators came up with a national policy on solid waste management to close open dumpsites by 2004 and controlled dumpsites by 2006. Payatas dumpsite was reconfigured as a controlled disposal facility in 2004 but was closed in 2010. In January 2020, a court found the Quezon City government liable for the tragic dumpsite slide and ordered to pay 6 million in damages to legal heirs of 56 victims.
With the nightmare brought by the mountain of garbage, a daydream was given by what they thought was "just another trash." All it took was a single paper boat to alter the three young boys' future from calvary to paradise. Shortly after the dumpsite's tragic incident, the Bangkang Papel boys conveyed their grievances to then newly installed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo through an urban poor group. They were Edwin Dolera – 8-years-old, Jomer Pabalan – 10-years-old, and Jayson Vann Banogon, 10-years-old. Dolera asked for the dumpsite closure, Pabalan asked for his father's job, while Banogan asked for education. Together with 30 other children, boys wrote their dreams and wishes on paper, which they folded into boats and let float on Pasig River towards Malacanang Palace. The paper mache never reached the Palace, but activity caught the attention of Arroyo.
On her first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Arroyo presented the story of the boys who touched the hearts of many. She invited them to her office and gave them a scholarship, livelihood, and other support services. In 2010, Dolera and Pabalan reported that the Aquino administration terminated their scholarship after they took office and recommended instead for the ‘Study Now, Pay Later’ program. Despite this, then-Secretary Dinky Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has committed to continue their educational assistance. On the other hand, Arroyo continued her promise to support their education ever after her term.
In July 2016, Dolera died at San Lazaro Hospital after two weeks of battling pneumonia and complications due to tuberculosis. He was 24 at the time of his death. Dolera was a production assistant of News 5. Meanwhile, Banogon did not pursue his studies amid government support while Pabalan reportedly took up Information Technology at the AMA University in Quezon City.
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