At the east end of Quezon City’s Batasan Road is the sprawling compound of the Philippine Congress: The Batasang Pambansa Complex. Right across the road is the hidden government compound of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The DSWD compound was construction in the Batasan Hills district, between 1978 and 1982, which is around the same time as many of the other government buildings in the area. This was part of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos’ plan to make Quezon City the center of the Philippine government.
The DSWD is the government agency that is responsible for the protection of the social welfare rights of the people, and to promote social development. The History of the DSWD started in 1915, with the establishment of the Public Welfare Board (PWB), which was later replaced by the Bureau of Public Welfare, In 1921. First a bureau under the Department of Public Instruction, it was later moved under the supervision of the Department of Health and Public Welfare, in 1939. The bureau was abolished in 1947, and a new Social Welfare Commission was created under the Office of the President.
Finally in 1968, Department of Social Welfare was created as a independent executive department of the Philippine government. In 1976, it was renamed as the Department of Social Services and Development (DSSD). The department’s name was once again changed to Department of Social Welfare and Development in 1987, which has been its official title ever since.
The DSWD Complex is comprised of the main Administrative Building, and a few newer buildings named Mahusay (capable and efficient) and Matapat (loyal).
The latest building to be added to the compound is the Ina Healing Center, which was inaugurated in 2006. A project of Maria Georgina “Gina” Perez-de Venecia, the Ina (Mother) Healing Center was supposed to be a facility that provides free psycho-social support to bereaved mothers who have lost their children at birth.
Sad to say, some of services of the Ina Healing Center are no longer continued, however the building has become a registration station for the hundreds and thousands of people who come to the DSWD everyday seeking financial support for their studies, medical bills, and even funeral bills.
Although there are hardly any note works structures or artworks throughout the DSWD Complex, the Ina Healing Center is filled with painting created by its founder, Maria Georgina “Gina” Perez-de Venecia, which she donated during the inauguration of the center.
Maria Georgina “Gina” Perez-de Venecia (born 1949) is a business woman, painter, radio and television host and politician. “Manay Gina”, as she is fondly called by the public, started working in the family business, Sampaguita Pictures, of the Vera-Perez clan. Perez-de Venecia’s public life started when her husband, Jose Claveria de Venecia Jr. (born 1949), entered into politics. While her husband was the Speaker of the House, at the Philippine Congress, Perez-de Venecia led the Congressional Spouses Foundation, Inc., and hosted her outreach programs such as “Pira-pirasong Pangarap” and “Nagmamahal, Manay Gina” on radio and television. After her husband’s term in Congress ended, Perez-de Venecia ran and won as the Congresswoman of the Fourth District of Pangasinan province.
Aside from Congresswoman De Venecia’s paintings, there is a small illustration of the Ina Healing Center staff created by one of its people, Mr. Milo Comoda.
My last visit to the DSWD was not to document the art and architecture of the compound, but to line up for financial assistance in a family medical emergency. During the hours I spent that day waiting in line, I discovered how the people bonded with one another as they shared their own tales of suffering and woe, and how much whatever monetary support the government may give us will help in easing our burdens. Despite our dire individual circumstances, we offered each other emotional support, advice and prayers. We were all strangers, not asking each other’s names; yet for one day we were like a family. One the last station of the DSWD process, we were waiting by the car park, which the DSWD employees turned into an impromptu volleyball field. The different departments of the DSWD formed their own teams, and held a sportsfest to build teamwork and boost morale. The games that ensued helped entertain us as we have been waiting in line for hours. We cheered, and also shouted our own pointers to the players. Soon it was night, and the games had ended, and still we waited. As the hours ticked by, the crowd slowly dwindled. We were called one by one, and received the promissory notes from the DSWD to give to the hospital, drugstore, school or funeral parlor to which we had to pay. As we each accepted that precious piece of paper, we gave thanks to the staff who had also been working hard all day and on to the night, knowing that tomorrow will be another long line of people needing help. We bade goodbye to our companions, who we shared our lives, during those long hours of waiting. Then we walked off into different direction, disappearing into the night, ready to present that promissory note and ease that burden off our shoulders.