• by Shareen Elnaschie

    Following the devastation caused by tropical storm Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, questions on where and how to resettle over 100,000 prioritised Informal Settler Families (ISFs) became the focus of much needed attention. These families, currently situated in high level risk zones within Metro Manila – mostly along polluted and congested waterways – are the first to suffer when the city experiences extreme and frequent weather events. The strong preference for in-city relocation, an ever-growing population and costs associated with building upon poor soil, has catalysed a renewed interest in what are commonly known as medium rise buildings (MRBs: buildings up to a maximum of five storeys).

    Whilst the emphasis is on providing safe housing as quickly as possible – relying on currently available models – there is need to invest in parallel investigation. Much opportunity exists to learn from past experiences and to challenge the way that we conceive of, and conduct, resettlement projects. Towards this aim, TAO Pilipinas, under their Young Professionals scheme, initiated a research project investigating three MRB projects within Metro Manila, focusing on the physical aspects of the projects and how they relate to the socio-economic sphere.

    The three chosen projects represent different approaches to housing provision. Separated by the Estero de Vitas, Katuparan Housing (1990) and the Smokey Mountain (2004) development make an interesting comparison. Both house approximately 1,200 families from a similar catchment area and both suffer from similar site ailments: poor ground conditions, poor air quality and pollution from the nearby R-10 highway and industrial port, and flooding. TFI Townhomes (2009) by Habitat for Humanity is an example of a more inclusive approach that is made possible by working with smaller beneficiary groups.

    The goal of this study was to take an objective approach to assess the successes and failures of these projects, to begin to distinguish common themes and issues and to identify key questions and areas for further research and enquiry. The first stage of this research was presented at a round-table discussion at the Department for Interior and Local Government (DILG) office, involving members from DILG, National Housing Association (NHA), Partnership of Philippine Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA) and other key housing stakeholders. The following is a concise summary of the findings and initial conclusions from the discussion.
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  • by Analyn Borbe

    A house in Kasiglahan Village 1 that was never occupied by relocatees. Photo taken in 2011

    My name is Analyn Romero Borbe, 31 years old, single mother of three cute children: two boys and one girl. I am the eldest among four children of Oscar and Gloriosa Borbe, who are both from Bicol. My father was born in Tabaco, Albay while my mother’s hometown is Arroyo, Masbate which is also where I was born. As a child, I had a great dream and that is to become a lawyer.

    My father worked as a construction worker in San Juan, Metro Manila (now San Juan City) for former Mayor (and incidentally former Philippine president) Joseph Estrada’s municipal projects called “Pagawaing Bayan ni Erap.” These projects included the construction of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC), Police Station, Public Market, Fire Station, among others. My father also served as caretaker and took care of the maintenance of one of the barracks behind the MTC and the Philippine National Police. That barrack became our house from 1982 until we were relocated to Kasiglahan Village 1, San Jose, Rodriguez, Rizal in 1999.

    November 2, 1999 is a date that is still vivid in my mind. Memories of the demolition still haunt me until now. While carrying my month-old child, I saw how the demolition team destroyed dwellings including the house that we lived in for so many years. I cried the whole time while constantly reminding myself to be strong and accept the fact that we did not own the land. But we are Filipinos too and we believed that we have the right to live in this country. Thus we asked the local government for resettlement. The local government led by its former mayor Jinggoy Estrada (son of Joseph Estrada, and now a senator) offered relocation sites in Laguna and in Montalban. We chose to relocate in Montalban as it is nearer the city. I was 19 years old then – perhaps very young yet so much aware of my responsibilities as a mother as well as the eldest child in the family.

    My family belonged to the first batch of families that resettled in Kasiglahan, which was actually not yet ready for relocation at that time. It lacked even the most basic services and all of us suffered. The PhP5000 and food assistance provided by the LGU lasted only a month. The market was very far from the relocation site that transportation would cost a lot. We fetched non-potable water from a well (which was also far from our house). Since water was not safe to drink, a lot of us got sick. I myself suffered from amoebiasis. Luckily, I was able to buy cheap Chinese medicine from a peddler – the medicine plus a lot of faith made me well.

    We starved the following month. Since I was breastfeeding my child, I needed nutritious food. Thus, we would get kangkong (water spinach) and catch halaan (freshwater clams) in small ponds and streams nearby. Read more…

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  • by Evangeline Serrano

    Evangeline Serrano

    My name is Evangeline Serrano. I was born and raised in Makati City. It is also where I obtained my
    primary and secondary education. I took up Education in college but was not able to finish due to financial constraints. Being the eldest in the family, I chose to quit schooling so my other siblings can go to school, too. Eventually I became an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) to be able to help my family. I worked in Saipan as a domestic helper for seven years. It is also where I got married and gave birth to a son.

    My mother always got sick. Because of this I returned to the Philippines with my son, and stayed with my parents in Makati. We lived in a house beside a river. And while it was not the nicest house to live
    in, we had this constant sense of stability because of relatives and friends who lived nearby, and who
    were always ready to lend a hand in times of need. Access to social services was easy: a hospital and
    a school were near our place that we did not have to spend much for transportation. Life was fine, until
    we were informed of a demolition.

    It was in 2000 when the government relocated us to Kasiglahan Village I in Barangay San Jose, Montalban, Rizal. Twelve years ago, they said we had to relocate because of the government’s Pasig Rehabilitation Program that intended to clean up the Pasig River. Read more…

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