Habitat Philippines Blog Page

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A Village Built by Love

From India’s Taj Mahal to Cebu City’s Temple of Leah, history is familiar with gestures of love solidified in shrines and castles. Who would have thought that a Habitat community would be built from a similar fate through Micky and Maritess Alava-Yong?

It began with Micky’s desire to honor his late wife, Maritess by starting a foundation in her name. From there, a village filled with the hopes of its residents had risen in Silay City, Negros Occidental as a new beginning for less fortunate families.

The land that was once empty found new purpose, through the partnership and collaboration among Habitat for Humanity International, Habitat for Humanity Philippines, Maritess Alava-Yong (M.A.Y) Foundation, Inc., Base Bahay Foundation, Inc., the Hilti Foundation, and the Silay City local government. The M.A.Y Village’s Katuwang Community in BonBon Resettlement Project Phase III, Barangay E. Lopez is nestled in lush greens, just 20 minutes away from the city center and is home to 86 low-income families who were once informal settlers or living in danger zones.

In January 2018, construction began for 43 duplexes or 86 housing units using Base Bahay’s Cement Bamboo Frame Technology. Habitat and the LGU had selected the families who would become homepartners—some used to live along danger zones, while others were evicted from privately owned lands. All of them did not have the financial capacity to have a safe, disaster-resilient home of their own.

Gina Dicen’s family was one of the chosen ones. A single mother of 5, Gina and her kids were at risk of eviction when the life-changing opportunity came. Determined to have a decent place of their own, she did ‘sweat equity,’ in which homepartners would help in the construction of the houses. Her motivation was the hope that one of those houses would soon be hers.

Emelyn Almaden, who lost her arm in accident, is no stranger to hardship, but also knows what it means to bounce back. With a smile, she narrates how in spite of losing an arm, she is still one of the best clothes washers, with many return clients. She and her family composed of two deaf mute teenage children are overflowing with gratitude to have been chosen to have a Habitat home.

For Razil Madersi, flooding was a regular part of their lives. Because of the high cost of living in Manila, they lived in an area that was flooded daily. They returned home to Negros with the hopes of a better life, but also found themselves faced with the same problem. At the slightest sign of rain, they had to wait for a week or two before the waters would subside. Salvation came when they were chosen to have a Habitat home in the M.A.Y village.

The Habitat-M.A.Y Foundation partnership goes beyond house construction. Upholding the commitment to build strength, stability, and self-reliance, the partnership also funded social preparation trainings and community development programs for the holistic growth and progress of the village.

Last September 23, 2019, a 95-sqm multi-purpose center was turned over to the community which coincided with the launch of the Negros Occidental Impact Coalition. The coalition aims to build on the success of the M.A.Y Village and build 10,000 sustainable, innovative, disaster-resilient, and environment-friendly homes in the province in only five years.

Born out of love, built through kindness and hard work, transformed by hope and determination, the M.A.Y village is a legacy in itself — for beyond the structures, it has also created a community that lives in harmony and holds promise for a brighter future.

The Greatest Gift

Meravic Nalang and her family were no strangers to moving from one place to another.  Her husband’s job as a pastor meant they would move 18 times in the last couple of years, mostly staying in a parsonage or renting a space.

“Way back 2014, it was in my prayer list to have a house for my children because constantly moving was really hard for me. Then I heard from Joel of CSC that they would have a housing project with Habitat. As a CSC counselor, I was so happy and grateful to be chosen as one of the beneficiaries.”

With the promise of a new home, things were supposed to get easier for Meravic’s family. The plan was to stay in their family’s ancestral house while building their new home in CSC but the owners did not allow them to. They had no choice but to ask their friends for a place to stay. One friend responded that they could stay in his coffin shop, if they wanted.  “We stayed in the coffin shop for two years. Then the owner told us that they already needed to use the space because they were planning to start a retreat house.”

Homeless but far from losing hope, Meravic’s family thought of constructing a makeshift house in front of the coffin shop using scrapped materials like tarpaulins, galvanized iron sheets, and plywood. Their resourcefulness paved the way for a temporary shelter. “Whenever it would rain, our books and clothes would get wet. It forced us to burn 80% of our things because we could not use them anymore. The area was also prone to flooding. We could not sleep well at night because the ants would pester us.”

Their circumstances though did not dampen their spirit but instead boosted their motivation to work and finish their home.  “I encouraged my kids to work hard (when we had to participate in sweat equity) because this home will eventually be theirs… We worked even on our rest days, holidays, (and) summer breaks.”

Years of hard work, dedication, and patience paid off. Meravic and her family finally reaped the fruit of their labor—a decent home of their own—away from risks, hazards, and eviction. Those days of distress and uncertainty are nothing but part of a memory and a history to tell their grandchildren. “This is the greatest gift I’ve ever had…We sleep (better) now… When (we leave work)… we’re proud to say that we’re going home and it’s ours.”

An Answered Prayer

“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

This is the guiding verse that Daisy Allocod has held on to throughout her life. Her modest demeanor and optimistic aura offers no clue to the challenges she has been through. Things began going downhill when her ex-husband left her with four children 13 years ago.

Her voice begins to quake as she reminisces. “We moved from one house to another, around three or four times. We got evicted because instead of paying the rent, I would allot the money for my kids’ school projects. There were times when I would rather walk long distances just to get to work and save money for my children.”

Daisy remembers when she only had 85 pesos in her pocket and was left with no choice but to pawn her bankcard to a money lending company. As a daily wage earner for an orphanage, every day was spent counting change and praying that they have enough, somehow.  “I don’t know how God helped me provide for my kids when I almost had no money. At times, we had nothing to eat and my children had to endure that.”

Even with no end to the struggle in sight, Daisy remained strong, determined, and always positive and hopeful. She still considered herself blessed to have responsible, understanding children, who managed to win scholarships. But Daisy knew that to break the cycle of poverty, they needed to have a house of their own.

God answered her prayer.

“I prayed hard to God that He would help me buy a small house where I could retire. And I was so lucky! God gave me this house. I was overjoyed when I got selected as one of the beneficiaries. I still keep the letter I received that day,” Daisy recalls.

Daisy and her kids worked tirelessly with other homepartners in building new houses – a true testament of the Filipinos’ bayanihan spirit. In 2019, she finally got the key not only to their new home but also to the better life, she had always prayed for. “I’m so happy and grateful that I have a beautiful home for my kids and my future grandkids.”

With two college graduates, a working college student, a high school scholar, and a home they can call their own, Daisy is finally ready to retire.  Asked about what else she wants, she answers, eyes brimming with tears of gratitude— “I only have one dream. I want to serve the Lord and give back all the blessings I’ve received from Him.”

Of Hope and New Beginnings

It’s nine a.m. in the Fabiano residence; clothes are left drying outside, the washing machine rumbles faintly, and a cool gentle breeze surrounds the small area. 50-year-old Ate Rosalinda turns off the television and welcomes us, students yet strangers, inside her humble home. As we remove our shoes, we are welcomed by three-year-old Angela, who giggles behind her mother’s back, and two-year-old Mikhael, who gazes at us suspiciously hiding himself with a toy gun larger than his face.

All is well, as it should be; and today, we observe the simple and ordinary life of the Fabiano family. It’s a normal family situation, but behind the curious smiles, and the plethora of Hello Kitty trinkets found in all corners of the room, is a story of struggle and hope for the Fabianos.

I curiously look around the living space and the first thing I notice is a piece of yellow paper containing the family’s “house rules.” Written are generic house rules like ‘be responsible,’ ‘no screaming,’ and ‘no smoking.’ Ironically, a pack of cigarettes is beside the note to which Ate Rosalinda says, “Yung anak ko ‘yung nagsulat niyan. Nasa Manila siya.

The stay-at-home grandmother, along with her husband who, according to her, drinks often, has four kids—three of them work in construction while the youngest studies somewhere in Manila. I didn’t get to take note of exactly where the youngest studies as I was distracted by Ate Rosalinda’s grandchild, Mikhael, who eagerly starts shooting his toy gun at our direction.

After a series of awkward and stagnant topics regarding what her family is like or what they do, forced input about the weather, and awkward silences occasionally killed by the hyperactive and no-longer-shy grandchildren, we raise a question that leads to a sharing of the family’s personal struggle.

We ask, “Paano po ‘yung buhay niyo bago kayo lumipat dito?

Ate Rosalinda replies, “Walang kabuhayan [sa Silangan] tapos ‘yung asawa ko, walang trabaho, at ‘yung mga anak ko, pa extra-extra lang doon at nag-aaral pa ‘yung dalawa dati.”

During the conversation, she brings up the Ondoy tragedy which left parts of Manila in a state of calamity in 2009. “Madami rin kami nawala sa Ondoy eh,” she shares. “Wala kaming natirang gamit … nung inabot na kami ng Ondoy, nabaha. Kumuha na kami ng bahay dito kasi ‘di kami mapakali doon eh. Pagdating ng ulan, ‘di kami makatulog.”

After having their belongings wiped away and leaving their family with nothing, they found shelter in public schools and barangay halls. With the support of the government, Ate Rosalinda and her family was able to have a fresh start.

“Dito, kahit umulan, hindi na kami kinakabahan. Panatag na ‘yung kalooban namin dito,” she shares with a tone of gratitude.

In having a stable home, the Fabiano family need not worry again about their belongings being wiped away by floods. They can now sleep in comfort knowing they have a roof to protect their family’s heads as they sleep soundly.

With Ate Rosalinda’s stories and countless insights accompanies by noises from rowdy grandkids, we lose track of time and suddenly realize it is already time to leave. It’s 11 a.m., the household is surrounded by the aroma of the adobo that Ate Rosalinda has been heating, the rice cooker alarm goes off, and Mikhael and Angela’s mother tries to get a hold of them to prepare them for a bath.

It’s just a normal day and all is well as it should be in the Fabiano residence.

Photo and story by Eia Collantes// Benildean Press Corps
Eia is a Habitat for Humanity Young Leaders Build volunteer from the College of St Benilde.

Picking Up the Pieces

The sun shines brightly overhead as we walk to our assigned house. As we get near our destination, I take a moment to survey the neighborhood of Bistekville 1, taking in the plethora of colorful yet tightly-packed townhouses. The Ate accompanying us points to our stop, revealing a slightly frazzled-looking Norma Kamatoy who welcomes us to her home.

‘Small’ is the first word that comes to mind as she ushers us past the threshold of her home. Taking the offered seat, I look around the room curiously. In the corner of the living room hangs a clothesline with clothing set out to dry. To my left, their old television surrounded by piles of memorabilia fill the silence with the sound of this morning’s basketball game. My eyes wander to a rather narrow hallway leading towards the inner parts of their home, registering the simple kitchenette there as well.

Short introductions are made before we move into the actual interview. Ate Norma comes off as timid, if not awkward, at our initial exchange. Not that we could blame her, after all, who were we but strangers borrowing a moment of her time? She starts with a gentle apology at the state of her home, “Magulo ang bahay, ‘daming inaayos.” We are quick to reassure her that it was indeed no problem. Though admittedly it was a bit distracting talking to her when, less than five feet away, a man lay asleep on a mattress. She had just gotten home from her 10pm-to-7am shift as a caregiver, admitting she forgot she was expecting guests.

The Kamatoy family had only just settled into their current home, a result of rough transition brought about by Typhoon Ondoy in 2009. She recalls her decision to move here to Bistekville 1, “Napilitan lumipat eh.”

In the wake of one the of the worst natural disasters to hit the country, Ate Norma and her family found themselves part of the hundred thousands of Filipinos struggling to stay afloat in its aftermath. It only took one calamity and all their belongings were gone; trapped for days atop a tree seeking refuge from the flood that hit the greater metro.

A large part of Ate Norma’s daily struggles stem from a lack of financial stability. It’s not as easy as it was before, she claims; explaining that her old sari-sari store/pa-loadan wouldn’t be ideal in a village like this. She just can’t afford the risk of lugi, especially not now when money is as tight as it was. Instead, she makes ends meet working as a ‘stay-out’, where she would do odd jobs such as housekeeping and laundering for whoever would take her. It was her acceptance into an agency for caretakers that really seemed to turn the tides of their luck.

During the interview, Ate Norma attends to her grandson,  nicknamed Macho by the family. She shares that Macho became the panganay in their little family when her eldest son passed away long before their relocation. Macho’s father, Jhon (the man sprawled out on the mattress from a long shift at work) is the other breadwinner of the household. Because of their situation, Jhon opted to drop out of college and instead help Ate Norma with the household expenses.

Mae Anne is the youngest of  Ate Norma’s children, and her mother is determined to get at least one of her children through to college. Worry and frustration is evident as she thinks of the increasingly expensive school fees for the next year. “’Di naman pwede [na] ‘di bilhan ng libro,” Ate Norma states, wearily.

The progressively somber air was suddenly cut by a loud cheer. My attention momentarily shifts to Mae Anne, who watches gleefully as a player on the screen shoots yet another basket for his team.

Our interview seems to take a lighter route after that. Despite the tiresome nature of life, Ate Norma shares the simple joys of the townspeople, even if it’s just for a time: from something as small as touching a passing celebrity’s hand as they settle in the area, to more intimate moments such as past birthday celebrations spent in the solemn beauty of a church. These are the small moments that make hardship all the more bearable for people like them.

Our interview comes to an end I see the true power of a mother’s love in Ate Norma’s soft smile as she cradles Macho. In the tragedy of 2009, Ate Norma found herself scrambling to pick up the pieces of their lives. Now, years later, she continues to move forward, armed with enough hope and drive to create a better future for her and her family.

Story by Agatha Ramos / Photo by Mac Ypon / Benildean Press Corps
Agatha and Kyle are Habitat for Humanity Young Leaders Build volunteers from the College of St Benilde.

Tanza Relocation Site


The massive destruction of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) last November 2013 brought Habitat for Humanity Philippines and
various local government units, private corporations, organizations and individuals together to help rebuild the lives of families affected by the disaster.

Barangay Sulangan in the town of Bantayan in Bantayan Island, northern Cebu was identified by Habitat for Humanity as one of the relocation sites for survivors of Yolanda.

Rebuild Philippines: Yolanda (Haiyan)


The massive destruction of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) last November 2013 brought Habitat for Humanity Philippines and
various local government units, private corporations, organizations and indivuduals together to help rebuild the lives of families affected by the disaster.

Barangay Sulangan in the town of Bantayan in Bantayan Island, northern Cebu was identified by Habitat for Humanity as one of the relocation sites for survivors of Yolanda.



The Philippines has a housing backlog of around 5 million. This number does not take into account families affected by both natural and man- made calamities which strike the Philippines every year. Therefore, millions of Filipinos lack access to permanent and decent housing and if there is no intervention to this national issue, the number of houses required is estimated to reach 6.5 million by 2030.

Some of these families have the means to acquire a simple, decent home. In Barangay San Pedro in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, families particularly comprised of public and factory employees fall into this category. However, there are not enough homes offered in the market that fits their financial capacity. Therefore, many families are forced to rent a place that they must share with other families.

Habitat for Humanity Philippines aims to break this generational cycle through developing communities such as Stonewell in Bgy. San Pedro, Batangas. Through this project, Habitat is partnering with all sectors to address these underserved families.

Pasig 2


Thousands of informal settler families live in houses made of light materials along Metro Manila’s waterways, particularly the Pasig River. These make shift houses easily deteriorate and offer little or no protection, as areas on or near waterways are easily prone to flooding when rain and storms affect the city.

Habitat’s Pasig 2 site is intended to provide safe and secure homes that will provide sustainable protection for families living in these areas, or in other dangerous areas of the city.

Pasig 1


Thousands of informal settler families live in houses made of light materials along Metro Manila’s waterways, particularly the Pasig River. These make shift houses easily deteriorate and offer little or no protection, as areas on or near waterways are easily prone to flooding when rain and storms affect the city.

Habitat’s Pasig 1 site is intended to provide safe and secure homes that will provide sustainable protection for families living in these areas, or in other dangerous areas of the city.



In early 2000, the Philippine National Railway opted to renovate railways located in Malabon City. Thousands of families at the time lived beside those affected train tracks, in makeshift houses made of ply board as walls and corrugated iron as roofs.

Habitat’s Karismaville site is intended to provide decent homes for those affected by the railway renovation, by relocating them to an unaffected, safe area in Barangay Panghulo.

Rebuild Bohol


The Rebuild Bohol project aims to assist families in areas affected by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that rocked the province in October 2013. Habitat for Humanity Philippines is partnering with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), local government units in the province, relief and recovery agencies, and corporate donors to rebuild 8,083 earthquake-resilient homes across 17 of the hardest-hit towns in Bohol.

Habitat Philippines has identified the following towns as priority areas: Buenavista, Inabanga, Clarin, Tubigon, Sagbayan, Carmen, Danao, Calape, Loon, Balilihan, Antequera, Catigbian, San Isidro, Corella, Cortes and Maribojoc.