The year was 2000. Alma Narciso, then 30 years old, had just given birth to her child when a strong storm caused massive flooding in parts of Metro Manila. Alma and her family lived by the riverside in San Miguel, Manila, one of the gravely affected communities.
“It only took seconds. When I came out to check, the water was already chest-deep. Our roof was blown away, and my partner had to chase after it. I was really nervous. I got sick because of that,” recalled Alma.
Whenever there’s a typhoon or heavy rains in their previous place, it would usually take a month or two before the flood would subside. She was constantly worried about the leaking roof and the environment where her children were growing in. But even without a storm, there’s always that fear that they would be forced to leave their place because they were informal settlers.
“I was always anxious because my kids were still young at that time, and they were all studying. My partner and I used to pick up scraps from the dumpsite and took side jobs just to provide for the family. If we’re forced to leave our place, where would we go? Where would they take us? If we needed to pay a monthly rent, what about our food and other daily needs,” said Alma.
The moment that she feared the most came, and they immediately had to leave the place. The local government offered to relocate them to Montalban, Rizal. But they rejected it because it was too far from their source of livelihood. So, when another opportunity knocked on their door to move to a housing project in Pasig City, they didn’t hesitate to take it.
Just like other families, who got the chance to have a Habitat home, Alma and her family did 1,000 hours of sweat equity, clearing the project site, laying bricks, and ultimately building their home. To them, it was a fulfilling experience to work alongside other families.
“It was challenging, but we were happy. A lot of families worked together. I’m glad that we now live in a house that we helped build,” said Alma, adding, “I’m truly grateful and overjoyed because this it the fruit of our hard work. We don’t have to fear the storm anymore.”
Alma and her family moved into Habitat Pasig 2 community in Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City, in 2012. The house was named after her mother, who had bone cancer and passed away shortly after they transferred. The move-in was tough but, at the same time, a blessing. Alma felt that the house was her mother’s parting gift to the family – a legacy that she left behind for generations to come.
“It was her lifelong dream to have her own home. I’m glad that it came true before she passed away. My father also died recently due to COVID-19. It was too painful for us. That reminds me that this house was theirs, and now, we’re taking care of it, and we’ll pass it on to our children and grandchildren,” said Alma.
Alma and her family are now peacefully living in their own safe and decent home, in a community that they helped develop. With her kids starting to work and provide for the family, they can comfortably build the life they want without fearing eviction. Best of all, they can finally have a good night’s sleep even during a storm.</p
“In the past, we would fear that we might end up floating in the water whenever there’s a storm. Here, every time it would rain, we can sleep soundly and worry-free at night,” said Alma.