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.