Hearts and Hands2020-01-31T05:01:43+08:00

Welcome to Hearts and Hands!

Our Volunteer Programs Quarterly E-Newsletter

Volunteers are the heart and hands of Habitat for Humanity Philippines. Through various engagement opportunities, people from all walks of life help families build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter. This quarterly publication features volunteer activities and recognizes volunteers who selflessly gave their time and skills to Habitat. 

Habitat Challenge Solution Winner

UP group wins Habitat for Humanity Challenge for an innovative solution on retrofitting foundations of Philippine low-income homes

A team of Philippine instructors and civil engineers from the academic community was announced as the winner of the ‘Habitat for Humanity Challenge: Increasing resilience to Earthquakes and Typhoons for Homes with No Foundations’ in the Philippines.

The University of the Philippines-Diliman’s Construction Engineering and Management Group represented by Dean Ashton Plamenco, Dr. Diocel Harold Aquino, Dr. Fernando Germar, and Ammiel Barros will be awarded a total of $25,000 for their winning solution of the challenge during the virtual event that culminated the global challenge that was launched in October 2020.

The challenge, led by Habitat’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter and Habitat for Humanity Philippines together with SeaFreight Labs and InnoCentive, prompted more than 80 submissions from the InnoCentive platform worldwide to provide innovative solutions on retrofitting houses with no or weak foundations to increase their resilience against earthquakes and typhoons.

In the Philippines, the challenge is also largely supported by Holcim Philippines, Hilti Foundation, and BASE Bahay Foundation.

The winning group’s solution, called the Column Footing Grade Beam Monolith, features isolated reinforced concrete footings, which are placed on the four corners, while all sides of the structure are connected by a plinth beam. The method claims to withstand the required gravity and special loads from earthquakes and strong wind and can be applied for future incremental builds, such as building a second story, from the existing structure.

“Low-income families across the world are underserved by formal housing markets, they tend to build their homes incrementally, often with limited access to sound construction advice and quality, eco-friendly materials. Because of this, Habitat for Humanity is always looking for innovative ways to facilitate affordable upgrades of existing structures,” Scott Merrill, International Program Senior Director of Habitat’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter, said during the virtual event.

“We hope that this is the first of many more innovations that we and others in the business community can help deliver to Habitat. These innovations should help Habitat continue their work in providing more low-income communities with sustainable and affordable solutions to enable building stronger homes,” SeaFreight Labs Founder Harry Sangree added.

Also joining the virtual event were Habitat for Humanity International Vice President for Asia-Pacific Luis Noda; InnoCentive Chief Innovation Officer Jon Fredrickson; Hilti Foundation Board Chairman Marco Meyrat; Holcim Philippines Chief Sustainability Officer Zoe Sibala; BASE Bahay Foundation General Manager Pablo Jorillo Jr., Ph.D.; Habitat for Humanity Philippines Chief Operating Officer Lili Fuentes; and Terwilliger Center Philippine Country Lead Jessan Catre.

Over 200 participants including families from different communities witnessed the virtual announcement of the winner.

Retrofitting foundations for homes in the Philippines
The winning solution was chosen from four finalists whose solutions were evaluated by a panel from SeaFreight Labs, BASE Bahay Foundation, Habitat for Humanity.

The field test involved a “lateral load test,” which simulated the lateral forces of an earthquake and typhoon winds to check how each solution will respond. The solutions were judged on its resilience against typhoons and earthquakes; availability of materials needed; ease of installation among masons and homeowners; and affordability among low-income households.

The Column Footing Grade Beam Monolith earned top scores in the major technical categories of the evaluation, which measures structural resistance to simulated forces typical for typhoons and earthquakes, and exceeded the minimum standards found in the Philippine Structural Code in terms of resiliency.

Additionally, the solution also received top scores in the community acceptability survey conducted with households, artisans, hardware store owners, and the local government, which is an important criterion throughout the selection process.

Other finalists include the Foundation-Fit System by Charles Bunch, Kabir’s Building Stabilization Method by Engr. Humayun Kabir, and Perimeter Concrete Reinforcement Retrofit for Concrete Hollow Block (CHB) Structures by Leonard Duffy. Of the four solutions, Kabir’s Building Stabilization Method did not undergo a field test after further verification on field as the solution failed to comply with the technical and costing requirements indicated by the challenge.

The winner
The Construction Engineering and Management Group is one of the six academic research groups of the Institute of Civil Engineering at the University of Philippines-Diliman. It focuses on research on sustainable housing, disaster-resilient construction, durable infrastructure, and construction method and management. The Institute of Civil Engineering, of which the winning group is a part of, was established in October 2008 to address the need for a center of excellence in civil engineering and its specialized fields, with combined capabilities in instruction, research, and extension service. It is the first and only Institute of Civil Engineering in the Philippines.

Engr. Dean Ashton Plamenco is an instructor at the University of the Philippines Diliman and has authored several research studies on construction engineering, concrete technologies, and construction project management. He finished his bachelor’s degree of Civil Engineering and master’s degree in Industrial Engineering in the same school.

Dr. Fernando Germar is a professor of Civil Engineering at the University of the Philippines Diliman and heads the Construction Engineering and Management Group of the Institute of Civil Engineering. His research materials also include earthquake engineering and seismic design and retrofit of structures. He was also the adviser of the winning team in Bechtel’s Building the Next Century Competition with their research project “Negros-Cebu Bridge.”

Joining Plamenco and Dr. Germar are Dr. Diocel Harold Aquino, assistant professor, Young Scientist Fellow, and recipient of the New Zealand government’s Engineering Research and Development for Technology scholarship; and Engr. Ammiel Barros, a faculty member of the university’s Institute of Civil Engineering.

 The Philippines Challenge
In the Philippines, more than 1 million houses are built without foundations, which poses major concern as the country sits right on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is subject to major earthquakes and typhoons. Unfortunately, low-income families are not able to afford retrofitting foundations of their existing houses because of the additional expenditure.

Faced with these realities, the Habitat for Humanity Challenge was launched in the Philippines in October 2020 to call for cost-effective ways to retrofit houses with a focus on strengthening structures. The innovative solution can help Filipinos have a housing structure that can withstand a 6.5 Richter scale earthquake and a 200-kph typhoon.

Aside from the Philippines, three additional challenges were launched in Kenya, Mexico, and India through InnoCentive’s crowdsourcing platform, which enabled Habitat for Humanity to reach out to solvers who had an extensive track record in solving these challenges and improve the lives and safety of countless people around the globe.

In the Philippines, Habitat for Humanity plans to continue working with the winning team to scale up the solution and make the technology easily accessible to low-income communities. Part of the plans included ways to teach the technology to communities so they could adopt it while repairing their homes.

“(I am firmly convinced that) the solutions presented at today’s event will excite and inspire actors in the Philippine housing sector. We have the collective responsibility to reduce disaster risks and protect vulnerable communities in the Philippines and all over the world. Together, we can contribute to a safer, more sustainable world for everyone,” Luis Noda, Asia-Pacific Vice President, Habitat for Humanity International shared.

Cement Partnership with Holcim

Habitat Philippines, Holcim Philippines cement partnership for socialized housing projects

(MANILA, August 26, 2021) Advocating for decent, affordable, and sustainable housing for Filipino families, top building solution company Holcim Philippines, Inc. forged a commitment to support Habitat for Humanity Philippines’ socialized housing projects.

In a virtual agreement signing, Holcim Philippines committed to providing 34,400 bags of general-purpose cement Holcim Excel to construct homes and community facilities under the Bignay Maunlad Socialized Housing Project in Valenzuela City and the San Carlos Housing Project in Negros Occidental. These housing projects will benefit over 500 low-income families.

Present at the MOA signing were Holcim Philippines Senior Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer Zoe Sibala, Vice President and Head of Communications Cara Ramirez, and Habitat Philippines Chief Operating Officer Lili Fuentes.

“Our vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live aligns with Holcim Philippines’ goal to build greener, smarter, and sustainable communities. This partnership is a testament to how working together for the same purpose can intensify our efforts and multiply our impact. We are grateful to partner with Holcim Philippines in improving the lives of Filipino families through housing,” said Fuentes.

Holcim Philippines has been a steadfast partner of Habitat Philippines in building and empowering communities. In 2017, Holcim Philippines donated 142 tons of cement to help construct 47 houses for the Matigsalug-Manobo Tribe at the Marilog District, Davao City. They also donated over PHP100,000 to distribute hygiene and sanitation kits to families affected by Typhoon Rolly in the Bicol Region.

Championing decent housing for all, Holcim Philippines participated in the 2017 and 2019 Asia-Pacific Housing Forum in Manila, a biennial conference spearheaded by Habitat Philippines that tackles housing issues and solutions. This year, Holcim Philippines has committed to becoming one of Habitat Philippines’ significant partners in staging the first virtual Philippines Housing Forum in November.

“We are excited to continue supporting Habitat Philippines in constructing decent and resilient homes for Filipinos. Putting up affordable homes is a key focus area in our commitment help build progress in the country. This partnership will help us better understand how we can make a bigger impact in constructing these homes through our expertise on innovative and sustainable building materials,” said Sibala.


About Holcim Philippines, Inc.

Holcim Philippines, Inc. (Philippine Stock Exchange: HLCM) is one of the leading building solution companies in the country. The Company has a deep portfolio of innovative solutions fostered by a full range of products from structuring to finishing applications that can help local builders execute with high performance and efficiency, a wide range of projects from massive infrastructure to simple home repairs.

Holcim Philippines is a member of the Holcim Group, the world leader in the building materials industry present in 70 countries with over 70,000 employees.

Holcim exists to build progress for people and the planet. As a global leader in innovative and sustainable building solutions, Holcim is enabling greener cities, smarter infrastructures and improving living standards around the communities at the heart of its success. The company is driving the circular economy as a world leader in recycling to build more with less. Holcim is the company behind some of the world’s most trusted brands in the building sector including ACC, Aggregate Industries, Ambuja Cement, Disensa, Firestone Building Products, Geocycle, Holcim, and Lafarge. Holcim is 70,000 people passionate about building progress for people and the planet across its 70 markets and 4 business segments: Cement, Ready-Mix Concrete, Aggregates, and Solutions & Products.

Habitat for Humanity Challenge

Habitat for Humanity tests innovative, disaster-resilient solutions for low-income households

Leading shelter advocate Habitat for Humanity, together with five leading institutions, tested groundbreaking solutions for a competition that aims to strengthen houses with inadequate or no foundations to withstand the threats of disasters.

In partnership with InnoCentive, SeaFreight Labs, Holcim Philippines, Inc., Hilti Foundation, and BASE Bahay Foundation, this competition is dubbed as the Habitat for Humanity Challenge: Increasing Resilience to Earthquakes and Typhoons for Homes with No Foundations. After a thorough selection and evaluation process, the top solutions were tested in Barangay Bignay, Valenzuela City, one of Habitat for Humanity Philippines’ project sites, where over 300 homes will be constructed for low-income families.

Lack of adequate foundations

Ensuring that a house has a safe and sturdy foundation can help the whole structure endure life-threatening disasters. However, in the Philippines, where frequent seismic activities and around 20 tropical cyclones happen every year, over 1.6 million houses lack strong, adequate, and climate-resilient foundations, making the structures more vulnerable to destruction and putting lives at risk.

Many of these houses are owned by low-income families, who perceive that retrofitting their homes using traditional methods is either too expensive or unnecessary. Habitat for Humanity seeks to address this issue with the support of its partners, thus the birth of the challenge, which called for innovative, affordable methods that can help improve the resistance of these houses to typhoon-force winds and high-magnitude earthquakes.

Finding the right solutions

Habitat for Humanity urged solvers worldwide to submit their proposals. Out of 80 entries, four solutions have advanced to the actual field testing. Housing experts will judge them based on the following criteria: resilience against typhoons and earthquakes, availability of materials needed, ease of installation among masons and homeowners, and affordability among low-income households.

The field testing involved a “lateral load test,” where the lateral forces of an earthquake and typhoon winds were simulated and applied. Using a high-capacity hydraulic jack and movement sensors, this simulation process aims to get the maximum load a structure with an applied solution can endure, how long it will take to crack, and any foundation structural failure it may exhibit.

A community acceptability survey was also conducted among homeowners, whose sentiments play a crucial role in choosing the winner.

Improving low-income housing through innovation

The top solutions presented interesting, cost-effective ways to reinforce homes.

The Foundation-Fit System aims to provide a rigid, stable base to existing Concrete Hollow Blocks (CHB) homes without the need for digging or using common concrete poured galvanized iron C-purlins. This includes lintels over doors and windows, a wall cohesion improvement scheme, and a low-maintenance anchoring system.

Another proposed solution called the Column Footing Beam Monolith claims to withstand the required gravity and special loads using isolated reinforced concrete footings with a plinth beam connecting all sides of the structure.

The Pile-assisted Kabir’s Building Stabilization Method presents an innovative concept of building and strengthening homes by combining special precast miniature piles with the in-situ concrete column that will be anchored to the existing walls of the houses.

Designed to be a simple, inexpensive, and readily assembled retrofit system, the proposed Perimeter Concrete Reinforcement Retrofit for CHB Structures claims that it can be constructed with minimally skilled labor and can be applied to a wide variety of site conditions by providing a continuous reinforcing band around the base of the wall.

The winner will win 25,000 USD.

The Habitat for Humanity Challenge is a global initiative led by the organization through the Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter. Aside from the Philippines, other crowdsourcing challenges that aim to help improve the quality of homes and communities around the world were also launched in Kenya, Mexico, and India, in partnership with SeaFreight Labs and InnoCentive.

Check out more photos of the field test here. For more updates about the Habitat for Humanity Challenge in the Philippines, follow @HabitatPhilippines on Facebook and @habitatphils on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.


About Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter

The Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter, a unit of Habitat for Humanity International, works with housing market systems by supporting local firms and expanding innovative and client-responsive services, products and financing so that households can improve their shelter more effectively and efficiently. The ultimate goal of the Terwilliger Center’s market systems program is to make housing markets work more effectively for people in need of decent, affordable shelter, thereby improving the quality of life for low-income households. To learn more, visit habitat.org/tcis.

About InnoCentive

InnoCentive is the global leader in crowdsourcing innovation problems to the world’s smartest people who compete to provide ideas and solutions to important business, social, policy, scientific, and technical challenges. Their global network of millions of problem solvers, proven challenge methodology, and cloud-based innovation management platform combine to help their clients transform their economics of innovation through rapid solution delivery and the development of sustainable open innovation programs. To learn more, visit https://www.innocentive.com/

About SeaFreight Labs

SeaFreight Labs is an open-innovation consultancy offering turn-key crowd-solving services to the seafreight, maritime and logistics industries. We design and execute global challenges to cost-effectively deliver breakthrough innovation for intractable problems. Visit www.seafreightlabs.com.

About Holcim Philippines, Inc.

Holcim Philippines, Inc. (Philippine Stock Exchange: HLCM) is one of the leading building solution companies in the country. The Company has a deep portfolio of innovative solutions fostered by a full range of products from structuring to finishing applications that can help local builders execute with high performance and efficiency, a wide range of projects from massive infrastructure to simple home repairs.

Holcim Philippines is a member of the Holcim Group, the world leader in the building materials industry present in 70 countries with over 70,000 employees.

Holcim exists to build progress for people and the planet. As a global leader in innovative and sustainable building solutions, Holcim is enabling greener cities, smarter infrastructures and improving living standards around the communities at the heart of its success. The company is driving the circular economy as a world leader in recycling to build more with less. Holcim is the company behind some of the world’s most trusted brands in the building sector including ACC, Aggregate Industries, Ambuja Cement, Disensa, Firestone Building Products, Geocycle, Holcim, and Lafarge. Holcim is 70,000 people passionate about building progress for people and the planet across its 70 markets and 4 business segments: Cement, Ready-Mix Concrete, Aggregates, and Solutions & Products.

About Hilti Foundation

The Hilti Foundation is a joint venture of the Hilti Family and the Hilti Group. With its focus area “Affordable Housing & Technology”, it promotes pioneering housing solutions helping families in need improve their housing situation and start into a better, self-determinant life. To achieve its goals, the foundation engages in long-term relationships with trusted partners testing and driving innovative models and ambitious projects for sustainable impact at scale. Besides Affordable Housing & Technology, the Hilti Foundation focuses on “Music for Social Change” and Economic Empowerment to empower individuals and communities to shape their own future. For more information please visit www.hiltifoundation.org.

About BASE Bahay Foundation, Inc.

Base Bahay Foundation is a foundation that provides alternative building technologies to enable a network of partners to build quality socialized homes.  Homes that are Comfortable, Affordable, Disaster Resilient, Ecologically Friendly, and with Social Impact. BASE develops technologies using locally grown and renewable materials to create housing envelops and designs suited to the needs of local communities. To learn more, visit http://www.base-builds.com/

Enriching lives with Wells Fargo


Habitat Philippines, Wells Fargo boost ties to improve lives through housing, hygiene promotion­

Building social impact together, leading housing advocate Habitat for Humanity Philippines and global financial services company Wells Fargo strengthen their partnership by providing decent homes to informal settler families (ISFs) and further supporting COVID-19 relief efforts.

In celebration of Wells Fargo’s 10th anniversary in the Philippines, the company donated 100,000 USD or over Php5-million to Habitat for Humanity Philippines through a virtual check handover last August 6, 2021. This will co-fund the construction of houses under the Paknaan Housing Project in Mandaue City, Cebu, which aims to relocate 80 ISFs living in Mahiga Creek to a decent, safer home. The donation will also support the distribution of hygiene and sanitation kits to over 900 families, helping them fight COVID-19 through proper hygiene.

“We are proud to partner with Habitat for Humanity as, through the years, they have made it possible for us to reach out to affected communities and help them gain access to basic necessities such as a safe home and clean facilities,” said Sandeep Mulajkar, Country Head for the Philippines, Wells Fargo. “We are committed to supporting Habitat’s efforts in helping build the foundation for wellness, dignity, and economic opportunity in the communities we serve.”

The Habitat Philippines-Wells Fargo partnership started in 2014 when the latter supported the Rebuild Philippines Program, a rehabilitation and housing program for families who lost their homes to Typhoon Haiyan. Wells Fargo helped build eight houses in Bantayan Island, Cebu, and supported the homeowners through different initiatives.

Last year, Wells Fargo aided Habitat Philippines’ COVID-19 Relief Efforts by distributing hygiene and sanitation kits to over 900 families in Calauan, Laguna and Pasig City. During the Christmas season, they also shared the joy of the holidays and gave the gift of hope by donating 1,000 food baskets in nine Habitat communities across Metro Manila.

Even in the new normal, Wells Fargo continues to go the extra mile, helping families achieve financial stability and raising social awareness amidst the pandemic. Through employee volunteer engagements, they facilitated various webinars on health and hygiene and violence against women and children, besides organizing financial literacy training sessions under Habitat Philippines’ Zoombahayan virtual training program.

“The core of Habitat Philippines’ mission is to bring people together to build homes, communities, and hope. Long-standing partnerships like what we have with Wells Fargo help us fulfill our mission and, more importantly, enrich the lives of Filipino families in the process. We are truly grateful to Wells Fargo for their continuous commitment to building their legacy with us and for their generous support over the years. We look forward to transforming the lives of more Filipino families through this partnership,” remarked Habitat for Humanity Philippines COO Lili Fuentes.

Habitat Philippines and Wells Fargo are set to conduct more social impact activities and mobilize employee volunteer engagements this year to build strength, stability, and self-reliance through housing, community development, and people empowerment.


About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a leading financial services company that has approximately $1.9 trillion in assets, proudly serves one in three U.S. households and more than 10% of small businesses in the U.S., and is the leading middle market banking provider in the U.S. We provide a diversified set of banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through our four reportable operating segments: Consumer Banking and Lending, Commercial Banking, Corporate and Investment Banking, and Wealth & Investment Management. Wells Fargo ranked No. 37 on Fortune’s 2021 rankings of America’s largest corporations. In the communities we serve, the company focuses its social impact on building a sustainable, inclusive future for all by supporting housing affordability, small business growth, financial health, and a low-carbon economy. News, insights, and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories.

Additional information may be found at www.wellsfargo.com | Twitter: @WellsFargo.

About Wells Fargo International Solutions, LLC – Philippines

Wells Fargo International Solutions, LLC – Philippines is a critical component of Wells Fargo’s (Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.) strategy to leverage distinct advantages in doing business in a global environment. Wells Fargo International Solutions, LLC – Philippines primarily supports the operations, knowledge services, and corporate support teams of Wells Fargo. It facilitates international operations, knowledge support, and middle and back-end business process solutions for a wide spectrum of Wells Fargo’s needs.

50 homes for Haiyan survivors

Habitat Philippines, Lions Clubs International to build 50 homes for Haiyan survivors

(PASTRANA, Leyte) More than seven years after the grueling impact of Typhoon Haiyan in Leyte, 50 more homes for survivor families are soon to rise in Barangay District IV, Pastrana through the partnership of Habitat for Humanity Philippines, Lions Clubs International, and the municipal government.

Present in the Groundbreaking Ceremony last April 23, 2021 were Pastrana Mayor Maritess Cayaco-Marcos, Habitat Philippines Chief Development Officer Lala Baldelovar, Lions Clubs MD 301-B2 District Governor Lion Jude Abenoja, and representatives from the local government and the community to mark the start of construction. This housing project aims to fulfill the commitment of Lions Clubs International, through the Lions Clubs International Foundation, to build 200 disaster-resilient, permanent homes in Leyte to relocate the typhoon-affected families living in transitional shelters for years.

Since the Habitat-Lions partnership started in 2014 under Habitat’s Rebuild Philippines Program, 150 families have already moved into a much safer and decent home and have developed thriving communities with the support of the local government. The first 100 families were relocated in the Cali Site, Tacloban City in 2015 and 2019, while 50 houses were turned over to beneficiaries in Pastrana in September 2020. Habitat Philippines and Lions Clubs International target to complete the last tranche of the reconstruction program in the next 14 to 16 months.

Check out more photos of the Groundbreaking Ceremony here.

Security amidst Crisis

When Rona Mae Gallego lost her job as an overseas Filipino worker due to an illness, she and her partner, Julius, went through such an ordeal to sustain the medicines and therapy of their now 11-year-old daughter, who has Rett Syndrome.

It didn’t help that they constantly had to move from one place to another, relying on the mercy of their parents and siblings just to have a house to stay in.

“It was such a difficult situation. My partner and I constantly faced a lot of problems, which made him resort to drinking. Most of his income would go to his drinking and there wouldn’t be enough left for us,” recalled Rona.

To help provide for the needs of their daughter, Rona had to seek help from loan sharks. But their increasing debts became a financial burden. Despite too many curveballs thrown their way, Rona never lost hope but instead, strengthened her faith that someday, their life would take a turn for the better. And finally, it did when they got selected as a Habitat homepartner.

Rona tearfully remembered, “Last December 2019 was our first Christmas in this new house that I can call my own. I can’t forget the happiness of my daughter. She was all smile when we moved into the house and she slept comfortably that night. Having a decent home is so important when you have a kid. You’re able to plan your life better because your basic housing need is addressed.”

Living in the Katuwang Community for over a year now has made a huge difference in their lives. Rona has found better ways to earn and save up through a small buy-and-sell business that also helps provide livelihood to some of their neighbors. With his drinking lessened, Julius has a renewed sense of responsibility and starts making plans for their future. They’ve also learned to avail of the services of microfinance institutions, which help boost their livelihood and increase their savings. More importantly, their daughter, Em-em, is happier and more comfortable.

Despite the difficulties during the pandemic, Rona keeps her faith that everything will be just fine. They will keep fighting amid challenges. No more moving, no more unbearable debts. With more stable finances, a decent home of their own, and a more hopeful future, Rona’s optimistic that they can overcome any crisis, even the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If this pandemic happened before, it would have been difficult for our family because we didn’t have a permanent home. That’s why I’m grateful to have our own home now. We feel safer, more comfortable, and more secure,” said Rona with a fulfilled smile.

Help more Filipino families like Rona’s build strength, stability, and self-reliance through decent shelter. Support Habitat’s programs today: habitat.org.ph/donatenow.

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.”

Empowering Saranggani community leaders, youth towards disaster-resilience

The Habitat Young Leaders Build is a testament to the old saying “no man is an island” as cooperation and camaraderie are instilled while making programs for our adopted communities. However, this entails a fresher perspective on the term teamwork because not only do we provide sustainable solutions to the issues they are dealing with, but we also let them become a collaborator by encouraging them to come up with their own innovative ideas.

In a disaster-prone country like the Philippines, disaster resilience is a critical value that the Filipino youth need to embrace and delve into. That’s why young advocacy mover John Oliver Tablazon prepared a program focused on this value for the people of Sarangani Province.

John’s team, together with five local authorities, conducted a forum on disaster risk reduction management for an approximately 150 citizens, around 100 of which were from the youth sector. The training aimed to capacitate the youth with DRRM knowledge and skills so they could smoothly coordinate with LGU partners and mobilize their fellow youth to lead Emergency Action Plans within their communities.

John’s team believed that the young people now are the realizations of yesterday’s dream. After being trained, the youth now have an essential role to play in planning and executing actions to prevent and mitigate risks and disasters. They also motivated the participants to come up with appropriate policies and an upright system that would eagerly involve the whole community, despite the diversity. This inclusivity could lead to a disaster-resilient community with knowledgeable and reliable volunteers.

The village officials recognized the efforts of the youth and offered them guidance and resources to make their action and development plans possible. The participants also elected their chapter youth organization officials. The training had been instrumental in providing avenues for emerging youth leaders to implement their proposed program and activities.

Habitat’s Blue Chapter initiates a fire prevention project in Bistekville 4

In a time of climate change, unexpected calamities and disasters remain prevalent. And Nicole Carmen Dueñas, Vice President for Advocacy of the Habitat for Humanity Blue Chapter, knew that risk mitigation would come from prevention and preparation.

As long-time volunteers in Bistekville 4 community in Quezon City, the Ateneo Blue Chapter laid the foundation of many houses in the community, giving them the opportunity to interact with the partner families. Their commitment was more than just building roofs and walls. When the opportunity arose to further support these families, the Blue Chapter used the Advocacy Grant awarded by Habitat International to sit down with the community leaders and help them develop a plan that can reduce its vulnerability to risks and hazards such as fire destruction.

Through historical assessment, the Blue Chapter, led by Dueñas, learned that the community suffered from the effects of a large fire breakout years ago. To prevent this same from happening again, the group, with the help of the community leaders, gathered stakeholders from the local government unit, Bureau of Fire Protection, and the local youth group ALAB to devise a fire prevention project that would best support Bistek 4.

A group of 50 homeowners completed an intensive seminar on fire safety, including a fire drill and demonstration. The community also received 16 fire extinguishers, eight sets of fire prevention informational posters, and 8 first aid distributed to each row of homes.

8 University Student Volunteer Teams from Japan supported the Silay Socialized Housing Project

This first batch of Global Village teams assigned to work at the project site from 3-8 September 2018, a group of 18 Japanese volunteers, worked on the installation of fence, installation and tying of the rib lath, and painted the interior walls of the living-dining areas of the model units using accent walls design.

GV Team Uegahara, WHABITAT, LUZ, Ohana, TOMSAWYER, Wiz Habitat, Shanti Shanti, and Kobe Gaidai are composed of campus chapter volunteers from Japan through the GV program have contributed their time and labor to support the construction of the Maritess Alava Yong Village – Katuwang Community in Silay.