by 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.
Relocating had not been easy. Our new house, though stronger because it is made of concrete, did not have electricity and no potable water. The place had no school or health center. Transportation was very expensive and the area was vulnerable to robbery. I hope it is only by coincidence that it was also in this place where I lost my parents and even my only dearest son who passed away recently.
Most of us in the relocation site stayed poor despite our efforts to earn and move forward. Some of the homeowners were even pushed to sell their houses because of poverty. The population eventually ballooned. There was a steady increase in crime rate. The youth were wasted as they formed or joined gangs. Robbery was rampant. At night, you risk your life walking in unlighted streets. As if these woes are not enough, the area also gets flooded during the rainy season. Every year since we lived here, we lose a lot to floods that a lot of times as high as our roofs.
I may have lost the opportunity to return to Saipan and earn a better income. Life has been tough. But
I chose to stay. It developed me as a person, and made my life more meaningful. I became active in advancing community issues. Helping others unraveled the leader in me, as I willingly bring our
concerns to the attention of the local government.
However harsh the situation maybe, this relocation gave us a house that we can call our own. This house is now my home.