by Analyn Borbe
My name is Analyn Romero Borbe, 31 years old, single mother of three cute children: two boys and one girl. I am the eldest among four children of Oscar and Gloriosa Borbe, who are both from Bicol. My father was born in Tabaco, Albay while my mother’s hometown is Arroyo, Masbate which is also where I was born. As a child, I had a great dream and that is to become a lawyer.
My father worked as a construction worker in San Juan, Metro Manila (now San Juan City) for former Mayor (and incidentally former Philippine president) Joseph Estrada’s municipal projects called “Pagawaing Bayan ni Erap.” These projects included the construction of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC), Police Station, Public Market, Fire Station, among others. My father also served as caretaker and took care of the maintenance of one of the barracks behind the MTC and the Philippine National Police. That barrack became our house from 1982 until we were relocated to Kasiglahan Village 1, San Jose, Rodriguez, Rizal in 1999.
November 2, 1999 is a date that is still vivid in my mind. Memories of the demolition still haunt me until now. While carrying my month-old child, I saw how the demolition team destroyed dwellings including the house that we lived in for so many years. I cried the whole time while constantly reminding myself to be strong and accept the fact that we did not own the land. But we are Filipinos too and we believed that we have the right to live in this country. Thus we asked the local government for resettlement. The local government led by its former mayor Jinggoy Estrada (son of Joseph Estrada, and now a senator) offered relocation sites in Laguna and in Montalban. We chose to relocate in Montalban as it is nearer the city. I was 19 years old then – perhaps very young yet so much aware of my responsibilities as a mother as well as the eldest child in the family.
My family belonged to the first batch of families that resettled in Kasiglahan, which was actually not yet ready for relocation at that time. It lacked even the most basic services and all of us suffered. The PhP5000 and food assistance provided by the LGU lasted only a month. The market was very far from the relocation site that transportation would cost a lot. We fetched non-potable water from a well (which was also far from our house). Since water was not safe to drink, a lot of us got sick. I myself suffered from amoebiasis. Luckily, I was able to buy cheap Chinese medicine from a peddler – the medicine plus a lot of faith made me well.
We starved the following month. Since I was breastfeeding my child, I needed nutritious food. Thus, we would get kangkong (water spinach) and catch halaan (freshwater clams) in small ponds and streams nearby.
Life in relocation sites is never easy; rather, it is always challenging and always about survival. As a young mother, I also realized that no amount of classroom teaching can prepare a person to overcome these challenges. But the situation made me a better person. It taught me to take responsibility for my actions. It taught me to respect and look up to people who rise above the hardships.
The living conditions in relocation sites eventually pushed people to form groups as a mechanism to voice out grievances and make these heard by the government, especially the National Housing Authority. I, too, joined group meetings, seminars, and leadership training, and became more aware and confident. This helped me decide to go back to school and still be immersed in organizing and conducting seminars for leadership and gender equity.
Two women inspired me to continue reaching for my dreams: Ms. Evangeline Serrano and Professor Renefer Francisco, who both encouraged me to do what is right and to always serve as an example for others.
I graduated in 2008, but landing a job had not been easy. A friend offered a job abroad, and I did not hesitate to grab the opportunity. I worked as a domestic helper in Singapore, but had to leave after one and a half years as the salary was just too meager. I flew back home early this year. Everything has its purpose, I told myself.
I am back in our home in the relocation site. My first attempt to earn a decent living did not go well. But armed with learning and valuable life experiences, I am ready to try once again. Life in a relocation site prepared me well.