By ATD Fourth World Philippines
“No comment…” that’s his reply when I ask Mr. B about the situation in the relocation sites. He moved three months ago to a new place some 2-3 hours away from Manila. A few days ago, his former dwelling under a bridge was demolished together with those of other families already relocated. He wanted to see the pictures of the demolition.
“There’s so much trash”
“We are all separated now”
The families have been relocated to four different places, one south of Manila and three to the North. The northern and southern sites are four to five hours away from each other, others are just one hour away. This happened because some families preferred to be relocated south and others north, and because the process of relocation took time, with the consequence that the first proposed sites were not available anymore.
“It will become a nice place”
Last December Mr. B invited some other newly relocated families to show the small yard in front of his house. He insisted on taking a picture saying he probably had the most beautiful Christmas decoration of the whole site. For sure the house represents the hope for a better life. “Once in a life-time chance” he and others will tell us. The families are all very thankful for the opportunity to obtain and live in a “real” house. For most of them, it’s the first time in their life.
Somehow, instinctively, they know what they have missed for all these years. Within the first hour after arrival in the new house, the families started their new life: Children were playing with a ball and a mother walked her toddler in a stroller. This they could not do under the bridge. We see the happy faces, we see the big smiles, we see eyes full of hope.
However, after the first hours or days of ecstasy, the real challenge starts. For them, to move is not just a matter of changing places, it’s the start of a new life. In Tagalog there is only one letter difference between life (buhay) and house (bahay) but better than anyone else Mr. B and all other relocated families know what a difference a letter can make.
“No comment …” was probably a very wise reply. Mr. B too hopes that a new house will be the start of a new life but he couldn’t just say this. Too many uncertainties were probably still in his head. Will he find a job nearby? Will his children get enrolled in school? Will he be able to pay the monthly utility bills and mortgage of the house?