‘ERAP CITY’ - THE POOR’S CALVARY
More than a year ago, then President Joseph Estrada opened
“Erap City” in Montalban, Rizal as a model resettlement site for Metro
Manila’s slum dwellers. He had the “city” itself named after him. Estrada
has already left the relocatees – he was deposed by People Power 2 last
January – but he remains forever etched in their collective memory, if only in
a different way. “Erap City” to them has become a Calvary, and residents
want to make that clear as they observe Holy Week.
By Ananeza Aban
CITY, Montalban - On Holy Wednesday this week, poor people will flock to the
flood plains of Montalban, a municipality in Rizal province west of Manila, to
consecrate the grounds with a Holy Mass in honor of their dead. The dead were
the latest victims of forced evictions and distant relocation.
biblical times, Lent is a season of walking with Jesus Christ on the road to the
Holy City of Jerusalem. The Epistles of Paul in the New Testament talk about how
Christ suffered for the atonement of sins and the offering of life through his
death and resurrection. Meanwhile, the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and
Luke stress the necessity of fasting, forgiving, and praying during the Lenten
devotees among the poor have not missed this Christian tradition. In a different
religious message, residents of Kasiglahan Village (KV) 1 in Erap City,
Montalban choose to imbibe the essence of the passion of Christ in the context
of their continued suffering and poverty.
the Catholic laity follow the traditional way of the cross, reading of the Pasyon,
visita iglesia or Lenten pilgrimage, KV1 residents will build mock
tombstones made of newspapers and corrugated sheets handpainted in black and
white for the annual Kalbaryo ng Maralitang Tagalunsod (Urban Poor’s Calvary).
objective is to epitomize their life’s daily misery outside urban Metro Manila
after being forced by government to vacate the banks of Pasig River, more than a
year ago during the Estrada presidency.
Lourdes Lacsi, KV1 resident and a mother of three children, Erap City is likely
the contemporary Mount Calvary where Christ was crucified and died.
bato, konting semento, sementeryo (A handful of stones, a handful of cement,
cemetery),” is how Ricardo Miranda, another resident and a block leader in
the area, describes the community.
the extreme poverty we’re in, we cannot help but say that Erap City is Calvary
in itself. We have lost our jobs in the cities. Without any work here, you’re
virtually on the edge of death,” Lacsi said.
Lourdes used to earn a living in Barangay (village) Pineda along the
river in Pasig washing her neighbor’s clothes or cleaning her friend’s
dental clinic. For all these, she was earning P300 daily. When their shanty was
torn down by government demolition crews, they were resettled in KV1. Unlike in
Pasig, however, Erap City offered no work opportunities. For the first time, the
thought of being hungry haunted her and her family.
reaching Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, Jesus was given a wine to drink
drugged with myrrh, a taste he refused to gulp despite his thirst.
Jesus, children here fell ill while some already died of diarrhea and
dehydration because of the water they drink. Residents complained that the water
is not potable. “Our stomachs grumble everytime we drink water from our
faucets. It is like drinking the wine with myrrh,” Lacsi said.
danger zone to death zone
are dying here because of starvation, joblessness and the absence of a hospital
or a lying-in clinic,” said Vangie Pangilinan, leader of the KVI Action Group.
“There is no doctor. Only a midwife stays in a so-called health center which
has no medicines or health services for the sick and the dying.”
were evicted from the riverbank – a danger zone for slumdwellers like me. Now,
we’re living in a death zone,” Pangilinan said.
of Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization (NGO) helping
evicted Pasig River families, show that 16 people including nine children,
already died since last year due to lack of medical care.
residents like Teresa dela Vega said that around 50 people have actually died.
Most of them sick became with curable diseases – such as diarrhea, measles and
pulmonary diseases - who should have been saved if enough medical attention was
wake of one victim lasted for a month because the family had to scrounge for
money to spend for the funeral. Another family is holding wake for a seven-month
old baby and they just couldn’t tell when the burial will finally be held.
for the dead
Erap City, poverty leads people to bury their dead in strange ways.
Adelaida dela Cruz, 73, died of a respiratory illness, her family gave her a
humble wake for a night in KV1. Too expensive for them, her casket was returned
to the funeral service parlor (funeraria in the local dialect ) and had
the old woman’s body wrapped in a blanket. Unable to pay the funeraria’s
service vehicle, the family just carried her body to a jeepney, in the guise of
a passenger. A few passengers noticed but just kept silent. Shewas to be buried
in Napindan, several kilometers away from Montalban.
them, it was better to bring Aling Adelaida back to Napindan, her
birthplace, where relatives and friends can shell out money for her simple
another case, the bodies of two newly-born babies placed in ordinary coffins
made by neighbors were brought by men across the Montalban river. The bereaved
families, too, could not afford the services of a funeraria. Beyond the
river, the Potter’s Field (or poor man’s grave) became their final resting
multi-billion resettlement budget
for being forced into their present living condition, members of the KV1 Action
Group asked President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo’s government to probe the
anomalous P2.116 billion budget of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commisssion (PRRC)
for its resettlement projects.
said that the Estrada government wasted the huge amount of loan from the Asian
Development Bank (ADB) which is part of the over-all P7.9 billion budget for the
did the P2.116B loan intended for the families removed along the Pasig River
go?” asked Ted Añana, UPA assistant coordinator.
current research-survey shows that of the 5,350 families relocated to PRRC’s
distant camps, 54 percent have returned to Metro Manila because the commission
failed to provide basic services.
documents, such as the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP), says the aim of
relocation is to provide a better quality of life for evicted families through
“good quality housing with security of tenure, better access to basic
services, access to skills and livelihood development opportunities, and
improvement in public health conditions for the people particularly women and
does not conform with its RAP guidelines. It
has violated its major provisions on the health condition of the people, citing
our records of 16 casualties as a proof,” Añana said.
its part, the ADB as the aid agency of PRRC, must review the performance of the
government on resettlement, UPA said. The bank’s guidelines prohibit funding
in projects that displace people. The ADB should stop extending funds if
government does not do its homework to the people of KV1 and the rest of Pasig
river families who have been relocated to other sites, UPA said.
Handbook on Resettlement says “ People unavoidably displaced should be
compensated and assisted, so that their economic and social future would be
generally as favorable as it would have been in the absence of the
project…People affected should be informed fully and consulted on resettlement
and compensation options…Ensure that relocation sites are completed with all
amenities before any relocation takes place.”
environment and Erap City
is part of the 2,500-hectare Erap City project, according to the executive
summary of the Home Insurance Guarantee Corporation. Touted as the “first ever
well-planned socialized housing city undertaken in the country,” Erap City is
developed by the New San Jose Builders, reportedly the developer of ousted
President Joseph Estrada’s grand Boracay mansions.
sits on the San Jose Flood Plains. Its development already affected the villages
of San Jose, San Isidro, Puray, and Macabud which are near the critical
watershed areas of Angat-Ipo, La Mesa, and Marikina.
NGOs say that the housing construction already caused the denudation of forests
and leveling of mountains in the area. The Bunga, Gabi, Lilid and Palapad creeks
have been choked and filled. There is great possibility of soil erosion,
siltation, contamination of rivers, and flash floods affecting not only
Montalban, but also the cities of Marikina, Pasig and Rizal province in the
from flash floods, maps from the Philippine Volcanology and Seismology show that
Barangays Macabud and San Jose are found in the upper block of the West
Marikina Valley Fault lines. The area is prone to surface rupture in the event
of earthquakes, which makes the lives of residents in greater danger.
almost every household in the community is posted the image of the bleeding and
dying Christ nailed to the cross. It might as well stand as a grim reminder of
how the ousted president popularized himself as the “poor man’s savior”
and peddled the lie that his projects for the poor – such as Erap City –
would make them happier for the rest of their lives. Nobody knows happiness in
this city. #