“Where do they want us to sleep? Where do they want us to live?”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – For the past 30 years, the Asero community in Catmon, Malabon has served as the home of Teresita Lacao and her family.
Lacao is now among the 280 families who might lose their homes due to demolition operations.
“Where do they want us to sleep? Where do they want us to live? In the cemetery? In the streets?” Lacao told Bulatlat.com.
Lacao was born and raised in Sorsogon in Bicol. When she was nine years old, her family sold their land and went to Manila so that his then ailing father could seek hospitalization.
They had since found a home in the community in Malabon.
Lacao said a certain Benjamin Delauran, who introduced himself as owner of the land, made residents believe that the three-hectare land would soon be theirs.
“He told us to form a homeowners association so that the land could be sold to us. So we did. Only to find out that a certain General Aglipay now owns the land,” she said.
General Aglipay, she said, reportedly wants to turn their community into a parking space for container vans, due to the port congestion.
The disputed land, she said, was once a fishpond but residents made it suitable for them to live in. In fact, Lacao said, they plant vegetables and root crops for their daily needs.
Lacao said they are resisting the demolition as this would deprive them of their livelihood. She owns a small sari-sari store, which earns hardly enough to cover their needs. Though her six children already have their own families, she said, she helps in sending her grandchildren to school.
Other residents earn mostly from a nearby seven-hectare dumpsite, either as truck drivers or as garbage pickers. Some families also earn from making charcoal.
She said that a family could double a small investment by making charcoal. But on Nov. 22, a demolition team arrived in their community and destroyed 20 of the 25 kilns used to make charcoal.
Aglipay’s men offered a mere P1,500 ($34) to those who own the kilns. They also offered P5,000 ($113) for residents to leave their homes. But, Lacao said, they are convincing their neighbors not to accept the money.
Residents managed to secure an agreement with Emmanuel Delos Santos, who introduced himself to village officials as the right-hand man of General Aglipay. They agreed, Lacao said, to provide residents with at least two years moratorium on demolition.
“Pero hindi sila tao kausap (But they did not honor their word),” she said.
Residents allowed General Aglipay to use the nearby parcel of land. But, Lacao said, they are slowly encroaching in their community.
Now, however, they fear not only for their homes but also for their own lives. Lacao said she has received several death threats.
One of those working for Gen. Aglipay once told her, “May paglalagyan ka.”
Residents wrote to the local government, asking for help. But they received no reply as of this writing.