Young Blood

Urban poor dreams


My fiance, Ritche, has a friend whose house was partly demolished without a court order on the behest of the family that claimed the lot on which the house stood. The friend’s house was somewhat saved when he quickly filed a case in court.

After years of litigation, the parties came to a compromise. The lot claimant offered to dismantle the makeshift house of Ritche’s friend and turn over to him whatever usable materials remained.

The friend declined, saying that he could not bear the sight of his house being torn down by other people. He said every crashing sound of a hammer or wrench of a crowbar tearing apart the house would be like a bullet ripping into his body.

He couldn’t leave the house behind. He couldn’t let it be torn down by strangers. So finally, he asked for three days, and he personally dismantled the house, every part of it. He packed the parts in boxes and brought these to his new lot where he intended to live with his old and sickly parents. That’s where the house is now.

This story is not unfamiliar to urban poor men and women, and children, too. They value their houses as much as Ritche’s friend did. The first step our society must take to help our urban poor people is to understand them—to understand, first of all, their love for their dwellings, unattractive as these may be to us. Such an attachment cannot be measured. The sentimental value of a man’s house is life itself.

This was true in the case of Myrna Porcare, a community leader who was killed while protecting her house. I met her on the morning she was killed. I have her on video speaking about the piece of land where she had lived for more than 20 years with 1,000 other families on a 2.4-hectare site in Pechayan, North Fairview, Quezon City.

Myrna wanted to stop the security guards hired by the land owners from fencing the land, because they were going beyond what was stated in the court order. When she tried to stop a guard, she was killed by a shotgun blast in the stomach. Her son came to her aid and was also murdered.

There are many urban poor people who will sacrifice and even die for their houses. These are their treasure. The urban poor value everything around them, including their houses, in a very special way. No matter how bad we think they are, their houses are beautiful to them.

“A person doesn’t need to be a legal expert to understand what these poor families live through,” Ritche told me. “You only have to be human to understand.”

In the “Panunuluyan” play that the urban poor presented last December with the Philippine Educational Theater Association, titled “Maryosep,” I played the role of  Aling  Hing, a poor woman pregnant with her sixth child and a victim of a violent demolition. It was a hard role to play. The character’s thoughts were so different from mine, but after three months of rehearsals I came to think like Aling Hing. When the director told me that the demolition team was coming to wreck my house, it was not my own thoughts that made me angry and full of energy to act; it was the feelings of anger and love that Aling Hing would have had. I came to internalize her love and anger.

Another woman in that play was Maryjane. She is a real person. She had dared audition for the play although she has eight children. Her youngest child was then six months old, and she had to ask her husband’s family to take care of the child temporarily. Her husband recently died of tuberculosis.

Maryjane didn’t need special motivation to cry; every time she began to deliver her monologue in the play about the hardships of the poor, she burst into tears.

As I watched Maryjane, I reflected on the hard life that women like her have to endure, and how very few of us appreciate the way they carry on despite the difficulties of raising their children well. I have learned that urban poor women and men still dream. Poverty has shaken them, but they haven’t given up.

Think of the poor man who took his house apart piece by piece and carried it away with him. Imagine Maryjane and her eight children in the slum, and her dream of becoming an actress.

Princess L. Asuncion, 26, is a media advocacy officer of the Urban Poor Associates, an NGO that works for the housing rights of the poor.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=49329

Tags: opinion , Princess L. Asuncion , urban poor , Young Blood

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


  • Russia not abiding by agreement on Ukraine—Obama
  • Magnitude 6.7 quake off British Columbia coast
  • Blue ribbon committee not yet recalling Napoles
  • Ex-church leader nabbed for selling drugs
  • Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury
  • Sports

  • Benzema guides Madrid to 1-0 win over Bayern
  • Suns’ Goran Dragic win NBA’s Most Improved Player award
  • Heat go up 2-0, hold off Bobcats 101-97
  • Ronaldo shakes off injury fears to play Bayern
  • Mavs roll past Spurs 113-92, even series at 1-1
  • Lifestyle

  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • 12th Philippine Food Expo set at the World Trade Center
  • No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  • The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  • Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  • Entertainment

  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Return of ‘Ibong Adarna’
  • Practical Phytos plans his future
  • Business

  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Cost-recovery provisions for affected gencos urged
  • This time, BIR goes after florists
  • Technology

  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Filipinos in Middle East urged to get clearance before returning
  • PH seeks ‘clearer assurance’ from US
  • China and rivals sign naval pact to ease maritime tensions
  • What Went Before: Manila bus hostage crisis
  • Obama arrives in Tokyo, first stop of 4-nation tour
  • Marketplace