We first met Felisa Amistoso and Shirley Elladora last year. Back then, they were just two women who were motivated by a dream. This is a story of their success and unwavering hope for a better life. Read about their journey here.
It is November 6, 2015.
The air was festive. There were green and blue balloons lining the main road. A marching band was playing a catchy, modern tune. The sky was a clear, bright blue, complementing the green roofs of the houses. Some had curtains, others already had furniture, many had lawns and new shrubbery.
There were children running around the village. There were women sweeping the floors of the houses. There were men gathering water and making last-minute adjustments to their furniture.
These are the new residents of Habiat French Village in Barangay Agujo in Daanbantayan, Cebu. They are 76 families who lost their homes to super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013, but gained new and better ones nearly two years after.
Felisa Amistoso and her best friend, Shirley Elladora are two of these new residents.
Up until a few days ago, Shirley and Felisa were living in rented shanties among fishpens and a creek in what is now a government-declared “no build zone”, on land that wasn’t even their own. Felisa recounts that in all her years, she had never experienced living in a concrete house.
“We were literally squatters,” she said.
Last year, Shirley and Felisa were chosen by the Daanbantayan LGU as potential beneficiaries of one of the 76 disaster-resilient hypar houses Habitat Philippines is building in Barangay Agujo. But they had to undergo sweat equity first in order to qualify for the final list.
“We are willing to do whatever it takes just to live in one of those houses,” Shirley said last year, pointing to the full-concrete structures. “With those houses, our families wouldn’t have to be afraid of typhoons and floods anymore
“They’re like mansions!” Felisa added, “I want to live in one of those!”
Motivated by this dream, they continued working. They completed the required 400 hours of sweat equity and came out more empowered women who were not just mere house recipients, but home partners.
And so it came to pass that on November 6, two days shy of Typhoon Yolanda’s second anniversary, the Elladoras and the Amistosos moved into their new homes in a festive turnover ceremony.
“No words can describe my happiness today,” Felisa said. “We finally have our own home, and it’s everything I’ve always dreamed of and more!”Felisa’s husband, Norlito, was also elected president of their homeowners’ association, an unexpcted blessing for the Amistoso family.
Shirley could not stop smiling. She proudly showed off her curtains: green and blue, to match the colors of their new house. “I said [last year] that I wanted to put up curtains first. Here they are!”The women could not stop expressing their gratitude for their new homes. “Nabunutan ako ng tinik,” Felisa said. “I can breathe easier because we don’t have to be afraid anymore. We’re safer now.”
Felisa added all their problems now seem small in comparison to the new and bigger opportunities their new house will open for them. “I’m excited for the future. I know now that we will now be able to overcome whatever problems we might face because it is possible!”
These are the real value of decent homes: it gives people opportunities and inspiration to break out of the poverty cycle because it helps them dream big.
“My children can study more comfortably now,” Shirley added. Then she points to her belly: “And this one, he will grow up in a better home. He will have a better life.” Shirley is five months pregnant. The blessings just keep coming.
Shirley and Felisa are the epitome of the modern woman: driven, motivated, inspired and empowered. They did not lose faith or hope. They pushed forward because they had a dream of a better life for themselves and their family.
It is November 6, 2015. What was once a drab, grey construction site is now a vibrant community with green, white and blue houses. Construction workers are now replaced by children and families.
And Shirley and Felisa: they can finally start building and living the life they’ve been dreaming of ever since.