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Estero de San Miguel: Where every settler is a Soriano

George P. Moya
The Aquino government launches an on-site relocation program for informal settlers near Malacañang, but rules on choosing beneficiaries are changing

MANILA, Philippines – A young couple from the province, coming to Manila in search of a better life, and ending up as informal settlers or “squatters.” It’s a story that’s been shared so many times, it has become such a cliché. But that is the story of septuagenarian couple Pedro and Felicidad Soriano.

Originally from Lingayen, Pangasinan, Pedro and Felicidad have been living at the Estero de San Miguel in Sampaloc, Manila, since 1969. They raised their 11 children here. Now, they have 56 grandchildren with them.

After almost 5 decades, the couple’s single shanty had grown to become their clan’s compound. Even their sons- and daughters-in-law came to live with them. 

In this part of the estuary, everyone is a Soriano. 

Pedro and Felicidad were both street vendors in Mendiola, selling soft drinks in a stall sponsored by a cola company. Having their business address so near the country’s seat of power, they had been witnesses to countless rallies, rebellions, and revolutions, including the 1986 People Power, the Mendiola Massacre, and EDSA Dos.

For their powerful “neighbors,” the presidents, Malacañang Palace is but a temporary home. For the Sorianos, however, it has always seemed their shanties at Estero de San Miguel will be their permanent home.

But, of course, they dream of becoming legitimate homeowners. Whether this dream is realized rests on what becomes of the Aquino administration’s new, in-city, on-site relocation housing project. 

The government is set to inaugurate the Estero de San Miguel Medium-Rise Enterprise Building Model Unit for Informal Settler Families on Wednesday, February 19. The model 3-story structure that can house at least 3 families now stands where Pedro and Felicidad’s shanty used to stand.

With the promise of this new home, the aging couple agreed to have their shanty house demolished.

When the project is completed, though, only 5 families in the Soriano compound will be eligible for on-site relocation. Despite shelling out P50 monthly amortization fees for 6 months last year, 15 families of the Soriano clan will be relocated out-of-city, to Barangay Muzon in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

Although Pedro and Felicidad say members of their clan are the rightful recipients of this particular on-site housing unit in this part of the Estero de San Miguel, rules regarding occupancy are allegedly being changed arbitrarily.

In a place where stories about partisan and patronage politics have become cliché, the Sorianos fear they may end up homeless. But they still hold on to a promise that they will be rewarded with a housing unit; perhaps, in the same way that they held on to a promise of a better life when they came to Manila almost 50 years ago.

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