'Bahay-bahayan' in Barangay Catmon

JM and other children always look forward to doing bahay-bahayan (playing house) - their closest expression of how much they're missing home


By Kimberly Gutierrez


While the rest of the world is still asleep, 9-year old JM is already wide awake. For several days now, he would wake up in the middle of the night, wishing it’s already morning. To him, it means play time.


“I love it when we play bahay-bahayan (playing house),” he shares. He usually plays the role of a father. Inside the crowded tennis court that serves as temporary shelter to a thousand families, JM would still feel at home at least during play time.


The fire that razed his community in Catmon, Malabon City broke out last Wednesday, February  8 at 5pm and ended the next day at 1 am. It spread quickly to Barangay Tonsuya, as the houses in the area were made of light materials. Fire fighters were able put out the fire that reached second alarm, while families ran after anything they could save. Overnight, a total of 1813 families from the two villages were left homeless. One of them was the family of JM.


Missing school, missing home


"Is it Wednesday already?," JM would ask in between the activities of Word Vision Child Friendly Spaces (CFS), an intervention and support programme for children in emergencies. He’s been counting the days before the classes would resume, already excited to go back to school. To the children who lost their school supplies to the fire, CFS day is a special day. Here, they call each other classmates. They eat  together, sing and dance. When the CFS teachers asked them to draw something they wanted to ask from God, JM already knew what he wanted.


"That's my mother and father!" JM pointed on a picture of a family, holding each other’s hands. The family is gathered around a house.



JM wants his new house somewhere safe – a place where his father could find them. He never had the chance to live with him since he was born. Now that their house has been reduced to the ground, he worries that his father would not be able to go home completely. "Papa, I wish you’re here" a note in JM's drawing read.


"During the first days, you would not feel the effect of the fire to the children. But as we go along, you can sense the effect. This is not new to them. They already experienced this but every time this happens, it affects them nonetheless," said Chifadel Mabolo, World Vision staff.  


Unwavering hope


The residents are now staying at the three relocation sites in Barangay Catmon-- some had returned to their areas while many chose to stay to ensure they receive assistance and relief goods. Families are waiting for the housing materials Barangay Catmon had promised, even if there is no guarantee of the land to build their home.


World Vision in the next days will also be distributing sleeping mats, blankets and mosquito nets to the affected communities. In partnership with Procter & Gamble, toothbrush and liquid soaps will also be provided.


It would be a long way to recovery for the people of Malabon. While waiting, JM and the other children would be content on playing bahay-bahayan - the closest expression of how much they’re missing home. WorldVision/February 16, 2017


Donate to Malabon fire survivors


Stay up to date with World Vision Philippines! Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram