Voice of Conflict: Nhor Momin's Story in the Philippines

November 1, 2016


Nhor Momin runs errands in Pagadian, the capital of the province of Zamboanga del Sur close to her barangay, Upper Campo Islam. Nhor rides in a 'payong-payong' (means umbrella-umbrella), a custom-made tricycle unique to the city built with 25-40° incline to cope with the hilly terrain.

© World Bank / Alana Holmberg

Nhor Momin, 37, lives with her 9-year-old son in the municipality of Labangan, southern Mindanao. Like much of Mindanao, Labangan has long-suffered from various forms of conflict. In the 1970s, the area became a red-mark zone (highly volatile) due to fighting between the Philippine government and insurgents fighting for independence for Muslim people (also called Moro or Bangsamoro). Political corruption in subsequent years has led to further violence and instability, and rido—family or clan violence—disrupts the lives of hundreds of people every year.

“When I was young, we moved from the place where I grew up because of a conflict called rido. It’s, like, killing one member of the family, then one is killed back, then another killing. [Even after we moved] two of my brothers were shot because of this family conflict. One brother was killed in front of our house.”

“We’re all scared today, especially my Mom. We don’t let our remaining brother live with us because we are afraid of losing him, too. I am also scared for my son’s safety—every male in our house is a threat to them. I’ve been afraid my whole life and I don’t want my child to experience that fear. I want him to have a bright future.”

“I gave birth to my son while I was working abroad. I decided to go overseas because it was the only thing that I could do to help my parents; I was a domestic helper at the age of 18 and was away from my family for almost 10 years. That made me who I am today.”


Nhor Momin plays with her nine year old son at home in Upper Campo Islam, southern Mindanao, Phillipines.

© World Bank / Alana Holmberg


Nhor Momim smiles as she washes her family's white clothes at home in Upper Campo Islam, southern Mindanao. Nhor was instrumental in bringing fresh, clean water to her community in 2011 for the first time in twenty years. Not satisfied with just public faucets, she is now focused on bringing potable water directly to people's homes via private faucets like the one she has built in her own home. Aside from access to safe drinking water, Nhor says a small but rewarding benefit of having access to potable water is being able to wash white clothes without them going yellow from dirty groundwater.

© World Bank / Alana Holmberg

“I came home because the father of my son and I were no longer on good terms. When I came back — with just a son and no a father — you could hear the neighbors say, ‘What did she do? What happened?’ I wanted to show these people that I was strong, I can stand on my own and that I can surpass all the challenges in my life. When the water project came to our community, it was the answer.”

Despite personal loss as a result of conflict, Nhor has become a leader in her community. With support from the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), as Secretary of the community’s People’s Organization, she helped organize a project that brought potable water to her community in 2011.

“We’d been longing for water for 20 years, longing for clean water and BDA was the answer.”

“Life was difficult without water. We needed to haul water from the other barangay (village), pay 12 Philippine Pesos ($0.25) per container then fare for the driver to transport us home. If we went three or four times a day it would cost us 70 to 80 Philippine Pesos ($1.25 —$1.67) just in transport. So it was hard — 80 Pesos is too much for us.”

“Water is life. The day the water started to flow from the pipes, it was a feast. You couldn’t imagine how long the [water] container line was — from 7pm until 4pm or 5pm, people came with their containers. We were all very happy, I was the happiest one. I cried because I knew I’d done something, it was an achievement – I helped do something right for the community.”

Nhor is proud when she describes the two religions that coexist peacefully within her community.

“Before the water came, Christians and Muslims were bit aloof from each other, but when the water came we could talk to each other. Muslims and Christians could go to the [People’s Organization’s] office at the same time and say ‘How are you? How is the water at your line?’ Having the water is like living in peace, you can see people with good hearts and contentment because of the water. All of us in the community are now living in harmony.”

“I am hoping that the water project will last longer so that we could help a lot more people in the community. I want to prove to our members that as long as we continue to work together we will make the water system last.”