Lungsod Iskwater: The Evolution of Informality as a Dominant Pattern in Philippine Cities
by Paulo Alcazaren, Luis Ferrer, Benvenuto Icamina
Photographs by: Neal Oshima
Published by Anvil Publishing, Inc. (2011)
According to the authors, Lungsod Iskwater is an analytical exercise that focuses on the most sustainable urban form
in history: the informal settlement. How did it originate decades of years ago? What methodologies were applied during
the pre-Spanish colonial era up to the present government administration? How is effectiveness assessed in terms of the
improvement of settlement areas which were built to answer the growing housing problems in the country, particularly in the Metropolis?
Presenting photographs and information that vividly depict the realities faced by our urban informal settlers, this book attempts to provide an in-depth analysis of the relationship between built form and open space of selected informal settlements in Metropolitan Manila. Shelter plays a big role on how individuals live and adapt to their environment in
order to survive and sustain the needs of their families. Empowerment of informal communities should also be considered to let them realize that they are key in changing and improving their living conditions. To achieve this, support from local governments and non-government organizations are crucial.
“The process of change will undoubtedly be difficult. But it is time to abandon obsolete perspectives that permit oceans
of poverty around islands of affluence and substitute for them cities that find their greatness in people living as human
beings is entitled to do.” This statement from sociologist Mary Racelis may in some way inspire our government to take action in uplifting the lives of the marginalized and less fortunate inhabitants of Metropolitan Manila by helping them live in more humane and decent human settlement areas.
Towns and Cities of the Philippines: Selected Cases on the History and Evolution of Settlements Volume 1
edited by Aloma Monte de los Reyes
Published by The Urban Partnerships Foundation and Heritage Conservation Society (2010)
Towns and Cities of the Philippines is a compilation tracing the birth, growth and decline of towns and cities in the Philippines. Eight case studies were presented: Silay City in Negros Occidental, Butuan City, Bucay in Abra, Loon
in Bohol, San Juan in Batangas, Pila in Laguna, Zamboanga City, and Sulipan in Pampanga. The cities and towns presented were significant cities in the past which declined or lost their prominence in the present. The book traces the birth of the towns and cities, and the reasons for their rise and fall. Names of towns and cities are traced by understanding the translation of local language and the then identity of the place. Highlighted is the strong influence by the Spaniards that run throughout the archipelago and the role of the Catholic Church as an instrument for subjugation by converting pagans” to Christianity. The colonizers, especially the Spaniards who came first, dictated the grid iron planning of the towns following the Laws of the Indies identical to the plan of Spanish cities. Geological conditions and natural resources determined the location of the towns along with the vested interests of those who rule. Periodic typhoons and pirate attacks influenced the change in location of some towns. Prominent families and colonial houses stand as witnesses of the glorious past, the power divide, and the deeply-rooted colonial mentality and acceptance of colonization.
The book presents the history of key towns and cities with the hope that understanding the origin of their development
and the value of the past would help in the preservation of what little that remains of this glorious past, as a guide to its
rehabilitation and/or future development.
While the book is a good reference to understand the political birth of specific cities and towns, it however failed to put the town’s or city’s development in the context of the country’s situation before the time of colonization. There was a sketchy reference to the past before colonization as if these towns and cities did not exist before the Spaniards. What defines a city other than it was declared by the colonizer was not clearly presented. The book is an attempt to link history with the formal city planning. Inclusion of clear maps could have helped significantly in the understanding of the cases. Also, to better understand the historical references made in this book, the reader must have a general background on Philippine history and geography.
The book is an indicator that we have limited available knowledge to better understand and bring about impartial information and analysis regarding the evolution of our cities and towns.