• Technical Professionals in Development Work by Faith Varona

    The recognition of the need for technical professional assistance in development work, especially for housing and security of tenure, is fairly recent compared to the post-Martial Law decades devoted to social justice and equality by social development workers, civil society organizations, and community based organizations.

    Community development work as a full-time career choice for technical professionals especially women is a rarity in the Philippines. It is not common to find architects, engineers, planners, and designers devoting their time assisting the poor and the marginalized on a wide array of social development issues.

    This article recognizes with pride this new breed of women development workers who found purpose and fulfillment in working alongside people in the communities, creating opportunities for learning and venues to act together towards the common goal of sustainable human settlements development.

    These are just 10 of the few who dared. There may be more out there working quietly and diligently with the poor. Hopefully, this new breed of development workers will increase in the years to come.

    1. Maria Lourdes Domingo-Price, architect

    may domingo-priceMay’s work with urban poor communities started while still a student of architecture at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. In 1986 she helped organize the socio-civic student organization UP Task Force Arki, which paved the way for more architecture students to get involved in a parish-based housing improvement projects for poor families in San Pablo Apostol Parish in Tondo, Manila. Challenged by how the practice of architecture could be more socially responsive, she continued her work after graduation in Tondo and in other poor communities. During this period she also became part of other similar socially oriented groups of architects like the Site and Shelter Team (now ALTERPLAN, Inc.) and Panirahanan, Inc. For brief periods, she tried conventional private as well as public practices (she worked for the government, under HUDCC).

    Guided by the conviction that the poor are capable of finding and designing solutions to their own housing and community development problems, she spent her years working with people – learning, exploring and being continuously challenged by how housing, community design, and construction could be effective avenues for enabling and bringing poor people together to initiate change in their communities. In 1995, with support from the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) in Bangkok, May spent several years in Cambodia, working and planning with urban
    poor communities on housing issues and linking with the university to encourage faculty, students, young architects, and planners to engage in the same. There she met and eventually married Jonathan Price, a British architect of Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO). Together with their two daughters, both continued to travel around Asia for VSO, the UN, and ACHR. In 2006, they briefly settled in Iloilo City when May worked full-time with the Philippine Action for Community-led Shelter Initiatives, Inc. (PACSII) to support the housing initiatives of the Homeless People’s Federation, Inc. (HPFPI). Currently, May and her family are based in Syria but she is still active with ACHR and finds time to travel
    around the Philippines and Asia assisting communitybased organizations as well as supporting networks of community technical professionals.

    2. Sarah del Castillo-Redoblado, architect

    sarah redobladoSarah attributes her involvement in student activism in college and her commitment to development work to the University of the Philippines. Over the years, she remained hooked in all sorts of development challenges that she never
    thought the training in architecture would be responsive to, but somehow has been. Among her inspirations is German architect Albert Speer who believes in the process of deconstruction that she considers an essential analytical skill in development work. She is one of the founding members of the Sites and Shelter Team, a group of young architects who
    assisted various urban poor communities organized by non-government organizations associated with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in Metro Manila. Decades of development work have enriched her experience in the provision of technical assistance to non-profit and participative development of housing and settlements, research, and organizing capability-building activities for government and NGOs that work on urban and local development planning.

    Sarah is now the Executive Director of ALTERPLAN, Inc., an offshoot technical service NGO from the Sites and Shelter Team. The Quezon City based ALTERPLAN provides training and design workshops in community planning and cooperative housing, research, and event management of housing, urban development, and planning-related activities. Apart from this, she also serves as the Vice-President of the Board of Trustees of the Partnership of Philippine Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA), a national service network of social development NGOs based in major urban centers of
    the country, and sits as a member-representative of the Professional Sector at the Quezon City Development Council.

    3. Arlene Christy D. Lusterio, architect-environmental planner

    arlene lusterioArlene was born to a simple family in Bacolod. Her mother was a teacher and her father a centrifuge operator in a sugar
    mill. She is a product of living seven years in the suburbs, a year in the farm, and 33 years in the city. She missed kindergarten and was forgotten to be enrolled in Grade 1, but still made it to college at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. Her choice of an architecture degree was not at all noble. She was simply dissatisfied with the design of her parent’s house and did not trust anyone to make it better for her. Architecture brought her closer to the social realities of life either by mere coincidence or a divine plan. She joined the UP Task Force-Arki and became a permanent fixture in Tondo. The housing project of Samahan ng Angkop na Pabahay ng San Pablo Apostol (SAPSPA) in Barangay Magsaysay,
    Tondo had been a haven for both technical and social learning. Her early training, fueled by the thirst for challenges and the search for relevance, sustained her work with the poor. Her work through TAO-Pilipinas continues to support the disadvantaged and bring about unconventional solutions to urban poor housing problems of poor Filipinos living in the hidden edges and under the shadows of the big city.

    Arlene is currently the Executive Director and Program Director for Human Settlements and Environment of TAO-Pilipinas, Inc.

    4. Mercelyn P. Galicia, DC, architect

    mercelyn galicia“Every once in a while we are reminded to take a step back, look up and simply acknowledge the transforming Spirit that guides our life.”

    For Sr. Lyn, joining the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul after earning her architecture degree and professional license not only fulfilled her aspiration to serve the Lord holistically but also gave a new meaning and dimension to her practice of architecture. She is helping in the formation of the sisters in her congregation and at the same time assisting in the construction projects of their various institutions. Her technical skill was especially challenged after typhoon
    Reming devastated Bicol and she and her sisters were tasked to help rebuild houses for the victims. The enormity of the task was daunting but with courage and solidarity, they were able to push it through together with their partner community and supporters. The experience taught her and the sisters to be more human, in touch with reality, and accepting of their weaknesses. It warms Sr. Lyn’s heart to see her small construction team from Anislag relocation housing project grow from being mere helpers to skilled workers, thanks to the exposure and experience they got from the housing projects that the typhoon’s devastation instigated. Their initiatives with the community on post-disaster rehabilitation gave Sr. Lyn and her sisters more reasons to uphold their vows. With the completion and success of their Anislag housing project, DC is now eyeing another housing project in Zambales for the Aetas who were displaced by typhoon Ondoy.

    5. Maria Veronica A. Hernando, interior designer

    enika hernandoEven as an undergraduate interior design student at Assumption College in Makati, Enika already showed her affinity
    to the poor and needy. Her undergraduate thesis on the interior renovation of a public hospital known for catering
    to the very poor in Quezon City earned her a best thesis award, besting old favorites like 5-star hotels and fine dining restaurants. After college, she ventured into mainstream interior design work with two big firms for three years but left dissatisfied and restless, feeling she is needed somewhere else. While pursuing a master’s degree in Community Development at the University of the Philippines, she got the chance to participate in TAO-Pilipinas’ Young Professionals Orientation and Training Program on Social Housing. The experience strengthened her resolve to pursue development
    work seeing the great need for professionals in the improvement of the poor’s living conditions. She finally decided to work with indigenous groups where she saw the harmony of the settlements and structures built by the people with the total environment.

    For the past six years she worked with Ayta communities in Tarlac under the Holy Spirit Ayta Mission and her journey with the IPs will continue as she joins the Episcopal Commission for Indigenous Peoples (ECIP) starting July 2011 as part of a team that will document IP education systems all over the country. Enika dreams of the time when she will be able to once again apply her professional design skills to the conceptualization of a school building/school premises that will fit the needs of the IP schoolchildren. For Enika, there can only be one purpose for the practice of one’s profession: to
    make human existence more meaningful and purposive for as many people as possible.
    Read more…

  • 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)

    lungsod iskwater coverAccording 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 coverTowns 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.

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  • that Affected Social Housing in the Last Decade
    by Geraldine Matabang

    Much of the past decade has been under the administration of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) and the housing sector’s accomplishments in that period have barely made a dent in improving the housing backlog. As of 2010, the total housing need stands at 3.7 million housing units. Majority of this figure consist of the housing needs of informal settlers, slum dwellers, households in danger areas, and the homeless – the marginalized sectors that TAO-Pilipinas has aimed to serve. As TAO-Pilipinas marks a decade of involvement in social housing-related programs and projects, we highlight ten local events, incidents and experiences from 2001 to 2011 that have led to changes in social housing provision/delivery  and shaped the context in which TAO-Pilipinas has responded through technical assistance for the poor.

    1. The North Rail and South Rail Resettlement Program

    When GMA assumed presidency in 2001, the rehabilitation of the Philippine National Railways’ (PNR) North Rail and South Rail was named as one of the flagship infrastructure projects aimed at decongesting Metro Manila and spurring new economic growth areas in Northern, Central and Southern Luzon. The project was set to evict about 100,000 informal settler-families occupying the PNR right-of-way (40,000 for the Northrail project and 60,000 for the Southrail project). The Rail Resettlement Program that was initiated became the most massive relocation project the Arroyo overnment had undertaken. By 2009 close to 70,000 families have been sent to relocation sites in San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan, Montalban in Rizal, and Cabuyao in Laguna. Some families availed of the housing financial assistance under the Balik Probinsya Program.

    While government funding of the PNR project has been plagued with allegations of corruption, the relocation housing developed for displaced families (particularly the off-city resettlement sites) has likewise been criticized for substandard living conditions due to lack of basic services such as potable water, electricity, sanitation facilities, schools, and health centres. Difficulty in paying the high amortization for the lots and inadequate livelihood opportunities in the resettlement site have also forced many to come back to Metro Manila’s informal communities.

    2. Issuance of land proclamations by GMA

    The issuance of land proclamations was a policy introduced to provide intermediate tenure option for informal settlers occupying government lands. This became a key policy during the administration of GMA who, by far, has issued the biggest number of presidential land proclamations. Land proclamations give assurance that families squatting on public lands will not be evicted and access to social services will improve. Families are given Certificates of Entitlement for Lot Award (CELAs) as a form of tenure instrument after land proclamation. HUDCC reported that from 2001 to 2006, there were 195,475 poor households that benefited from the issuance of 94 land proclamations. It should be noted however that only 14,000 families were awarded CELAs during the same 5-year period.

    GMA’s land proclamations appear to have offered improved tenure security for the urban poor and encouraged the provision of basic service infrastructure in the proclaimed areas by LGUs and NGOs. However, development of proclaimed lands into social housing projects continues to be stalled and the disposition of land titles (the ultimate form of security of tenure the poor seek) has yet to be fulfilled. It would seem that land proclamations were primarily motivated by political events and used to gain electoral votes, as the highest numbers issued by GMA were after the 2001 Malacanang siege by opposition supporters and just before the 2004 presidential elections.

    3. Emergence of the Gawad Kalinga community development model

    Gawad Kalinga (GK) is a private sector initiative for housing the poor that saw its begininings in themid-90s with community outreach projects of the Couples for Christ ministry. It was in 2003 that GK embarked on a social housing program called GK777 that sought to build 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities in 7 years. GK has since adopted a community development model that integrates infrastructure delivery with programs addressing the social needs of its beneficiaries (i.e., values formation, education, health care, livelihood, environmental awareness, food sufficiency). This approach has been replicated in various GK villages in different parts of the country. As of 2009 they have built over 33,000 houses in 1,400 villages. Although they have failed to achieve their GK777 targets, GK has taken on a more ambitious mission of ending poverty for 5 million Filipino by 2024.GK housing project

    Apart from contributing to shelter delivery, GK’s most impressive innovation lies in resource generation, in being able to harness a vast network of support from government and the private sector. It has managed to successfully create its own brand in the field of corporate social responsibility. Many CSR programs of top corporations in the country support GK projects and these partnerships receive high profile media campaigns. By effectively engaging stakeholders, GK has led the way for an innovative, private sector-led approach to social housing.

    4. Creation of the SHFC and localized CMP

    The Community Mortgage Program (CMP), a home lending program first introduced in the mid-80s, is considered one of the better performing housing program for the urban poor. Government offers loans to informal settlers organized as community associations to purchase land and invest in house improvements. Through the community mortgage loans, informal groups are granted formal ownership of land. Since 1989 up to 2010, CMP has assisted 217,929 households, 38 percent of which are Metro Manila communities.

    The CMP was initially managed by the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC). As a result of lobbying of NGOs and POs for a more focused implementation of the program for the poor, the administration of CMP was transferred to a newly-formed subsidiary of NMHFC. The Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC) was created in 2004 through EO 272 as lead government agency to undertake social housing programs including the CMP and Abot-Kaya Pabahay Fund Program. The SHFC has since piloted a localized community mortgage program (LCMP) wherein lending is extended to local government units for priority social housing projects. LGUs, in turn, would be lending to the community associations and undertake loan processing and approvals. This creates a multiplier effect for CMP funds since both national and local governments now contribute to the project cost. CMP localization still needs to be tapped and maximized by LGUs and poor communities.
    HFH housing

    5. Use of alternative building materials by Habitat for Humanity

    Habitat for Humanity Philippines (HFHP) is a non-profit Christian ministry that build homes for the poor. Since 1988, HFHP has been implementing social housing programs wherein beneficiaries invest by way of sweat equity and pay for the house through affordable monthly mortgage payments. Its housing program is complemented by “soft programs” on values formation, livelihood skills development and other capacitybuilding programs for its beneficiaries. It also enjoys widespread support from government and private sector groups. Habitat for Humanity targets to build 5,000 houses annually and to date, it has built over 32,000 houses across the country.

    The past decade has seen the organization delve in research and development for house construction innovations in an effort to keep the houses durable yet low-cost and affordable for the poor. The use of alternative building technologies that are volunteer-friendly has become synonymous with Habitat for Humanity housing. It introduced and further developed the use of concrete interlocking blocks (CIBs), modified hollow blocks, and steel frames with fiber cement boards. With these innovations, people are gradually being familiarized with alternative technologies and thus helping change a common but misguided outlook that a strong house could only be built of conventional reinforced concrete and concrete hollow blocks. Read more…

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