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FINAL Draft Urban Poor Movement Phils

FINAL Draft Urban Poor Movement Phils

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Published by Djorina Velasco

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Published by: Djorina Velasco on Oct 08, 2012
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03/11/2014

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FINALDRAFTDecember2004
Lifeonthefasttrack:Mobilizingtheurbanpoorforchange
DjorinaVelasco
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Introduction
“Hindikamisquatter.Nakikitiralangkamirito.”
BhoyVino,December2003
Thepoignancyoftheabovequoteis,unfortunately,lostintranslation.BhoyVinoisajeepneydriverfromManilawhohaslivedinanurbanpoorcommunityalongarailwaytrackallhislife.Wearenotsquatters.Wejustlivehere,hesays.NakikitiraisaparticipativeconjugationoftheTagalogverbfor“reside”.Itconnotescollectivityandsharedaction.Therearemanywaysofavoidingtheuseoftheword'squatter':urbanpoor,informalsettler,makeshiftdweller.Politicallycorrectlanguageallowsdevelopmentplanners,socialworkersandaidagenciestotalkabouturbanpovertyintermsofproblemsandsolutions,devoidofemotionalcontent.Thepeoplethemselvesareofcourseadifferentlot.Thearticulationsoftheirlives,strugglesandidentitiesaresteepedinrawemotions.Theirindignationispalpableineveryconversation,butsoistheirhumorandwit.Bhoy'swife,Edna,hasadifferenttakeonherhusband'scomment:“Hindiakosquatter.Magandaako!”I'mnotasquatter.I'mpretty!Shelaughsandgoesonexpressingherresentmentatthederogatorymeaningsoftheterm.Wearenotthieves.Wearenosyndicate.Wearenotaproblem.Weknowhowtohelpourselves.Allweneedarefriendsfromtheoutside.ThiscasestudytellsthestoryofthemobilizationsthataretakingplaceinEdnaandBhoy'scommunity.Thecommunityspansastretchoftenkilometers,alongsideasinglerailwaytrackofthePhilippineNationalRailway(PNR).Tightlyclusteredalongthetrack,withinthe15-meterdangerzone,arethehomesofnolessthan10,471families
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Althoughtheviewsputforwardherearethoseoftheauthor,noresearchisaproductofasingulareffort.WithoutthestoriesandreflectionsofthepeopleofHARFandespeciallyReynaldoAblay,thisworkwouldnotneverhavecometolife.InvaluablesupportalsocamefromLeonardodelosReyesIIIandRafaelAlbertoftheCenterforPopularEmpowerment.Mycollaborators,comradesandfriends:Mabuhaykayo!
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Governmentcensusdatashowthatofthetotalnumberofhouseholds,abouthalfarehomeownersorco-owners.Ofthe7,003structuresfoundinthecommunity,5,074arepurely
 
Inmanyways,theircommunityislikenumerousothersinthedevelopingworld,inBangkokorJakarta.Drivenbypoverty,thisiswhereruralmigrantsbegintheir“citylivesalongsidedescendantsofManila'sunderclasses.Lowerechelonemployeeslivenexttocontractuallaborers.Womenaugmentfamilyincomebydoingotherpeople’slaundry.ChildrenearnafewPesosbysellingrecyclablegarbagetojunkshops.Somepeddlestreetfoodandcigarettestomotoristsatthenearbyhighway.Livingconditionsarecrowdedandsanitationispoor.Manychildrensufferfromchroniccoughs.Supplyofcleandrinkingwaterisunevenandthereareonlyfewstreetlightsatnight.Drugsandalcoholarecommonformsofescape.Thentherearetheobviousdangersofbeingside-swiped,injuredorkilledbyaspeedingtrain.Insomeareasofthecommunity,thereisbarelyhalfameterdistancebetweenthetrackandahome'sdoorstep.Andthereisalsothehumaninsecuritythatistakingitstollonthoselivinginthedangerzone.Manyhaveexperiencedthetraumaofdemolition:witnessingthedestructionofone'shome,uprootingone'sschool-agedchildrenandtheuncertaintyoffindingnewwork.Othershavebeenhardenedbyperiodicthreatsand“falsealarms”.Yet,despitetheinsecurity,notallhavelosttheirsenseofcontrolovertheirfates.Associationaltiesatthegrassrootslevelhavegivenrisetonumerouslocalneighborhoodorganizations,whichinturnhavefederatedintoalocalmovementthatisgivingexpressiontopeople'scontentionsandassertions.Theaimofthisstudyistosurfacethehistory,innerworkings,externalcontextandsignificanceofthisurbanmovement,bothasauniqueexampleoflocalcollectiveactionandareflectionofwiderurbanstruggles.Thelocalmovementinfocusisofparticularlyinteresting,sinceitrepresentsacommunitythathasnotbenefitedfromexternaldevelopmentinterventions.Itthusprovidesinsightsintoself-mobilizingstrategiesoftheurbanpoor,autonomousofChurchorNGO-ledcommunitycommunityorganizingfoundinadjacentlocalities.
Theurbancondition:thepushandpullofmodernization
“Citiesarelivingsystems,made,transformedandexperiencedbypeople.Urbanformsandfunctionsareproducedandmanagedbytheinteractionbetweenspaceandsociety,thatisbythehistoricalrelationshipbetweenhumanconsciousness,matter,energyandinformation.“
ManuelCastells,IntroductiontoTheCityandtheGrassroots,1983.residential,whiletherestofthestructurescombineresidentialwithcommercialuse(smallstores)orserveasstorageorsmall-scaleworkshops.
 
ThiscasestudyofoneofnumerousurbanpoorcommunitiesinthePhilippinecapitalissetagainstthebackdropoftheurbandramaofa“primatecity”(EversandKorff,2000)suchasManila.Trafficishorrendous,themassofpeopleandvehiclessuffocating
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.Airpollutioncoatstheentirecityingraydust.Everyday,peoplemakeeventhemostuninhabitablepartsofthecityaplacetoliveandcallhome:riverembankments,garbagedumps,shorelines,bridges.Amidstthegreyness,areislandsofgreen:sprawlinglawnssurroundingshoppingmallsandgovernmentbuildings,churchyards,andthehomesoftheupperclasswholivebehindtall,whitewalls.ItisoftensaidthatManilaisboththecountry'sbiggestsewerandgatewaytotheworld.Itisasmolderingwastesiteandtempleofconsumerismallatonce.Itisanorphanagetothedowntroddenandplaygroundtotherich.Thecontrastsarestark,byanymeasure.Theurbanpoorcommunityinfocusislocatedinthesoutherntipofthemetropolis,borderingtheprovinceofLaguna.MuntinlupaCity,literallytranslated,means“littleland”.ItisoneoftwelvecomponentcitiesthatcompriseMetroManila.WithaviewofrollinghillsandtheLagunadeBayLake,Muntinlupausedtobeasleepysuburbtothemega-cityofManila.Thisisnolongerthecase.Withinthelastdecade,thecityhasgrownintoanimportantinformationtechnologyhub.Itboastsofanultra-modernbusinessparkandoneofthecountry'smostadvancedmedicalfacilities.Yetatthesametime,itishometomorethan40,000urbanpoorhouseholdsoutofatotalhouseholdpopulationof78,000
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.LikeintherestofManila,theseurbansettlementsarepopulatedbymigrantsfromdifferentpartsofthearchipelago,theirchildrenandgrandchildren,theproverbialmeltingpotofvariouslocalidentities.Dissectingthecity,fromnorthtosouth,isthetrainsystemofthePhilippineNationalRailway.Thetrainshavebecomeasymbolofurbandecay.Dilapidatingtrainsferrypeopleandgoodstoandfromnearbyprovinces—notthemostconvenientfromoftransport.Thecarriagesofferlittleprotectionfromheatandrain.Insomepartsofthecity,ithasbecomeabizarresporttohurlobjectsattrainspassingby.Intheyear2003,thesubsidizedgovernmentcorporationregisteredanetlossof644millionPesos
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Basedon2004figures,MetroManilahasatotalpopulationof10,330,100.Populationdensityisabout15,600peoplepersquarekilometre.
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AccordingtotheAsianDevelopmentBank,theshareofinformal'slum'settlersinallofMetroManilais35percent.
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Thisamountisroughlyequivalentto11.5millionUSdollars[currentexchangerate:1

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