Sunday, 31 January 2010

Bayanijuan sa Calauan in Laguna

Former Estero de Paco resident Flor Villalon was beaming with joy as she toured me around her 24 sq m home in BayaniJuan sa Calauan, a resettlement site located in Laguna, about 1.5 hours drive from Metro Manila. She exclaimed "I am so happy. I now have my own home."

Estero de Paco, taken by Damon Lynch in 2009

Flor is one of the beneficiaries of ABS-CBN Foundation's Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig (KBPIP), roughly translated as join hands for Pasig River. KBPIP has been at the forefront to clear the 27-km Pasig River and its tributaries of garbage. In order to clean the river, they have to first relocate the informal settlers living along it which is estimated to be 5,000 families (right photo shows a typical riverside neighborhood, photo taken by Damon Lynch). The families are relocated to the 107-hectare National Housing Authority (NHA) site in Calauan, Laguna now called BayaniJuan sa Calauan.

The plan is to gradually build-up the site to 10,000 families over a period of seven years to adequately provide basic support services. However, with the onslaught last year of typhoon Ondoy, the population has now swelled to 4,000 families and with the weekly average of 100 families arriving from typhoon hit areas, the site will reach half its planned target in less than one year.

View from Pedro Gil, taken by Damon Lynch in 2009
According to Renato "Kaka" Constantino, in-charge of Community Development, they are facing two challenges: one is Education, there are currently 900 students handled by only nine teachers. The school has already instituted two shifts from 6-11 and 12 to 5pm to accommodate the growing size. Second is to introduce sustainable projects to provide means of livelihood. He said that there is an urgent need to 'retool, retrain and equip' the relocatees because most are unskilled ambulant vendors. Livelihood is important so that they can decently provide for their family and not seek work back in Manila.

Kaka said that the easiest entry point for livelihood in BayaniJuan sa Caluan is construction i.e. carpentry, plumbing and house wiring. TESDA has trained 50 workers (and is training more) who are now part of the construction and iron and sash teams building the homes pledged by Sunlife, Habitat for Humanity, Ayala etc. Tetchie Diego, who is in-charge of Livelihood and Support Service has set-up projects targeted to women such as making bags out of used newspaper which is now sold to Manila-based stores (left photo), picture frames and will soon introduce organic farming such as ampalaya, vegetables and arugula and sewing as soon as their pledged high-speed sewing machines arrive.

At the moment, the site has no central water or power supply. There are water pumps located in every block and potable water is sold at P3 per 5-gallon containers. Adtel has donated solar energy to power street lampposts and the school. There is a clinic with a 24/7 nurse and Dr. Sonny Viloria, one of the pioneers of the practice of Natural Medicine in the country, comes every Thursday and Friday.

According to Kaka, they will be building a wet market soon and to accommodate more school children, 15 classroom (donated by NHA) is under construction beside the existing school at Site 1 and 36 classroom (donated by the Pasig City government will be built in Site 3 .

Gina Lopez, managing director of ABS-CBN Foundation said early last year during the site's launch “Bayanijuan sa Calauan is about showing how the Filipino spirit can be, how we can all work together...This is an ideal place, where we can bring the informal settlers from Pasig River to transform and improve their lives through Bayanijuan.” Well, she didn't expect the population to quadruple! Her target was at least 1,000 families per year. Our company recently visited the site to check out how we can support. If you are interested to help, please contact Ish Panganiban, Resource Mobilization Officer at (+632)415-2227 or (+63927) 649-9140 or email

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