'Lungsod Iskwater' focuses lens on informal settlers

- Bebot Sison Jr., Cecille Suerte Felipe -

MANILA, Philippines - A book on the organic nature of informal settlements in Metro Manila was launched Thursday.

“Lungsod Iskwater,” which features images taken by photographer Neal Oshima, is a joint publication of the Yulo Foundation for Sustainable Development Inc. (YFSDI), Anvil Publishing, Bluprint magazine, SM Podium and NBS Bestsellers.

People behind the book would like to impart to Filipinos the need to address the problems involving informal settlers or squatters.

“We always hope that every book can make a difference and can make an impact on the consciousness of one or two people,” said YFSDI’s Tony Yulo-Loyzaga.

Lungsod Iskwater is considered a landmark book by architect and STAR columnist Paulo Alcazaren, environment planner Luis Ferrer and economist Benvenuto Icamina.

According to Alcazaren, informal settlers, who occupy large parts of coastal areas in Metro Manila and other parts of the country, “are our first line of defense against a tsunami.” He said such disasters will happen because we are now in a new environment affected by climate change.

Ferrer said “we read this book in the context of what happened in Japan and what is still happening and will continue to happen over the next few days or years. In the end, it is not regulation or science that make us survive, it is the spirit of man, the spirit that we see when we read this book, the spirit that the propelled the development of the community.”

The book also shows the some parts of Binondo and Quiapo in Manila, once the centers of commerce, are now slums, with informal settlers taking over abandoned historic buildings.

Ferrer said Oshima’s “astonishing” photographs give the readers an insight into the reality as informal settlers see it.

Icamina, on the other hand, said the book was supposed to be about architecture, but “we decided to put socio-economic dimensions into the book, which hopefully will create history as far as informal settlement is concerned.”

He said when they started working on the book in May 2001, a week after the EDSA 2 revolt, “we were going through all the informal settlements and the emotions were high, the sentiments were high, it was a bit difficult for the researchers to really make sense of what people said at that time.”

Icamina said among the things they found out is that not all the people who live in informal settlements are poor. He cited that a survey indicated that only 60 percent are actually poor and the rest are not.

He said one such case is a schoolteacher living in a squatter colony despite having property in Taytay, Rizal. Icamina said one remarkable case is that of a couple with 12 children sharing their space with their parents and grandchildren.











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