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Build, Resist, Build

We often imagine that infrastructure development breeds an economically progressive country. As an architecture student, it is our duty to develop and curate communities by designing buildings and establishments for the comfort of the people, yet we often forget that infrastructural designs should benefit everyone, not just those in power.

Last 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration announced the “Build, Build, Build” program pledging to usher in a “Golden Age of Infrastructure” in the next five years as a solution to the neglect with the infrastructure sector in the country. However, there are numerous cases wherein agricultural and ancestral lands are stripped off from their rightful owners in order to pave way for development. Rapid urbanization has turned these lands into commercial and industrial sites, all for the purpose of business and capitalism.

One specific and vital case is that of the proposed development of Clark Green City in Pampanga, which is seen as a possible solution to Manila’s polluted environment and congestion. The project will be covering 36 square miles—twice as large as the land area of Manila. Personally, I was excited when I read about it since it would be the very first green city in the country, until I found out that the project has land-grabbed several ancestral lands which are home to 16 Aeta tribes.

What’s unfortunate about that is that I wasn’t surprised that indigenous people are being displaced from their lands; the “Build, Build, Build” program has provided us a bridge to economic and industrial development at the expense of the marginalized. It wouldn’t be the first government project where Indigenous People (IPs) are being displaced, which makes me wonder as to why there haven’t been any projects or any kind of development for the indigenous people. It’s easy to appreciate buildings and other developments, but we forget to ask ourselves: At what cost?

We design for the common good, but we sometimes end up doing the exact opposite.

One vivid memory during my childhood was when I overheard one of my relatives say, “If I were a city official, I would abolish all these informal settlers,” and the first thing I thought was  “where would they go?”

It was only a few months back when our professor asked us whether we would abolish these informal settlers within the slum areas or let them stay for the sake of improvement. I was reminded by the comment my relative made when I realized that real progress begins with inclusivity because when we design for the common good, but we often forget that by doing so, we sometimes end up doing the exact opposite.

Another childhood memory is whenever I see subdivisions being developed, I would get concerned about the agriculture sector. I would be worried that if more infrastructure are built, there would be no more land left for rice fields and other vegetation. Ironic how the program course I chose is wholly concerned with the design of buildings and communities.

We are always focusing on improvement but we forget how to be responsible citizens in the process. Development should be inclusive for all the Filipinos, and should benefit us without costing lives, lands, or people’s survival. Starting with social inclusion may be the first step into creating a society accessible to everyone.