A Community's Journey

The Barangay 74-A Community:  An opportunity to showcase the community-driven upgrading process and bamboo as construction material

On an area situated in the middle of Davao City, Philippines are people who suffer the burden of traversing a wide and deep river on unsecured bamboo poles tied together to form a light-structured bridge. These are the members of the Barangay 74-A - a group composed of four (4) community associations, unified to the common cause of securing the land they are informally occupying. They have been living in this area for more than ten years now and have constantly been enduring this problem of unsafe access. They look to an opportunity of being able to build a reliable, safe and affordable footbridge that they, their children and elderly could use to cross over without danger.

On February 2010, the Homeless People’s Federation of the Philippines Inc (HPFPI) with its partner NGO, the Philippine Action for Community-led Shelter Initiatives, Inc. (PACSII ) conducted the “National Workshop of POs and Technical Professionals in Community-Driven Upgrading and Housing” with the aim of introducing community-driven planning and housing processes and solutions by urban poor communities. The workshop was attended by HPFPI community representatives from across the country, with volunteer community architects and engineers assisting them. Young architects from other countries also participated. The activity brought immense impact and became a great learning experience for all the participants.

During the workshop, participatory planning processes and methods were practiced and applied in five communities, including the Barangay 74-A. The footbridge planning workshop was conducted on-site and was attended by eager community members. It was facilitated by bamboo construction experts from Indonesia (Cak and Jajang), who were assisted by engineers from academe partners and PACSII.

During the fieldwork, a very informative session on the advantages of bamboo housing and construction was also given by Cak and Jajang with Engineers Noel and Isaac and the University of Mindanao team, headed by Engineer Evtri. At first, the community was hesitant to go with the idea of using bamboo as primary building material for the bridge; but after realizing the importance, integrity and affordability of bamboo, they were convinced that it is, indeed, an appropriate material for their footbridge.

After two days of community people and technical professionals working together, the community was able to make seven (7) beautiful footbridge designs. As part of the process, the community selected the three best footbridge designs. These were then consolidated by our Indonesian partners, in consultation with PACSII and Academe Partners, to come up with one final design of a footbridge to be made entirely out of bamboo, except for its foundations, which are going to be reinforced concrete.

The ongoing Barangay 74-A bamboo footbridge initiative catalyzed a larger undertaking to demonstrate the power of community-driven upgrading and the utilization of bamboo. This undertaking takes the form of a bamboo workshop that showcases the potency of bamboo as an alternative construction material for social housing and infrastructure, and livelihood opportunity. The Barangay 74-A with the support of HPFPI-PACSII-TAMPEI, academe, and the ACHR network, is currently collaborating on this learning activity, with primary technical guidance from Cak and Sahabat Bambu .