YP Reflections: Taking the Road Less Travelled

by Enika Hernando

As YP celebrates its 10th year, it significantly coincides with the year (2005) I decided to take “the road less travelled”. So I guess it was destiny to have seen that poster about the Young Professionals Orientation and Training Program on Social Housing (YP Workshop August 2005) at the University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning (UP SURP) one afternoon as I took the detour connecting SURP to the CSWCD building where I was taking up my Masters in Community Development. It was my first semester at the College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD) as I said to myself I needed the theories and academic background on development if I am to pursue it as a life work. The poster said that the YP Workshop was organized by an NGO that was TAO-Pilipinas Inc. (Technical Assistance Organization). It surely caught my attention to know there are other technical professionals (architects, engineers) out there who are in development work – and it was an all-women organization.

Enika in Parola, Tondo during the community immersion for the first YP Workshop organized by TAO-Pilipinas, Inc. in 2005.

Enika in Parola, Tondo during the community immersion for the first YP Workshop organized by TAO-Pilipinas, Inc. in 2005.

My first close encounter with Manila’s urban poor was actually through the YP Workshop. I was assigned in Parola Compound, Tondo. I have never been to Tondo, much less stay for two nights with a family in Tondo (along with my groupmates in the workshop. A memorable anecdote I would always share whenever I recall this experience is that the CR was directly above the river – no need for a septic tank – and we had no clean running water. Such a basic necessity yet thousands of Filipino families live without it. What I would also always remember is that the families living in these harsh conditions should not be feared nor be blamed for their situation nor be accused of being lazy as the reason for their situation… just like you and me, they have dreams and they work hard but our society sadly can be ruthless and unjust. There I realized that the call for change is imperative. We need to create an enabling environment that offer equal opportunities, one where we are be able to access our rights and fully develop our potential as a nation’s people are its best assets toward a (as best expressed in our own language) – “mapagpalaya at mapagkalingang kaunlaran”.

After the YP workshop, I continued my involvement with TAO Pilipinas as a volunteer for six (6) months working for its various projects. Among the most memorable were: the drawing workshops for the children of members of the People’s Organization Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Maralita ng Navotas (SANAGMANA); talking with families in Navotas’ houses on stilts with up to 3 floors!; sleeping by the river (since houses were built beside the river); shocked at the reality of the community having to alternately guard their houses as it might be set on fire in the middle of the night – which later on I have come to know was a common “strategy” to drive away the informal settlers. I also got to participate in the 1st Young Professionals National Camp 2005 organized by the JF Ledesma Foundation, Inc. held at San Carlos City, Negros Occidental in December 2005.

I am forever grateful for the experiences I had with TAO Pilipinas and I kept my ties with TAO even years after – there are not many technical women professionals truly dedicating themselves to development work such as the amazing ladies of TAO. I was fortunate to participate in its 2009 YP Workshop on WATSAN in Social Housing now as a facilitator. It was an exhilarating experience to have a direct hand in providing the young participants who were brimming with ideas and full of energy with new options to live a meaningful life. I always carried with me those learnings and experiences and it has contributed into shaping me into the Development Practitioner that I am now – one who values people’s meaningful participation, trusts in people’s capacities, perseveres no matter how hopeless things may seem knowing/believing that we are able to do great things not alone but by working together. As the famous old African Proverb goes “if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together”.

Enika with the Aeta women and children in one of her first climb with Aeta Mission in 2005. (Photo source: Maria Veronica Hernando)

Enika with the Aeta women and children in one of her first climb with Aeta Mission in 2005. (Photo source: Maria Veronica Hernando)

In the past 10 years I was blessed to have opportunities to work directly with communities and as well as with national organizations both government and non-government. I was given the chance to be part of the faculty of the Arts Department of the Ateneo de Manila High School – though only for a schoolyear, it was fun and enriching to teach the naughty but nice high school boys about the elements of art, principles of design and even perspective drawing. A big chunk of my ten years, a total of six (6) years, which I spent with the Aeta Mag-antsi communities of Capas, Tarlac (thru the Aeta Mission of the Holy Spirit Sisters) are the closest to my heart – fighting side by side with them for their rights to their ancestral domain, education and selfdetermination. My involvement with the Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples (ECIP) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) gave me the church’s perspective as I went around visiting program sites in various parts of the Philippines. My stint with the government in 2012-2014 where I did pioneering work with the Department of Education-Indigenous Peoples Education Office (DepEd-IPsEO)was an eye opener for me on the in’s and out’s of government operations and how good governance can really bring about long-lasting changes in people’s lives and that of the country and the world.

My technical background always came as an advantage – being able to do lay outs of site plans/floor plans for indigenous groups and urban poor communities as advocacy to the local government, my eye for art enabled me to design advocacy materials that were technically sound. Most recently, I assisted an Indigenous Peoples (IP) Organization develop their logo through a participatory workshop – they were happy to be part of the logo conceptualization process – from choosing the message and then the symbols to use, even the colors. At first they thought that because they did not know how to draw it was not possible for them to take part in the logo design workshop. They were delightfully surprised when they saw the final output and found it reflective of their aspirations as a community. Continue reading

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Call for Applicants: 2015 YP Summer Internship Program

YP  Internship posterThe YP Program of TAO-Pilipinas is now accepting applications for the 2015 Summer Internship. We are looking for senior students of architecture/engineering/planning, dedicated individuals who are open to learn and practice alternative development approaches and with a strong inclination towards community development work.

Interns will be part of the TAO technical team and are expected to work on various TAO projects and perform both office-based (e.g. CAD drafting, model-making, cost-estimating) and community-based (e.g. field research, workshop documentation, construction monitoring) assignments.


  • At least 18 years old;
  • At least in the 4th year of study in architecture, civil engineering, or environmental planning;
  • Maintains an outstanding academic performance and with good writing and research skills.

Application Requirements:

  1. Complete resume with ID photo
  2. One-page personal statement (specifying the objective of the internship and how it fits within your career goals)
  3. Two letters of support from current or past professors attesting to the strengths of the student
  4. Optional: portfolio or samples of student work/projects undertaken


Email complete application requirements to: yp@tao-pilipinas.org. Selected applicants will be contacted for an interview. For more information about the internship position, please contact Arch. Angelus Sales, Deputy Program Director for YP, at 4410998 / 4367301.


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Three PUP-CAFA Students Complete the 2014 YP Summer Internship

The three PUP-CAFA student-interns (from left to right: Erika Jane Sabas, Wilma Sy, and Mary Mae Jeremias).

The three PUP-CAFA student-interns (from left to right: Erika Jane Sabas, Wilma Sy, and Mary Mae Jeremias).

This summer, TAO-Pilipinas accepted three student-interns from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines College of Architecture and Fine Arts (PUP-CAFA). The interns were Erika Jane Sabas, Wilma Sy, and Mary Mae Jeremias who applied to the YP Summer Internship Program to fulfill the on-the-job training requirement in PUP-CAFA. Their internship work, which began last April 7, is part of the continuing partnership between PUPCAFA and TAO’s YP Program.

Despite most of the technical staff of TAO doing fieldwork in Tacloban City, the interns were still mentored by a technical staff thru Arch. Beryl Baybay who has rejoined TAO for part-time work engagements. The interns did various work ranging from research to drafting to preparing cost estimates and specification documents. They also assisted the TAO staff in preparing the workshop tools needed for the community action planning process that was conducted in Tacloban City. Particular tasks were also assigned to the interns. Erika did illustrations for a bamboo construction manual; Wilma prepared technical drawings, cost estimates and specification documents; and Mary Mae was assigned to do research on socialized housing projects and land research. The performance of the three student-interns was regularly evaluated by Arch. Baybay and their final evaluation was given upon the completion of the required 200 working hours last May 20. YP Program Deputy Director likewise gave each of the interns a one-of-one assessment of their internship work and issued their certificates of completion.

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2nd CAN Regional Meeting-Workshop held in Manila

9-day program highlights community workshops and ends with the Multi-stakeholders Forum on Citywide Upgrading jointly organized by CAN, SHFC, and WB


The Community Architects Network (CAN) successfully held its Second Regional Meeting-Workshop on May 20-28, 2013 in Metro Manila. CAN is a program under the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) that links architects, engineers, planners, academic institutes, and community artisans/builders in Asia who work with the poor in the planning and management of their communities. The network advocates that the poor should play a central role in community planning and in finding solutions to build better settlements. CAN was established in 2010 with the first meeting-workshop held in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Organized with the theme “People can make change”, the 2nd CAN Meeting brought together about 100 participants coming from 18 countries in Asia to learn from each other’s work and support the upgrading initiatives of poor communities. The CAN participants represented East Asia (Korea, Japan, Mongolia); Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines); South Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh) and Tibet; and the Pacific Islands (Fiji, Australia). Non-Asians from Italy, Belgium, UK, and Kenya also joined the 9-day event.

Program highlights

Several local groups (TAMPEI, TAO-Pilipinas, FDUP, PACSII, HPFPI, UP-TFA) worked together to organize the various program activities from May 20-28. On the first day, participants attended lectures about the Philippine urban poor situation; field visits to urban poor communities and housing projects in Manila, Navotas, Quezon City, and Valenzuela; and a welcome dinner hosted by the Valenzuela People’s Organization Network. The second and third days’ program activities were devoted to country experiences sharing and panel discussions that tackled the young professionals (YP)spirit and sustaining work as a community architect; new education towards designing and planning with communities; and the role of community artisans and builders in community upgrading. These initial activities were held in Balay Kalinaw at UP Diliman campus and participants were billeted at the University Hotel. The international participants also went on a tour around historical Old Manila on May 23.

Community workshops

The main feature of the program was the conduct of simultaneous workshops in nine communities in Caloocan City, Valenzuela City, and Bocaue, Bulacan. The CAN participants were grouped into teams to facilitate participatory planning in these communities and apply their technical skills to local upgrading initiatives and community efforts towards security of tenure. The CAN teams stayed in the communities for three days (May 24-26) to consult the people and work with them on addressing the area-specific issues and challenges to upgrading.

The level of technical intervention provided by the CAN teams depended on the readiness of the community organizations to address the legal, social and economic issues related to community upgrading. Several conducted community mapping exercises as a way to start community dialogue, understand the local situation and explore possibilities for community improvement. In Donnaville in Barangay 177, Caloocan City, the team was able to work with the community to come up with an alternative site plan and architectural design for a 12-unit housing project.

The CAN teams presented the results of the community workshops by setting up exhibits during the Multi-stakeholders Forum on Citywide Upgrading on May 28 at the BSWM Convention Hall in Quezon City. Community representatives from Barangay 177- Caloocan City, Valenzuela City, and Bocaue also presented the CAN community workshop process they have undergone and the resulting proposals during the forum.

Forum on citywide upgrading

The forum, jointly organized by CAN, Social Housing and Finance Corporation (SHFC) and the World Bank, was widely attended by the CAN participants, PO partners, LGU and national shelter agencies representatives. The keynote address was given by DILG Undersecretary Francisco “Bimbo” Fernandez who underscored the government’s PHP50B fund for housing informal settler-families in danger areas as an innovative and community-driven housing program. He acknowledged that planning with people is a slow process and challenged community architects to facilitate the hastening of the people’s planning process for the program to work. The World Bank’s Sector Manager, Mr. Ousmaine Dione, likewise stressed enabling policies and environment for people to be the main drivers of change and better professional support through participatory planning. Ms. Somsook Boonyabancha, Secretary General of ACHR, also considered the Philippines’ ISF housing program as a potential model for other Asian communities if the country implements it the right way.
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2011 YP Workshop Report

front cover of 2011 YP Workshop ReportThe 2011 YP Workshop Report is now available online for download. This report is a documentation of the proceedings from the 2011 Young Professionals Workshop on Social Housing, a 7-day training program held on October 19-25, 2011 in Quezon City.

The YP Workshop is a capability-building activity organized annually by TAO-Pilipinas to orient young design professionals and students about social housing, with different thematic focus every year since 2005. In this fifth cycle of the YP Workshops, the program focused on the theme “Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Community Planning and Development”.

TAO-Pilipinas worked with partner organizations in carrying out the workshop activities including COM (Community Organizers Multiversity), Masagana of Navotas Neighborhood Association, Samahan ng Maliliit na Mangangalakal ng R. Domingo, Samahang Pantalan Uno, and Kasiglahan Village Phase 1-D Homeowners Association. Fifteen (15) senior students of architecture, engineering and planning completed the workshop along with eight (8) community representatives.

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