Tacloban city is divided into 138 villages called Barangay. Officially Tacloban city has 178 639 inhabitants (according to the 2000 census). But the people living in the slum areas are not accounted for. In reality the population is above 300 000 people. Most of these people are living in dense slum areas next to the seaside. Seawall is such a community. The scholars that are currently enrolled in the study and development program are children from this barangay. This is the home of the fathers, brothers and mothers we have been working together with in developing the study and development center.
Today we visited Seawall together with the fathers and brothers of the kids. This visit made a massive impression on us. Our expectations were high and we were really anxious to get to know more about the environment of our friends from seawall.
Seawall is a densely built area with a lot of garbage, open sewers and improvised homes. Everything was basically stacked on top of each other. The buildings by the sea have a foundation consisting of many layers of garbage. These were buildings built with wooden frameworks of timber from coconut threes or wooden logs whit palm leaves cladding. These buildings are built on top of the water because of the immense density among the people living on land within the limited area of the seawall barrangay.
On land the buildings seemed to be consisting of combinations of wooden frameworks and walls of halo-blocks. These buildings were even tighter stacked together creating small, humid and dark streets.
The public spaces were minimal and consisted mostly of the local basketball court, the church, pool table area and small rooms for drinking tuba (a local coconut liquor). Because of the density of buildings the streets are quite small, dark, humid and filled with garbage. These conditions have also made the barangay vulnerable to plagues, illness and several fires. The latest one was 12th of september 2006.
But the strongest impression of this visit was too meet the wonderful people living there. During our stay we met some of the mothers, some of the children that we know, as well as some of the fathers that no longer is working with us because of illness. It was really a different experience meeting all these wonderful people in their own community. In addition to the people we already know loads of kids followed us on our walk through Seawall.
The people living in this area rely on work every day to be able to bring food to the table. That is one of the reason why people not are trying to improve the conditions of their environment. Seawall has also for a long time been considered by the government as an area that has to be erased in favor for a huge road. The inhabitants would be offered new housing outside of town. At the architects office they told us that their goal was to clear the area through political interventions and strategic planning.