One of Jesus’ People Who Wasn’t Happy to See Me
David’s 4th and Final Photo Blog from the Philippines
In my last blog, I told you the story of how American Joseph Zanetti began serving the Badjao people who live in a section of the Isla Verde slum on the Philippine coast of Davao City. It was the Badjao who first built their stilted huts, decades ago, over waters that were then teeming with tropical fish. But over the decades, many other ethnic groups started building stilted houses around them, and Isla Verde changed from an idyllic little community cluster to a crowded, crime-ridden slum suspended above an immense open sewer.
Today Isla Verde is spread over both coastal water and land, but even the huts built on land are perched on stilts in order to keep them above incoming tides, storm surges and floods. So there are actually two levels to the slum. One level is underneath the huts (only where there is land), and the other is elevated above both ground and water, connected by suspended wooden and bamboo walkways.
Here is a photo of the bottom/land level:
On the ground level you will find people who are working, sleeping, eating, sometimes gambling and drinking, and children playing, all underneath stilted shacks.
And here is a photo of the upper level, and in this case, where the houses sit above the coastal water that is covered with garbage:
You don’t want to slip off the elevated boardwalks. Although the water isn’t deep, it is filthy. Surprisingly, the odor is not as bad as you might suspect (but it is bad).
It won’t be long, however, before the slums of Isla Verde will have vanished forever. The Philippine government has signed contracts with Chinese and Malaysian companies for a billion-dollar waterfront development. Here’s what Isla Verde will look like in a few years:
All of those high-rise buildings will sit on an artificial island. And can you see where the highway connects the mainland to the island? That is the part of Isla Verde where the Badjao people currently live. In less than a year, they’ll need to abandon their homes (although many residents of Isla Verde don’t believe it).
Most of the poor residents of Isla Verde are Philippine citizens, and as such, will receive compensation for their property or be provided with tenement housing away from the posh new development. The Badjao, however, are stateless people scattered among the coastal regions of Southeast Asia, and few even have birth certificates. So they will receive nothing when their stilted houses are razed. And the Badjao have historically made their living from the sea, and they still do today, so they can only live right on a coast.
Providentially, Joseph Zanetti has been given by a Filipino doctor a beautiful strip of undeveloped coastal land a few miles down the coast from Isla Verde, and he hopes to relocate to that land the 44 families of the Badjao clan that he has been serving for the past five years (all are related to Carmina, one of the 3 girls who helped Joseph find Jesus). Via an outrigger canoe, I visited that strip of land with Joseph, and the one thing that caught my attention was the clear water! (Although plenty of trash has washed up on the shore.) Here’s a photo:
The “Carmina Clan Development” will not only consist of 44 simple stilted houses built over shallow water, but also a public bathhouse/bathroom on land connected to a septic system. It will be a covenant community that will be self-governing and self-sustaining through fishing, handicraft production, and an Badjao Ethnic Center for tourists. The total cost will be about $20,000, with individual houses, built by the Badjao themselves, only costing about $250 each for all the materials. The Badjao are very non-materialistic, and they are quite content to live in very simple bamboo houses.
I’ve been discussing with Joseph the pros and cons of making housing loans, rather than housing grants, to each Badjao family. (Joseph has read When Helping Hurts, so he understands the pitfalls of handouts.) He is currently leaning towards either subsidized mortgages or a rent-to-own plan. But regardless of how the Carmina Clan Development is financed, Heaven’s Family would like to help. I’ve asked Joseph if he could ultimately send us photos of Badjao families standing in front of their new houses that I could send to everyone who helps us on this project.
If you’d like to help provide any fraction of a $250 home, just click here. No gift is too small or too large. Joseph has already raised $4,500, so we only have $15,500 to go.
Below are some more photos with captions from the last few days. Thanks for joining me on this Philippine journey! I’ll soon be home for Christmas!