Transforming One Community At a Time
Like all other organizations that have been challenged by the pandemic, the Philippine Association of Landscape Architects (PALA) had to adapt to the changing situations while at the same time remain to be committed to its advocacies. PALA recognizes the important roles of the Landscape Architects in making our people be more resilient to the challenges being faced brought about by the environmental, social, infrastructure, economic, and political vulnerabilities that continue to put communities at risk. The organization has been trying to reach out to these communities as its way of addressing these concerns by making the people the agent of change and empowerment.
Since 2014, PALA has been serving one of the most marginalized sectors in Philippine society - the displaced and economically disadvantaged migrant communities. Targeting mainly survivors of the disasters, the organization initiated the project “Luntiang Pook” (or Green Community), where the organization and its members go to resettlement areas to conduct seminars and workshops on how to jumpstart the greening of their community spaces. The goals of the project are: to provide a venue for Filipino creativity in the form of community gardens and to promote a strong sense of nationhood through community interaction of Filipino Landscape Architects with members of the community. Funded through the help of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), it endeavors to familiarize the communities with available indigenous and edible plant species by conducting hands-on gardening workshops, to enlighten and educate different households and communities on the importance of sustainable living through the design of functional and aesthetically-pleasing landscapes using indigenous or edible plant species, to appreciate the communal value of open spaces and promote the conversion of these spaces into healthy community places, and to eventually serve the needs of the community (horticultural, nutritional, medicinal, and recreational) through the creation of a garden in their own community space.
Often used to be the person in charge of designing, in this project, the Landscape Architects became the facilitators in encouraging the community to come up with its own solution and artistic expressions. Through this process, the people become more invested in the project and develop a sense of ownership of their community space. With a greater sense of empowerment, the community becomes more confident in creating more partnerships, particularly with Landscape Architects, in managing its spaces and as stewards of their resources and place. Their self-esteem is boosted as they become leaders in their community, spearheading in the transformation of their community with shared ownership of their communal spaces as they bring the lessons and confidence to their own households and families and become proactive shapers of their own destiny.
Since its inception, PALA has shared its experiences and expertise to eight (8) communities spread across the archipelago. From partnering with a community displaced by metro-wide flooding in 2014 brought about by Typhoon Ondoy (international name Ketsana), it has expanded to include other stakeholders such as schools, community arts movement, and local government unit. Due to the limitations set by the pandemic, the mode of offering this service, and fulfilling its commitment to its advocacy of continuously reaching out to as many communities as possible, PALA has calibrated its methodology and has taken advantage of the available technology to the organization and the community. Although the significance of onsite visit and analysis can never be emphasized enough, PALA currently conducts its seminars, workshops, and even consultation and interaction with the community online, allowing to bridge the distance between PALA and the community. As more people realized the importance of food security and community wellbeing, there have been more requests for PALA to replicate this project in other communities. From PALA’s end, the organization plans to measure the impact of this project on different communities by revisiting the different communities to conduct an assessment as to how the communities and the lives of the people have been transformed. As the nation struggles to adapt to the changing order and situation brought by the pandemic, PALA endeavors to contribute to nation-building one community at a time.