PUROK Santelmo used to be known as a "den of thieves" and a hiding place for fugitives. The tiny village sits near the heart of Iligan City, Lanao del Norte in Mindanao and is home to more than 300 squatter families and drug traffickers.
On the eve of Iligan City's fiesta celebration in September 2002, a fire broke out in the slum area and rendered 258 families homeless. The incident worsened the poverty situation in the city where around 11,000 squatter families reside.
Iligan City Mayor Franklin Quijano knew "government cannot do it alone" because of meager resources. Instead of backing out from the challenge, the city mayor turned to a religious charismatic group for inspiration.
The Iligan Chapter of Couples for Christ (CFC) had then just launched its Gawad Kalinga project in depressed areas in the city. Using part of a 30-million peso (545,454 dollars) fund from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, CFC was to construct 50 low-cost houses in Iligan City. The project includes the repair of dwellings, beautification projects, healthcare, tutorials, as well as livelihood trainings for the poor.
Mayor Quijano admitted he was at first lukewarm to the Gawad Kalinga project. But when the fire broke out in Barangay Saray, he saw the value of forging partnerships with various sectors in the fight against poverty.
"Filipinos are known for their bayanihan (cooperative) spirit and this is an example of how to put it to good use," Mayor Quijano says.
Taking the cue from CFC, the city created "Missionville"--a project that provides permanent shelter for the urban poor using the combined resources of the local government and various sectors such as the academe, religious groups and business organizations.
Donations came pouring in, not only in monetary terms. Some groups gave construction and building materials, while others contributed whatever they could afford--home fixtures such as tables, chairs and beds, curtains and kitchen utensils.
Beneficiaries can also "pay forward" by contributing their free labor in the construction of other houses.
The estimated cost of the Missionville project could easily run up to 50 million pesos (909,000 dollars). At prevailing prices, each housing unit could definitely have cost more. But since these were donated, each housing unit only costs 40,000 (727 dollars).
To date, over a hundred houses already furnished and have water connection have been awarded to beneficiaries. Beneficiaries also get other services such as healthcare, tutorials and livelihood trainings.
The province's innovative housing program made it to the finals of this year's Gantimpalang Panglingkod Pook or Gawad Galing Pook, an annual search for excellent and innovative local governance programs nationwide and considered the "Oscar Award" for outstanding local government units (LGUs).
It was the first time for Iligan City to make it to the Gawad Galing Pook finals.
The project's success caught the attention of the President who came to inaugurate the project. The United Nations also said: "Iligan City is making a novel and significant contribution in poverty alleviation in the Philippines."