Within the 7,107 islands of the Philippines lies a so-called Engineer’s island surrounded by breakwaters – the Bataan Shipyard and Engineering Corporation, known to most people as Baseco. A place where dreams of many people have been developed and further realized. A place which has gone through a lot of challenges – of challenges successfully conquered. A place built by unity, compassion, and love. A place which proves what Hellen Keller, a deaf-blind American author and political activist once said, “Alone we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”

Unlike the many other islands of the Philippines where tourists visit, Baseco seemed to be a destination for people assembling to meet for clean-up drives. Human and animal feces, trashes, stinky odor, gangs, news about people being gunned down are but few of the things that Baseco is known for. But all these did not stop people to relocate from their respective provinces to this place which they call “home”. As such, the place started with few members of the community with stevedoring as their main source of livelihood, being a place situated in Manila Port area. Year after year, many people still relocate to the place with the goal of bettering their lives.

With the situation in Baseco, many organizations have been making their way to help the community – one of the many is the Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance (SIPAG). The Villar SIPAG has been committed to transforming the Baseco community, by making it a point to conduct the cleaning and greening project, not to mention the provision of livelihood projects to the residents of the area. And now, in celebration of its 5th year in cleaning, greening, and giving livelihood projects in the Baseco community, and in observance of the National Zero Waste month, various government agencies, including the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), and local government units have once again united for another noteworthy event, held last January 15, 2020, at Gasangan, Barangay 649, Baseco, Port Area, Manila. This event was attended by no less than the Honorable Cynthia Villar, Senator of the Republic of the Philippines.

Baseco through the years

Rewinding to five years ago, Villar SIPAG started the clean-up drive and the provision of livelihood projects for the Baseco locals. Aside from this, toilets were given to the families in the community in Baseco through the project “Zero Open Defecation for Baseco Compound” which was launched in coordination with the Department of Health, Maynilad, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the City Government of Manila. This project aimed to provide the Baseco residents access to sanitary toilet facilities, thus, mitigating, if not totally eradicating yet the issue of poor sanitation in the area. 

This journey was not about cleaning the area alone. Of course, people need to also be provided with livelihood to help them improve their lives, thus improving the whole community. In this goal, the BSWM has also been doing its share by establishing and maintaining urban garden which may both be for the residents’ consumption, or for their additional source of income.

Aside from the BSWM, another Department of Agriculture (DA) Bureau, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), has also contributed to this noble cause by providing boats and fishing nets to aid in the residents’ livelihood.

All these assistance and more are the reasons why Baseco has gone from the stinky place it was, to its phase today where the muds are near to being found nowhere, where human feces will not surprise you on the streets, where people will welcome you with warmth because of real joy that is within them. Although improving, the place has yet to show to everyone how much beautiful it can become. Thus, the parts being played by each one shall not stop every after the annual celebration and clean-up drives. Consistency is key for the community to totally reveal its beauty.

The beauty that has yet to be revealed – Baseco years after

With the commitment that has been in the hearts of the people who have loved Baseco, it is surely going to be another place where tourists will also spend time, just like the other destinations the country is indeed proud to offer. In no time, Baseco’s beauty will truly be revealed and the community will really be grateful for the people who have helped them in achieving where they will be in the future. Baseco of the future, your beauty is shining. The beauty of your people is glaring. You have indeed changed from where you have started to where you are right now. Your growth is apparent especially when we talk of life and livelihood. Baseco of the “then” and the “now”, may your story be an inspiration to the rest of the communities aiming to achieve success. Yours is a great story that shall be passed on from generation to generation. With that, congratulations, Baseco. You are one true gem discovered – continue being one.