By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao 

Sitio San Roque, located in Barangay Bagong Pag-Asa, North Triangle, Quezon City, is a public property owned by the National Housing Authority (NHA) and is considered an urban poor community that has a population of 100,000 spread throughout its 256 hectares. 

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines, the community was heavily affected due to the limitations in mobility brought about by the imposed lockdowns and protocols. 

One of their main concerns at the time was their lack of food to sustain them through the months since they had no means of income as a result of being confined indoors. 

Their living conditions have raised concerns among concerned citizens, particularly private groups such as Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA), who engaged in a campaign to help alleviate their situation.

Volunteers of SAKA Pilipinas and Save San Roque are geared towards providing the residents of San Roque with viable and long-term projects to improve their living conditions.

SAKA is an anti-feudal alliance of art, culture, and knowledge workers who advocate for genuine agrarian reform and rural development, food security, and social justice. 

“We work alongside peasant mass organizations to promote land justice, food security, and strengthening of social welfare mechanisms for the rural poor,” said Donna Miranda, a co-convener of SAKA who works as a development worker in the fields of public health, disaster risk reduction, and gender justice. 

SAKA was established in July 2017 and is geared to bring together art, culture, and knowledge to workers who themselves struggle against precarious working conditions and patronage politics due to the larger anti-feudal struggle faced by the majority of Filipinos made up of farmers. 

By establishing stronger links to the peasant struggle, the alliance hopes to popularize the basic sector demands for land, justice, food, and peace. 

Saving Sitio San Roque 

For this project, SAKA partnered with the Save San Roque Alliance (SSR) wherein individuals and organizations show their support to the urban poor community’s demand for decent, safe, accessible, and affordable housing in line with the poor’s right to the city. 

One of the alliance’s projects is “Tanimang Bayan,” which aims to secure the food source of the residents of Sitio San Roque through the establishment of a community garden. 

Tanimang Bayan takes off from the initial efforts led by residents of Sitio San Roque in Quezon City to guarantee their access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food. Since the beginning of the lockdown, families in Sitio San Roque had to face a shortage of food because many household heads lost income due to lockdown restrictions,” Miranda said. 

Miranda added that Tanimang Bayan hopes to expand and consolidate these self-led initiatives to make them more viable and long-term. 

The residents have already begun constructing the urban garden and volunteers of Tanimang Bayan will only come in to give practical contributions in clearing the land, preparing nutritious soil, preparing seeds, and tending after plants. 

Like SAKA, SSR is made up of varied individuals, mostly students and young urban professionals, who stand in solidarity in the right of the marginalized to inclusive participatory planning and decision-making. 

Growing food in an urban poor community 

To provide the residents of Sitio San Roque with a steady and healthy source of food, Miranda shared that the SSR alliance will be planting vegetables that are easy to grow and are common staples in the Filipino diet such as pechay, okra, eggplant, tomatoes, and talbos.

The ‘Tanimang Bayan’ in Sitio San Roque will be overseen by both the volunteers of the two alliances as well as the residents of the area.

“If we manage to make our own pesticides and fertilizers we will also grow other staple herbs,” Miranda said. 

She added that the garden will be maintained by both the residents of Sitio San Roque as well as those who volunteered to join the alliance. 

By working together, SAKA and SSR are empowering the urban poor community of San Roque while providing them with their own food source as well as access to other necessities that they need in life. 

For more information visit SAKA on Facebook

To join the movement, visit Save San Roque on Facebook

Photos from SAKA Pilipinas on Facebook.