Professor Discusses Research on Segregation in the Philippines

Garrido conducted interviews and used comprehensive mapping and extensive fieldwork to study four major slum areas in Metro Manila.

By Xin Sui Zhang

On Thursday evening, PanAsia and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture hosted sociology professor Marco Garrido for a lecture on class segregation in the Philippines.

Garrido specifically focused on Metro Manila, where he said class segregation is characterized by the interspersion of slums that house the urban poor and enclaves that house the middle class, so that the two classes live side by side in distinct spaces.

He defined interspersion as both geographical and sociological proximity between slums and enclaves, which produces unequal social interactions and provides regular opportunities for the imposition of class boundaries on the urban poor by the middle class.

Garrido explained that the social mechanisms that connect the class segregation lead to an augmented class-consciousness among Metro Manila’s residents and described everyday practices of class division, discrimination, and subordination in Metro Manila.

In his recent research, he conducted interviews and used comprehensive mapping and extensive fieldwork to study four major slum areas in Metro Manila.

Garrido said that the slum population, the number of slums, and the number of enclaves have grown considerably in Metro Manila since 1980. He believes that the problem is that the middle class and the urban rich increasingly insist on living behind walls with security guards and other protections against perceived threats of crime.

“There’s a bit of a mismatch between the number of enclaves and the crime rate. What’s interesting is that crime rate has declined while enclavization has increased,” Garrido said. He defined enclavization as the process in which increasingly more expensive condominiums are built and bought as exclusive residences for the middle class. The rich perceive the poor as criminal suspects, due to acute boundary consciousness and contentious class interactions.

“Currently, land value in Metro Manila is one of the highest in the world, even though the construction cost is comparatively low, as a direct result of enclavization,” Garrido said. He said that the rich invest in the real estate market, instead of the stock market, due to high returns. Consequently, he said prices have increased across the board, making affordability more infeasible for the poor, who can’t transition out of the slums due to the price hikes.

Garrido gave an example of political solutions that end up reinforcing imagined class boundaries. In the Phil-Am slum in Metro Manila, the slum residents have legal rights to enter a church located in a neighboring enclave, much to the disapproval of the enclave residents. The current solution is to create a law that forces the slum residents to use a side entrance, about a kilometer out of their way, to avoid contact with the enclave residents. He said a slum resident told him, “We attend mass there but they still don’t accept us. I think we disgust them.”

While most of the literature on segregation has been based on one or two cities in the United States, the reality of segregation ultimately varies for different locations and under different contexts. “There’s much difficulty in talking about segregation to an American audience and not have them think about Chicago,” Garrido said.