Supporting communities affected by the Philippines’ largest railway construction culminates in a national forum, marking the beginning of a new life for participants

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Fundamentally, the National Forum served to celebrate the participants' positive vision for the future.

As the project “Strengthening the Transition of Vulnerable Communities Affected by the Malolos-Clark Railway Project” (STVC MCRP) draws to a close, stakeholders and team members gathered earlier this year to share and reflect on the lessons and stories emerging over the last two years.

August 22, 2023

“After this project, I have plans to find work, gain more experience, explore entrepreneurial opportunities and establish a business – as well as empower the youth to do more.”  

Translated from Filipino, these are the words of Alyzza Morandarte, who was trained as a pastry chef as part of the STVC MCRP’s outreach efforts to support the relocation of affected persons. Alyzza was one of several stakeholders invited to speak at the culminating event of a two-year long Philippines-based project administered by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and funded by the Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and the Pacific (JFPR).

Also called the National Forum, the day-long event held in Pampanga, Philippines in May this year was organised as part of STVC MCRP’s commitment to share lessons and insights gained over the course of the project. The major event saw the attendance of the ADB, JFPR, STVC MCRP participants, their mentors and members of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the NIRAS technical assistance team.

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Presenters talked about the importance of preparing households for their relocation with the upcoming construction of the railway, emphasising the role the mentors and the Graduation Approach (GA), a holistic social and livelihood assistance programme designed for rural areas, played in advancing the project. With the help of her mentor Christine, Alyzza successfully completed a pastry-making course at the La Rose Noire Foundation under a scholarship, even earning an award for “Best in Bread Making". Alyzza, along with members of her cohort, also passed the NC2 trade test by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s (TESDA), which attests to their achievement of the core competencies for work in the pastry industry in the Philippines. 

“The main objective of STVC MCRP is to help the identified vulnerable households achieve sustainable livelihoods,” Markus Vorpahl, the Senior Social Development Specialist of ADB says, adding that the support rendered by various organisations hopes also to empower households to maintain their livelihoods with the help of the GA. Alyzza’s story, along with those of the more than 1000 participating households, is proof of the project’s success.


households, or 376% of target, coached or linked to job opportunities


households, or 126% of target, linked to education support for children aged 5-18


households, or 100% of target, expressed a sustainable vision for the future rooted in positive behaviour

Markers of success: learnings from the team 

According to the Computer-assisted Personal Interview Specialist Mira Miraflores and the Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist Philip Peñaflor, 84% of the total affected households were able to meet the applicable GA indicators based on the four pillars of Social Protection, Livelihood Promotion, Financial Inclusion and Social Empowerment, while 97% of the total affected households had successfully completed the GA programme.

Graduation from the programme is measured using various indicators of well-being and resilience. Because the project’s primary goals are to build the capacity of households for sustainable livelihoods, as well as to link them to government and non-government agencies, a few notable numbers reported by the team at the event included: 

  • 941 households (376% of target) coached or linked to job opportunities; 
  • 242 households (126% of target) linked to education support for children aged 5-18 years; 
  • 1,196 households (100% of target) expressed a sustainable vision for the future rooted in positive behaviour; 
  • 1,171 households (98% of target) participated in basic financial literacy training or practice basic household budgeting they learned from training; 
  • 246 households (70% of target) launched a business or improved an existing one. 

STVC MRCP Team Leader Chi Redaja also shared important lessons the team learned throughout the project, pointing out in part that mentors have been instrumental to linking communities to government agencies as households sought “various sources of information and services”. It was also through mentor support that affected persons like Alyzza were able to receive the livelihood and financial training or business starter kits they needed to pursue their livelihood of choice despite their relocation.

Stories of hope shared at the National Forum 

Before reaching the ballroom, guests were first greeted at the registration booth by a series of photos illustrating the collaboration between participants and their mentors during the course of the project or showing affected persons posing next to their soon-to-be homes.

Alyzza’s experience was not unique. Mauludia Pala related the story of how she started out as a full-time mom and ended up becoming a fully trained welder. Her family feared the uncertainty that came with resettlement before participating in the project, especially since Mauludia was not earning money for the household and her husband’s income as a security guard made it difficult for their family to get by. But with the help of the project, she says she was able to complete two Shielded Metal Arc Welding courses provided by the TVET government agency TESDA.  

“Welding is actually easy,” Malaudia said in Filipino. “At first, we might think it’s a job suited only for men, but women are just as capable of thriving in this field.” In the future, she hopes to put up her own business and earn enough money to continue sending her five-year-old son to school.

Having worked in the development sector for years, Maria Benilda "Chi" Redaja is beyond capable of leading the North and South phases of STVC. Her experience, vitality and grit are only a few key reasons why she has been entrusted by public and private organisations to head major development projects. Get to know her story in this profile feature.

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Liz Añalucas, one of the mentors and a development communication practitioner, also shared several experiences from the 23 households she managed. According to Liz, Edith, one of her mentees, expressed how thankful she was for the hydroponics farming workshop because it helped her grow produce faster. Manny, another household head Liz supported, said he hoped to sell kimchi in the future, something he is confident in pursuing because of the training that he and his fellow participants received. A slew of job opportunities also opened for the participants, and two household heads – Emmanual and Jomar – had even found employment in Korea as seasonal farmers thanks to the assistance of STVC MCRP.  

There was no shortage of wins that the project witnessed, and it is in this spirit that the National Forum was held, a celebration of the households’ positive vision for the future.

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Moving forward: what is next for the STVC team? 

Many of mentors and members of the TA team stressed that applying the GA, which is normally carried out in rural areas, had been challenging for them to adjust in an urban context. But with the success of STVC MCRP, NIRAS is more than ready, alongside the non-profit organisation BRAC, to take on the southern – and larger – portion of the North South Commuter Railway Project (NSCR), called STVC SCRP or STVC South, which comprises more than double the original number of households in MCRP. 

In true Filipino fashion, the STVC MCRP National Forum ended with song numbers, all tinged with messages of faith, hope and a brighter tomorrow. 

Lerna Melo Magdamo

Lerna Melo Magdamo

Senior Project Manager

Manila, Philippines

Maria Frahn Chezka Tabajonda

Maria Frahn Chezka Tabajonda

Business Development Assistent

Manila, Philippines