Paving their way out of a life in the slums

A school in the Philippines is trying to get youth out of the slums by teaching them skills to preserve their heritage.

If a cab driver turns you down when you say you’re headed to Baseco, don’t be surprised.

Infamous for being a hiding place for criminals, this slum in Metro Manila is home to an estimated 50,000 people.

One of them was Ralph, whose early years were not much different from countless other youth in his community.

“I picked up garbage, joined a gang and got into fights,” he says.

In spite of being a high-school graduate, Ralph anticipated a bleak future: “I grew up like that, so I thought I would be stuck here forever.”

Fortunately, he stumbled upon Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation, Inc. Better known as Escuela Taller, it was established in 2013 with the aim of protecting the country’s concrete legacy and heritage, by equipping marginalised youth with relevant restoration skills.

Using what they learnt, students participate in on-the-job training projects and restore anything from civic buildings to heritage churches to buildings of cultural significance. Thus far, Escuela Taller has contributed to the restoration of the Malate Church, the Choir Loft in San Agustin Church, the Santa Ana Church and many other significant monuments.

After completing his training, Ralph toiled as a labourer for two to three months, almost giving up. Fortunately, his boss noticed his hard work, and promoted him.

But Ralph didn’t stop there.

The youth who once saw nothing but the everyday life of Baseco in his future, began striving for more. Using the skills and experience he picked through Escuela Taller, he partnered with his classmate Gilbert and they now run their own construction company.

Not one to forget his humble beginnings, Ralph’s enterprise hires graduates from the Escuela Taller programme, and provides free lectures and training for those striving for better employment in Baseco.

Although he could have carved out a fresh life in another city, this Escuela Taller graduate chooses to stay in Baseco and inspire his community.

“I want to show to the people of Baseco, regardless of where you live or your surroundings, you can become successful.”

In restoring buildings, the youth of Escuela Taller also have a shot at restoring their own future.

Help fund the purchase of carpentry and woodwork tools for the students by donating to Escuela Taller.

You can make a direct donation to:
Account Name: Escuela Taller de Filpinas Foundation, Inc.  
Metrobank Account No.: 200-7-20052397-7 (Peso Account)
Metrobank Account No.: 200- 2-20000489-7 (US Dollar Account)

If you have made a donation, email them at for confirmation.

About Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation

Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation was founded in 2009 to Manila, Philippines to train disadvantaged youth in specialised skills to improve their circumstances, while helping to preserve heritage structures. It has trained five cohorts of 217 heritage restoration workers.


Additional Camera Work

Roman Gerard Podico & Maria Estela Paiso

Director of Photography

Heintje Fernandez

Production Manager

Zonia Bandoy

Production Assistant

AR Relox

Executive Producer

Von Tan & Denise Oliveiro