Artex Compound: an erstwhile happy place

This post is a complete departure from my other posts wherein I featured mostly upscale real estate developments. This is about people who are in desperate straits but remain optimistic of someday owning their houses. Theirs is a community that has become so blighted, but its people choose to stay and at the same time, hope that things will become better someday.

I didn’t originally intend to blog about this place when I took pictures of it during one of my bike rides a few weeks ago. But when you think about it, this post underscores the overarching importance of achieving one of man’s most basic human needs, no matter how insufficiently that need can be filled.

Artex Development Co., Inc. aka Yupangco Cotton Mills, Inc. used to be the biggest and most modern textile mill in Asia. It is located in Malabon City, in one of its lowest-lying barangays, Panghulo.

During its heyday, the company allotted part of its land next to its factory as a housing project for some of its workers. This is what was then referred to as Artex Compound.

The housing project sits on a “land” that is more than 1 hectare and the factory occupied more than 7 hectares. Today, locals loosely call the entire complex Artex Compound.

In 1989, the company closed down resulting from a labor strike in which allegations of low pay and inhuman working conditions were thrown at the company. Left with unpaid wages and benefits, the workers protested by staying in their houses.

Did I say land? This is what has become of Artex Compound since 2004.

4 pictures of Artex Compound showing people travelling by boat

Home to more than 150 families, Artex Compound is submerged in 5 feet of water year-round; up to ten feet during heavy rains. The only means of going around is by banca earning it the moniker water world. Ferrying residents by banca has become an important source of income for some residents with each ride costing 5 pesos. Imagine buying, say, cooking oil in a nearby sari-sari store for 10 pesos and spending 5 pesos for the fare.

It hasn’t always been like this for the people of Artex. It was once a clean, dry, orderly and happy community where people celebrated fiestas, held basketball tournaments and attended Sunday masses.

pictures of the sunken chapel and its altar
pictures of the basketball court and area where the factory ones stood

Picture above on the right shows the vast area where Artex’ milling factory used to stand.

There was a time when the workers-residents, through their association, the Samahang Manggagawa ng Artex (or SAMAR), were awarded ownership of the compound by the Regional Trial Court of Manila and it was later affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The case, however, was elevated by the owners of Artex to the Supreme Court which, in 2002, reversed the decision of the lower courts, thereby remanding the property to the original owner.

What’s abhorrent about this case prior to the ruling of the Supreme Court is that SAMAR sold the property to a certain Rodrigo Sy Mendoza.

Now the residents, with new leaders, are lobbying for the local government of Malabon City to award to them the compound promising to keep their houses for themselves.

The following are more pictures of Artex Compound:

4 pictures of the sunken houses and the watch tower
pictures of the watch tower and the wharf

Here’s its navigable satellite map. It also contains more and better quality images of Artex Compound. Just play around it with your cursor and click anything that lights up in yellow.

Though, I live in another barangay in Malabon where I witness poverty every single day, nothing compares to my experience in Artex Compound.

Strangers will consider this place a no man’s land, but the people are so kind and endearing. And, though, I believe that no Filipino deserves to live in such a horrible condition, they say it will have to do for now and they will make the most out of it.

To the sweet and beautiful people of Artex Compound, thank you so much for welcoming me in your humble community.

Your prayers are my prayers and may God protect you always.

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  1. wow!

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