by Elizabeth Angsioco
“…Nothing makes me happier than seeing women and their families overcome challenges due to poverty and inequality. But nothing makes me sadder and angrier than seeing how things have further deteriorated for many more families living in abject poverty.
We work in some of the poorest communities in Metro Manila like Bagong Silang, parts of Tondo, and Payatas. So, when I was approached by Project PEARLS (www.projectpearls.org) to visit communities in Tondo where they work, and see how else people can be helped, I went without hesitation thinking that nothing could shock me anymore.
I could not be more wrong. There are no words to describe how unfit those places are for human habitation. “Home” to around 40,000 people, these places very ironically called Helping Land, Happy Land, and Aroma could very well be the approximation of hell on earth.
As one approaches the area, one gets assaulted by the stench of rotting garbage and leftovers from fast food places, feces, and all sorts of rotting matter. You are greeted by tons of garbage. Some “streets” are completely flooded by trash and soon, will become “mountains”.
Originally planned as temporary relocation sites for informal settlers 30 years ago, the place is composed of forty “buildings”. Each has easily a thousand resident-families cramped in tiny spaces separated by discarded wood, plastic, tarpaulin, corrugated iron sheets and whatever salvaged materials people could use. Many of the buildings’ roofs are already severely damaged so people inside also have to create their own. The ones “living” on the ground floor are literally living on wet ground, some, made of trash…”