News / Asia

Manila Dump Neighborhood Tour an 'Eye-opener' for Visitors

  • Junk shops line this intersection where scavengers drop off and haul away bags of recyclable material at the Smokey Mountain dump site, Manila Bay, Philippines, Dec. 12, 2013. (Simone Orendain for VOA)
  • A pickup game complete with uniforms, referees and announcers at the Smokey Mountain dump site basketball court, surrounded by piles of trash bags, Manila Bay, Philippines, Dec. 12, 2013. (Simone Orendain for VOA)
  • Wood scavengers make the long trek to the coal-making operation on the fringes of the Smokey Mountain dump site, Manila Bay, Philippines, Dec. 12, 2013. (Simone Orendain for VOA)
  • A coal worker gets ready to haul away freshly made coal, which sells for a little more than $10 a bag, Smokey Mountain dump site, Manila Bay, Philippines, Dec. 12, 2013. (Simone Orendain for VOA)
Manila's Smokey Mountain Dump Site
Simone Orendain
In Tondo, Manila’s poorest neighborhood, the dump site along Manila Bay is home to about 5,000 families. People have been living on garbage in this part of the Philippine capital for about five decades. Now, the area known as “Smokey Mountain” is open to tourists.
 
Nympha Flores guides tourists through Tondo as slow-moving garbage trucks and motorcycles ply the black sludge-covered main road into this 4.5 hectare trash dump. The pungent smell of rotting food and sewage hangs in the air. Along the road, shanties are buzzing with business.
 
Some shacks serve food called “pagpag,” which is leftovers picked from the garbage, dusted off and re-cooked. Others are trash-filled “junk shops” or places where garbage pickers drop off recycle-able material to be resold.
 
At one end of a well-kept basketball court lined with bags of trash, 16-year old Jayson Valderama is cramming used plastic containers into a long sack, hoping to have at least one kilo’s worth, which he sells for about $0.70.
 
“It’s hard digging around for trash. If you don’t work, you won’t have anything to eat,” said Valderama.
 
Jayson’s family lives in a shanty next to the basketball court. He had to stop going to school to contribute to the household income, which is usually around $3 to $5 a day. Jayson says he wants to go back to school and study computer science.
 
But in this neighborhood, everyone, including small children, has a role in the grueling and often dangerous trash-scavenging operation. Trash pickers are exposed to broken glass, endless swarms of flies, feces, oozing methane and other health hazards, often in oppressive heat or under torrential rains. They are among the more than three million people in Metro Manila who do not have an official address.
 
As tourists wind their way through the neighborhood, music occasionally blares outside shanty houses. The group even stops to watch people at a pub singing along to popular songs.
 
This community life is what tour organizer Juliette Kwee wants visitors to experience.
 
“If you’re already a long time in the Philippines, it’s sort of normal to see people begging on the streets, to see old ladies picking garbage bags. But if you actually think of it, it’s not normal! We all - at least many people in the world, they have a very good life. And I think it’s time to share,” said Kwee.
 
Kwee used to be a psychologist in the Netherlands. After visiting the neighborhood several years ago, she says she was touched by how people appeared happy, despite their abject poverty.
 
She partnered with a local non government agency to open the neighborhood to tourists. The tours began this year, with area residents working as paid guides.
 
Mari Ota, a Japanese national, lives and works in the metro Manila area. Ota said the tour and seeing other poverty in Manila has changed her life.
 
“When I shop something, I always - they come up with my thought. So… I cannot buy any big thing,” said Ota.
 
Ota said she was inspired by how people with very little could live happy lives.
 
Kwee acknowledges the criticism from those who say the poverty tour exploits local residents, turning them into a curiosity for visitors.
 
“It’s not good to make it sort of a zoo. But I think it’s also good to - actually without complaining whose fault it is - to actually see and experience the place,” said Kwee.
 
The founder of another non government agency located at the dumpsite was critical of the tour idea at first, but now says that she understands the value of such tours in making a compelling case for addressing the problems of Manila's poorest.

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid