Day 6 – Part II – Smokey Mountain Slums

It’s January 1st, 2014.  The first day of the year.  We spent the entire morning at the St. Martin de Porres orphanage playing with the kids, doing some gift giving, and providing them toothbrushes and toothpaste.  We were also able to break bread and get to know them through fun games and conversation.

After leaving the orphanage, we hopped back onto the bus for a 10-15 min bus ride.
You’ll notice we kidnapped some kids from the orphanage since they were so cute
Actually, these kids live in the Smokey Mountain slums so they were hitching a ride back home rather then their usually walk.
These kids were going to show us where they lived in the
Smokey Mountain slums and be our unofficial guides
The bus ride alone revealed the poor living conditions in the Tondo (name of city) area as a whole
This picture was taken from within the bus. There was basically garbage everywhere you looked
We unload the bus since the driver feared it would get stuck in the mud, so we walked the rest of the way
Again, we noticed garbage left, right, and center
Garbage was literally everywhere
While walking through the slums we came across this boy holding 4 coloured chicks as pets
This is their Catholic Church where various services are celebrated. Like the Philippines in general, the majority of the families that live here are Catholic
This is a school house built by a foreign NGO (non-governmental organization)
This is what the locals call a tricycle (a form of convenient public travel). It’s basically equivalent to a taxi. This one was loaded of coal to be shipped. It’s amazing how much they can load on one tricycle in one trip.
Our guide also pointed out that one of recreational past times here was cock-fighting. These are the cages where they keep the roosters.
The make-shift houses were similar to El Dorado but the level of poverty here seemed much higher because their houses were directly next to and on top of a garbage dump
We always hear about how plastic bags do not decompose, thus the push and emphasis of reusable grocery bags.
These are years upon years of accumulated plastic bags that will take an eternity to decompose
The people who reside here make their living by scouring the incoming garbage that is dumped here, in an attempt to find recyclable materials to be sold 
The other main source of income is to find reusable wood that can be converted into coal
As we entered this part of the neighbourhood, the smoke started to thicken
There is a big market for coal since it’s the most economical way to create a fire.
Since most of houses within this and other slums do not have running water and electricity, coal is often the method by which to cook since it is cheaper than gas
We approached the seaside
This area was once filled with shanties but during a devastating storm a few years ago, the makeshift houses couldn’t compete against the forces of nature.  This is what was left behind.
With all the garbage around we were shocked that the kids were swimming in the water
Considering that every time it rains, all the chemicals from the garbage seep into the soil which eventually ends up in the adjacent sea.  Thus,  it’s highly unlikely that it’s safe to swim in these waters
We had to walk back through the coal production area
It was difficult to breath, we all had to cover our noses and mouths
In certain areas the smoke was really thick
Just walking by it made us realize how hard it would be to actually live in these conditions on a daily basis.  We struggled during the 3 min walk through this section.   Imagine having to live there!
We couldn’t fathom living in these conditions
In every community we’ve been to so far, there’s been a basketball court, even here in Smokey Mountain
We made our way back to the bus. Throughout the walk  we noticed everyone was so welcoming and had big smiles on their faces, especially the kids
The most heartwarming thing is when a kid you just met surprisingly grabs your hand from behind and starts walking with you
When I see shots like this, it makes all the work putting this trip together all worth it!

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The walk through the slums of Smokey Mountain was a real eye-opener.  We thank our official guide for taking us through and giving us some background information about this poverty stricken neighbourhood.

If we never realized this before, all of us realize it now how fortunate we are to be living in Canada with a roof over our heads, running water, electricity, and all of our life’s common amenities.

Part III of Day 6 will feature our visit to Avanai – the build site where last year’s group did their construction

Thanks for following.  Please write a comment below.

12 thoughts on “Day 6 – Part II – Smokey Mountain Slums

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  1. When I was walking through Smokey Mountain it really saddened me to see all the garbage on the ground. There was coal burning and just by walking through that alone for about five minutes my nose and throat was hurting. I can only imagine how the people of the community feel. We went by the river side and saw that the kids were playing and showering in the dirty water which is unsafe. Even though Smokey Mountains is in bad condition, there is still hope! The tour guide told us that the government is looking into fixing some of the homes in the community.

  2. that catholic church is a nice thing for people to see because whiles we are here with churches full of gold and talking about how we have to appreciate the Lord using the richest mineral which is gold but we have a church here which are just grateful that they have a place to worship…

  3. The tour of Smokey Mountain was an eye-opener. The community makes a living from picking out things like nails, gold, silver, etc from their massive junk yard. The place is filled with garbage. Also, their is a section for just burning charcoal, which is what they use to cook, and there are families living right beside it. We were all coughing as we passed by and I could not imagine how one could live there. Many children die because of the inhalation of charcoal.

    Although their living conditions are harsh i still believe there is hope for this community because God loves all people and the poor are close to his heart.

  4. Upon entering this community, I was astonished at the high level of poverty and poor living conditions of the people there. I thought to myself, “Wow, I’ve seen slums on tv but never knew it could be this bad.” The smell and the black smoke was enough to get us all covering our mouths and noses and coughing and we were not even there for an hour… I cannot even imagine how the people who live there feel.

    Although it was sad to see their living conditions, it was amazing to see how the people there continue to smile and be happy regardless of the way they live. This helped me to really open my eyes as I realized that I complain about things that most of the world aren’t fortunate enough to have because of poverty.

  5. Smokey Mountain changed my perspective of “slums”. Walking through there, it was very hard to breath and the coughing was almost non stop. To think that people live there and children are born and raised there is crazy! The living conditions, to me, didn’t even seem fit for animals. The constant smoke circulating in the air, going inside their homes, being inhaled by the young and old is truly heart breaking.

  6. Smokey Mountain is the most memorable experience I have of the Philippines. I’ve learned so much from it. Seeing the conditions they have to live was unbearable. I could barely breathe when we were passing through. One of the things I remember from our tour guide was when she was explaining that their lake once flooded their houses. As a result, the government relocated them to another part of Manila, however, some moved back to the community because it was their home. It was sad to hear these stories, but it is reality and it’s our turn to step up and help people in situations like these.

  7. I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing when we were walking through Smokey Mountain. When I first saw the piles of garbage I thought, “there’s no way this environment is suited for anyone”. And then I looked at the happy and bright children who took to me back at the orphanage and tagged along with us on the tour. It broke my heart to think that they live in these terrible conditions. Conditions that nobody should live in. All I wanted to do was say “it’s ok, I’ll take you someplace better. Come back with me.”, but I couldn’t. I had to leave those children there knowing that they wake up to their vision clouded by smoke. However, I did see hope in that community. There were a few concrete buildings and there will be more. I want to come back and help. I want to give the families in that community reassurance that things do get better.

  8. SMOKEY MOUNTAIN! I didn’t know how to feel. The kids that came along with us from the orphanage because they lived there were so happy even though they lived in such poverty. I thought, if they are happy I should be happy too. But I didn’t I felt so much sadness where ever I went. The worst place that I remember passing by was when we passed by the area were they were making char coal. We literally had to speed walk passed the area because we couldn’t stand the smell. The char coal was also making a lot of people cough (we all got soar throats the next day), yet we only passed by this area for LESS THEN 5 MINUTES! What shocked me even more was how there were families that lives right beside the char coal. If the smoke affected us in less than 5 minutes, imagine how much damage it must have caused to these families. I was heart broken. No one should ever have to live in these conditions.

  9. Smokey Mountain was definitely one of the hardest and most memorable experiences of the trip. To think that people actually lived there was hard to believe. It’s a very different feeling from seeing it in pictures versus actually walking through it. The houses shouldn’t even be considered homes and all the garbage on the streets was difficult to take in. The smoke from the burning coal made breathing a challenge and we were only there for 2 hours so imagine having to live there. Something that caught my attention was two little girls laughing and playing on the side of the street. They literally had nothing but were smiling ear to ear because they had each other. The people of the community were very respectful and still found ways to be happy. More attention needs to be brought to these places so they can get helped.

  10. The tour of Smokey Mountain was real rough. I’ve seen places like these on t.v. but seeing it in person was heart breaking. Walking around, seeing everything, all the homes, all the garbage was frustrating. I didn’t know what to do or think. I still can’t believe that people lived here, plus dealing with the thick smoke from the coals. We weren’t here for too long but I had trouble breathing that air without coughing, I can’t imagine the people living here. Although the living conditions were horrible, people make communities and the people here where kind, hospitable and happy. I still remember seeing two little girls smiling, laughing, having the time of their lives. Although they had nothing, they were happy with what they had which were friends, family and faith in God. Kids from the orphanage lived here and remembering their speeches gave me hope for them and for the community.

  11. The Smokey Mountain tour changed my perspective towards people and life. I didn’t know that the squatter areas in Manila could be a lot worse. Walking through the slums and seeing how these people live is very heartbreaking. How can they live there for so long, near a coal production area, surrounded by garbage and mud? How do they deal with sickness due to children swimming in the dirty water and inhaling the smoke coming from the burning coal? The slums shouldn’t even be residential. This tour made me realize that I should be grateful for anything that comes my way and not ask for more than what I need. Even though this is their lifestyle, I admire them for being able to stay positive daily. A simple smile or a wave to them as we passed by put the biggest smiles on their faces. There is definitely still hope for everyone because God continues to watch over each and every one of us.

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