Mdm Corazon Encalldo in all her 26 years,has lived in the slums of Tondo. Born in the original Smokey Mountain, she and her family were forced to relocate when redevelopment plans for low-cost housing were made at the original site.
Home was the New Smokey Mountain along the Manila waterfront for the next decade until yet another government development plan for the area forced her and family to move into the Aroma slum area, ironically named “Happy Complex”.
Being a “renter,” Corazon does not have a permanent place to stay, nor will she receive the best relocation arrangement compensation from the government.When the redevelopment plan comes calling in her present area, she and her household will be among the first required to leave.
Corazon’s home is about as simple as it gets. In the 2 by 2 metre unit is where the bedroom and kitchen co-exist. Showers are taken outside along the walkway of the house.
Corazon is now the mother of 2 children, ages 2 and 5. Her husband, Jerry Asinas , works as a segregator where he has to stand among thick piles of rubbish everyday and rummage through them to separate the food, plastics, and papers. When he can pile the meats according to their species, they are sold to a processor where the proteins are then refried and sold to hungry residents for a meagre sum of money.
This is not a typo. There are four people living in this little space.
Jerry’s work area, not too far away from where he lived – where bags of rubbish from food chains and restaurants are dumped every day. It is in this mountain of rubbish that food supplies are gathered, cooked again, and then sold to people who are desperate for something to eat.
This is what life is like for Corazon and her family. This is the source of their income and sometimes the source of their food.
One has to walk through a pile of rubbish in order to get to Jerry and Corazon’s home. If this environment were found in the average home of someone reading this post and they had children, the government would consider placing their child into the care of another. Some parents might even be charged with neglect.
For Corazon and her family, this is just another day in her small 2×2 metre patch of paradise that is on Planet Earth.
Jerry is showing us here his labour for the day. Here amongst the piles of discarded rubbish, he holds the leftovers of chicken meat and bones collected to be reprocessed and then sold to feed another hungry stomach.
This isn’t even the most disturbing part of what we see here with Jerry. Just look at him for a moment. Tell me what is missing.
That’s right. In this dangerous rubbish, potentially filled with sharps, germs, and disease, Jerry stands with no shoes on his feet. Jerry literally risks his life every day to provide for his family by sorting through rubbish so he can come home to a place that is smaller than the closet of some homes.
And now that home is being taken away from him, from his wife Corazon, and from their two children.
How is it even possible to find joy in such a place?
We asked Corazon this question, half expecting a long pause if she would even answer the question at all. Her answer, however, is immediate.
“To be content and satisfied with what you have now.” There is a bright smile on her face, one that seems to light up the entire area.
Corazon then turns her eyes to her child. “And there’s hope for the future.”
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