Peace Corps Philippines: Smokey Mountain

Smokey Mountain: 8/12/14

 I don’t know if I can write my thoughts as fast as they are coming to me. PCF school is where our Stoney Mountain experience began. It is a school that began with a dilapidated warehouse and moved to a four story building made of donated shipping containers. We toured the entire school to see the day-to-day functions but the most memorable part of the tour was the very beginning. We started on the roof to take a look at the environment we were in. 

Standing on the roof presented three disturbing images. The first was

Smokey Mountain behind us. Looking with the naked eye it “appears” better than what you would normally find on Google images because there is no longer visible trash but grass was just thrown on top of the decomposing trash, meaning it is still toxic environment to the inhabitants living on top of this trash mound with chemicals and terrible smells lingering in the air. The second image was the river below us. I was so taken aback by the fact that I would look down the river to the left and see a greenish yellow liquid gushing into the river from a giant tank labeled "National Housing Authority: Sewage Treatment Plant" and with a turn on my head down to the right, I see children playing in this river, washing their hair and bathing in this same river that is being contaminated. My gut reaction was to scream to them from the roof and tell them to get out of the water. The third disturbing image was the skyline of Manila. It was the clearest representation you can will probably find of the economic disparity. On the bottom half of this picture you see housing that is constructed of pretty much anything that can be used for shelter. It's near the water so any strong wind or storm will send some of these floating down stream. However, the the left corner of the picture in the horizon you can see the faint silhouette of skyscrapers. I will let you draw your own conclusions.

Next, we walked through the dumping site where dwellers would take disposed food from restaurants and refry it for resale in order to make a living. The smell was overwhelming at times but because we were encouraged to not cover our mouths out of respect to the residents, I kept breathing in through my mouth and exhaling from my nose. In some areas I don't think I breathed at all. It is indescribable but something that I cannot forget. Only my memories will serve this experience justice. Surprisingly the dwellers of this environment appeared to be healthy but crime and every disease you could image are probably floating around this community. 

This experience has pushed me towards wanting to work with livelihood. The people in these circumstances need to know that they do not need to follow trash to survive. They need to know there is more outside, especially the young adults. A prayer needs to be said because it is hard to think that in the capital of Manila this is life. I’m curious to know if there are any strong efforts being done to help their people. 

Photo Credits: Kellee 

-The Natural Travelista 

*Disclaimer* The contents presented on this website is of my own opinion and does not represent the views, opinions or policies of the Peace Corps, United States Government or any other organization in anyway.