The Slum Tour:
After almost one month of volunteering at the office of Smokey Tours it was really time to see the slums of Manila, because you can't volunteer for a organization without seeing their most important tour. The slums - before called Smokey Mountain - are located in Tondo, in the northwest of Manila City next to the sea and the harbor. The people who are living there are actually living on a big garbage dump, and here they find work in collecting and recycling garbage. Remy was our tour leader and we started by heading with a Jeepney ride towards a local market. We arrived at the food market, where they were selling a lot of fresh local products. With fresh I mean really fresh; you can still see the parts of the chicken and whole heads of pigs which are just slaughtered. Good that I had a very well breakfast before, because I was not hungry anymore for few hour after seeing the food over there.
We continued our tour towards the slums which are located around the river. The people who are living here are illegal, but the government allows them to live there, because they don't have another place to say. Houses and shelters are very simple and most of the time the shelter it's not more than a wooden shelf. In a tiny house (six squared meters) lives a whole family, sometimes more than seven people. Most of the families in the slums already living there for many years. We met a women with her child who was living in the slums (under a bridge) for more than twenty-five years. The circumstances for the child are terrible, because her mother couldn't even buy some clothes.
Moreover, there are many more threats for the people living in the slums. First of all the main treat is the water in the river. Tondo is located close the the sea, so in case there is high water the people in the slums are the first who are hurt by flood. During the rainy season and when an typhoon comes over the Philippines the whole slums are flooded. The government evacuate the people to other places, but when they are returning to Tondo all their self build houses are demolish and broken. During the massive typhoon Yolanda one year ago, a lot of people were killed by the flooded water. However, even after a disaster people are coming back the the same place to build up their life again. Another main treat is the pollution in the area. Everywhere it is dirty and it smells terrible, because of all the garbage. Water supplies are polluted as well and this causes a lot of diseases. Toilets are existing, but people don't know how to use them well. The dirty drained water is going directly into the river, which is off course not hygienic at all.
The main income for them is collecting garbage, Tondo is the "recycling district" of Manila city. Because the slums are located around the river, people go on a simple boat (normally a shelf) on the water to looking for useful rubbish. Around filthy percent of the people who are living here work as a snatcher, which means that they gain their money to search for useful garbage which can be used to recycle (cans, bottles, plastic, actually everything). After collecting the garbage they bring it to a Junk Shop, where all materials are bought, sorted and afterwards sending to a recycling manufacturer elsewhere. Statement in the slums is that; "everything what can be recycled". To illustrate, a good example is Pak Pak. Don't read this if you still have to dinner. Some people are collecting leftover food plates from restaurants around Manila. The food will be washed, marinated and baked again. This dish called Pak Pak and is sold afterwards by shops. This food is the main dish for the people living in the slums (for twenty peso you can buy a bag full of delicious "second hand" chicken). On average, the wage between someone working as snatcher is around 150 and 300 peso a day (between $3 and $6). It's impossible to maintain your family (with seven persons) for this amount! For example, having electricity in your house already costs 300 peso a week, without payment the power will be shut down immediately.
Nevertheless, even the people living in the slums are happy. Everyone we met was very friendly and we heard several times "What's your name?" and "How are you?". During the tour I had never the feeling of unsafely (maybe only when our tricycle flipped almost over because we were sitting in there with five persons) or being threatened. It's impressive to see that they are happy with their lives, even when they don't have anything (money, proper house, etc). The tour is an eye-opener to see what is really important in life. How can these people still be happy? The answer is because they have each other and they are helping the whole community as a big family. Living as a community means sharing everything you have to help everyone. Furthermore, there are more things where I was wondered about. Children go to "internet access-point" in the slums, and for only one peso they can surf on the internet/gaming for five minutes. Adults find their entertainment in joining cockfighting games, whereby two cocks try to kill each other in a organized match. People can bet on the winning cock, which is a big thing in Manila. As a sport, basketball is very big and even in the slums there are some (home made) basketball courts.
Overall, it was impressive to see the life of the people living in the slums. The tour was really an eye-opener for me and give me a new view about what is important in life; family, health and happiness (even if you don't have money).
Personal Financial Advice Training for the tour leaders:
Additionally of the tour, I gave in the afternoon a training about personal financial advice for the tour leaders. During the training four of the tour leaders attended, notice that all tour leaders are living in Tondo and don't know anything about how to deal with money. The topics in the training were basic and consist out of three parts. First of all I spoke about "what really matters in life"? I asked the question "does money make you happy"? The conclusion about the first part of the training was that money is just to tool and that HAPPINESS is your final goal in life. Achieve your life goals and become happy, money can never be a goal itself. According to this conclusion the tour leaders wrote down some "long life goals" and they performed a "SWOT" analysis about their own skills. If you know where you good in, you know which skills you can use to develop yourself.
The second part was about savings, budgeting and keeping track of your personal household income and expenses. I learned them how to make an daily income statement (for their personal income and expenses) and what the do with the saving at the end of the month. In the next month they are recording all their income and expenses to give an idea about "where their money goes". Furthermore, I explained how they can cut expenses, by reducing "want purchase" and only buying necessities. More useful advice I give was to stay out of debt, increase your income by starting your own business and earn interest to put your money on a bank account. Finally I concluded with an overview of all income and expenses of Smokey Tours, where I showed that 35 percent of the income of the tours goes to the tour leaders as a allowance. The training took three hours (instead of one), but they really learned something from it! After the training Nympha invited me to eat balut (a duck egg with an embryo inside), it looks disgusting but the taste was (if I'm honest) quite good.
The training I gave can be downloaded on my worldsupporter page as well under "teaching tips".