Smokey Tours: A Tour to Remember in the Slums of Manila
When In Manila, when was the last time you counted your blessings?
After taking a two and a half hour walk around the slums of Manila, a sudden emotion of guilt and envy burdened my chest. Everyday, I receive more than enough nourishment; wear clean, comfortable clothes; and snuggle up on a warm bed. However, a feeling of discontent still arises even when everything I need has been provided for. Yet, there are people out there wearing torn clothes smeared with debris, looking for food where no one else dares to and sleeping on a rough floor as their bed – people who can still manage a smile, a smile full of genuine happiness. A smile that we all long for.
I arrived at 9:30 a.m. in Tayuman, Manila and was welcomed by Smokey Tours’ tour guide (Ms. Remy) and manager (Ms. Innah). Along with other bloggers, we were given a brief background of Smokey Mountain. The majority of the people who reside there came from the rural areas, thinking Metro Manila is a promised land that offers a lot of opportunities. Sadly, reality took its toll. Around 66% of the people are in a state poverty, and only 4% earn a dollar or more.
Before going to the area, we were reminded not to give any sweets and money to the people because it might attract attention. It took a 20-minute in a tricycle to get to Smokey Mountain. You’d notice right away different, colored garbage trucks arriving from different parts of Metro Manila. “Some provinces as far as Bulacan even dump their garbage here”, Remy told us, “making the area very crowded”. This was very evident when traffic started to congest.
What I expected was just a pile of trash forming a shape of a mountain being burned, but I was wrong. A community filled with families, local businesses and non-government organizations (NGOs) composed the area instead.
Our tour with Smokey Tours started here. When going here, be very mindful of your steps, as some places are soiled with black liquid. I would highly advise you to wear closed footwear and pants to save you the hassle of cleaning your feet from time to time.
Filipinos are indeed very resourceful. From nothing, they use boxes, tarpaulins and wood to make a house. Very simple, yet enough for the families to live in. For electricity, they are provided portable lights which can be charged at around Php 4-6.
For Php 4-6 per container, locals fill the, with water from NAWASA, even if it is dirty (since it runs through underground pipes). They just boil it to remove the impurities. This is already sufficient for drinking and cooking and is better than buying purified water for them because they get to save money.
For Php 5, you get to use Smokey Mountain’s public restroom. However, the people there would rather spend their money for food than on a proper restroom.
This is where they normally do their business if they need to relieve themselves but don’t want to pay.
I was surprised to learn that this NGO is sponsored by a Korean, and this is not the only foreign NGO who’s lending a hand, either. It’s very generous of them to take their time to help people as far as the Philippines.
With their own bowls, the kids fell in line and waited for the food to arrive provided by the NGOs.
This organization encourages the community to save money by giving pieces of advice on how to manage their finances one peso at a time.