When in Manila, many tourists and locals are quick to think of escaping to beaches, large malls, or the remains of colonial influences. The slums of Manila would probably be the last thing on their minds. Why would it be?
This is a question Smokey Tours seeks to challenge through providing original tours unlike any other. After all, it’s not everywhere that you get to see a Slum Tour, Market Tour, or Cemetery Tour.
Named after Smokey Mountain, their famous tour in the past was the Smokey Mountain Tour, which took tourists into the community of Smokey Mountain itself. Smokey Tours has since discontinued this tour due to the government’s closing of it to the public. To replace this, they’ve introduced a Slum Tour in Baseco, Manila, which has since become the company’s bestselling tour.
Usually, the tour attracts foreigners who want to see the situation of Philippine poverty on the ground for themselves. Many of us have never step foot ourselves in these slums, though, and it is there we may learn more than we expected to.
The tour starts at the meetup point in the McDonald’s at Good Earth Plaza, after which tourists take a tricycle and a jeep to get to the community. Normally, the tour prohibits photography but fortunately we were able to secure permits from the community for this special feature.
A guide who knows the ins and outs of the area is the one who accompanies tourists. As we walked along, our guide Nympha (whose husband first guided the founder of Smokey Tours around the slums) told us stories and further information about the community, particularly about their livelihoods and history.
Our tour guide Nympha
Most of the tour involved passing through eskinitas where street vendors, and even Internet cafes and videoke stations abound.
A lot of trash is around, too, especially by the beachfront; and apparently, under the community. Many makeshift structures have also been built by outsiders for relief operations, as well as a clinic, which only opened two weeks before our tour yet already had 200 people in its queue.
Two kids bike their way through the puddles and trash
A lone Philippine flag stands on the beach
One of the initiatives to reduce the frequency of flooding in the area is the planting of mangroves, providing a stark contrast of greenery to the trash in surrounding areas.
Through our tour guide, we learned about the different livelihoods of the community, as well as the people and everyday stories behind them — stories you will only hear if you take the tour yourself.
You’ll never guess where these threads came from!
One of the most apparent things we observed was that the residents of the community seemed very happy; the kids were especially enthusiastic in front of the cameras.
By going on this tour, you will not only take an immersive experience in Baseco, but the proceeds from your tour will also go to the community itself as Smokey Tours works hand in hand with an NGO called World Experience Philippines.
Though a tour around the slums isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, it definitely shouldn’t be the last. Try it today!
The Slum Tour costs P950. Smokey Tours are usually scheduled to start at 9am.
0917 578 5398 / 02 622 1325