Yesterday we went to a place in Manila called, Smokey Mountain to do a feeding. This is the second time I have been there, but it doesn’t get any easier the second time around. You walk into a normal looking trash dump and it smells pretty bad, but then you start to see houses (squatter shacks). The closer you get to the houses, you smell the smoke and it gets hard to breathe. You then see a bunch of little kids with suet covering their faces running up to get food. These are the first few things you experience when you enter this trash dump turned into a coal production community.
One of the first things that cross most people’s minds is, “I just want to get out of here.” I thought that too, until I thought about how these people cannot just leave after a few hours…they live here. Everyone smells nasty. I was covered in dirt, hot, and sunburned. The thing is, this will end for me. I can go back to the ministry center and take a long shower. I can wash my hair and scrub all the dirt and smells off of me. I can wash my clothes and it will all be gone. It will end for me, but for the people that live there, it is their everyday life.
I was talking to some ladies that live there and they were telling me about their families and making a lot of jokes. It was fun to talk to them and get an idea of who they were. One of the ladies named Be-Be asked me, “Isn’t there so much smoke?” I responded, “Yes there is a lot.” I expected this conversation to end there, but then she said something that made it all so real. She said, “But if there is no smoke, there is no money.”
This statement could not be any more true. If they do not burn the wood that creates the coal, they have nothing to sell. If they have nothing to sell, they have nothing to buy food and water with. The smoke is so thick that it has killed 4 children in the past year from pneumonia. But, if they do not deal with the smoke, they will die any way. The government has tried to move them away out in the province, but there is no work out there so they just come back. It is an awful way of living, but it is their lives. The thing that is killing them is the only thing keeping them alive.