Poverty Has Changed The Face Of HappyLand

By Ted McDonnell

Improvements in daily life in Manila are evident. Billions of dollars are being invested; there’s cranes on the skyline, international visits are increasing, and Filipinos, at least in Manila, are happy. Most see a bright future; the Philippines is poised for economic prosperity, albeit from a very low base.

The majority are happy with the efforts of President Duterte, and see the western media’s portrayal of drug traffickers shot in the streets as ‘fake news’; or in a conciliatory tone exaggerated for a western news audience.

However, scratch a little below the surface and many of the problems that have plagued Manila for the past two decades remain unresolved.

The biggest problem facing Filipinos remains poverty and homelessness in Manila’s vast slums. You only have to drive a few kilometres outside the thriving Manila metropolis to suburban Tondo to be struck by the sheer hopelessness facing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos.

The streets of Happyland is littered with rubbish.
The streets of Happyland is littered with rubbish.

More than 600,000 people live in Manila’s slum district of Tondo; and NGOs say Tondo has not improved in the 12 months since President Duterte’s landslide victory.

Poverty, severe malnutrition and disease is an everyday reality for the residents living within the putrid slum areas.

“Deaths from disease and malnutrition far outweigh the so-called extra-judicial shootings of people involved in drugs,” says one NGO.

Alan Niewald, founder of Las Vegas based US non profit Kilos Bayanihan, says the problem at Tondo is magnified at Happyland and has become a multi-generational trap:

“Education is extremely important in the Philippines but most children do not attend school because the parents have to choose whether to feed their children or send them to school then possibly not have enough food to feed them. It’s a tough decision.

There is a decided lack of opportunity to improve their lives. There should be more livelihood or community training programs available. There is also the age restrictions that most employers have. This also makes it harder to find a job. Most of the homeless are usually from the province that come to Manila to try and find a better life but end up homeless.”

The worst of the conditions can be found at Tondo’s ‘Happyland’ BRGY105 where the population has grown from around 3,500 in 2006 to more than 12,000 today.

Happyland is literally built around a dump, or many dumps — each day people wade through the rubbish looking for anything of value. Tons of chicken scraps are collected from takeaway’s garbage bins then recycled by boiling. It’s called ‘pagpag’, and it’s sold to hungry families in the slums for a few pesos.

Source: huffingtonpost.com.au

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