“Quiel” or typhoon number two in less than a week is just dying down here in Manila. It was just a bit wet and windy. However, the damage is pretty bad in other areas of the country, especially those already devastated by “Pedring” earlier this week.
Here in the Fort, the damage was limited to a few trees and fallen signs, which were quickly cleaned away and swept up:
But elsewhere the damage was a lot worse. Often those with the worse living conditions get hit the hardest and Pedring took its toll on the residents of Ulingan, in Tondo, a dump site which doubles as a residence area for the city’s poorest of the poor.
Project Pearls is one of the charities that helps bring hope, food, and medical care to the people of Ulingan, and on Saturday morning — just before Quiel started — Latham and I headed with friends and food/blanket donations down to the site.
We watched (and helped a little) as food was handed out to the kids, and took a short tour of the makeshift charcoal factories that provide a small living for some of the families.
The charcoal factory area.
Piles of salvaged wood are smouldered below dirt to make the charcoal.
The finished product. Sacks of charcoal ready for sale
I was somewhat prepared to see the extreme poverty and living conditions. I knew the kids pick through the garbage mountains, looking for items that can be repurposed or sold. I knew that the homes are built with anything people could lay their hands on, and a lot of those homes blew away in the last storm. (Many people had been temporarily located to shelter housing while they waited to be able to rebuild their homes. With the wait for things to dry out and more tyhoon damage on the way this was obviously going to take a while.) What I wasn’t prepared for the smells, smoke, crowds and mud that was everywhere. Its a dump and smelt like one. The smoke from the charcoal fires was noxious, and everywhere. It was so bad a times my eyes and throat stung for hours afterwards. (Two showers and two shampoos later, Latham could still smell it in his hair.) The mud from the rains must have greatly improved in just a few days, but bikes and carts and people had a hard time still just getting down the streets.
The site is right on the sea, they must have been chest deep in flooding during the storm. There was no shelter anywhere. Wherever did they go to stay safe?
The kids were amazing though. And there were a lot of them. All ages from tiny up to teen. All friendly, lively and eager to get to know you! These two chased each other all morning and were the stars of the day:
Many thanks to Loraine and Sandra for taking me. It was hard to go there and look around on so many different levels. What it must be to have rich foreigners walking through your poverty stricken life looking on your destitution and handing your kids food. I really felt for them. Its nothing for most of us to donate the occasional bag of rice and it goes a long way to helping feed everyone for a few more days. The Project Pearls organization is a California-based registered charity. Financial donations are gratefully accepted, however small, and the money goes directly to the distributors here. We saw the trucks of food and clothing arrive and go straight to the kids. If you would like to donate, please visit their donation page. Thank you.
I know I will go back to help in some way, if just to take them more rice. With a little girl holding her hand, Sandra summed it up really well. “I mostly just hold their hand. It doesn’t seem like much, but I think for a lot of these kids, its the only attention that they get. Sometimes I feel our visit is the highlight of their week.”