Saturday, 30 October 2010

Philippines: jeepney barker

I spent three months in the Philippines in 2009, working for UNICEF in the aftermath of Typhoon Ketsana. Manila is a city of contrasts, most notably between the rich and poor. Makati, the business district, comes alive at night when the call centres open. Workers throng the streets, food is sold on every corner and brightly decorated ‘jeepneys’ speed up and down the streets, picking people up and dropping them off apparently at random. Here are some of my favourite photos from the Philippines.

Friday, 29 October 2010

A Day in the Life: Mary's story

Thirteen-year-old Mary (not her real name) lives and works with her family on the streets of Manila, capital of the Philippines. The family occupy a corner of the pavement outside Starbucks in Binondo Square, where they sell cigarettes and newspapers, cook and eat, and sleep outside at night. Mary works with her mother on the family stall and looks after her younger sisters. She’s been out of school for three years.

The family have been forced onto the streets because of poverty. "We have a house in Cavite, south of Manila, but there aren’t enough opportunities there to earn a living," Mary explains. "That’s why we live on the streets in Binondo. We’ve been here for three years now. My mother works as a street vendor, selling cigarettes, snacks and newspapers. My stepfather is a community guard and my older brother drives a pedicab. My younger brother Jun-jun is a jeepney barker – he hails buses and taxis for passengers"

Although they no longer live there, the family still pays 500 peso (£7.30) a month in rent on their house. "Sometimes we don’t have enough money to pay the rent, which is why we don’t have anything to sell," Mary says. "Whatever we earn is just enough to buy my stepfather’s medicine. He needs a lot of medicine because he has diabetes and a heart condition.”

Thursday, 28 October 2010

A Day in the Life: Crisanto's story

Fifteen-year-old Crisanto (not his real name) lives at Pangarap Shelter for Street Children in Manila, capital of the Philippines. He ran away from home when he was nine because his father was an alcoholic and would beat him when he got drunk. Crisanto lived on the streets for two years. During the day he would earn money by snatching bags and phones or scavenging rubbish for recycling. At night, he slept in a cemetery with a gang of other boys.

“We were very poor and my parents were always fighting,” Crisanto remembers. “When my father got drunk he would hit me. It started when I was six years old. He did it just because he felt like it - he wasn’t himself when he was drunk. That’s when I began thinking I was nothing more than a burden. A few years later I decided to run away.

"After that I lived in Sangandaan Cementery. It was very dangerous. I was in a gang and the other boys made me do rugby [a Filipino term for sniffing glue]. The gang would steal things like mobile phones and we would scavenge for plastic bottles and electric wire. We would sell recyclable materials to junk shops to get money for food or drugs. You could buy a cup of rugby for 5 pesos. I didn’t get hungry when I sniffed rugby."

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Movin' on up: Typhoon Ketsana one year on

I visited the town of San Pedro in Laguna, the Philippines, in December 2009 following Typhoon Ketsana. I went back in August 2010 to see how the situation of children had improved.  

Lusminda and Danilo Morales outside their new home
© UNICEF Philippines/2010/Andy Brown

Ten-year-old Danilo Morales lives with his parents and eight brothers and sisters in a single room concrete house in South Ville resettlement community, San Pedro, Laguna. The family don’t have much but they’re grateful for it nonetheless. This time last year, the Morales family was among the 400,000 people forced to abandon their homes and seek shelter in evacuation centres as Typhoon Ketsana (known locally as Tropical Storm Ondoy) raged across the Laguna area. The storm pummelled the Morales’s shanty home in Landayan to pieces and the rising floodwaters swept away their possessions. They were lucky to escape with their lives.

“We were very afraid when the storm arrived,” Danilo’s mother Lusminda said. “It was raining hard and the flood waters were moving fast. My husband and I managed to get all the children safely to Landayan covered court, where we sheltered for the first few days.” The family were transferred to three different evacuation centres, before finally moving to their new home in South Ville. “It was a difficult time for us,” Lusminda recalled. “We had problems getting food, water, clothing and medicines when the children got sick.”

Things are much better now for the Morales. “We’re very happy to have our own home. It’s safe here and we don’t have to worry when it rains. The school is close by and we can go into town on the jeepney to buy food. My husband and I make a bit of money selling ‘taho’ but we’re looking for a better livelihood. I hope there are no more floods and we can live happily ever after”