Hope and Dignity in Naga City, Philippines ~ Balatas Dump

Stories of Human Dignity in the Dump

Poverty and severely limited opportunities create endless trials, aggravations and suffering for the poor, but it does not always defeat the hopefulness of the human spirit. The smiles on the faces of children playing in the worlds garbage dumps

Carlo Pante, 26 years old

Carlo is a family man. He has two kids. He has been living in Barangay Balatas since he was born. Marrying at an early age, he felt compelled to earn a living for his family. Finishing only the 6th grade and used to only hanging around with friends, he found it difficult to find a job. Consequently, he turned to garbage picking.

It is customary for Carlo Pante to wake up around 6:00 in the morning to feed the few pigs that he owns. After this, he would eat breakfast with his family. He would spend the rest of the morning sifting through the scrap materials that he had collected from the dumpsite, looking for things that he could employ to repair their home or trying to fix some of them that could still be use. After lunch, he would proceed to the dumpsite and pick garbage. Oftentimes, Carlo Pante would come home late at night because he had to wait for the dump trucks to unload fresh garbage. He earns P50 – P80 pesos a day ($1.15 – $1.95) from garbage picking. “Even if you’re only able to collect a few garbage, you will still earn some money to give your family“.

But Carlo Pante does not want his family to live at the dumpsite for the rest of their lives. “Time will come when I can move my family out of this place with the little money that I earn from garbage picking. I know that it is hard but in these times, everybody is hard up”, he says confidently.

Ervin Avilla, 11 years old

Ervin is no ordinary boy. Seeing that his father, a welder, cannot provide for the needs of his family of nine, Ervin decided by himself to help by starting to work. He turned to garbage to picking as it was the only way he knows that he can make a living in his place. He started picking garbage when he was still in pre-school. Now that he is Grade 5, he is already used to it, “Only that my body aches” he confides.

He divides his time between going to school on weekdays and picking garbage on weekends. Ervin wakes up at 3:00 in the morning and heads straight to the dump site. He comes home for lunch and immediately goes back to pick up more trash to sell. In a day, he can collect 1-2 sacks of garbage which he could sell for about P50 – P300 pesos ($1.15 – $6.50). Late in the afternoon, if he still has time, he plays with his friends or watches TV. Indeed, one could notice his childish ways – – – he was a little distracted during the interview, eager to go back to his playmates.

When asked if he had heard about an accident of a collapsing rubbish pile that killed several garbage pickers in Payatas Dump (Manila) he nodded, saying that he is not afraid should it also occur in Balatas? “I will not leave this place even when I’m grown up” he says firmly. He sees garbage picking as a small but important step towards fulfilling his dreams, which is to finish his studies and become a policeman someday. He hopes that, by being a policeman, he would be able to provide a better life for his family.

Off hand, one may feel pity towards Ervin and Carlo Pante, but a closer look at their lives will ultimately give you a feeling of admiration. One gets the impression that, for the people in Barangay Balatas, there exists more than just a pile of trash but a mountain of hope. And that amidst the decay and worthless heaps of human refuse, the value of love for one’s family will still grows undeniably strong.

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