Under The Bridge: Glimpse of Philippine Poverty

Two weeks ago, I, together with seven of my classmates, had the chance to visit a poverty location site in the heart of Manila, Philippines. The site was located underneath the President Quirino bridge along Quirino Avenue. During the first hour of the three-hour journey, we took part in exploring the area like scavenger hunting. “These people are literally spending their lives under this bridge!,” I proclaimed. There were around three self-built houses (built on low-grade wood, which is not sturdy enough to withstand climate disasters) settled under the bridge, astonishingly. The whole scenario was enough evidence to represent a state of scarcity.

Our first tour of the area showcased a glimpse of the people, environment, and lifestyle situated throughout the location. We met two female locals in their forties, another in her thirties together with her son, and a young girl with her puppy whom we named ‘Jen-Jen’ from our Professor’s name, Jen. During the journey, we asked several brief questions to the two female locals in their forties. The interview contained the following:

“How many people are living in this area?”
—Around 30 families in approximate.

“What is your religion?”
—Roman Catholic, and most of the people here are Roman Catholic. Most of the time, we go to the church in Paco, Manila.

“Tell us about the situation of your life in this area.”
—We live a pretty decent life here. Even though we are jam-packed like sardines, we still manage to get the basic necessities of a personwater, electricity and food. Although we get our water and electricity illegally, it is enough for us to sustain our rights as a human person.

“How does the government help you?”
—There are several government foundations who go here regularly, especially in times of crisis. During the “Ondoy” catastrophe, several foundations and livelihood programs came here to help us.

“Tell us about your situation during the great flooding of ‘Ondoy.'”
—The floods reached the surface of the bridge. Our houses were affected. Therefore, we stayed at an evacuation center provided by the government. We were, somehow, spared because “Ondoy” had only brought floods, not heavy winds. If there were heavy winds, we might have lost our houses, causing more havoc to us. 

The overall ambiance was a new taste for us. The hot and humid climate added to the impoverishment of the location. Overall, it was quite a leisurely journey to get a glimpse of the other side of our worlds.

Week 2

This week was more than excitement and amusement. We had the chance to encounter some fun games with the kids, which numbered around seventeen. The specific area where we met the kids is located at the distant back side of the field wherein we mounted a long walk with the straying hot sunlight.

It was an honor to meet the kids and get to know them one by one. We started the day with the “Memory Recall,” wherein the kids need to memorize all the names of us group mates. After a while, we blazed up the moment by starting an exciting series of games. We had the “Musical Chairs” (also known as “Trip to Jerusalem”) and the ever popular “Bring Me.” One of the most talented kids there was Heydie. She aced up her enormous number of points (a basis for our grading system) by topping mostly all the games we had.

Of course, I would not forget about the prizes portion. This was the most strategic part of the immersion. The kids were so hyperactive and greedy to have all the chocolates we had to offer. In the end, we gave them more than half of our chocolates.

On the said encounter, I realized two things: people living under the poverty line can have fun the same amount of fun like those living above the social hierarchy and there is an ultimate sense of gratification when you get the chance to offer activities to and participate with kids who grew up in a different milieu from our own childhood.

Truly it was a wonderful moment, not just for me, but for my group mates, as well. It was a sense of giving, selflessness, and involvement. The overall fun we had was worth remembering. The real stepping mark of this immersion was the fact that this was the first time we met the kidsthe kids that we will be teaching, handling and communicating with from this day up to the end of our immersion.

Week 3

I, as well as my group mates, finally had the chance to conduct a formal way of educating the children. We tackled numerous academic subjects we had planned for the kids. The subjects included Christian Living, Physical Education, General Mathematics, English and Natural Studies.

There were several kids who were added to the class, summing it up to 25 kids all in all. However, some kids from the past week did not attend, thus being marked absent.

We started off with a kick-start in getting physically trained. We discussed the importance of playing and sports. The kids, in return, played with us and had loads of fun running around the field. Although we somehow lacked time to finish each subject, our main focus was on EnglishEnglish Comprehension and English Application.

It was captivating to know that majority of the kids participated in the discussions. Most were interested in and activated by the English Alphabet; we tackled letters A up to F. Interesting and astonishing to my expectance that Heydie was one of the top performers again for this week.

We ended with a holistic, spiritual view for the kidsChristian Living. Miguel, our group leader, discussed about the Salvation Story of Jesus, together with a brief prayer to end the day. Throughout the discussion, one of the new members, Rhowelyn, proved to us that she is such a clever kid to be reckoned with. She outperformed the majority of the class, and she answered questions more than the rest of the class.

The whole realization of being able to teach these kids for the first time is actually a euphoria of relief and dignity in thy self. Teaching kids can be one of the most difficult activities to do, but at the same time it can also be the most relaxing and enjoyable actions to partake in. I look forward to teaching the kids again for next week.

Week 4

During this second to the last academic day, there was a high number of depletion in the number of kids who are present. Approximately half of the total number of kids were marked absent. This situation made us wonder how low may the number of kids who will receive a loyalty award during the graduation day be.

We started the day through the second and last session of the subject Expressionism, wherein the kids were once again provided sheets of papers, pencils and coloring materials. The activity was similar to the previous session, but this time it had a theme. With joint grades in Expressionism, English and Natural Studies, the kids had to compel a drawing of the theme: “The Mother Earth and Ways to Save It.” The writing portion will provide the grade for English, and the overall concept of their drawings will be for Natural Studies.

Following the humid environment of the day comes a session of Natural Studies lecture about Recycling. The kids, as usual, were easily disrupted, which made us, especially our group leader, Miguel, try to stabilize the educational environment for their learning. The kids were provided by a graded activity, in which all the kids participated all at once in order to nurture their minds on the environment and its relationships as a whole. One of the kids’ mother, Mrs. Lydia Bayo, also participated in coaching the kids by helping them answer the activity correctly.

At the end of the day, we witnessed how strenuous it was to teach the kids. Throughout the day, we had so many activities and sessions for the kids’ welfare to have grades.

Week 5

Our last academic day was actually a makeup session for the group. It happened on the afternoon right after our group had lunch. We rested for a while to wait for the kids to come upon getting them informed for another class of the day.

There was another slight depletion of the number of kids who attended, and around two kids who were absent from the previous meeting showed up for this class. Our group leader, Miguel, headed the Christian Living class for the first part. It was a motivating and inspiring lesson, since the cool weather and cozy environment added to that ambiance that would make it soothing for the kids to learn. During the latter part of the discussion, however, there had been arguments and mishaps with some of the kids. Some were bashing each other off, and some were engaging in ruthless physical actions against each other. This made us tell the kids the to-dos and what-not-to-dos. Miguel was caught off-guard again on a contemplation, and had him critically think on how to solve the impulsive environment of children violence.

Then there came the slight dashes of rainfall which then, gradually became intense. A rain had stumbled on the area. This instance made us discontinue the discussions. There was a gradual increase of flood water on the area where we were situated at, which promptly made us forcefully leave the area. Afterwards, we found a haven at the Barangay where it was so compacted.

After several minutes had gone by, the kids, by their nature, had to go outside of the Barangay and play on the flooded street of Quirino Avenue. Our group had started noticing it and promptly told them to stop their actions right at that instance. The kids were disorganized and failed to take in consideration what they have known from us. The street outside had floods that reached up to the knee. The whole situation was a mayhem. Our group needed to wait for the rain to stop in order to leave the area. Throughout the situation, we had taken notice of the names of the kids who were engaged in the disdainful activity on the floods. After the rain had stopped, we immediately evacuated the area to get back to Taft Avenue. Seemingly perhaps, we realized how difficult it is to maintain organization and respect within the behaviors of these children we handled throughout the immersions.

Week 6

Finally, the eight day has arrivedthe last day of the immersionwherein our team hosted the commencement exercise or simply the graduation day of the 24 Project class. Our group had comprehensively allocated our time and resources, carefully planned and expeditiously arranged the graduation day.

We arrived at the area an hour late due to the preparations we had to accomplish. We had certificates, pizzas, donuts and sodas in stored for the huge celebration. Along the way, we started to gather all the kids for an attendance; in fact, the last attendance for them. Astonishingly, almost everyone was present that day. After a while, we prepared a warm-up game for the kids on the field. It was an active start for the kids to be energetic and pumped up for the upcoming ceremony.

Finally, we started the ceremony with awarding of the certificates. Such certificates are distributed one by one to the awardee together with a picture taken. First to be called are the loyalty awardees, for having complete attendance over the course of the immersion. Second to be called are the academic awardees, for being the top five performing students in terms of having the highest academic grades. Third to come are the merit or special awards, where various kids with a specific proficiency in and a recognition for excelling the best in a certain subject are given such merits. The last batch of certificates were no longer for the kids; one was for two people who were so supportive during the immersions and another for the kids’ favorite educator among us.

What ended the ceremony was the reception of foodsour lunchprovided by 3M Pizza Hut. Following at a high pace of time was the sudden individual picture taking of the kids for their yearbook—our very own documentation scrapbook for our class. Unfortunately, the rain suddenly poured, which prompted us to terminate the taking of photographs, thus leaving half of the kids fail to get their picture taken.

In the end, we said our little goodbyes and helpful advices for the kids’ welfare. An unforgettable journey has been made. Kudos to 24 Project and all the people who participated with their never-ending endeavors for the future of these kids. Congratulations!

Photographs taken at President Quirino Bridge, Manila, Philippines

 Josh Layson Photography © 2012

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2 thoughts on “Under The Bridge: Glimpse of Philippine Poverty

  1. What beautiful photos and moments you captured! I always want to be brave enough to take these kinds of photos of people in their natural environments, but sometimes it is so hard for me to ask permission to capture a moment in a stranger’s life. In 2010, I lived in Paraguay, a country faced with poverty and hardship, and had the chance to visit some Indigenous communities there. It was a real eye opener for me, but in the end I managed to get some great photos of the community’s children – who were excited to have their picture taken!

  2. My former church used to take mission trips to the Philippines. I remember hearing the stories of how the children got so excited when they arrived with Dum Dum suckers because to them it was like gold! How adorable. These pictures are both heartbreaking and warming. Thanks for sharing.

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