The Slum

For Love or Money

Staying fit and healthy is not easy in a slum, and many residents must perform a delicate balancing act to get by.

This six-part series follows residents of Manila’s Tondo slum as they live, love, survive and aspire in some of the world’s toughest living conditions. 

Smokey Mountain, which for 50 years was one of South East Asia’s most toxic rubbish dumps, shut down in 1995 and is now home to some of Manila’s homeless.

Nieves Granada has lived on the dump for the last two years. She is a widowed mother of eight, including nine-year-old Jello, who suffers from a disability which can make life difficult.

Jello is cared for by his dedicated mother, but Nieves has to leave him alone daily to earn money picking crops grown on the rubbish tip they live on. She makes just $2.50 a day, but if she does not work, she does not earn, so Jello’s visits to the physiotherapists are rare.

Nearby, minibus driver Dante Clarin lives under a bridge with his family. He has taken a gamble giving up his job to look after his mentally ill wife. In desperation he has recruited his local priest in an attempt to get his wife to a psychiatrist.

Meanwhile, eight months pregnant Sally Macaraeg lives with her husband and son in a squatter settlement next door to the biggest charcoal making community in Tondo.

At 2.30am, she is already queuing for a pre-natal check-up at the hospital which will only open at 7am. Families of 10 or 12 are common in the slums, so hospitals are swamped by expectant mothers every day, and the queue only gets longer as more people arrive.

Healthcare is expensive and Sally’s husband, Andy, struggles to cover the costs of treatment.

The slums are inherently unhealthy places without effective sanitation or proper medical facilities, and many residents need to perform a delicate balancing act to ensure they can make a living while at the same time caring for their loved ones in need.