It is hard to know what exactly to say about it. Can I just say that it is nothing like Canada or the U.S.? Does that mean anything at all? I just want to bring people here to see it all for themselves. Pictures don't adequately describe it. I can't describe it.Today our friends the Castagnas took us to a place where squatters live along the Pasig River. These people are living on government land, too poor to live anywhere legally. They are the lowest of the low here. They try to eek out a living washing clothes for people, or selling a kind of charcoal ash they make out of coconuts. They survive on eating the plants that grow in the river (see the pictures below), something I would consider inedible, and rice.
Last year their homes were wiped out by the floods that gushed through during the typhoons. In lots of places only rubble is left. Sometimes fires are started intentionally (not by them) in order to burn their homes and to force them out.
So, Dennis and I went down there this morning with three others. Of course we were the center of attention. I often wish it weren't that way, but we just can't hide. This isn't unusual, we stick out no matter where we go. So amid stares I soon discovered that I could smile at them and they would smile back. Not rocket science, but sometimes I almost feel paralyzed by this culture gap.
All along the road are little tiny booths and shops. Some are made of concrete, others are formed from bits and pieces of metal and board, cloth and cardboard. Between the shops about every 30 feet are long alleyways. In these alleyways are openings into homes. So behind one street of these little booths hundreds of people live.
One thing that really struck me was that the people living there were so friendly. They didn't look on us with suspicion or distrust. Instead, they welcomed us and tried to make conversation. The friends we were with are fluent in Tagalog which helped immensely, but I just wished I could talk to them more than smiling and saying "hi" over and over.
We handed out some candy to the kids.
Dennis and I explained where we were going to our girls. I took lots of pictures with them in mind and showed the girls when we came home. Squeaky immediately filled a bag with her things that she wants to give to them. I thought that was precious and am trying to figure out a way to appropriately cultivate that spirit of giving in her.