A Look Into Their Lives – Summary from “The Philippines – The Slum Episode 1: Deliverance” – film by Paul Roy, Al Jazeera

Dear readers,

This is a six-part film series of the stories of some of the people living in the Philippine slums. The link to the video is down below. We will be posting six summaries of the film series in the continuing weeks. This is the first summary.

Remy lives with her fourteen family members in Paradise Height, home to former squatters in the heart of the densest populated area in the world, Tondo. As a self-taught midwife since 1992, she has made her home into a makeshift clinic. When a woman called Arleen in a neighbouring slum calls, Remy leaves with her basic equipment to Arleen’s aid. Arleen lives in a tiny shack with her husband, RC and her two children. She has been in labour for three days. When Remy arrives, a baby girl is delivered.

Government attempts to make birth control freely available have been blocked. It has been left to non-governmental organisations to provide family planning. Remy starts to take classes in birth control, buries a stillborn baby and along with family planning advocate, Jane educates women to have smaller families.  

Early in the morning at the Divisoria Wholesale Market, Jane and her husband, Jodie are shopping for ingredients for their takeaway shop. They always check to purchase food from stall owners who own digital scales as they say many people change their scales. Back at their takeaway, she and her family start prepping the food. Back in 2000, she risked borrowing 5,000 pesos ($115) from a friend to start their business. She is still paying off that loan. Because of the popularity of their delicious food, the neighbours started their own business bringing a lot of competition into the area.

A few kilometers to the south lies Besco slum with a population of 45,000. Gener Pagtabunan, a fisherman and father of nine has come home with no fish four days in the running. With his motor he has spent years saving for, he goes out into the polluted harbour and tries once again to no avail. His wife, Lorna tries to make an income by selling fruit and vegetable from the front of their shack.

A while later, Gener is fixing his net inside while his wife and baby sleep outside on a chair. He recounts that his motor was stolen making fishing much more difficult having to use a paddle to get out to sea. Lorna gets to work with her daughter peeling garlic. For every 15kgs of garlic peeled, she’ll earn a little over one dollar barely enough for one meal to feed the family. Back out in the water, Gener’s persistence pays off as he fishes up enough fish to feed his family and some to sell to the neighbours.