Category Archives: Philippines

Family in San Andres

Only four years old, this boy has been left in the care of his 85-year-old grandmother.

I’ve been working on a project documenting the squatters communities around Manila, and came across this boy and his family in San Andres. This boy, four years old, and his sister, 5 years old, have been left in the care of their 85-year-old grandmother. Their father is currently in jail and in desperation the mother dropped the kids with their grandmother and returned to the provinces. No one knows where she is now.

Though a caring woman, the grandmother is getting too old to properly look after the children, often leaving them on their own for hours at a time while she wanders the neighbourhood. They rely on the charity of the San Andres community to eat, and some church groups who provide vitamins for the kids.

If anyone is interested in contributing $5 to help these kids, use the paypal “donate” button on the right-hand column of this blog page, and add the note “for San Andres family”. I will give whatever money is raised to the local community representative to organize a support program.


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Life on a Fighting Cock Farm

An illegal cock fight in San Andres, Manila. The fights usually last around a minute and all evidence is quickly carried away to avoid problems with the police.

In an odd twist of fate I now find myself living on a fighting-cock farm in the lower class neighbourhood of San Andres, Manila. In an empty lot between two houses, Floren, the caretaker of the farm, allowed me to pitch a small tent. I share the space with around 15 fighting cocks, a pair of Chinese chickens, and two turkeys. The cocks and turkeys are in a constant state of feud, harassing each other and skirmishing endlessly in the small space. I can’t help but feel sorry for the turkeys. Despite their larger size, they are vastly outnumbered by an opponent that is born and bred to fight to the death. They stick close together and pace the yard cautiously.

The sound of 15 roosters is deafening, and they usually get me up by around 5am. There is nothing much to do but drink coffee with the large posse of elderly women who sit on plastic chairs on the street outside the farm’s front gate. By 9a.m. the first of the day’s cock-fights have usually started, and continue until there are no more competitors.

Fast and violent, one of the fighters is generally dead within two minutes. Sometimes the winner will also bleed out minutes later.

10cm curved knives are attached to the feet of the roosters before the fight. They are sharp enough to shave with and have resulted in human deaths when the cocks are not carefully controlled.

The loser of the fight is given to the winner’s owner to be eaten.

It looks like I’ll be staying on the farm for the next month or so, so expect a more comprehensive story on the underground cock-fights soon. Animal rights activists be warned: there is very little sympathy for these animals, and the images will be gruesome.


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Matao Salajendo in Eight Frames

Matao Salajendo, 29, is an unemployed construction worker living under the seawall along the Ermita Boulevard in Manila, Philippines.

He sleeps underneath a piece of bubble wrap paper and must remain in a sitting position all night due to the cramped conditions under the wall. He searches the rocks along the bay for found objects which he either keeps to use for himself, or sells for whatever money he can get.

For three years Matao was a construction worker on a fifty-story skyscraper project in metro Manila, but when the job was done he found himself out of work. Now homeless as well as jobless, Matao cannot gather enough money to renew his medical certification, which is mandatory for work on building sites. Neither can he afford to travel back to his home province, where the rest of his family lives on a coconut farm.

I met Matao a few days ago and spent most of a day with him. This series is a look at one day of his life in eight frames.

Matao sits under the seawall along the Ermita Boulevard in Manila. He sleeps here in a sitting position due to the cramped conditions.

The seawall is constantly wet, and Matao uses only a piece of bubble wrap paper as a shelter

Matao struggles in the wind to unwrap his bubble wrap shelter as heavy rain begins to fall.

Since Matao lost his job he has little to do during the day other than wander through Manila’s streets and parks.

Matao’s criminal clearance, one of the documents necessary for him to find a new construction job. The second document he needs is an $8 medical check which he cannot afford.

Matao searches the rocks along the seawall for items which wash up in the bay that he can use himself, or possibly sell.

Matao enters the large Robinson’s mall for the first time, despite living only a few hundred meters away.

Matao shields himself from the rain. Having no money, he is not able to travel back to his home province where the rest of his family lives on a coconut farm.



Also posted in Blog, Poverty