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Behind the Walls

Updated: Apr 19

Philippines - Makati City

When you make the turn down the road to Makati City, you will have arrived in one of the worst slums in the Philippines. The three story high walls were designed to hide the living conditions from the surrounding area. Even many of locals that I spoke with knew of this district, but had never been behind the walls themselves.

The abundant moto-cabs parked outside the walls reflect the many drivers who live inside. There are entryways about every 70 yards or so, and as you enter, you realize you are in an entirely different world. Odors abound as you pass through the narrow walkways active with people going about their daily routines, seemingly not noticing that there is no proper sewer system, nor a breeze to remove the stench from the air.

Most of the people in the area had bare feet, which seemed fine on the smooth mostly cement surfaces. And like any neighborhood, there were teenagers just hanging around, although we heard that many of them were allegedly involved with drug trafficking. As we peered around one corner, we found that the cement turned into mud and we noticed a small boy looking through the bared window of a small shop. Most all of the windows we noticed here were covered with these bars.

Yet these slums represent a diverse community where you see laughing children and mothers completing their daily chores. During the photography shoot, the people were friendly and curious about our presence. Despite the severe living conditions of the area, there was an absolute sense of community within these walls.

Food seemed plentiful here based on the many outdoor restaurants and vendors we observed, like the one with the colorful woman with several pots in front of her, to the child without clothes finishing a bowl of rice next to his mother, or the smaller street vendors camped in the corners with snacks. Rice bowls were very inexpensive at about 5 US cents a bowl and just about double that for chicken.

Besides the abundant food vendors, there were all kinds of businesses in the slum area including barber shops. The hair dresser pictured makes a living by providing haircuts just outside the door of his residence.

As we moved through the leg of this journey, we capture the determined and hardened faces of many of those that live there. Faces like the lady with sweat on her brow, who could not be bothered by such a minor inconvenience. And if you look closely, you’ll even notice the hardness behind the smiles of the children.

Finally, just steps before we enter our van, we see kids playing near the trash heaps outside the walls.

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