Inspiration Philippines Travelogues

Discovering Happyland in Philippines – The Painful Irony

”A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr

Trek for Hope Part 2: Hope in Happy Land

but only 4 things matter love joy peace and hope

Continuation from Part 1 : Twin Peaks of Grand Corderilla...

SMOKEY MOUNTAIN PHILIPPINES – Amidst the beautiful mountains of Philippines that we trekked and lived to remember , sits a mountain unique of its kind – a 2 million metric tons of waste ‘mountain’ in the heart of Tondo Manila that housed millions of people for over 40+ years.

After trekking for 4 days in the wilderness of Mount Ugo and Mount Pulag, it has brought us back to the Philippines capital with energy and desire to do something for the impoverish people of this beautiful country. This was done alongside partner non profit organization (NGO) – Oikos Helping Hand.

Wanting to help the residents of the slums in philippines
Overlooking the slum areas in Manila Philippines for the 1st time

In 1995, the removal of Smokey Mountain has lead to the creation of a new Smokey Mountain to ‘house’ the vacated – and nested in the heart of these new temporary ‘refugee camps’ is the slums of ”Happyland” and ”Aroma”. The names till date, still cause my stomach to churn whenever I recall the twisted irony of it.

leaving the comfort of the van into the slums | Entering Happy Land
Getting ready to leave the comfort of the van into the slum areas | Entering Happy Land
Entering Happy land in Philippines | Slums in Manila
Entering Happy land | Slums in Manila
slums of waste and yet their comfort and home at the same time
The slum areas in Happyland surrounded by waste, yet these are the home and dwelling place of thousands of scavengers

The name “ Happyland ”…

…is derived from the Visayan dialect’s name for smelly garbage: Hapilan, a slum made up of many mini dumpsites put together. The most common type of trash seen here is from the large fast food chain in Philippines Jollibean, where the scavenger sort the different types of packaging and leftover food from cups to straws to spoons.The leftover food gets recooked into ‘pag pag’ and is actually re-consumed by the scavengers.

Going pass the river on the way to our designated slums and homes | Homelessness in the Philippines
View of the river with slums build along it, each unit balancing on wooden stilts at astonishing wonder | Homelessness in the Philippines
A father and child paddling out to seek and hope to find for something valuable | Slums in Manila
A father and child paddling out in seek and hope to find for something valuable on the river | Slums in Manila
Making their homes in these places along the road | Homelessness in the Philippines
A mum with 3 young kids making their homes in these cement structures along the main road | Homelessness in the Philippines
going pass the mountains of rubbish in Happy Land, the livelihood of these people | Slums in Manila
Going past piles of rubbish at Happy land, the livelihood of these people | Slums in Manila

The team of 22

…from the Trek for Hope expedition broke into groups of 5-6 to conducted food ration giveaways to some of the residents of these homes/ slums. We interacted and talked to them to understand their lives better/ and perhaps to just be a friend or listening ear. Some of these residents or scavengers we visited in Happy Land lived just to get by each day rummaging through rubbish to find something valuable. A lot of them really depend on Agapehome (supported by Oikos Helping Hand) to help them – be it house their children, provide them food or hopefully help them and their families break out of the poverty cycle.

Walking through the housing area of these people in manila bring food rations to the residents | Slums in Manila
Walking through the housing area of these people in Manila, bringing food rations to the residents | Slums in Manila
Kath from Oikos Helping Hand giving me the history of the slums | Homeless in Manila
Kath, one of the volunteers at Oikos Helping Hand giving me the history of the slums along the river | Homeless in Manila

The condition of the Philippine Slums

the humble home of one of the villages we visited | Philippine Slums
The humble home of one of the villagers we visited, unprotected by the rain and storm | Philippine Slums

Homeless in Manila? Or not

Young family not more than 25 staying in a shack | How serious is the state of homelessness in the Philippines
Young family with parents not more than 25 years old staying in a small shack | How serious is the state of homelessness in the Philippines

Other than the house visits, we also had a full day community event held at Agapehouse, (by Oikos Helping Hand) where all the scavengers from the slum areas are invited over to the premise to enjoy some singspiration/ games/ food/ activities and bring home some smiles and gifts to their respective homes.

such joy to have these 2 lovely girls in my arms
Such joy to have these 2 lovely girls in my arms
Interacting with some of the volunteers in the homes who some of them still have family staying in the happyland slums
Interacting with some of the volunteers in the homes who some of them still have their family staying in the happyland slums
Smiles while posing for the camera
Smiles while posing for the camera

GVING HOPE –  as a mere human, how can we claim that we truly understand what that means? Does going down 1 -2 times to visit these people and pulling out some money solve everything? What do we understand about the everyday battle of these residents as they worry about the survival of their newborn or the next disaster that will strike that will shaken their very survival.

Smokey mountain now emptier except for a few residents | How serious is the state of homelessness in the Philippines
Smokey mountain now emptier except for a few residents | How serious is the state of homelessness in the Philippines

In a place where there is too much need and cry for help, how can organizations dare to promise to make big changes overnight, and give a clear timeline what can be done by when, even if they are given a one off sum of donation.

However, through the few days we were there to help and be involved, what we realised mattered most was the human spirit/ spiritual love – a responsibility, compassion and continual persistence to want to help others that keeps us going and doing it. Nobody can guarantee to provide these people a pain free life, but perhaps through the little things, help them know there is something good and better that can get them through the day, and to the next.

What does it mean to bring hope
What does it mean to bring hope?
Trek for hope wristband on community day | Residents of Happyland and other slums
Trek for hope wristband on community day | Residents of Happyland and other slums

HOPE – It isn’t wishing for the best. 

It isn’t waiting to see what happens and hope that it turns out well. Hope is not a feeling or an emotion.  Hope is the knowledge of facts.  If someone says to you that “I hope you have a good day,” there is no guarantee that the day will go well. But hope provides an anchor for the soul that there is something good beyond the current pain, and this anchor once fostered, cannot be destroyed.

The skies are filled with the singing of the night
Village in Philippines – The skies are filled with the singing of the night
Sky full of stars
Sky full of stars

This amazing trip was made possible in partnership with Trek for Hope and Oikos Helping Hand. To find out more about how you can support their foundation, visit Oikos Helping Hand website today.

More footage from the Trek from Hope Philippines 

(Photos credited to Yi Xiang of Adventureexposures.com)

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