Slum Living in Baseco Manila

We joined the Smokey Tours yesterday and visited the Baseco Slums in Tondo, Manila.

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The tours itself only cost Php 950.00 per person and includes a local tour guide and the transportation to/fro Carriedo and Baseco. Details and inclusions of the tour can be found here.

Here are some interesting things I learned from the Tour:

1. There is no running water in Baseco.

Water pipe installation cost money, money that Baseco residents do not have. Hence, many households are forced to buy water from neighbors who make water selling a business.

Tap water filling up a medium sized container is Php 5.00. A slightly bigger container is Php 12.00. Drinking water is Php 30.00. And water from the open deep well which is contaminated by trash and salt water is free.

water container.jpgPhoto credit: GettyImages

The water must be carried in plastic containers to the makeshift house for use. This is the water you use to bathe, wash the dishes, clean and drink. If you have some money, you can afford Php 30.00 to have drinkable water for your family. If you have less money, you can drink the water from the tap. If your really do NOT have any money, then the contaminated well will do.

2. That is why, common ailments for Baseco residents are diarrhea and asthma.

Without clean potable water, residents get diarrhea all the time. From the water they use to wash their dishes to the water they offer to their families, it’s not surprising how fast residents get sick despite already building up a strong immunity from birth.

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Getting sick causes many problems. For adults, it can cause them to miss work, which makes them unemployable. For kids, it causes them to miss school and not be able to catch up with their fellow students. For younger babies, it can cause early death.

But how can you have clean water if there’s no faucet? And how can you have faucets if there’s no infrastructure for plumbing?

3. The residents poo in the water.

Without a proper plumbing or septic system, residents have no choice but to poo and pee in the surrounding water, which by the way, fishermen swim in to catch mollusks.

You can pay Php 5.00 to use the makeshift “toilet,” which is a wooden structure that hangs out to the side. Or you can just go to the water and poo/pee there, right by the edges of the South Harbor district of Manila Port Area.

By the way, the water is very close to the open aired deep water where residents get and drink free water.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

No wonder sickness surrounds the Baseco slums.

4. The Baseco slums is HUGE.

Put it this way, there are 100,000 recorded residents in the Baseco slums.

The assumption is, this only counts the reported residents in the 56-hectared area.

The guide estimates that there are actually 200,000 residents in the area, counting in at least 30,000 households!

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Janet, our guide, said that even as a resident, she can still get lost in the middle of Baseco if she is not careful.

5. Garlic peeling is a big industry in Baseco.

As residents lack the education to be competitive in the job market, many residents especially women fall into the job of garlic peeling using dull blades.


Each sack holds 14.5 to 15 kilos of garlic. Each sack takes an afternoon to peel and earns the peeler Php 50.00 per sack.

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While the acidity of garlic peeling burns the hands of the women, they still do it because at least, there’s a community of women who do it in Baseco. They can gossip, sing songs and enjoy each other’s company while garlic peeling.

Plus, it’s better than having no jobs. The money they make from garlic peeling, albeit small, can still feed their families, especially since many of them are the primary breadwinners of their households.

6. Despite their large sizes, households in Baseco do not have many breadwinners. Actually, many members of the households are unemployed by choice.

We talked to the elderly garlic peeler in the tour. She said she had 7 adult children living with her. When I asked why they do not help with garlic peeling so the family can earn money more quickly, she answered, “Kasi tamad sila. Walang trabaho.”

Translation: They do not help and are unemployed because they are lazy.

Alas, the biggest problem in Baseco is that many of the residents are NOT stably employed. Many of them stay in the house or in the neighborhoods making tambay (hanging out).

Maybe they do not have work because they are not properly educated — there are only two public schools close to the Baseco area, with an average of 1 teacher to 75 student ratio — but I think the bigger problem is that there is no incentive for children to study.

When I was a kid, my mom made sure we had the best tutors who will force us to study. My dad would hit us if ever we had a bad grade.

In Baseco, the parents have to work and are usually out of the house, leaving the children in the care of others. And while public school is free, children would still have to take the initiative in going to school. It is a long road from the house to the school, full of temptations to not go to school.

With nobody to ensure that they go to school regularly, many children do not finish school and end us underemployed just like many of their parents.

To be Continued…


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