A Personal Look at Life in Tondo

tondo, philippines, trash, poverty, crime, homeless
Tondo, Manila, Philippines

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If you tell a stranger familiar with Manila that you live in Tondo, they may think that you live in the slums. I understand this perception because if you were to see many sections of Tondo, like Gagalangin, you’d probably end up with a terrible headache just by looking at the place. There are a flood of people, called “tambay”, loitering the streets with little to do. If you were to stand at any corner and just listen you would probably hear cursing and fighting and if you stand there long enough, you may witness a simple argument escalating into a fight, sometimes leading to death.

The most popular weapon, balisong, is a folding pocket-knife used by many men in Tondo to protect themselves from a danger that almost always lurks on every Tondo street corner. Unfortunately, irresponsible people lose their cool and use their balisong not to protect themselves but to launch an attack against an enemy.

Are there really people who do not know how to value the life of others?

Sadly, the answer is ‘yes’ and there are various factors for this. First, is the influence of their peers and the people they associate themselves. Second, is the environment they live and have grown up in. Third, is the family that developed their character.

Family is very crucial in the development of character and personality. Every person needs love and guidance from their parents but the problem that presents itself in Tondo, is how can parents properly provide guidance to their children if they themselves do not know how to deal with their own lives? The responsibility of parents is to provide food, shelter and education to their children but how can this be possible if they lack the financial ability to support their many children?

People who feel useless do not bother to think about their future. They have become satisfied with living for the moment. They enjoy those fleeting moments of unprotected pleasure which eventually results to increasing the number of children in their family.

One, two, three…ten.


If you are parents who have many children, what kind of life do you think can you provide to your offspring?  Miserable life is the answer. Most people who live in a slum area do not have the chance to study, so how they can they secure a good job in the future?  If lucky, they may manage to find a blue-collar job such as janitor, garbage man, helper, etc…. Even if we say that these are dignified jobs, this should not provide satisfaction for parents especially if they have a big family. Realistically speaking, the wage is far from being sufficient to provide for the needs of their many children.

According to recent studies, the reason behind the increasing number of people living in Tondo is lack of knowledge regarding family planning. Even when parents do not wish to conceive any more children, their lack of awareness regarding contraception causes their families to grow out of control.

Pity the children…

Children in Tondo are the ones living in misery because while their parents are busy creating new siblings for them, they, on the other hand, are being neglected. They are sometimes considered a nuisance by their exhausted parents who struggle to find food to feed them. Because of their lack of maturity, the seeming rejection from their parents becomes ingrained in their hearts and minds. Thus, they distance themselves from their parents and turn to their peers. But not all children are the same. There are kids who choose to be strong so they can help their parents and siblings. From a young age, they start to work and earn money to help augment the family income. Sadly, there are some who never learn from the mistakes of their parents. Older kids who seek any form of affection, which was unavailable in their home, find it with teenaged partners and this eventually leads to unplanned pregnancies, thus repeating the cycle of deprivation and miserable existence

This is not the worst-case scenario for the slum children; there are some who turn to alcohol and illegal drugs to forget their problems. Every time I step outside and see children sniffing rugby (glue substance) on the streets, my heart sinks.  It’s said that when you use rugby you will forget everything and all your problems fade away. Aside from that, you lose your appetite. This is perhaps the reason they use rugby so they will not feel their hunger. Yes, it solves the immediate problem but these people do not realize the greater negative effect of the prolonged use of rugby to their brain, liver, kidney and heart. When they are made aware of the dangers to their life when using rugby, most do not care. They no longer see a bright future for themselves so why should they still care?

It is a pity that these children will never experience an ordinary life. Sadly, as it is today, the children of Tondo will never find a way to escape their miserable lives and their miserable reality.

The solution for Tondo children

It has to start from the parents. We cannot just sigh as they continue to make more children. We need to find a way to help them so we can put an end to this cycle of deprivation and misery.

Children are said to be the future of this world, so we need to help them with the best of our ability. But how can we do it?

Here are ways with which we can help them:

First; free grocery. Give every family in the slum area a bag of free grocery every month. Through this, they will know that others still care for them.

Second; education. Children deserve to have a good education so they can have a greater chance of securing a bright future. Even if they study in a public school, they still have other needs like uniforms and school supplies. If someone can provide them with these, they will no longer have any worry and they can focus on their studies.

Third is leisure. People in Tondo need leisure so they can divert their minds from doing bad things like fighting, bullying, doing illegal drugs. Playing sports for men and livelihood activities for women is a productive way to spend their leisure time

It’s not that difficult to do these if we could somehow find the money to fund it.  So are you ready to help save the lives of the children in Tondo? If you are, then start helping


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  1. Why do people think that the poor should be handed free things? ‘They will know that others still care for them’ is not a good enough reason to make them dependent. As the saying goes, give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day; teach him how to fish you’ll feed him for a lifetime.

    I don’t think ‘free’ groceries would help them in the long run, if you mean just giving them a bag every month without something in return. It’s a good idea, but I think they need to ‘work’ for it atleast, but in a way that would benefit them. For example, the families can have a bag of groceries if they pay you 5 plastic bottles. You’ll be able to help them AND use the plastic bottles you collected as an icome generating project. Sure, it’s a lot more work than just handing out free things, but it teaches them to not be fully dependent on help, they still get the groceries and you got to contribute un lessening pollution, plus allows you to make more cash from the bottles that you can invest in them.


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