Bagong Barrio is one of the poorest villages in metropolitan Manila. It is located within Caloocan City, about 15km from downtown Manila.
In the 1950s, the area where Bagong Barrio stands today was home to one of Manila’s largest garbage dumps and was nicknamed the “pig pen”.
The garbage dumpsite provided a livelihood for the residents as it represented an opportunity to scavenge for useful items and scraps that could be sold or created into other items for sale. Those reliant on the dump built makeshift houses around it and gradually a community built up.
When the dumpsite closed, the community remained and settled more permanently and, over time, the huge mound of garbage flattened out.
Today, Bagong Barrio is home to over 106,000 residents. The conditions and infrastructure have improved and there is no visible evidence that this was once a dumpsite. However, most residents still live in extreme poverty.
The main forms of industry include wet market vendors, street vendors, rag making and scrap recycling. There are two primary schools and one high school in Bagong Barrio.
Life in Bagong Barrio
Over the years, many families have improved their situation. However there are still families to support so from our annual visits we look for and assess families still in need.
Rice is the main source of nutrition with a family of up to nine living off just 1kg per day. Sometimes, vegetables and chicken are added to the rice but only when the family can afford it.
Houses are very small, crowded and the conditions are poor; they are built wherever there is space and living arrangements are quite haphazard. Quite often it is necessary to crawl or climb into a dwelling through a small entrance. Families generally sleep on the floor next to one another in a very confined space.
There is limited access to running water. Three or four households will share one tap. The average family size is over four. Although schooling is free, it is difficult to send children to school because of the loss of help and income that the children bring to the family and also the cost of school supplies, uniforms and transport.
Despite the level of poverty, the people have an amazing spirit and are unbelievably resilient. They also have a great deal of pride and this is evident in the way the children present themselves for school. When you see the children in their sparkling uniforms, perfectly combed hair and big smiles it is easy to forget where they woke up that morning.