The onset of the rainy season is bad news for 700 families living near the banks of Estero de Magdalena in Tondo, Manila which has become a repository of garbage of all shapes and sizes.
Living in houses made of light materials, residents have endured the stench and the diseases brought about by a blanket of trash that fills the creek.
“Umaapaw kasi yang tubig tapos pumapasok minsan sa bahay namin. Hindi naman masyadong mataas pero pag bumagyo pa lalo, puno talaga,” said Ana Colanzo who is in her mid-20s.
Ana’s dwelling is so small, it’s just enough to park a car sedan. It has no partition and no furniture.
Ana said they just go to one corner to relieve themselves, pointing to a hole that goes directly to the creek.
The only appliance visible is an old, decrepit washing machine. There were also buckets filled with clothes, an assortment of pots and pans, and a portable stove known as Gasulette.
When the creek rises, Ana said they carry their belongings to prevent them from getting wet.
Residents try to discourage their children from playing in rainwater puddles for fear that they may contract diseases.
“Yang dumi naman kasi, nadadala din namin sa loob ng bahay pag naglakad kami,” said Ericson de Guzman, another resident. “Pero pag may tubig na kasing kasama, iba na yon kasi pwedeng mabulok yung mga gamit namin lalo madumi pa ‘yung tubig.”
De Guzman, who collects newspapers and bottles for a living, was outside his house, fearful of the rains that were started to drop.
Some mothers with babies on their arms could also be seen in the neighborhood that is accessible only through a pedestrian bridge.
For years, the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission has been trying to rehabilitate the estero in its campaign to save the Pasig River.
In its Facebook page, the PRRC said it has done numerous cleanup operations, but admitted the removal of solid wastes has become a vicious cycle.
As a radical solution, the PRRC said it will relocate the families that live near the estero to government housing units in Trece Martires City, Cavite.