Smokey Mountain, Tondo, Manila

June 4, 2018

At one time Smokey Mountain was the most famous dumpsite in the world. It was notorious as a symbol of extreme poverty in Marcos' Philippines. On my first visit to the Philippines in 1999 I heard about it and searched; I found the Tondo Foreshore Area but locals told me the Mountain was gone. Later I read that the site been converted to an industrial zone.

Yesterday I made a long walking tour of Tondo, starting from Divisoria. I had walked north to Caloocan City and was returning south when, crossing the Marala Bridge over Estero Sunog Apog, I spotted the unmistakable silhouette of an urban mountain. Was this Smokey Mountain??

Smokey Mountain

I found a way to enter the site and somebody directed me to a pathway between shanties, leading up - up - up Smokey Mountain.

Smokey Mountain

The top of Smokey Mountain has people (drinking and singing karaoke on Sunday afternoon - of course.)

Smokey Mountain

The top of Smokey Mountain has shanties. Tens of thousands of scavengers who lived here were re-located when the dumpsite was officially closed in 1995, but there are obviously still hundreds of people living on top of this gigantic trash heap.

Smokey Mountain

The top of Smokey Mountain has men.

Smokey Mountain

The top of Smokey Mountain has kids.

Smokey Mountain

The top of Smokey Mountain has this elegant woman.

Smokey Mountain

The top of Smokey Mountain has more shanties.

Smokey Mountain

The top of Smokey Mountain has men planting camote for their farm. (Would you eat camotes grown on 30 year old garbage?)

Smokey Mountain

The top of Smokey Mountain has 360 degree views of views of Manila and Manila Bay.

Smokey Mountain

Down below, the Smokey Mountain Housing project. When the dumpsite was officially closed in 1995 this housing was built for the scavengers, but many opted instead to transfer to the Payatas dumpsite in Quezon City.

Smokey Mountain

Honestly, the Smokey Mountain Housing project is pretty grim.

Smokey Mountain

If you have a choice, it's much easier to be born rich. But the people here didn't have that choice. God bless the children (and everybody else) who live on Smokey Mountain.

Smokey Mountain

Panorama from the top of Smokey Mountain:

Smokey Mountain panorama