Three Women: Struggling to Survive while Fighting for Change

A woman doing multiple odd jobs, another managing a small variety store and selling newspapers, the poorest, a scavenger – these three women from poor families are finding it increasingly difficult to make both ends meet. Family survival is a daily struggle for them, and yet, they never lose hope and they always find time to fight for genuine change.


In Vitas, Tondo, Manila, poverty smells like garbage. It used to be the location of Manila’s largest landfill, the Smokey Mountain.

Although Smokey Mountain was officially shut down in 1995 and the National Housing Authority (NHA) and a private real estate company built a low-cost housing project at the former dump, not much has changed in the lives of the poor residents.

Bulatlat interviewed three mothers in this community about their day-to-day struggle to survive through these hard times.

Doing multiple odd jobs

Corazon Claros, 43, welcomed this writer to her home at the ground floor of one of the buildings at the Kaunlaran Tenement. The house has a single room, a small dining table, a bench and a small kitchen.

Corazon has seven children. Her eldest, 22 years old, already has a family of his own and lives in a different place. Three of her children still go to school- one attends a public secondary school, two are in a public elementary school and another is in kinder in a government-run day care center. The youngest, aged five, is not yet attending classes.

Corazon baby sits to earn extra income. (Photo by R. Olea)

Corazon’s husband Roberto lost his job in June 2008. Roberto had worked as a porter at the Sulpicio Lines, a shipping company, since 1982. When he was laid off, he received no benefits. At 54, Roberto could not find any other job.

How does the family survive? Corazon replied, smiling,“Marami akong raket.” (I have many sideline jobs.)

Corazon has three part-time jobs: as a laundry woman, baby-sitter and collector for various lotteries and numbers games.

She starts her day at 5 a.m. doing laundry work. For two days of washing clothes, she gets P300 ($6.185 at the current exchange rate of $1=P48.50). At times, she would be asked to iron clothes for the same amount.

At around 7 a.m., she starts taking care of the four-month old baby of a neighbor. She is paid P100 ($2.06) per day for the service.

Corazon still finds time to go around the neighborhood to collect bets for lotteries such as EZ 2, lotto and ending. Lotto is a legal numbers game in the Philippines. Ending, on the other hand, is a numbers game that determines its winning numbers based on the results of the local basketball game. She earns 30 percent from the bets.

One of her sons works at a nearby store selling helmets and motorcycle gadgets. He earns P150 ($3.09) a day.

Asked about their expenses, Corazon said she pays P1,200 ($24.74) per month for electricity. “Kahit anong tipid namin, mataas pa rin,” (No matter how hard we save on energy use, our electric bill remains high.) Corazon lamented.

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