Valiant captain of the ship


Nanay Linda, 64, sitting inside her house while waiting for her grandchildren to arrive from a bible study. She and her husband are living with their two daughters and six grandchildren in Barangay Bagong Silangan, Quezon City.

MANILA — In the slums of Barangay Bagong Silangan in Quezon City, families struggle to survive. The daily grind of urban poor families is greatly confronted by unwanted challenges not long ago. The government’s anti-drug campaign or tokhang has claimed the lives of 37 residents while some suspected drug users were placed behind bars. Most of the victims who fell prey to the bloodied claws of tokhang are economic providers in their respective families. Evidently, the result of this senseless war on drugs has exacerbated the already precarious state of poor families in this barangay.

Erlinda Castillo or Nanay Linda, 64, shares a common narrative of struggle and hope amidst fragility.

Nanay Linda stares at the photo of her fifth child, Belinda, that is hanging on the wall. Belinda died at the age of 21 due to tuberculosis and left her only child to Nanay Linda.

Losing a child is a pain like no other and Nanay Linda was in this very heartbreaking point when two of her children succumbed to diseases more than a decade back. Similar fate had disturbed her family when Randy, one of Nanay Linda’s sons who used to be a tricycle driver, was held captive during a drug war operation in 2017. Since 2018, Nanay Linda has not been able to visit Randy because all the money she earned from ironing job, laundry services, housekeeping, and garbage collection went to their daily expenses. In the same year, Nanay Linda lost contact with her son, Marlon, and no one knows his whereabouts. She is clueless on where to start to find him or if Marlon is still alive.

As she holds the pictures of her two children Randy (on the left) and Marlon (on the right), Nanay Linda tells how frustrated she is that she couldn’t visit Randy in Muntinlupa jail because of financial difficulty. Randy was imprisoned in 2017 due to Duterte’s campaign against drug while Marlon is still missing for more than two years.
Nanay Linda attends to the needs of her sick husband, Tatay Benny.
Tatay Benny, 63, continues to suffer from tuberculosis. The doctor said that it is impossible for Tatay Benny to survive any operation in his current state. Instead, the family was advised to bring Tatay Benny back to their house and provide him with proper medication as prescribed.
The family puts a jar beside Tatay Benny’s bed so he does not need to stand up and go to the toilet whenever he needs to spit.
Nanay Linda gives assistance to Tatay Benny if he needs to visit the toilet. Tatay Benny used to work in MMDA at the same time a collector of bottles and plastics in their community for more than two decades.
Tatay Benny could hardly eat anything because of his condition.
Riza, one of the daughters, shows the prescription from the doctor. She confessed that they were not able to provide all the needed medicines for Tatay Benny because of lack of money.
During an ashtma attack, Tatay Benny gets temporary relief from his nebulizer.

Just recently, a full-blown crisis hit Nanay Linda after her better half Benjamin Castillo or Tatay Benny was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Tatay Benny’s health condition prevented him from working hence, affecting their daily subsistence. Nanay Linda has filled in the shoes of taking full responsibility of their extended family. She knew it was a tall order to carry out and dealing with all of this would be burdensome without a strong support system from her two children, six grandchildren, and friends. Tatay Benny always reminds her that in this trying time, she has to be a valiant captain of the ship who runs a great craft and braves the strong waves.

Nanay Linda and Nanay Mina walk together heading to church to attend a meeting for mothers of drug war victims. According to Nanay Linda, when she is on the verge of breaking down, she would go to Nanay Mina’s house because she doesn’t want Tatay Benny see her crying.
At the end of the day, Nanay Linda draws strength from her family especially her grandchildren to overcome the challenges she and her family face.

There have been many times that Nanay Linda wanted to give up but she knows that this fight is no longer about her. (

* This photo essay was the author’s output from the 14th PCP Professional Photojournalism and Documentary Photography Workshop organized by the Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines, Inc. (PCP) in October 2019.

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