Despite low wages, Pandi-based ‘maninipit’ mothers try to augment family income

Meriam Vale, Teodora Alih, Teodora’s grandson called ‘Damay’, and Meriam’s daughter worked together to make clothespins during holiday break in Pandi Village 2, Pandi, Bulacan. (Photo by Aleli Madrigal/Bulatlat)


PANDI, Bulacan — Inside a housing unit at a government facility here, three mothers gather around a basin full of unmade pieces of clothespins waiting to be assembled.

Assembling clothespins for a nearby factory is a way for urban poor women here to augment their families’ income as their spouses work in rice fields, factories or mine sites.

“Our backs and our hands would get tired but we endure it as long as we earn something,” 64-year-old Teodora Alih told Bulatlat.

Teodora Alih is one of the ‘maninipit’ mothers in Pandi Village 2. The Tagalog word ‘maninipit’ or ‘magsisipit’ is a colloquial term in the area that describes someone who makes ‘sipit’ or a clothespin in American English.

A person would usually produce seven to nine sacks of clothespins for two weeks and earn about P500 ($9). This means that the amount they earn in two weeks is below the P610 minimum daily wage rate in Metro Manila for non-agricultural workers.

Children who were on their holiday break would connect the two plastic pieces together while their mothers would fasten it with a metal ring. Using a customized-made hand-operated fastener they bought for P150 ($3) from their employer, the mothers would assemble about five clothespins in just a minute. These clothespins will then be delivered to a factory to be assembled in a clothes hanger with clips.

“We try to find other sources of income to help our husbands whose income is not always guaranteed,” Analyn Alih, Teodora’s daughter, said.

Analyn’s husband works as a truck driver in a plastics factory. He only earns when there is delivery on that day. This is also the case for Meriam Vale whose husband also works as a truck driver in a marble factory. For Teodora, she depends on her other children working in Metro Manila.

On average, a person would produce 7-9 sacks of clothespins for two weeks and earn not less than P500 ($9) from said labor work. The same amount these mothers would earn for two weeks is what another person would earn daily in the same region. (Photo by Aleli Madrigal/Bulatlat)

“However, what we worked for two weeks is not enough to sustain a family of four given the soaring prices of goods,” Vale said.

Low wage, lack of compensation

Assembling clothespins is among the many jobs women do in the occupied houses in Pandi, Bulacan. The mothers mentioned other low-income jobs like garlic peeling, rug making and notebook sewing.

According to Vale, these jobs are offered to residents of occupied houses because companies know their struggles of finding sources of livelihood. However, their income barely meets their daily necessities.

According to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2021, the monthly minimum income a family of five needs to survive was P12,030 ($218). However, according to the National Wages and Productivity Commission, as of March 2023, the average monthly minimum wage is P8,902 ($160) which is 26 percent or P3,128 ($56) lower than the poverty threshold.

The three mothers have no choice but to help their spouses or their children to make ends meet even if the income is not enough and they receive the same salary without compensation when they were told to finish the same amount of work in a shorter time. To catch the deadline, they would work beyond midnight.

Aside from the need to buy fasteners themselves before they could work, the lack of said compensation was what prompted them to complain to their employer. They were only able to talk to a local middleman who delivered the plastic pieces to them and gave them their salary.

“I told him that I wanted to talk to his boss because what they are doing is not fair to us. I wanted to tell him to try this work themselves to realize how difficult and tiring this is. Sadly, he only told us that he is simply following orders,” said the older Alih.

Read: Urban poor women of Pandi sowing seeds of hope

She added that they could not even know to whom they were working as their middleman would not disclose it to them.

“We just want a pay that allows us to live a decent life. A life that allows us to pay our bills and leave a room to give our grandchildren little joys once in a while,” Alih said.

First cry

Alih and the rest of the women who were assembling clothespin were among the urban poor families who joined Kadamay in occupying the idle homes which were supposedly for the beneficiaries from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in 2017.

“I thought that after filling out a form I would receive the house right away. It turned out that I still had to fight for it, and so I did,” said Vale who came from a neighboring municipality in Norzagaray, Bulacan.

Analyn Alih, 32, mother of two. One of them is a boy called ‘Damay’. (Photo by Aleli Madrigal)

She recounted how she would bring her three-month-old daughter to their protest actions when the authorities were forcing them to leave. Teodora Alih shared similar memories when she used to bring Analyn’s son to rallies. For this reason, her grandson acquired a nickname “Damay.” At present, these two children help their mothers in crafting clothespins.

Read: Futile dialogues with gov’t led to #OccupyBulacan
Read: #OccupyBulacan | Manila-based groups show support for urban poor

“With joining Kadamay, we acquired a home,” said the older Alih who used to live near a river in Quezon City and experienced a house being flooded and burned down.

Vale shared that she would stay as a member of Kadamay until the end as a gesture of gratitude. She stressed how being in a community dispels fear. For this reason, she was able to fight along with other Filipinos to demand adequate housing.

After occupying the houses, they were also able to acquire access to water and electricity through their relentless struggles. They joined other protest actions, including the junking of the public utility vehicle modernization program which puts drivers and operators at risk of losing their source of livelihood.

“We did not stop until we got what we wanted. Do or die; only for us to realize our rights,” said the older Alih. (JJE, DAA) (

Share This Post