Thursday, May 7, 2009

What a dump! Revisiting Payatas.

I helped covered the Payatas landslide years ago for DZRH so you can imagine how much emotion this place held for me. I still have pictures of the aftermath and it still gives me the goosebumps today.

Back then, if you went to Payatas the first thing you notice is the smell that hits you even a couple of miles away. I remember walking up and down the mountains of trash trying to help in the recovery of the bodies.

I remember so vividly how people lit candles and placed them at where their homes used to be.

In case you don't remember, the mountain of trash fell like a landslide on the houses below the man-made mountain. I can't remember the death toll but it was gruesome.

In spite of the tragedy, there were still a lot of scavengers sorting through the garbage as if nothing had happened. I guess they still needed to eke out a living.

The second thing I'll remember was the toxic river of all the stuff that was distilled into yucky gooky stuff. It was black as oil but had a terrible smell that is so unlike oil. There was a river of that gunk. The thought of it makes me cringe. I have never seen anything like that.

And the third were the flies. Swarms of them all over the place. Not just on the dump but everywhere.

After many of the media people paused in their efforts to help and tell a story, we sought respite in a nearby eatery. Then you had to go through a wet market and I was appalled that the rice that was being sold wasn't all covered so the flies would drop all over. So when the DZRH crew stopped by a carinderia for some arroz caldo, I said no. Uh uh.

I still have those pieces and the poster I made for that tragedy and maybe one of these days I'll digitize it and post it for all to see.

But last Tuesday, more than 10 years after the tragedy I went back with some friends from Ateneo and Payatas -- the garbage dump -- had changed. It was cleaned up by Mayor Sonny Belmonte. And I have to say that I was impressed with their efforts. The smell is still there but it isn't as bad as it used to be.

There are no more scavengers up in the hill sorting through the trash. Everything is filtered outside in the various junk shops. This is what they literally mean that the money is in the grabage. And there's even a fumigation area.

The flies -- swarms of them are still there. But as in GK Molave, I am shocked how untidy and uncaring people can be about their environment. People just throw their trash in the streets! Terrible.

Can you believe that the dump now produces methane gas that powers the entire facility? And they've planted this Vetiver grass that was purchased from India to combat the soil erosion. And this place actually has become a tourist site! And there's even a jogging trail! For real and it's freaking unbelievable.

Hope you get a good idea of what it's like now through the pictures I am posting.

They have a guided tour by the way. When we went there, we had to get clearance from City Hall because security is tight and no one without an ID can get inside.

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