Scavenging for plastics and other recyclables from a rubbish dump site is a grim reality for many kababayans in Sitio Pintor, Rodriguez, Rizal. An appalling stench, mud, and flies are part of the decor, too.

Working and living in a dumpsite sounds unimaginable. Yet, several families, like del Castillo’s, do. Every day, they look for plastic and scrap metal that they sell to junk shops located near the landfill. With tons of trashes produced each day, there is a lot to be sorted.

In a maze-like housing structure made from recycled materials lives the family of Letecia del Castillo. “We’ve been here in this tiny house for about 10 years and picking trashes is our only means of survival,” shares the 58-year-old mother.

Living with her in the cramped, tiny house is her husband, two children, son-in-law, and four grandchildren. One of her problems, she said, is her daughter who is having sudden uncontrolled seizures due to epilepsy.

As the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis deepens, Letecia becomes more worried about their living condition. “It is better for the virus to end and we continue living in hunger,” she said. “At least, we’re used to hunger.”

She added that with quarantine measures implemented, “[their] access to food became more limited, and the health of [her] four grandchildren was severely affected.”

In reality, other residents in Sitio Pintor face the same challenges. Their incomes can barely pay for clean water, food, rent, and other necessities. But the people are resilient and diligent; given their adversities, they commercialize recycled materials, clean their community, and do any additional work to survive.

As part of its COVID-19 relief initiatives, Operation Blessing, in coordination with Children’s Mission Philippines, was able to distribute food bags to several families living in the dumpsites of Rodriguez, Rizal. One of the beneficiaries who expressed her gratitude was Letecia. “We really appreciate the help we received today. No amount of words can tell how happy I am that you visited us and blessed us with this food bag.”