Monday, October 22, 2012

A photo shoot in San Vincente

San Vincente is the second slum F has ever set foot in. The first was a short walk away from his resort in Venezuela. In the market there, you could score a bargain on a Poly Station. Not sure if it was compatible with Play Station games though. On one of his first days in the Philippines, F took photographs San Vincente.
The entrance gate to San Vincente
In politically correct terms, San Vincente is an "informal urban settlement". It's a lively hub of activity a block and a half from our current home in UP Village. Vendors hawk their wares and street food. Small sari-sari shops line the main road selling everything from rice, sachets of Datu vinegar, fresh fish and buko (fresh coconut) to hair clips, cell phone covers and secondhand clothes. Haircuts at the barber are a mere 50 pesos (PhP); pedicures will cost you slightly more. There's a laundry shop where the women will wash, dry and fold your clothes for 25 PhP a kilo.
Sari-sari shop

Just outside the gate separating San Vincente from UP Village, tricycle drivers sneak in catnaps between ferrying customers along Maginhawa Street to Philcoa. The drivers are mostly young men and very friendly. Some blare music from old radios, probably scrounged from recycled parts. The stench of dirty diesel 2-stroke engines wafts through the air.

Tricycle drivers
On the side of the street that receives the most shade are two wire mesh cages. Tethered to each is a handsome rooster. The black and white one is scrawny and shy. His counterpart is much more regal looking with his rich brown, black and green plumes and his slow and deliberate strutting. Both are being groomed as cock fighters.
Rooster on the bridge

The "residential area" is located adjacent to University Avenue. Houses are constructed out of corrugated tin, old pieces of plywood, tarpaulins, and other makeshift building material. There's electricity; some houses have lights, televisions, or even an imitation Play Station. It's cramped. Clothes lines stretch between roofs and trees, connecting neighbours in the daily airing of (previously) dirty laundry.
Laundry hanging out to dry

Everywhere there are children. Running. Skipping. Playing marbles. Laughing. Yelling. Shooting baskets. Carrying school books. Carrying younger children. Fetching this or that for an adult. Drinking soda from a plastic bag. Calling out to the "Americanos". Sneaking looks at the baby "doll".

Children walking to school
A small stream runs through San Vincente. It reeks of urine, garbage and rotting leaves. The stream forks somewhere between the footbridge and the shanties. Right now, there's a mere trickle of water, but whenever a typhoon rolls into Manila the trickle swells and swells and swells. It rises above all the houses, forcing residents into the safety of the second floor of the barangay hall.

San Vincente is a part of our daily lives. We hear the sounds of roosters at dawn (and every other time of day). I buy fresh buko on my way back from morning runs at UP. We stop and chat with the vendors on our way to and from the university. We bring our laundry to the laundry shop.* Someday (I hope), F or I will join the boys in a game of basketball. I chat with other young moms about their babies.

*        *         *        *

The cost of these pictures is 1,000 PhP - not because San Vincente residents demanded money in exchange for being photographed. In fact, many people excitedly asked him to take their picture. No, the fee was an unfortunate accident for F, and a lucky find for the person who found the crisp, bank-machine-ironed bill. From now on, cameras and loose bills will not share the same pocket.

* Well, everything but A's diapers, but more about our daily routine in another post.

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