by the Centre for Women's Resources

[Editor's Note: The “working poor” refers to the lived experiences of women and communities who are struggling to cope with the current crisis on food, fuel and other resources. Despite their honesty and hard work, many poor women and their families cannot improve the quality and dignity of their lives. This article from the Centre for Women's Resources is about the working poor.]

Left with no other option, 67 year old Nanay Olympia was forced to work as scavenger to help out her husband Ofring. Tatay Ofring, though already 75 years old, still drives a jeepney for a living. Yesterday's fare hike is no relief for Tatay Ofring who nowadays takes home as low as P40 after more than 15 hours of hard work since the unabated weekly oil price hikes.

Worse, due to stress and missed meals when she goes out to scour streets for other peoples' garbage, Nanay Olympia had a stroke and was rushed to the hospital. This aggravated the couple's already bitter condition.

The couple lives in what could be described as a shanty in Kamias, Quezon City. Since their house is built on public land, the danger of demolition is imminent.

Tatay Ofring plies the Pantranco-Project 2-3 route from 4 am until as late as 10 pm everyday. He has been a jeepney driver since 1957 and has raised their family of 10 from his work. Before, income was ok because oil was not as exorbitantly priced as today. But nowadays, he is lucky enough to earn P400 a day. Usually he only takes home P150 to P200. One night just last week, after paying “boundary,” he was left with only P40.

Nanay Olympia's earnings from scavenging are therefore a big help to the family. She earns around P300 to P800 a month from it. Together with neighbour Feliza, 75 years old, Nanay Olympia starts scavenging from 7 am until lunch time. They pick up papers, newspapers, boxes, plastics and bottles. They clean the items at home and sell them at a nearby junkshop.

Nanay Olympia noticed that “business” was not as sound as it was before. Of late, “competition” has decreased her earnings. More and more children and women like her have been searching the streets for food and any recyclable items that can be sold.

When scavenging, they not only suffer from hunger and stress. Often, scavengers are not allowed by house owners to scour their garbage for valuable items. And then there is the “barangay-tagay.” Barangay patrol often picks up the likes of Nanay Olympia to prevent them from scavenging.

Because their budget always falls short, Nanay Olympia's family practice every belt-tightening measure they could come up with. Tatay ofring is convinced that dried fish can increase high-blood pressure. “Puro tuyo na lang kasi kinakain namin kaya na-stroke si Misis,” he said.

Nanay Olympia also patiently falls in line for the P18.25 per kilo NFA rice as this is the only variety they can afford. Now that she has to stay in bed most of the time, Tatay Ofring has to find time to line for NFA rice.

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