GUAGUA -- The local public cemetery here provides an uncanny source of income for poor children seeking to earn a few pesos in a season business where the living earns from the dead.
It has been two weeks now that Michelle Sandico and Anton Camaya, out-of-school youths, have been cleaning tombs in the Guagua Old Public Cemetery in Barangay Sto. Cristo.
The two belong to marginalized families living beside the public cemetery just between the walls of the "apartment-type" tombs. They have been accustomed to living beside the dead.
"We have been used to living with the dead. At this time of the year they're the ones that allow us to live," said 17-year-old Sandico, whose house stands alongside the back wall of the tombs.
"We have become used to it, we are no longer afraid," she added as she scrubs the marble plate with a liquid polish. Her family belongs to the 50 families, most of them poor, living in the area around the half a century old public cemetery.
Incidental income Camaya tends to five mausoleums, mostly of old rich families of the town, all year round.
"I usually clean them twice a month, but during November 1 and 2, I also do the painting jobs on them and the usual maintenance," he said.
Camaya added that he gets paid a P1,000 a year per grave and he usually collects this during All Saints' Day when the families of his "employers" would come to pay a visit. The half-century old cemetery houses more than six thousand tombs, niches, and mausoleums.
One perennial problem of the cemetery is the floodwater that rises from drainage canals due to the high tide and poor drainage system.
"Because the cemetery is inundated, some people would have their tombs cleaned up for them," Camaya said, adding that most tomb cleaners make easy bucks from cleaning ranging from P50 to P150 depending on the tomb size.
"The tombs without caretakers would ask most of the kids around here to clean for them. Children here would also scrape up candle wax from worn out candles and sell these by the kilo," Camaya added.
He said the season provides a brisk opportunity for business. The only problem now would be how to source out possible income after November 1 and 2, he said.