Euchrissa Theresa Ladrera, UP Cebu Intern
IT seemed like the gates of heaven opened for 35-year-old Manang Mercy, as she anticipated truckloads of waste to be dumped in the 15-hectare Inayawan landfill starting Wednesday.
Unlike most people, Manang Mercy doesn’t cringe at the stench of rotting garbage. As a scavenger for 33 years, she considers other people’s trash as gold, like many others like her in Barangay Inayawan, Cebu City.
“With the reopening of the landfill, we are glad with the mayor because our livelihood is here and it will no longer be difficult for us,” Mercy said in an interview.
When former Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama closed the Inayawan landfill in January 2015, life became difficult for Mercy and her family.
“With the closure of the landfill, a lot of us were affected because this was our main livelihood since we were kids until we got married,” she said.
Mercy recalled how she and her neighbors would rummage for plastics, boxes, cans and other trash as early as 7 a.m. to be sold at a nearby junkshop.
Her average income was P105 a day. She also scoured for leftovers for her pigs.
“This is the only livelihood we have here. I couldn’t apply for jobs because I don’t have any formal education. I am the only one who raised my five children. I have a husband but he’s incapable of working for us,” she said.
But she’s proud of what she’s doing.
“Bahalag baho kwarta man sad. Wala man sad mi nangita og daotang trabaho. Paningkamotan man sab namo nga kana siyang basuraha, bisag basura na siya makapahaw-as man na siya ug makapaskwela sa akong mga anak (The stench doesn’t matter because it gives us income. We’re not doing something illegal. We try our best to turn trash into something that will elevate our situation and give our children education),” she said.
After the P32-million payment for the dumping of waste in Consolacion was used up, local officials wanted to reopen the Inayawan landfill.
Outgoing Councilor Ma. Nida Cabrera said that at least five hectares of the estimated 15.4 hectares in the landfill can accommodate trash for at least two years.
Mercy is aware that her job is dependent on the capacity of the landfill to accommodate waste.
“The garbage won’t be here permanently. The dumpsite will eventually be filled up,” she said.
She hopes that when that time comes, the government will assist them in looking for other sources of income.
“Morag naibtan og tunok (It is such a relief),” said Jose Sumabong, 52, on the reopening of the landfill.
Jose also scavenges to provide for his family’s daily needs.
“The reopening of the landfill has significant effect. Everyone here is very happy,” he said.
Jose recalled earning P200 to P300 a day scavenging at the landfill.
Jose and Mercy are two of the many families in Inayawan who fear life without garbage. They couldn’t imagine life without trash.