On Smokey Mountain, Manila's massive trash heap that has become home to 7,000 Filipinos, the steeple of an abandoned church juts skyward like an island rising from a sea of garbage. The steeple is a silent but stalwart symbol of desperate, determined people, picking through others' trash for treasures to sell.
Smokey Mountain is a microcosm of the nationwide decay wrought by abusive foreign nations and elite Filipinos who profit from the country's rich resources at the expense of the masses. In the weeks before the May 11 presidential election, as Filipinos questioned whether a new leader could or would reform this centuries-old, unjust system, some sought ways to turn the system to their advantage while others stepped up their struggles for reform, inviting the participation of those who share a vision for a just and peaceful Philippines.
By salvaging items on Smokey Mountain, Jun Lipit earns 30 pesos a day, barely $1 U.S. The wages mean "one day, one eat," but he prefers that to stealing. For Lipit, the Philippine presidential elections promised only temporary relief, and that only as he sells his vote to the highest bidder. "I don't think any one of them will make a difference anyway. I might as well eat for a week," he said.
Political detainee Jaime Tadeo shares similar sentiments, though tempered with a strong faith in God and in the people's movement. From inside his cell at Muntinlupa Prison, Tadeo sees his country as a much larger prison for which the key to liberation is not in a new president. "There will be no change with a change of leadership," he said. "You have to change the elite political structure that is unjust. There is no political structure for the poor."