Manila – Mylene Virtucio, a mother of seven, used to earn a living by rummaging through Manila’s tons of stinking garbage for scrap materials that she then sold to junk shops. The money she earned from scavenging was never enough, but she had little choice as she struggled to raise her children at a dump in the slum district of Tondo.
More than 10 years later, Virtucio, 39, still earns her living from rubbish but this time by making fashion accessories that are fast becoming hot items abroad.
“I didn’t want to be a garbage scavenger then, but I had to do it because life was hard and we needed money,” she said. “What I’m doing now is so much better. I earn more and it’s decent work.”
Virtucio has been making necklaces, bracelets and earrings from paper beads produced from discarded glossy magazine pages since 1998 when she joined a livelihood-training programme of the Philippine Christian Foundation Inc, a charity group.
She earns as much as 600 pesos (13 dollars) a day – six times more than from the back-breaking work at the dump, where she picked out pieces of metal and plastic.
With her current income, she has been able to buy a steel bedframe, second-hand plastic cabinets, a television set and an electric fan that are now crammed into her 8-square-metre shack near a waste-segregation facility in Tondo.
“I can now even afford to have electricity in here,” she beamed, ignoring the stench coming from outside.
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