Trash talk: Why you shouldn’t throw your gadgets in the garbage

TRASH TALK: Why you shouldn’t throw your gadgets in the garbage

By Kristine Angeli Sabillo

Black smoke rises from a pile of burning metal wire, releasing a strong, sharp and chemical smell that makes one’s eyes water.

The sight and smell of burning metal is common at Smokey Mountain, a former landfill in Manila that officially closed down two decades ago.

But the looming mountain of trash has remained an attractive source of livelihood among scavengers who sell the scrap metal exposed by the slow-burning fire for almost P200 per kilo.

Among regular buyers of such electronic trash is Danilo (not his real name), who has lived all his life at Smokey Mountain, where old gadgets disposed of are either dismantled and sold for parts, or repaired and find a second life.

He was born in the area in 1960, said Danilo who acknowledges that buying scrap metal from scavengers and reselling them can be dangerous.

“Sometimes you’ll get injured (when you dismantle old electronics),” he said. “Sometimes when you break things open, some parts will hit you,” he added. As for burning copper wire, they’re careful to keep the fires small and under control, he said. Continue reading

Finding a voice in the wilderness

Finding a voice in the wilderness
It takes a village—and a common language—to raise deaf children

By Kristine Angeli Sabillo

It was New Year’s Eve, the noisiest day of the year, when it was customary for Filipino revelers to make as much noise as bearable to chase bad spirits away.

At the Sarreal household, Arlene watched as her year-old son Arbien grabbed a table for support as he took his first steps. In a fit of mischief, his grandmother Dading came up behind him and threw a pot cover that created a huge racket. But baby Bien appeared oblivious to it.

It was at that moment that Arlene knew something was wrong with her child. All along, she had thought him well-behaved, a quiet child who was probably a late bloomer when it came to speech. Continue reading

Michael Desvarro, a cigarette vendor, is also killed by four men on motorcycles along A. Bonifacio Ave., Brgy. Hagdan Bato Libis, Mandaluyong.

SEASON OF FEAR: No silent nights in war on drugs

SEASON OF FEAR: No silent nights in war on drugs

By Kristine Angeli Sabillo

The stench of decaying food and human waste jolts us as we search for our first crime scene in the back alleys of Quiapo in Manila. It is 10:25 p.m. on Dec. 21.

From Palanca bridge, we make our way down a narrow street called Muelle de la Quinta along the putrid Estero de San Miguel. The place reeks of urine, but we ignore it and continue to walk, keeping an eye out for blood on the road.

The bodies have already been picked up by the undertaker, sources say, but we want to get video footage of where the supposed gunfight happened.

It’s on the other side of the estero, a man tells us. We go back up the bridge and then down again on the other side, into a dimly lit alley.

We turn our camera lights on and we see the blood immediately—puddles of dark red beside dried yellow leaves.

Two men were killed here earlier in the evening after an “encounter” with policemen who had just finished conducting antidrug visits in the neighborhood.

It has been more than an hour since we began our graveyard shift and left the busy streets of Makati City, where shoppers and office workers bask under the bright lights and glitter of Christmas decorations, seemingly oblivious to the spate of killings that has hit poor neighborhoods in the metropolis.

It’s the winter solstice and this night is the longest of the year, just a few days before Christmas.

Since President Duterte assumed office on June 30, more than 6,000 people have been killed—more than 2,000 shot dead in police operations and the rest murdered by unknown assailants. Continue reading

A sense of Wanda

For days, I contemplated writing about the death of Wendell Gumban, a student leader I met when I was still in UP. A friend suggested that I connect it to the peace talks. After interviewing his parents and listening to the speeches of his friends, I knew that I just had to write about his life.

A sense of Wanda

By Kristine Angeli Sabillo

When everyone was asleep, Wendell walked to the waterfall. He lay down his weapon, shed all his clothes, and took a dip in the rock pool.

He would later tell a friend a secret—that sometimes he would swim naked at night, float on his back and stare at the dark sky, “mesmerized by the light of the moon.”

Could he have imagined, while he was still living in Manila as a university graduate, that he would end up living deep in the rainforests of southern Mindanao? Living—and dying? On July 23, 2016, Wendell Gumban died in a firefight with the military; he was 30.

Communing with nature was only one part of Wendell’s life in the countryside. Most of his time was spent hiking to far-flung barrios of lumad, the indigenous people of Mindanao, and teaching them how to plant rice and vegetables, how to read and write.

The middle child of a middle-class couple, the University of the Philippines graduate and Philippine Collegian managing editor was invariably described by friends and acquaintances as intelligent, hardworking, brilliant.

To his parents, he was Weng, simple and “kind but (inconceivably) brave.”

To his friends, he was Wanda or Shala, the student leader who defied stereotypes.

To the lumad, he was Ka Waquin, who left the comforts of the city to live with them. Bespectacled, lanky, and fair-skinned, he was not your typical tibak (activist).

He was Weng, Wanda, Waquin. UP graduate. Gay. New People’s Army rebel. Continue reading

Intense: Typhoons getting fiercer

INTENSE: Typhoons getting fiercer

By Kristine Angeli Sabillo

Tears fall from the eyes of Anelyn and Nalvin Abdulsali as they recall events from three years ago. “Pablo” was supposed to be just another storm.

At that time, the brother and sister were looking after boats moored in Cabugao Island, a picturesque feature in Boston town, Davao Oriental. The day before, their father had already asked for provisions and relief goods from the local government in preparation for the typhoon (international name Bopha), which was expected to make landfall farther north. Authorities had tried to convince him to stay in town with his relatives, but he insisted that he and his family seek shelter in the mountainous part of the island.

They were cooking rice, Anelyn says, when the typhoon’s strong winds hit land. Before they could run for higher ground, large waves pummelled the island and pulled them toward the water. Continue reading