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    Posted December 20, 2013 by
    Manila, Philippines
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    A Plateful of Happiness: Adobo and How Filipino iReporters Worked Hand-in-Hand with a Singaporean Production Crew to Feed the Children of Ulingan


    Adobo is a dish of chicken or pork meat marinated and slowly cooked in vinegar and soy sauce seasoned with crushed garlic, bayleaf, and peppercorns. Served with white rice, it is unofficially considered as the national dish of the Philippines and is a staple in practically every meal in a Filipino household. For the inhabitants of Ulingan, however, Adobo could be well equated to a Christmas feast.


    Ulingan---which can be roughly translated to "place where charcoal is manufactured"---is a community of approximately 1, 600 families living a sub-human existence in Sitio Damayan---a six-hectare slum area located in Vitas, Tondo, Manila.


    Rows of ramshackle shacks erected along a dumpsite serve as homes to these people, both young and old, whose livelihood mostly depend on the charcoal industry where they either work as coal burners or coal packers in the charcoal "ovens", while some others scavenge for trash which they can sell to junk shops. If lucky enough, they can bring home a decent meal of rice and a can of sardines from the money they made for a day's work. But more often than not, they feed on lugaw (rice porridge), for they barely make anything more than a few pesos. Sometimes, they even have to dig into the trash to collect pagpag, "discarded food",  for sustenance.


    On November 27, 2013, I, along with other CNN iReporter friends, were invited to accompany a Singaporean production crew of six from the show Kembara Kasih, which is traveling around nearby countries in Asia to promote humanitarian awareness by facilitating feeding and first-aid activities to children from depressed areas, like Ulingan.


    Children covered in soot and sweating under the sweltering heat of the sun eagerly ran with food bowls and plates on hand to line up for Adobo and rice, which our group provided for lunch. Upon receiving their portions, the children sat down comfortably on the ground to eat. Others considered their family members and brought home their share.


    Thereafter, the children were led to the barangay hall (community hall) which also serves as their makeshift daycare facility. There, they were introduced to proper hygiene and wound cleansing.


    As water is a scarce commodity in Ulingan, these children seldom take baths, and the sight of a moist towelette---which we used to disinfect their wounds that were mostly caused by allergies, cuts, and punctures---brought them much delight. They were especially awed when their bodies where entirely washed off of soot with the moist towelette that we distributed. One boy, inspecting what used to be a white piece of fragrant wet cloth even remarked in disgust, "Ang dumi!" (How filthy!), after he got himself completely rid of the black grime that was covering his skin.


    At the end of the day, everyone went home satisfied. The children of Ulingan with their stomachs full, something which they very seldom experience, from a plateful of happiness---Adobo and rice. The iReporter volunteers themselves had their own share of a plateful of happiness. Perhaps not in the form of Adobo with rice, but with the immense feeling of fulfillment and enlightenment after having been exposed to the living conditions of the people, especially the children of Ulingan and how they keep their optimism alive despite their destitute state. As for me, my plateful of happiness is the inspiration that I found from both my iReporter friends and the children of Ulingan---the former, who reach out to the community with unabashed dedication and commitment; the latter, who touch their lives in return---for both make me feel and become a complete person.




    Photos 1-3: Children lining up for Adobo and rice
    Photo 4: CNN iReporters Veronica and Rafy, with her daughter Chiara, serving food
    Photo 5: A boy eating his share on a muddy ground
    Photo 6-7: Young coal burners and packers
    Photo 8: The shanties of Ulingan (Tondo, Manila)
    Photo 9: CNN iReporters with the production crew of Kembara Kasih
    Photo 10: Chicken Adobo

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