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Philippines: the life story of a street paper vendor

 The Jeepney - Philippines 24 October 2019

Following the loss of her job Nellida Del Cruz turned to an old friend for help. This led not only to a marriage and a family but also to the opportunity to lift herself and her new family out of poverty. (967 Words) - By Majil Franz, Reah Medenilla and Cecilla G Artates

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Jeepney_Philippines A day in the life of a street paper vendor

Nellida Dela Cruz (Portrait picture - Download to see full image). Photo by Marian Padilla

Nellida Dela Cruz is a new vendor for the Philippine street paper, the Jeepney. She sells from outside coffee shop Mocha Blends and the Faith Academy in the Rizal area of the Philippines, 16km from the capital Manilla. "I did not always have my sights set on being a vendor. I was introduced to Jeepney Magazine through my husband, Larry."

Larry was the one who first found out about the street paper, through his involvement in the paper's street soccer team, but soon found that being a vendor was not for him: "He was going to be the Jeepney representative for our family; however, in a moment of truth, Larry conceded he was too shy. But I saw the opportunity to help provide for our family and decided to go for it."

"Family is my single motivation" declares Nellida, "I want to give my children a better life. I want to help provide for my family's immediate needs. My dream is to have a home of our own. We have been living with my husband's parents since we got married."

"They ( Larry's parents) built a shack in a vacant land owned by Valley Golf Country Club. My husband has also started to build a shack near his parents' but it is not yet complete. Thankfully we have not received a complaint yet. I desire to provide my children with many of the things I never had growing up."

One of nine children growing up in the Quezon Province which is six hours bus travel from Manila, Nellida was forced to find work at an early age: " I am no stranger to work. My first job was as a house help in Manila. I was only 13, working for a wealthy family who had homes in the Philippines and abroad.

Far from being an aloof employer the family encouraged Nellida to continue in education. "My salary provided for my basic needs, my high school tuition and a small amount to send back home. Unfortunately, just as I was beginning college with the hope of studying Hotel and Restaurant Management, the need for my services as a house help ceased. My employer's family had to go back to United States.

Discouraged and lonely, Nellida turned to her long time friend Larry for help and comfort. "An unexpected romance blossomed between us and we are now working together to raise our three year old daughter, Laraine, and one year old son, Lei Leonard."

Family life for Nellida and Larry has had to adapt to their change in circumstances. "Before I became a Jeepney vendor I was a full time housewife taking care of the kids. My husband has no regular job.  He gets some income as a maker of fiberglass products. We have to depend on my husband's parents for support for our everyday needs."

Whenever Nellida feels disheartened at selling Jeepney magazine she turns to other, more seasoned, vendors for inspiration. "I leave my timid side at home and seek to be available to any interested patron. American customers are more sympathetic and apt to buy. Some people say they do not have money or say they will come back but they never do."

The support of other vendors coupled with a strong family bond has helped Nellida.  "Now I am happy that I am able to help in providing for our family's needs. I do not stay out late selling because of the kids. When I am out selling my husband takes care of the kids. The income I get from selling helps, so I continue to sell. Every little bit makes a difference. I am also trying to save money so I could buy some furniture for when we get to move to the shack that my husband is building for us."

SIDERBAR: Homelessness in the Philippines

In the Philippines, which has an estimated total population of 94 million, some 4.5 million people are homeless. The National Statistics Office (NSO), the primary statistical arm of the government defines homeless as " living in parks, along sidewalks, and all those without any form of shelter." In Metro Manila alone, the country's capital, there are about 3.1 million informal settlers or commonly known as squatters. Most of these homeless Filipinos acquire their shelter in makeshift homes under the bridges, over "esteros" or big canals, and occupying private- and public-owned lands.

Poverty remains the number one reason why one third of the Filipino population could not afford to buy a house. Economic growth in the country averaged 4.5% during the previous administration, but despite this growth, poverty worsened, mainly because of the population growth rate and inequitable distribution of income.

The Jeepney Magazine is the first street magazine in the Philippines and hopes to become one of the key components in poverty alleviation. The Jeepney sells for a street price of one hundred pesos, the vendor receives half of the cover price. Bill Shaw co-founder of Urban Opportunities for Change Foundation, Inc., publisher of The Jeepney said, "It is also our goal for each of our vendors to sell a minimum of ten magazines a day, giving them an income exceeding, by forty percent, the Philippine minimum wage."

"I hope that the Jeepney can create opportunities to connect organizations together and that it becomes a voice for people who are voiceless and it can change society for the good. With the knowledge that poverty degrades "Man" spiritually, emotionally and physically; our decisions and the resources of this organization are dedicated to the goal of alleviating it."

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