It is a wild spot, a world apart, a two million-ton landfill — the world renowned Smokey Mountain.
It is where generations of Filipino families were born and raised amid the smell, the noise and the squalor of the third largest landfill in the world.
Day in and day out, families navigate and literally scrounge and navigate through dangerous waste for sheet metal (or whatever they can glean) to sell, recycle and make a measly income from — less than five dollars a day.
It has become a global icon for poverty, if not utter environmental disregard.
Sponsored by Filipino cultural heritage organization Makibahagi, last month, the performers from Smokey Mountain (known as Children of Mother Earth or Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig – MAID) drew attention to the plight of the global poor and environmental degradation through their cultural performance and work shape here in the US to raise funds for the performers non-profit work.
MAID is an environmental performing arts group featuring children ages 12-18 years old, who were born and raised in Smokey Mountain.
The group was founded in 1993 by Fr. Benigno P. Beltran as Mga Lingkod ni Inang Kalikasan, as a way to let the world know that Smokey Mountain dwellers are people, too.
They were initially trained under Philippine-ITI Earthsavers Dreamers Academy and later under the tutelage of the late Philippine National Artist for Dance, Ramon Obusan.
Bonded together by the collective goal to raise funds for their environmental mission and to put artists through school, a group of about fifty performers (ranging from 13 to 40 years old) hosted performances here in the US, to share their message of stewardship with young people in high schools and colleges where they performed. They also hosted events for the youth in Redwood City and Skyline College in San Bruno, narrating life in Smokey Mountain and Global Climate Change.
They stayed with host families during their October tour.
In celebration of Filipino-American Heritage Month, the Filipino American Community in Los Angeles (FACLA), in collaboration with the Mother Movement, presented the Dance of the Poorest, Dance for the Forest featuring the Smokey Mountain Children Dance Troupe.
You can find beauty through their dancing and performance.
Watching them gave us inexpressible pleasure — a happiness that was incomprehensible.
They’re beautiful in every sense, with beautiful hearts, beautiful courage and beautiful intelligence.
Everything about them was beautiful: their smiles, their expression, their faces, where you see the triumph of the spirit.
They all looked like boys and girls, but they are men and women who live realistic lives, not waiting for kingdom come.
(LA Weekend November 2-5, 2013 Sec B pg.2)