Smokey Mountain

December 8, 2011 Philippines 4 Comments 34,824 Views

Smokey Mountain: The Inglorious Landmark Of Manila.

When thinking about city landmarks, most of us will imagine a castle, tower, church or monument but certainly not a 50 meter high rubbish dump. The Philippines capital Manila might just have the stinkiest and weirdest landmark in the world: Smokey Mountain.

As the name already implies, we’re talking about a smoking mountain. A smoking rubbish mountain to be exact. Back in 1980 around 20.000 people lived on and from this garbage dump until the government cleared the slum area in 1995. Families were banished, “houses” demolished and the removal of “Smokey Mountain” could begin. New buildings were built, yet it was unable to live there due to the gas.

We visited the Philippines in 2008 and wanted to see this gigantic garbage dump ourselves. Here are some impressions:

The area around "Smokey Mountain" in Manila.
The area around “Smokey Mountain” in Manila.
In the most populous Manila slums, such as “Happyland” or “Aroma” – occupation runs at 75.000 – 80.000 people per km2. One of the densest on earth.
“Smokey Mountain” is a slum area constructed atop a landfill in Manila, has joined the likes of poor urban districts in Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, and Mumbai as a tourist destination.
Collection the garbage around "Smokey Mountain".
Collection the garbage around “Smokey Mountain”.
Garbage piles up everywhere in Manila.
Garbage piles up everywhere around the “Smokey Mountain” area in Manila.
One of the few garbage trucks in Manila.
One of the many garbage trucks in Manila.
The train tracks go right through the slum area.
The train tracks go right through the slum area.
Slum area around "Smokey Mountain".
Slum area around “Smokey Mountain”.
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“Smokey Mountain: The Inglorious Landmark Of Manila.”

  1. Dj Lorenzo

    I’m really moved by your experience at the Smokey Mountain up in Manila, Philippines. For my senior project, I was actually thinking of going over to the landfill landmark myself, to raise awareness of the place and to help out with the community. I was wondering if you could answer some of my questions I have? I plan on visiting during the summer, and I just want some background detail of the place itself and more of your experience as well. Please get back to me as soon as you can! I’d really appreciate it, thank you :)!

  2. Nisa

    Hi Lorenzo!
    I think it’s good that you want to raise awareness for the place and the living conditions. This is what we wanted to do as well. Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality…
    I’m not an expert through, we rather explained our experience and what we heard from the people in the area. I would suggest to read through detailed articles online (you’ll find a lot) if you want to use if or your senior project.
    Take care!

  3. Janky

    You did the Philippines a great disservice there. A tropical nation with 7,000+ islands full of beaches, mountains, nature, culture & history, and you had to feature just two stories about slums in Manila? #WTF

  4. Nisa

    Hello Janky!

    Thank for your honest comment, although I’m not quite sure why you feel like I did the Philippines a disservice.

    Fact is, that Smokey Mountain is an “inglorious” landmark of Manila. Of course this is nothing that shapes a country and I think that every person who reads this article, understands this and is well aware that there is much more to a country that a slum area. Even if we just posted two articles, this doesn’t mean that we don’t appreciate the other parts. We didn’t mention anything that would suggest that, so I don’t quite know why you feel like we implied anything in that direction.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around yet to discover these beautiful tropical islands, but I’ve heard much about them and I’m sure wish to travel there some day. When we visited the Philippines, our trip went up North to Baler – not the most tropical part as you probably know. And the reason why there is no article online is simply because the photos of the trip didn’t turn out very well because we had really bad weather.

    Anyway, sorry you feel offended, but I hope that you can now understand where we’re coming from. Take care & all the best!

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