PHILIPPINES

WHO PEELS YOUR GARLIC: INSIDE MANILA'S INFORMAL ECONOMY

Individual stories tell a lot about the situation of people and their human rights situation – often more than statistics and summarizing reports. Therefore FNF supports journalistic storytelling about the human rights situation in South East Asia with funding and training. This story by Geela Garcia is one of the results.

  • The garlic peeling industry in Baseco, Manila renders Filipino women among the least visible, worst paid, and most dispensable part of the informal economy
  • The worsening job crisis brought about by the pandemic has forced more Filipino women to resort to home-based work despite poverty wages and on top of the unpaid care work they do for their families
  • Figures show a rise in low-wage jobs, yet the bill aiming to protect informal workers has been pending in a legislative committee since December 2019.

Women like Arendain are usually the ones involved in this business

Arendain peels garlic inside her home

Arendain’s neighbor acquired scars from peeling for years

Water outside Arendain’s house during high-tide

Arendain peels garlic inside her home

MANILA, Philippines - The pungent scent of garlic lingers in Marites Arendain’s calloused palms all day. She’s had “garlic hands” for years, from hand-peeling kilograms of garlic which are then distributed to markets and large fast-food chains. This job pays her $1.67 for the sack of garlic she is able to peel each day, a very small fraction of the city’s minimum wage ($10.68), only enough to buy her family of eight a kilo of rice and some dried fish.


“Today’s accomplishments were yesterday’s impossibilities.”


There is a robust demand for garlic, a basic ingredient in Filipino cuisine, from small restaurants and large fast-food chains in Manila, the Philippine capital. Baseco, a poor community near the Manila port, is where a lot of that garlic is peeled before it ends up in the boxed meals sold by popular fast-food chains, in tinned corned beef manufactured by leading food companies, or in the fancy dishes of luxury hotels.

Arendain is one of the hundreds of mothers in Baseco who are part of the shadow garlic economy. For mothers like her, home-based work, despite the long hours and meager income, allows them to care for children while also making some money to put food on the table.

Aside from garlic peeling, residents of Baseco survive by burning and selling brass

MORE ABOUT THE HUMAN RIGHTS WORK OF THE FRIEDRICH NAUMANN FOUNDATION FOR FREEDOM:

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