Photographers' Blog

The cycle of poverty and pregnancy

By Erik de Castro

It was a few minutes before 6 a.m. when I arrived at the dwelling of Liza Cabiya-an, 39, and her 14 children. Liza was pouring coffee on a plate of rice as her five small children, including her youngest 11-month-old baby, huddled on the floor around her waiting to be served their breakfast. On a good day, Liza says breakfast would be pan de sal, or the classic Filipino salt bread, which they dip into hot instant coffee.

While the small children have their breakfast, Liza’s nine other children were still asleep, shoulder-to-shoulder, in a room of approximately 9-square meters.

The only appliances they have are the television and a DVD player. The glassless window provides natural ventilation to the space. Liza’s family lives on the third floor of a three-story tenement in a slum neighborhood in Paco, in the Philippines capital Manila. I had to go up a narrow wooden ladder to reach their dwelling. Residents of the tenement share the same toilet, which is on the second floor. Liza complains that there are nights when they have to endure the stink of the toilet, which is not regularly cleaned.

“Life is hard with so many children but we still try to have fun,” says Liza as she turns on the TV, inserts a music CD in the DVD player and, as if on cue, the little kids start to dance. The noise wakes up the rest of the brood. “I still remember the names and birthdays of each of them,” Liza boasts with a grin, revealing her decaying teeth. After a while, she turns off the music and half-jokingly says, “That’s it for now. Too much activity will make them hungry again.”

While I took snapshots of the family, Liza told her story. She works as a part-time house help and laundry woman. She can’t accept full time work because she still has very young children to take care of. Her husband, a construction worker, comes home only on weekends. Her grown up children – the eldest at 22 – help augment the family income by scavenging, selling rice cakes and working as part-time house helps as well. All children are physically small for their age, most likely because of lack of nourishment. Only five of her children are also in school, most of them in elementary education.

The long and the short of it

By David Gray

The Safedom condom company’s factory is located in the town of Zhaoyuan, located 100 kilometers south of the city of Yantai, Shandong Province, China. Safedom turned its back on the low-margin, guaranteed-business sales to the Chinese government’s family planning program 11 months ago, and decided to shift to where the money is: the higher end of the general public market. Claiming to be the fourth-largest condom maker in China by revenue, after three foreign brands, they are hoping to sell one billion condoms this year with the launch of its “Take Me” condom, aimed at women consumers, and partnerships with French, Italian, German and UK condom makers.

I was led into a rather unassuming building and greeted by the company’s executives. Here they told me during a brief introduction, that I was to ‘behave’ when touring the production floor, and not disclose any company ‘secrets’. This made me chuckle, though I certainly didn’t show it, as I thought this was how you may talk to a child – the very thing their product was aiming to prevent.

We were then given the appropriate disinfected clothing for ‘protection’, including mesh to cover the ‘rubber’ on the soles of my shoes. Then we were put into a room which blew strong air over us to remove any unwanted dust. From here, I was led into the first area of the production line, which involved a belt containing thousands of phallic-shaped metal rods with condoms placed over them traveling at a hefty pace around the factory floor. Now when you first see the size of these rods, you have to ask the obvious question – Who are they making these condoms for? Dirk Diggler? However, it was explained to me that the rods help stretch the condom to see if they will break.

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