Photographs of the Poor Filipino Children of “Smokey Mountain” in Manila


My name is Chris Rusanowsky, I am a 22-year-old freelance photographer based out of Los Angeles, California. In February of 2012 I took a trip to document poverty in Manila, Philippines for 32 days.


Upon my arrival to Manila I felt an overwhelming feeling of the growing city. From the first step onto the streets, to the time of making my return home I had witnessed beautiful people living in poverty.


My project starts at a city dump site, a place the locals call “Smokey Mountain”. It was named after the thick, white soot that filled the air. There was a highly compacted muddy road condensed with huts on each of side of it, leading me to a community of huts made with abandoned materials.



The people of Smokey Mountain have been forced to live around the dump site to search through trash to find recyclables as a means of income. Surrounding the homes were a large row of charcoal shanties, where these men, women and children from the age of six worked 24 hours a day.




These huts had no foundation and could have collapsed at any time. The smoke from the charcoal billowed into the air, leaving a burning sensation in the back of my throat from which I could only describe as acrid.


The children did not know anything more than this isolated place of poverty. They try to live a normal childhood, playing in the waters that flowed next to a shipping harbor.




A boy by the name of Reynixon Roysales has been living in Smokey Mountain since the age of six, along with his Mother, Father and Sister. He spends his days rummaging through piles of garbage in hopes of acquiring plastic to afford a meal that typically consists of instant coffee and rice as well as looking around the house for abandoned duck eggs to eat.



The hope of a future keeps the spirit of this boy alive.



After the death of his aunt Reynixon, his family left to attend their relatives funeral for one week. When they arrived back home, the house had been broken into and looted. Everything of value was stripped from them. After being left with absolutely nothing, Reynixon and his family had moved to live at his cousin’s who owned a house “which had no roof”.


After 2 years of living at his cousin’s, Reynixon started to work with a church in Manila. At the age of 20, Reynixon had against all odds broken away from poverty to start a new future as a pastor. In 2001, he valiantly returned to Smokey Mountain to provide the food that these children so badly needed.

Surpassing any expectations he had for himself in his future, Reynixon established The Malaya Kids Ministry. This Ministry located in the heart of Smokey Mountain has helped the community by finally providing the electricity, education and nourishment these children deserved for so long.






The boy who had experienced scraping the bottom of the barrel for leftover food never gave up hope and had returned to this extremely harsh environment as a righteous man with a highly benevolent intent, lending his hand out to these children who would’ve been otherwise left behind.

As a young photographer I have been working to get this project exposure, to tell the story of this community.

About the author: Chris Rusanowsky is a freelance photographer based out of Los Angeles, California. You can find his work on his website and through Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr.

  • Zos Xavius

    I’m stunned. These pictures tell quite the story.

  • Bart Aldrich

    Where is the Catholic Church? They helped create this mess.

  • Christian DeBaun

    Well done and thoughtful work Chris. Thanks.

  • Mike

    Bravo, Chris Rusanowsky. Compelling story, beautifully presented.

  • Leonardo Abreu

    Is this really 2013? Jesus…

  • Igor Ken

    Amazing pictures!

  • DamianM

    I agree.
    Mother Teresa was a fraud but shes a great Catholic celebrity.

  • ramon

    and then what? for more than 3 decades, foreign photographers come and go, to do the same story again and again, then what?

  • Steve Call

    what Steven responded I am dazzled that any body able to make $7049 in four weeks on the internet. have you read this web link ,, ,,,, ………… BIT40. ℂom

  • Jonathan Maniago


  • Iam Pugeda

    yeah, i hope that the photographer here gave back something tangible, and not just pictures and stories.

  • Valeanu Alexandru


  • Arne

    Great editing too.

  • Randy Benigno

    poverty porn

  • Jean Lua

    Chris, I have visited the Philippines in the past (I have relatives in Manila) and witnessed the poverty through a young boy who was barefoot and carrying buckets of water. Nearby were huts made out of nothing more than cardboard and other basic materials.

    You’ve done a phenomenal job in portraying the children and the way that they live daily. Although I did not visit the area that you depicted, I was very moved by the emotion that you captured. Thank you for showing your beautiful work.

  • Ilitch Peters

    i agree. lets see some social action to go with these amazing photos

  • madmax

    Yours is envy porn. At least, this photographer has managed to do a respectful and politically sensitive work.

  • frank mckenna

    beautiful photos… incredible and powerful story

  • Chris Rusanowsky

    Thank you for the kind words and I hope your family is doing well in Manila. The country is shown threw the Filipino people with there beauty and generosity, they have a place in my heart forever. Thank you for taking time to look over these images Jean, hope all is well. – Chris R

  • Chris Rusanowsky

    Hey Ramon,

    I hope to not be categorized as someone who is just taking pictures for props or to have something different in their portfolio. I love these people and no child or family needs to live in these conditions. Its extremely hard these to days to get images like these exposure. Peta Pixel are amazing to accept my project to their domain. I can only share what I have seen with others and hope that it will give them the evidence to help. Any questions please contact me I would like to speak with others on their opinion about this project and what I can do to improve or inspire others to take action. Thank you Ramon.

    Email: [email protected]

  • Scott M. Bennett

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks so much! I’m sure having some of the info on how to help will keep a focus on making change and encouraging hope for the future. Keep up the great work, and it’s great to hear that you will be living in Manila to work there. My wife and I lived in Brazil for over a year volunteering with an organization that helps street kids. I’m sure that the ministry at Smokey Mountain would appreciate your help and support to have more people learn about the work that they are doing.

    Take care,


  • Scott M. Bennett

    Hi Chris,

    One other thing, you might be interested in joining the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers, or IGVP. It is a community that focuses on the ethical and thoughtful use of photography and video to show people and cultures in a positive light, in spite of the difficulties and realities in the world. You might be interested, since your work falls into this category. I am a member, and have learned a lot through other photographers in the community as well!

    Blessings to you,


  • Dan Brian Gerona

    I’ve done similar projects as this one in the article. What really amazes me is that these people will always have time to smile back at the camera. I’m a freelance photographer based in Cebu City, Philippines. We have an area here similar to the one shown in the photos. If you’re coming over to the Philippines with plans on doing a similar project, you might want to check out the Badjao communities. Wikipedia also calls them sea gypsies.

  • raymond

    hi ramon, they photograph and hope that the photos might create awareness, thats all.. im assuming you are also a filipino..what have YOU done?

  • Chris Rusanowsky

    This is amazing, thank you Scott I just signed up!
    – Chris R

  • TJ

    As a photographer I whole heartily agree with your statement. Sometimes I wonder if photographers don’t exploit the downtrodden or do photographers provide insight into a seedy world that humanity seems to ignore. Truth be known, we all are guilty of looking away at the reality Ramon. The question is not what others can do to improve humanity but the question to be asked of ourselves is What Can I Do To HELP.

  • Chris Rusanowsky
  • Jay Lion

    I’m a newly registered nurse here in the country and I have lot’s of oppurtunity to live and earn in the US as my family lives there.. but here I am, I’m trying to do something to help these people.. may God grant my wish to serve this county! The fact i was looking for a pic of a poor people as I am about to use for public presentation as I wish this people to be united to help each other and not to look so much on it from the goverment. I wish there would be people out there who will join me..!

  • Rommie V. Pacana

    A down-to-earth images of the squalor of poverty in the Philippines…there are many slum areas in Metro Manila and Cebu worse than Smokey Mountain’s…Filipinos living in abject poverty while the national coffers are drained by corrupt government officials and legislators…

  • Vicky Lin

    thank you for these pictures. we are all victims of our wrong choices in life, or maybe lack of symphathy towards each other. each to his own is the rule of life. my family is not as impoverished as the above but our income is not even sufficient to support other family members who are in the same level as in the photos. we are not expecting help from anyone because most of the poor are used to finding food for self. begging won’t do because the rich treat you as trash, they would rather throw away their food in the garbage cans than sharing it with the poor. the government exploits your condition. this is the life here, charitable foundations are only after the money, there is no hope for this kind of system here in the Philippines. a coin a day will not help, a complete OVERHAUL is needed.