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Story Publication logo August 14, 2017

Hiding While She Still Can

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Many families sleep on Mabini Street of Malate, Manila, often suffering not only from poverty but substance abuse problems. By May 2016, a little over one month before the inauguration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, extrajudicial killings have taken the lives of over 8,000 Filipinos. As of June 2017, almost all the homeless who sleep on Mabini Street are no longer there, their whereabouts unknown. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2016.
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What happens to civil society in a country that democratically elects a leader who encourages the...

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Josie, a 43-year-old former "shabu" (methamphetamine) user and pusher, navigates the living area of the bar in a rural area of the Philippines, where she works as a housekeeper. She is being watched by one of the bar worker's daughters. Recently Josie fled the Market 3 slum in Navotas because she feared assassins might come to execute her. Her drug-related activities were well known in Market 3 and many others have been executed for similar activities. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2017.
Josie, a 43-year-old former 'shabu' (methamphetamine) user and pusher, navigates the living area of the bar in a rural area of the Philippines, where she works as a housekeeper. She is being watched by one of the bar worker's daughters. Recently Josie fled the Market 3 slum in Navotas because she feared assassins might come to execute her. Her drug-related activities were well known in Market 3 and many others have been executed for similar activities. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2017.

Josie picked up her drug habit from her ex-husband. They were always fighting about money, about other women, just about anything. The drugs helped block out the noise. They also helped block out the hunger of their gripping poverty.

From drug using, Josie turned to drug running. She made a couple of hundred pesos ferrying sachets of shabu (crack cocaine) from the sellers to the users and got her own cut in the process.

Josie's daughter, Vangie, hated everything about drugs. But mostly, she hated seeing what it was doing to her mother.

"I would always tell her to stop but she never listened to me," said Vangie, 26.

Since she was a child, she had always acted as the grown up in the family. When Rodrigo Duterte was elected president, Vangie once again took control.

"When the nightly killings started, I told her to get out of here. I told her to hide while she still could," said Vangie.

They scrounged up enough bus fare for Josie to go to a province about four hours away from Manila. Her niece was working in a bar there and Josie made herself useful, washing clothes and running errands. Some of the girls who worked at the bar had their small children with them and Josie would watch over them during the day as the girls slept.

"It can get boring being way out here, but at least I'm alive," said Josie.

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