I was a fledgling labor organizer and a young woman to boot! Veteran unionists laughed at me: Why she still has her mother’s milk on her lips! With a few words of advice, they sent me off to a community of stevedores at the Navotas fish port.

When I arrived at the community, I found the still-smoking remains of many homes. A fire broke out the day before and residents believed it was a calculated move to drive them away from the area where a fishing complex was to be constructed. Fire trucks arrived to put the fire out and left about three feet of stagnant water. The people were forced to walk in this swamp and even used it as a toilet. People were getting sick right and left. I had befriended a young stevedore, his wife and their two young daughters. The wife refused to let the children walk in the mud, carrying them wherever they went. Still the eldest child got sick. In a few days that sweet, happy and bright three-year old was gone. When she died, worms streamed from every opening in her body. Her parents were already devastated by death, but greed was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The funeral parlor refused to release the child’s body for burial until they received full payment. The father’s pleas and the mother’s tears could not budge the owner. When I arrived at their home, the wife was frantic; her husband had sharpened his machete and left. I found him at the funeral parlor, sitting at back of the chapel where his daughter’s body lay in a coffin. He was sitting, holding his machete so tightly that his knuckles were white. I sat beside him and placed my hands over his and shook them, hard. I had to make him listen. You have a wife and a daughter. What is going to happen to them if you land in jail. He was silent but tears ran down his face. I ran to the office and told the staff: Release the child’s body or you will all die today. In an hour, we were on our way to the cemetery, riding in the funeral parlor’s best vehicle. We stood over the child’s grave, holding hands, grieving over that child and the fact that she was not the first, nor the last, to die so senselessly. .

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What a compelling story. I remember my Grandma telling me she had a stillborn, a baby that was dead at birth, and they wouldn't bury it at the cemetery because the baby wasn't baptized. That is when my grandma converted from the Catholic Church to the Episcopal Church. It is important for everyone to value death, it truly is the last way we can express our respect.

I cannot fathom the devastation of losing a child, let alone having her body held for ransom because of someone's greed. To take advantage of a family's grief is so abhorrent to me but I am glad they finally were able to receive her body and give her final respects. Thank you for sharing this story of the important work you are doing. I look forward to reading more from you. Janice

The greed was not only on the part of the funeral parlor owners--but more devastating, the greed of fishing boat operators, fish stall owners, and other capitalists in the international fish port where the batilyos worked. They condemned the batilyos and their families to a miserable existence, living in filth and mud.

I'm astounded by your story. Perhaps even more than the presence of greed, I am taken aback by the lack of grace given by the people at the funeral parlor. In the face of such devastation, we would hope that those in our communities who handle the most sensitive and painful situations would choose to aid instead of exploit. I hope the people at the parlor learned that a father's love should incite empathy and not greed.

stories such as this make my heart swell in pain and ache in anger at the same time, what can we do from here, we need so much change and i know this can be achieved

greed have no place anywhere

Solvitur ambulando (it is solved by walking)