WATCH: Take a tour of Smokey Mountain slums

Posted at 06/23/14 3:37 PM

MANILA -- The Smokey Mountain Tour may be on its last days following the imminent closure of Smokey Mountain 2, but its organizer is in the middle of creating another slum tour in order to help other communities.

"Families in Smokey Mountain 2 are being relocated faster than we expected—and that's a good thing—and we are playing it by ear day by day," says Juliette Kwee, the Smokey Tours founder.

Families are given the option of a P40,000 resettlement fee or a house in Rizal or Bulacan.

The tour currently takes participants, for a fee of P750, on a 2.5-hour tour of the Smokey Mountain 2 community where "we see people working hard scavenging for recyclable goods or putting up with the smoke in the charcoal-making production," according to the group's website. "We wander down the narrow alleys of the area, observing and see residents living in small, wooden huts with poor sanitation, and with reduced poor access to water and electricity."

Poverty tourism is a small but growing sector of the the tourism industry wherein primarily wealthy western tourists visit the poorest places on earth, most of which are in the developing world.

Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, Nairobi and Johannesburg are perhaps the most popular locations for these trips, but a new tour was recently setup in Manila, the Filipino capital well-known for chaos, congestion and inequality.

Manila isn't the poorest city on earth but it is the most densely populated with about half of it's residents living in slums. One of the most remarkable is Smokey Mountain, a community literally situated on a garbage dump.

This is where Smokey Tours, a local nonprofit, offers to take tourists for a small fee.

Not surprisingly, poverty tourism is controversial. Critics have labeled these tours degrading. While supporters contend that they promote social awareness and help the local economy.

Coconuts TV wanted to find out for ourselves if slum tourism really did distill poverty into entertainment or if there was more to it.

Smokey Tours organizes slum tours in the Smokey Mountain area, among others. The 2.5-hour tour is from Mon-Sat, 9:30am-12pm, maximum of six participants. All tours must be book in advanced through www.smokeytours.co

This story first appeared on Coconuts Manila.