I am Manuel B. Manarang, 50 years old and presently residing in Paradise Heights - the present name of the infamous Smokey Mountain. I grew up in Barrio Magdaragat (fisherman’s village), which is the real name of the place before it was labeled Smokey Mountain by a group of foreigner visitors. My childhood was unusual. I started scavenging at the age of 12. Both of my parents were scavengers too. So, I was in fact the second generation of worker on the trash heap. I was scavenging for a number of reasons. These included the desire to help with the increasing domestic expenses, to support my school needs and to play with my peers. The dumpsite was not just a workplace, but also a huge playground for child scavengers like me. My life seemed to be slipping into a hopeless situation. Fortunately I was able to finish my secondary education despite the hardship. I met Ma. Victoria Salomon sometime in 1979. She was 15 years old and I was 19 then. We shared a common childhood in the same environment. At that young age, we decided to get married, and have been blessed with 4 children: 3 girls and one boy.
With the way we were living then, we just assumed that our children would belong to the third generation of what we were - scavengers. But by God’s grace we got involved in a mission organization serving the community where our family belonged.
In 1984 a team from Youth With A Mission came to the dumpsite. Victoria and I, as well as our 4 children, saw them ministering to the children and their families. They were providing health services in the community. I wondered why these people from different races were reaching out to Smokey Mountain people. Out of curiosity I asked one of them why they were doing this. I was amazed when he responded that what they were doing was the presentation of God’s love. After a short time sharing about his faith, I found myself being with the group as translator and assistant. Then after a year of doing this I decided to accept the Lord Jesus as my personal Savior. The changes within me inspired Victoria to do the same.
In 1993, my wife and I with our 4 children were sent to YWAM’s Discipleship Training School for 6 months. After the training, as a family we prayed together asking the Lord to lead us with our next step. God told us to join the Smokey Mountain ministry to share God’s love with our fellow-Filipinos on the dumpsite. I got involved in the Student Sponsorship Ministry which supports students and their families with feeding programs, teaching, counseling and discipling. Meanwhile my wife Victoria started leading the Day Care Ministry for malnourished babies. It was very rewarding for us - being God’s instruments for bringing social and spiritual changes into the lives of former alcoholics and beggars. After 6 years I was chosen to be one of YWAM Balut council members.
After a fruitful 14 years with YWAM, I made the decision to leave my position. I chose to volunteer in Young Focus For Education And Development foundation as Student Center Manager . It is an NGO employing Christian principles in its program implementation. My wife Victoria, on the other hand, followed me to work in Young Focus too who lead the Young Focus child Care.