Skip to main content

Burden of Gold: Children Mine Workers in Bicol - ILO

VIRAC, Catanduanes: Each day starts early for Aiza, her sister Angeline and their mother Emily.

Today is like any other day in the village of Gumaos, Camarines Norte, where for generations, the search for gold has been many a poor family’s means of survival.

Gold, too, has sent many a young child away from home, school and play to the perils of the mines.

Liza is unsure of her age, but she knows that she’s been working in the mines for as long as she can remember. Aiza learned from her mother, and six-year-old Angeline is now learning from her.

Last year, Aiza’s mother fell ill, and Aiza quit school to bear the burden of earning for the family’s food and her mother’s medical needs.

Our bodies ache, but we go on. I reached up to Grade 5 only, and I don’t want my children to be like me. I want them to be able to finish school, find a job they like. But I have no money for their education,
says Emily, her mother.

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday, Aiza, along with other child mine workers, stands in the mercury-laden waters of the gold mines shoveling mud, or bends over her pan while swirling sand, looking out for that shiny speck of dust.

Putting the bits together, gold the size of a grain of rice would earn Aiza roughly P20.

After about two hours of work under a blazing sun, Aiza and Angeline find a speck of gold. The girls know they have to work many more hours to earn enough for the family’s food.

Rico, a 10-year-old child mineworker, had worked two whole days and found only enough to earn him P50. Exhausted, Rico went home, gave his father the money, and hoped to rest.

Neighbors say Rico’s father beats him up each time he goes home with little or no earnings.

Finally, Rico gathered enough courage to run and seek refuge with a neighbor. The village people’s organization and the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children both responded to Rico’s situation.

Aiza, Angeline and Rico are among the child mineworkers in Camarines Norte where small-scale gold mining has been going on for generations. In fact, advocates against child labor were once child mineworkers themselves.

One of these advocates is Pete Romero:
I worked in the mines from Grade 3 until I finished high school. I know what the children are going through: the hard labor and the risks to life.

In some of these mines, children descend to the bowels of the earth, crawling through narrow, cramped and poorly illuminated makeshift tunnels. The change in atmospheric pressure punctures and permanently damages their ears.

Here, children are at constant risk of lethal accidents from explosives, the collapse of mine walls or roofs and the use of equipment and crude tools designed for adults.

You then carry your load of rock or earth to the stream and you start panning. You knead the soil, and sometimes you don’t see the bits of glass or nail that are mixed with it and you get cut,
says Romero.
Then, when you think have enough gold bits, you mix in the mercury to make a nugget.

A health assessment of 80 to 100 kids in coordination with the Occupational Safety and Health Center, and funded by the International Labor Organization, showed that some children were contaminated with mercury.

The growth of those who work the whole day is stunted. They do poorly in school. They develop skin diseases, cough, colds, and fever. Often, they stop going to school altogether, preferring work in the mines to earn money.

Master list

The abuse in small-scale gold mines in the Philippines involves as many as 18,000 children.

In Camarines Norte, knowing the numbers was not enough. Social workers and non-government organizations felt they needed to know more who these children are, so that they can better act on their behalf.

Together, they compiled a master list of child mineworkers, which enabled them to track the situation and put policies and programs in place.

The master list was used to lobby for local ordinances, such as the Camarines Norte Children’s Rights and Welfare Code that bans children from all of forms of hazardous work—not just mining—and to provide starting points for services.

Services such as non-formal education and scholarships are helping to get children back in school and out of the master list. Information dissemination, parents’ education, policymaking and the provision of services are causing change.

Samuel, a child mineworker, still feels compelled to work in the mines to help his family. But he is also determined to stay in school.

Samuel works only on Saturdays and Sundays.
I work on to earn money to buy rice and chocolate milk for my brother Totoy, and to have some money for school,
he says.
There are other kids in school who look for gold to earn a living. They too give their money to their parents to buy food.
We were able to conduct 16 classes in six pilot barangays for 395 child laborers, 164 of them girls,
says Lourdes Sacolsan, an education supervisor.

Meanwhile, Rico, the boy who’d found gold but lost his childhood, has found refuge from his father’s violence and abuse. He does not quite know what will happen next.

Asked what he hopes for in life, Rico ponders his answer:
Matutong makabasa’t makasulat [Learn to read and write.]

Children do not ask for much.

-- Source ILO

Popular posts from this blog

2008 Civil Service Examination Passers - Examination Passers

Civil Service Examination - Subprofessional
CSC RO V - Rawis, Legazpi City
Date: November 16, 2008 Seq # Examinee No. Examinee Name 1 582872ABALON, MARIAN DOROTHY O 2 586574ABRAGAN, MICHAEL FRANCIS F 3 586733ACAL, KAREN KAYE I 4 586575ACERON, MILANDRO B 5 582785ADOPTANTE, ANGELO LESTER N 6 582766AGUILAR, JEROSS R 7 582952AGUILAR, RORY S 8 586835ALPARAN, OLIVE A 9 586847ALVAREZ, MICHAELSON Y 10 582594ALVAREZ, SEYCHELLE M 11 582572ANGELES, MIRALYN A 12 582669ARCILLA, ARMIE A 13 582904ARCOS, EDEN R 14 582790ATIGA, RIENA M 15 586625AUREUS, EDGAR MANUEL A 16 582761AVENIDO, PRECIOUS B 17 582942AZORES, MYLA E 18 586762BAESA, MARC EDWIN S 19 582559BAEZA, ROWEL G 20 582682BAGHERI, CHERRYMAE C 21 586783BALINGBING, MAY ANN A 22 586661BARBONIO, EUGENE P 23 582812BARRAMEDA, LESLIE H 24 586558

Arcilla, Political Law Bar Examiner - CT

A Viracnon has done it again. For four Sundays of September, law graduates undergo the most important rite of passage in the legal profession: the BAR examinations. The Bar is a rigorous test of eight subjects, each testing the graduates’ knowledge, reasoning and writing abilities. One of the examiners in the 2008 Bar Exam is Atty. Juanito Gianan Arcilla of Marcelo Alberto, Virac. Atty. Arcilla prepared the Bar questions on Political and International Law. The said exam consisted of the following subjects and its corresponding weighted average: Political and International Law (15%), Labor and Social Legislation (10%), Civil Law (15%), Taxation (15%), Mercantile Law (15%), Criminal Law (10%), Remedial Law (20%), and Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises (5%) for a total of 100%. Examiners are deemed experts in their respective fields, and are chosen on the basis on their contributions to legal education. Other examiners of the 2008 Bar were Atty. Salvador Poquiz (Labor and Social Le…

VPES, CNHS Delegates Shine in 7th YES Camp - CT

Delegates from the Virac Pilot Elementary School and the Catanduanes National High School held their own against other participants in the 7th Youth for Environment Summer (YES) Camp held at Teachers’ Camp in Baguio City last April 26-30. Dr. Salve T. San Juan, Education Supervisor I for Science and Secondary Math said that pupils for the Division Pilot Special Science and Math Class won second place in the Sayawit (elementary level). The participants were Nhielsan Albuero, Anne Gille Balmadrid, Mark Gregory Guerrero, Emmazaida Latorre, Kathleen Pagunuran, Stephanie Sarmiento, Katherine Tabo, Edelyn Tatel, Nonito Tatel, Samantha Faye Tribiana, Johanz Tupas, Lorraine Valencia, and Shaira Mae Vargas. Copping third place in Story Telling were DPSSMC pupils Virgil Balmadid, Ariella Meg Marino, Imma Lea Lareza, Keecee Panti, and Neil Andrew Soneja, while Mar Macaranas participated in the poster making contest. They were accompanied by advisers Mrs. Salome Corpuz and Mrs, Joji Ordoña. I…

Municipal Winners Proclaimed - CT

Candidates of the Lakas-Kampi held their ground in last Monday’s automated local elections in Catanduanes, winning seven of the 11 races. Seven incumbent mayors won their reelection bids. In Bagamanoc, Mayor Odilon Pascua grabbed his third straight term by beating former Vice Gov. Vincent Villaluna’s mother Lina and Eduardo de Asis. Wilma Rivera won as vice mayor over Edwin Evangelista and Leo Presentacion. In Baras, Vice Mayor Chito Chi succeeds Mayor Jose Teves Jr. as he moves up to the provincial capitol. He defeated challengers Ildefonso Torrente and Rustom Soledad. Councilor Edna Tomagan claimed the vice mayorship over Ely Carranza. In Bato, JAS loyalist Mayor Eulogio Rodriguez soundly thrashed Juan Rodulfo while Vice Mayor Joselito Alberto easily fended three challengers – Erwin Rojas, Arturo Tarnate and former Vice Mayor Felicito Tasarra. In Caramoran, the Popa husband-and-wife team bucked the loss of their campaign kitty, with Mayor Agnes Popa winning over Ma. Theresa Qua…

Solon Seeks Probe on Rampant Harvesting of Crablets

A Party-list lawmaker is calling for a congressional inquiry on the reported rampant harvesting and sale of crablets as exotic food delicacy, which has resulted in the alarming decline in the harvest of mature mud crabs. In filing House Resolution 2587, Rep. Angelo Palmones, (Party-list, AGHAM) said rampant harvesting and sale of crablets hinder the sustainability of mature crabs for food and livelihood. Palmones cited that a 2009 report from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) that exports of crabs, in its live or processed form, accounts for 5.8 percent of the year's total export value in fisheries produce. The study, Palmones said shows that crab production is a viable means of livelihood for some of the coastal areas in the country thus; this reported rampant activity of early harvesting for minimal amount will disrupt the flow of income in an area where crab produce is one of its main sources of income. Palmones said several local government units have i…