Manila is the capital city of the Philippines. Located on the eastern shore of Manila Bay, the city of Manila has a population of 1.6 million. Manila has a strengths in the arts, commerce, education and media.

Philippines Urban

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Roman Catholic

The Weather

  • Slums in the Philippines’ urban centers are unsanitary and unsafe. Children living in these poor communities are exposed to illness, violence and other dangers on a daily basis. Philippines small road between homes
  • Because malnutrition is common in the slums, children receive nutritious lunches at their Compassion centers. Here they are enjoying protein-rich chicken and hard-boiled eggs, items their families typically can’t afford. Philippines child with plate of food
  • Some people in urban areas spend their days scrounging through garbage at the massive city dumps and selling the recyclable items they find. Philippines women and large baskets
  • Two girls act out a lesson from the Bible for the other children at their Compassion center. Philippines two girls with microphones
  • These children look forward to activity days at their Compassion center, when they can spend time learning, laughing, and having fun together. Philippines girls jumping
  • Among the Philippines’ total population of more than 103 million, 65 percent live in the country’s crowded urban centers. Philippines young boy and parents

Overview: Urban Philippines

Until recently, poverty was a problem primarily in rural areas scattered throughout the Philippines. But in the last decade as more and more families have moved to the city to find work, poverty has increased in urban areas, most noticeably in Manila, the country’s capital.

In Manila, more than 20 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day. Compassion-assisted children live in the poorest barangays, or communities, in cities throughout the Philippines.

Parents moving their families to urban areas of the Philippines have not found the jobs and riches they had hoped for. Instead, they bring their children into a world of poverty, complete with gangs, violence and drugs. Most families live in dilapidated housing in illegal slums that are prone to floods during the rainy season. Compassion Philippines has faced each of these obstacles head-on. In urban centers like Manila, Compassion provides a safe haven for children to escape from the violence they see on the streets and in their own homes. And since many children in urban Philippines live on flood plains, Compassion has organized a streamlined disaster relief process in these areas.


Culture Corner

philippines rural culture

PLAY THE GAME Iring-Iring with your children.

  1. After the person who is it is determined, he or she goes around the circle and drops a handkerchief behind one of the players in the circle.
  2. If this player notices the handkerchief, he or she has to pick up the handkerchief and go after the it around the circle.
  3. The it has to reach the vacant spot left by the player before the it is tagged; otherwise, the it has to take the handkerchief and repeat the process all over again.

Life in Urban Philippines

The Philippines’ urban centers, such as Quezon City and Manila, are home to millions of desperately poor families. Many of them moved to the city from the countryside in search of work and a better way of life. Living in illegal slum communities, they have found the opposite. In Manila, for example, more than 20 percent of the population exists on less than U.S.$1 per day.

Homes in the city slums are small and cramped, made of whatever scrap materials can be found. Criminal activity in the slums is rampant, as is child abuse and neglect. For Compassion-assisted children, child development centers are havens of love and safety, where they enjoy learning and just being kids.

Children at Home

Typical houses in urban Philippines are constructed of cement and have corrugated tin roofs. Many Compassion children live in small, congested homes with one or two rooms, in crammed squatter communities. Some families still do not have ready access to a safe and steady supply of water, but most families have access to electricity.


Community Issues and Concerns philipines rural community

Families who relocate to the cities are looking for their own “land of opportunity.” However, the reality falls far from their hopes and expectations. More than 30 percent of those living in urban areas settle in informal slums. These ramshackle cities exist in low-lying floodplains, along riverbanks, and near highways, railroads or dumpsites.

The growing urban population has increased the demand for basic social services and increased competition for limited employment. In Manila, one out of every ten adults is unemployed.

Local Needs and Challenges

Because of poverty, children in the Philippines’ urban centers often suffer malnutrition, as well as illness and injury from unsafe living conditions. Many urban children do not attend school and are vulnerable to the negative influences that surround them. At an early age, children often become involved in gangs, prostitution, and other dangerous activities. Many Compassion-assisted children confess that if they had not become a part of the program, they likely would have followed the same path.


Schools and Education philippines rural education

The typical school year in Manila runs from June through March. Children must attend either a morning or afternoon shift because the number of students is far greater than the number of teachers. Classrooms are overcrowded, and children rarely receive one-on-one attention. Elementary school lasts 6 years, and secondary, or high school, is 4 years. While public primary and secondary education is free, most Compassion-assisted children need support for school uniform, textbooks, allowance and transportation expenses.

Most families in metro Manila put a high premium on education. The region has the highest basic literacy rate in the country at 97 percent.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Eighty of Compassion Philippines child development centers are in urban areas. In Manila alone, Compassion ministers to more than 5,000 children in desperate poverty. At the centers, children come each week to learn practical lessons in health and nutrition. They receive tutoring that is not possible in their over-crowded schools. And most importantly, children learn that God loves them and has a plan for their lives.


Working Through the Local Church

Compassion’s ministry in the Philippines, as in every country where we work, is based in the local church. It is an ideal partnership because evangelical churches are springing up throughout the country. Also, because Filipinos have lost confidence in other institutions, including the government, they are embracing the church as a source of humanitarian help and hope.

Several of our church partners have noticed that even when people are suspicious of their motives in helping children, it takes only a few weeks for families to realize the sincerity of the church, and they gladly send their children to be registered in the program. Often entire families begin attending the church services and eventually become members.

How Compassion Works in Philippines philippines rural compassion in philippines

Compassion's work in the Philippines began in 1972. Currently, more than 66,400 children participate in 339 child development centers.

Compassion partners with churches to help them provide Philippine children with a program of long-term child development that addresses their physical, social/emotional, educational and spiritual needs. This program gives impoverished children the opportunities they need to rise above their circumstances and become all God has created them to be.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

In the Philippines, Partnership Facilitators are important liaisons between Compassion and the country’s partner churches. Facilitators are like missionaries, sent out to minister to the churches, equipping them for successful partnership.

One of Compassion Philippines’ 29 Partnership Facilitators, Salustiano Leosala, currently serves 11 church partners in the Camarines Sur region. To visit these churches, Salustiano must travel six hours by bus to the region’s main city, Naga, then travel by jeepney – a smaller bus – another few hours to reach them. But it is well worth the effort.

“My role is to facilitate,” Salustiano says. He believes his main task is “to train the church partners so that they are more prepared in the ministry for the Lord.”


Prayer Requests

  • Safety and protection of children from criminal elements in their communities. Children living in squatter communities are exposed to gangs, drug addiction, prostitution, gambling and theft.
  • Jobs for unemployed parents and for the employed to maintain their current work.
  • Physical, emotional and spiritual strength of child development center staff as they faithfully minister to the children and their families.
  • Health of children, who are prone to pneumonia, colds and other infections.
  • Justice and wisdom as the Compassion Philippines staff handles the legal needs of abused children and poor families treated unfairly.