Advice # 1A – Never, But Never Ever Drink The Water!!!

If you travel outside the U.S., especially to out-of-the-way places in Asia-, the first thing is to learn about their drinking water and sanitation practices. Just Google the name of the city followed by the phrase “water and sewage system” and you’ll get links to the pertinent information.

I did that for Metro Manila and I got literally 100s of links for “Malababan Pozo Negro Siphoning”, the name of a family-run sewer and drain franchise engaged in cleaning septic tanks. Why are there so many Malabanan contractors in Manila?

About 12 million people live in the Metro Manila area, however only about 10% of the homes and businesses have access to a sewer connection and a treatment plant. The other 90% are connected to septic tanks (“Pozo Negros” as they are known) and there are around 1 million of them throughout the city.

While septic systems are an appropriate method of sewage disposal in rural areas of developed countries, they should never be installed in large cities like Manila. In the normal process, the partially treated sewage (“effluent”) simply drains into the soil and mother nature decomposes the remainder of the bad stuff.

However above a certain population density, the ground water will be overwhelmed with bacteria and other microbes. That’s the case in Manila where all the pozo negros have created one of the most polluted places on the planet and the city water is absolutely not fit to drink.

All the pozo negros have to be pumped out (or “siphoned” as Malabanan calls the process) every year or so and the contents trucked away. So what does Malabanan do with all the effluent siphoned from the tanks? It’s a sure bet that Manila Bay or the Pasig River are an off-the-record dumping spot.

The building codes in Manila are also very lax and plumbing installations that would violate the Hell out of the code in the U.S. are perfectly OK in Manila. It’s quite common for a pozo negro to be buried underneath the house and sometimes right underneath the kitchen or the living room! In many cases, the exact location of the tank isn’t known and Malabanan probes for its location by tapping on the concrete floor with a hammer. Then an opening is chiseled in the concrete to insert a hose connected to a pump on their truck.

Furthermore, the siphoning process is poorly mechanized and totally inadequate for the job of removing the “contents” of the tank. That’s where pozo negro “divers” come to the rescue. These are young men or teenagers from the 1000s of highly impoverished families in the city and they have no choice other than to do very, very menial labor jobs like manual sewage cleaning. I suspect they are “Day Laborers” (as they called here in the U.S.) who are picked up by contractors at hiring centers around the city.

After arriving at the job site, the diver strips down to a simple swim suit (or maybe completely butt-naked if the location is out of public view) and is lowered down into the tank. The diver is often submerged neck deep in wastewater and his job is to collect all the floating “debris” and act as an “agitator” to stir up the sediment so it can be sucked up by the hose.

These divers have become an icon of the pozo negro service and many of Malabanan’s ads feature images of them working in a sewage tank. A typical siphoning job usually takes an hour and after getting out of the tank, the diver rinses off with a hose and antiseptic soap then it’s on to the next job.

How these divers can tolerate the constant exposure to wastewater is an example of an “adaptive immune system” and maybe that’s why the Philippine population has avoided mass extinction.

There you have it – a prime example of a Third World water and sewage operation and a reminder of the warning “Never But Never Ever Drink The Water”!!!

Published in Poverty


  1. Profile gravatar of heyjoe

    Many of the septic tanks I have seen here actually do not have a cement floor. Just 4 walls but no floor. This allows the sewage to seep directly into the ground. That way it does not fill up fast and hardly ever needs to be siphoned off.

  2. Profile gravatar of FAFI

    I have always been absolutely disgusted with the drinking water that my wife buys from these sari-sari stores. You know, the 5 liter tank that is usually sold for about 35 pesos. In the past I had gotten use to those when I first got here, but the purification of them had just been getting worst lately. Yeah it’s mineral water, but still, I haven’t drank mineral water this awful in my life.

    I had always been reluctant to drink it, and my damn wife has this tendency to force feed me water every fuckin night. That’s the ONLY power that I allowed her to have over me, and that is me drinking at least one glass of water a day, and the deal was that she is allowed to give me that ONE glass anytime of the day and I can’t say “NO.”

    To make my life easier, a few weeks ago I’ve been buying these Propel water bottles (which goes for 16 pesos per bottle at the HyperMarket) to substitute for the mineral water she has been force feeding me. She couldn’t say shit about me not drinking water now! LOL! But after a while it’s been getting expensive since I often drink them habitually, so I reverted to distilled water. I just started buying 5L tanks for 50 pesos. I haven’t had any issues with it so far except from the leftover taste of mineral water that was in the water container I use to drink from, which is now being used for my distilled water.

    I appreciate her ‘TRYING’ to be useful by looking out for my water intake, but I don’t really give a shit about that when she is completely useless when I need her to do something useful for a change. My dear god, that bitch has phobia in going shopping! Out of all the times I’ve been going shopping by myself weekly, she hasn’t gone ONCE. I swear sometimes I think she is a lazy sack of shit, and she has no job, except for watching TV all damn day. Sorry about that, wrong topic. I will continue bitching about my lazy crazy Filipina wife on a different relevant topic. I just had to let that out on here before I ended up letting it out on her. Thanks for letting me vent irrelevantly on your topic Kansas Thunder Man 🙂

    1. Profile gravatar of SpatandemOhgod

      oh u should really be grateful FAFI that your woman stays in the cave while you go out shopping, it gives u a chance to do stuff normal people do like…shop…and feel like a man when she hasn’t got your balls in the door (Filipino version of one foot in the door)

      I also cared about water intake, but seriously you guys didn’t think hard enough about the water issue, I rarely drank out of the tap, because I was mortified by the time I made it to someones house for the first time in da phils. So I never drank from that shit, I also purged myself with 1/2 tanduay occasionally 80 peso bottle straight of course followed by some coconut juice as a chaser. I always enjoyed the chaser with the boys because it basically was one of the moments I enjoyed in that i knew they wouldnt open their mouths in any way as straight is actually not very I was in heaven right there…

      where was I,

      By the way I made two comments on this topis yesterday and they are gone..not here..crazy..anyway

      1. Profile gravatar of FAFI

        Tanduay? Are you seriously dude? If I wanted to drink that shit I’m better off chugging gasoline, because that’s exactly how that shit tastes like. The only up side to Tanduay is that it doesn’t gives you as much hangovers in the morning, but my Tanduay days are OVER! Jack, Barcardi (151 preferably), and Tequila is my shit! But I’ve been staying away from the hard stuff lately, I need to get back into it.

        1. Profile gravatar of Captain PFB
          Captain PFB

          Personally, for me, all hard liquor tastes like gasoline. So I’ll save a bunch of money and get the Tanduay. It gets you shitfaced as good as anything else. Besides, who the fuck drinks hard liquor for taste?????

        2. Profile gravatar of SpatandemOhgod

          lol yes it tastes like gasoline, but it gets you drunk really fast like ten minutes of drowning your purse/treasure map in it and woooo im off like a witch on a broom zoooozeeeeeeee, excuse me, yes it tastes bad but a little buko coconut water (like soft flesh age coconut) as a chaser, bam its true less hangover…don’t drink it without your chaser though because your headache will still yell at you in the morning you know hehe. That’s right your wife doesn’t care if u have a hangover.

          I bought so many of those illegal fireworks on new years eve and I got done by so many on peddi cab drive bys, but I revenged with my tweeties and stars those four inch triangle fireworks with that pesky three second fuse..

          I spent like 200 dollars on fireworks and we had a blast, one drunk guy fell over on the road and I still aimed my tiny little shooter at him with this other Filipino guy literally holding it pointed at him im like noo noo, then it hit him in the face ..anyway..soooo I also bought a gas powered airsoft pistol to shoot things with I got shot a few times with it haha, but I shot my wife back..eeee, she is the only one who shot me then run around claiming abuse of course…stupido,

          man I drink hard liquor as I cant be bothered drinking beer, even that red horse craze pisses me off and I randomly ..well I dont know what i randomly do, I werewolf at the vendors because im not drinking that watered down sh*t maniacs..just 800 mls of hard liquor and bam its morning…roosters hangover roadside smell and noise ….wife….unreal `expectations someone in the family is going to be worth more than you…crickets….minute of silence.

          fuck I am so glad I am out of that place because it doesn’t matter how tight the pu$$y its not more fun in the Philippines.

          heaps of people here in fil fail would drink tanduay I put five million pesos on it..wait someone do the math

          I hate buying liquor in my country now, its like 40 dollars (1600 pesos) per 750 mls here and im in a tourist hotspot, the accents alone give me a headache, sh*t is not one corner of the world that is fair

          1. Profile gravatar of SpatandemOhgod

            ps no Filipino was hurt by fireworks as the firework was simply too small and was not under my control it was actually under a flipinos control…

            fatal disclaimer
            “however” the Filipino in question who fell on the highway road and almost lost his tooth from the fall XD who we fired a firecracker at that hit him in the cheek was very drunk and actually had made up a story prior to this of how my motorcycle tire was punctured after he rode the bike in an attempt to get 180 peso out of me to repair the tyre at a service station I knew well ( he insisted he repair it not me) and I put air in the tyre and waited an hour and magic occurred, the tire had no problem,,,as my dad was actually a dr mechanic engineer hmm

            there was no 5mm firecracker fatality, although a few banana trees were killed during the firecracker saga, and a tin roof destroyed aswell. we put those rockets that go 30metres in the drainpipes lol ahem.

            ps my wife wrote this

    2. Profile gravatar of Spartacus_killingus

      If you can stand Hipsters, head over to expo. I go there all the time to get somewhat shitfaced. thee a rather large variety of bars and and food there, and its within a secured compound so not just anyone can get in (sort of).

      Drinks are watered down and the food is oily, but what did you expect from a street of bars? Just drink enough until you feel reallllllll goooooddddd…

      I think Ill go there myself this weekend, haven’t been out in a while.

  3. Profile gravatar of heyjoe

    I think most of the water in the Manila area is piped in from the Angat Dam in Bulacan. It goes from the Angat Dam to the Le Mesa Dam in Novaliches and on into Manila so the water supply is not actually from ground water in Manila. So that’s a good thing but then who knows what the condition of the pipes are in and how well their purification program is. I live in Bulacan and we get our water from Angat also. The people in my house do drink the tap water without problems. I always make sure mine goes thru one of those charcoal filtered purifiers. I do get the 5 gallon purified water also and bottled water whenever we go on trips. I can’t imagine using a well for water anywhere in the Manila area.

    1. Profile gravatar of Spartacus_killingus

      Same here, Living in Bulacan and I have drank the tap water quite a few times with no ill effects, sometimes I would forget to order more water or have it delivered too late, so Im left using the tap. Inner city water though, thats a different story altogether.

      Regarding pipes though, Where I was living there was always broken water pipes, just pouring water down the street all the time, apparently this is the drinking water, so if the pipe is broken under ground it would probably carry whatever trash its got straight to the tap.

      When in doubt, use a life straw.

      One of the things that made me stop drinking tap water was, the entry pipe that came into the house ran along the ground outside. It went all the way to a corner where it was terribly rusted through and needing to be replaced. That corner was where the community pissed all the time. I probably didn’t drink pinoy piss, but I felt grossed out by it, they also used that corner to Puke repeatedly after their long drinking session, and shovel dog shit, and washed dishes there, and refilled the 5 gallon water container.

      At this point I should mention that there is a water facet in this corner down toward the ground. pissed on, puked on, rat infested, probably dog shit covered facet.

      I only drink bottled now, obviously.

    2. Profile gravatar of TheD

      Imagine it!
      Where I used to live, the water company used an underground aquifer. The water was only turned on for one hour per week and most weeks they never managed to get it turned on. The water always smelled of sulfur and my maid would insist on using it to boil rice, I insisted she used mineral water.
      Then the water company sent us a letter saying they would need to charge us more as the aquifer was drying up. I did a quick bit of research and found that what they were doing was illegal, they should not be using the aquifer.
      Only in the Philippines would you have a company tell you that you needed to pay more as their illegal operation was turning legal and so you would need to pay more.