People sleep in open air in Tondo, Manila, Philippines early October 18, 2016. Local residents from the neighbourhood in Manila's slum of Tondo in which several people were killed in drugs related operations, say there are more people sleeping outside their homes since the beginning of the country's war on drugs fearing for their safety. (Reuters Photo/Damir Sagolj)

Living Among the Dead in the Philippine Drug War


NOVEMBER 02, 2016

Manila. In a small mausoleum in Manila's largest cemetery, Judith Castell and her family get ready for another night next to the graves of her husband and her mother-in-law.

The cemetery has been Castell's home for 40 years and where she first met her husband, Emmanuel, who was killed in a police drug-bust operation in September as part of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

"I really can't accept what happened, that he would suddenly disappear. I realize that it's hard. It's like losing a hand and a foot," Castell, 47, told Reuters.

Castell said she is a supporter of Duterte but hopes police will stop indiscriminate killings that have seen almost 2,300 people killed since he took office less than four months ago.

The widow, who lives with more than 20 members of her family, makes a living tending to tombs and graves in the 54-hectare (133 acre) cemetery, where an estimated 10,000 people live among the dead.

Castell normally makes about 100 pesos ($2) a day tending the graves, but expected to earn up to 5,000 pesos ($110) on Tuesday, with Filipinos flocking to the cemetery for All Saints Day, a Roman Catholic holiday which pays homage to saints.

"He's gone and we can't do anything about it. I still have to help feed my family," she said.