Tourism being one of the sectors hit hard by the pandemic, among the workers struggling to make ends meet are the kutseros inside The Walled City. Photo by Greg Dorris
Culture Spotlight

The Intramuros kalesas are part of Manila’s cultural heritage—but the horses are going hungry

Old Manila Walks is raising funds to keep the kalesa, and their kutseros, survive the pandemic. 
RHIA GRANA | Aug 14 2020

Masakit po sa aming puso na ipagbili ang ilan sa aming kabayo kasi madami na din kami pinagsamahan,” the man tells us over the phone, his voice fraught with sadness and worry. “Pero dumating na din talaga sa puntong kailagan naming magsakripisyo para may maipakain sa ibang alagang kabayo at sa aming pamilya din.”

The man is Cyrill John Sunga, the leader of the Samahan ng mga Kutseros sa Intramuros (SAKSI). Tourism being one of the sectors hit hard by the pandemic, among the workers struggling to make ends meet are the kutseros inside The Walled City.

Cyrill John Sunga, leader of Samahan ng mga Kutseros sa Intramuros (SAKSI), has been a kutsero since he was 12 years old.

Earlier in the year, things have started to ease up where their livelihood is concerned. “Sa totoo lang po, noong December 2019, January at February nitong taon, nakaipon pa po kami. May mga pondo pa po kami’ng pambili ng pagkain ng kabayo. Noong March, naka-survive pa kami. Akala namin, aabutin lang ng isang buwan ang sitwasyon naming ito. Nung ikalawang buwan, tagilid naTapos inabot na ng limang buwanbuwis-buhay na talaga,” he admits.

There used to be 20 registered horses in the Intramuros community, but others had to sell their animals during the pandemic, so now the horses are down to 16.

Sunga says he and the other kutseros were able to receive financial aid worth P5,370 from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) last March. “Nung natanggap ko po yun, ibinili ko na agad ng pagkain ng kabayo yung P3,000. Then P2,000-plus sa pamilya ko,” he says.

A week's worth of feeds per horse is worth P1,500. “Hindi naman katulad ng mga alagang aso natin ang mga yan na pwede nating pakainin ng kanin at ulam. Ang kinakain nila soybean (sapal ng taho), molasses, and pollard. Pag di mo pinakain ang mga yan, talagang magwawala. Parang tao din, kapag gutom, mainit ang ulo nila,” he says.

This kalesa had not been used to since the lockdown last March 15.

There used to be 20 registered horses in the Intramuros community, but others had to sell their animals during the pandemic, so now the horses are down to 16. “Yung iba, nabebenta lang ang kabayo ng P12,000,” laments Sunga.

Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks, who had met some of these kutseros in his Intramuros tours, found out about this predicament when a friend of his, the tour guide and B and B proprietor Gregory Dorris, posted that a kutsero was asking for help to feed his horses.

A few of the remaining horses in the Intramuros community

So Dy decided to help in his own little way by organizing a fund drive and coordinating with the Intramuros Administration to help raise money for the nourishment of the horses and help ease the financial burden of the kutseros.

“The kalesa is a centuries-old Manila transport icon. To date, only two areas of the old city still have them: Intramuros and Binondo. While originally a form of public transport, they now mainly service the tourism industry, which at this point, is sadly still in coma,” reads a post by Dy on Old Manila Walk’s Facebook page.

The members of SAKSI with Intramuros Administration's Guiller Asido, who's also helping to raise funds for the horses.

According to Dy, all donations will be coordinated through the Intramuros Administration for proper allocation and distribution. “By feeding the horses, we support a livelihood. By keeping the kalesa, we save a part of Manila's cultural heritage,” he says.

 

Donations may be deposited to Old Manila Walks and Tour Services BDO#003830054461. All donations will be documented, accounted, and acknowledged. For inquiries, you may send a personal message to Old Manila Walks Facebook page.

 

You may also like: