I was engaged in a friendly discussion with my long-time friend E.R. under the shade of a huge acacia tree in front of the Shoe Museum in Marikina City. E.R. was with his Shitzu dog while I had three Chihuahuas, Kelly, Lovely and Clowey, in tow. It was part of our afternoon walk. We were discussing the issue of poverty triggered by the sight of a vagabond or taong grasa. He started by asking what poverty is and who, hypothetically, is poor. Sino ba ang mahirap? I was taken aback, paused for a while and said: Malalim ka yata. I can't define poverty using economic terms. I can't even tell you what the poverty line is. Hindi ko alam. But I do know who is poor when I see one. I know who is suffering from poverty. Just look around you, just observe with keen eyes and, most likely, you will get a glimpse of what poverty is all about. There is no need to define. And typical of an old, importunate man like me, I started citing an actual case.
There is this woman, in her late 40's, who lives in one of the mountain sitios of the vast Sierra Madre Mountain range. She stays in a shanty near the mountain cliff. She was born poor. She does not know her real name as she has no birth certificate. Her parents were so poor that her birth was not registered. There was no attempt of a late registration. She lives with an assumed name Aurora. She was deprived of the basic human right to an identity, all because of poverty. She does not know the names of her parents. She was orphaned at two months and has lived most of her life in the care of other persons who were also poor. She is illiterate as she had no schooling. She does not vote come election time. She knows no relatives. She is unmarried. With her toes appearing swollen, her left eye widely open because of hyperthyroidism and with skin burnt as a a result of years working in the field which she does not own, she has no property, no nothing. She has only two sets of tattered clothes and changes clothes by the week. 555 sardines are luxurious items for this woman.
E.R. countered by citing the case of Sebastian. Sebastian lives in a dilapidated nipa hut by a creek in an eastern town of Rizal. He has no regular job. He lives with his wife and two children. His wife has regular bouts of depression as a result of having nothing to eat most of the time: Nasiraan ng bait dahil madalas walang makain. Pinoposas na lang nila sa bahay pag sinusumpong. Sebastian has a brother who lives in Pasay City. And he visits his brother every month. He does not take a jeepney or a bus or an FX in going to Pasay. He walks by his lonesome as he has no money for transportation. Walang pera lagi. He starts walking early in the morning, taking the pedestrian lane of Marcos Highway on his way to Cubao. From Cubao, he turns left at EDSA, continues walking with speeding buses and other vehicles passing him by. For his long journey, he has two pieces of Storck candies in his pocket. They are penny candies too expensive to buy. He returns late in the afternoon.
The church bells were ringing. I bade E.R. goodbye. From the Shoe Museum, I walked a few meters to the church, of course, with the dogs right behind me. I stayed near the main door, concerned that the dogs would create disturbances anytime. As I was in the middle of my patented prayer, somebody tapped me lightly from behind. It was the middle-aged beggar. He was asking money for food: Di pa po ako kumakain. I drew out from my belt bag a slice of a clubhouse sandwich and gave it to the man. Dagdagan po nyo ng pera kahit singkwenta. Mahal na po ang bigas, said the man. I gave him a ten-peso coin and uttered: Dagdag mo na lang itong sampu. Sa iba mo naman hingin yung iba. At subukan mo din humanap ng trabaho. Mas malakas ka pa sa akin. I made the sign of the cross, stepped out of the church compound and crossed the street leading to the banks of the river. It was already twilight time.
|This is not a big manicured lawn. This is not bermuda grass or blue grass. This is the same Manggahan Floodway in Pasig shown in previous photo. This time it is covered with water lilies. Photo taken on March 19, 2014.|
|Shanties are erected along the banks of the floodway. The slums are five rows deep.|
|These slum dwellers along the banks of the Manggahan Floodway impede the flow of water. They also expose themselves to danger during the rainy season. The government has approved a relocation program for these dwellers.|
|As some residents do not have their own C.R.s, this one serves as common toilet.|
|Extension of a house along the banks made from junked materials.|
|For the past 3 years, this man has arrogated unto himself the concrete step of a building as his sleeping quarters. He wears the same clothes everyday. He asks money from jeepney drivers.|
|Next to the man shown in preceding photo is another vagrant all wrapped in sacks. It is his way of protecting himself from pestering mosquitoes.|
|This lady is said to be mentally unstable. She strips naked, walks through the main road and side streets and asks P5 from strangers. Once she was picked up by the authorities, only to be released later.|
|Since the LRT train terminal in Santolan, Pasig became operational, this person with disability has occupied a portion of an overpass to ask for alms.|
|At midday, when the sun is at its brightest, this street lad is slumped on the pavement of a bridge at Ongpin Street.|
|An old woman and a child share Jollibee french fries while begging near the stairs of an overpass leading to Robinson's Mall.|
|The same old woman and child but this time, she is wearing a hat.|
|Two youngsters begging along Marcos Highway in Cainta, Rizal.|
|At Ongpin Bridge|
|An old dilapidated nipa hut stands at the shoulder of a national road in Central Luzon.|
|These shanties stand on what used to be a small creek in an eastern town of Rizal.|
|One of the many slums clustered in what used to be a creek. The creek is gone and the water diverted elsewhere.|
|These are water meters of countless shanties erected in a small sitio in Rizal.|
|For a measly prize of P50, kids participate in a parlor game where they try to get hold of a coconut. They get dirty with mud while grappling with the others for possession of the greased coconut.|
|Even young girls join the fun.|
|A street mendicant rests near a huge Meralco post along Marcos Highway in the province of Rizal.|
|Another vagrant rests on the same spot. He is deep in thought.|
|A woman sorts out garbage. She does it everyday.|
|This man sleeps regularly near the banks of the river. He sleeps early and wakes up early.|
|Worker Bunso buys bread shaped like a roasted pig or lechon every New Year's Eve at a bakery in Antipolo, Rizal. He cannot afford to buy the real lechon.|