When I first came to the Philippines in 2007 there is a strange occurrence when you first see the country that makes you feel you are home, a place of belonging and somewhere you would be happy to spend the rest of your life. As you become familiarised you start moving from the comfort and security of a guarded resort to experience the real Philippines that is not only out of curiosity but also wanting to learn to understand.
I would like to thank Steven Black Photography for providing the photos.
To learn to understand has taken the three years I have been here so far as the issues behind poverty are not only complex but peoples perspective on life,religion and who they regard as one of there own makes a huge difference aswell as the stagnant way poverty is tackled.
In the photo above you can see how children are used to ask people for money not only the young child carrying a baby in her arms which in many cases is done on purpose for begging purposes you can also see on the top left an adult pulling a child’s arm to put out her hand to beg. A lot of the begging is professional and staged in a way to entice money out of people. I haven’t experienced gangs controlling people here but it no doubt happens similar to that in the movie “Slum Dog Millionaire” where the kids are coached into a life of begging basically used as slaves by adults. What I have seen though is the adults in Cebu encouraging kids to go and ask for money by targeting the people they want the kids to approach. They know people are more likely to give to a child over an adult and thus it goes from poverty to a business operating on it. The average person earns around P300 a day here and often that person is supporting an entire family, I am not talking about the street beggar I am talking about the people actually in normal jobs. So if you were begging in a busy location how much do you think you could earn in a day? what about if you had 10 kids running around doing the begging for you? bet you could gain more than that P300.
I would like to thank Steven Black Photography for providing the photos
Truth of the matter is photos like above hit a raw core with people as this child is obviously hungry and willing to take any scraps he can get to survive. At the same time after you close this blog post how long will it take you to forget about him?
People will always say why aren’t rich countries doing more but in reality they are doing a lot already how much are you doing? The problem is nobody is watching where funds go, donations, government aid or other sources. Many of these countries are rich in resources but even more rich in corrupt officials. In Haiti people are complaining the funds offered by countries haven’t been released but that comes back to corruption just as much as anything else. What people should be trying to change is how Charities, Non Government organisations and governments who receive funding operate. If they can’t be trusted and can’t be made accountable no money should be arriving to any of the countries currently getting aid.
Maybe its just me but why do charities and NGO’s spend so much on vehicles? because they aren’t paying for them for a start. The Unicef one on the right they actually gave away to take kids to school as they no longer needed it. Could you think of a better use of the money/vehicle? Its not the right vehicle for school transportation and no doubt its being driven round in by a local mayor etc. Truth of the matter is many of these humanitarian organisations waste money and feed it into the hands of the corrupt. I would also go as far to say they are one of the biggest causes of stagnant poverty on the planet. The reasons behind my thinking are though they don’t take responsibility for anything bad and because not controlled by governments they are unaccountable to anyone so if something they do goes wrong they will write it up as something completely different and walk away from it blaming rebels, governments etc. etc. But one thing is for sure their adverts of the starving and poor will be on TV asking YOU for more money. These “companies” need to be brought to be accountable for poor administration and blind spending as well as the affects and damage they cause. Not all charities/NGO’s are bad but living in a third world country and talking to literally hundreds of people I have only experienced one charity personally making a difference in a positive light and I have never heard anyone speak well of another organisation. Now one of the important things is to remember if you have an NGO dealing with government issues as well as ploughing in cash where do you think the other money goes that should be helping? If a local mayor/governor etc. doesn’t need to fund something and can palm it off to some NGO he/she will no doubt be cashing in and filling their own bank account this also helps keep the government in the same state as you’ve now funded their next election.
Now moving away from NGO’s because I could talk all day about the negative affects although there are some positive ones I don’t believe in general the funding given/used is best spent the way they operate as well as the fact they are normally short-term thinkers.
There was a recent discussion in Minglanilla I had as regards the homeless and the garbage site squatters. See for people from Minglanilla they don’t see these people as their problem because they weren’t invited here and aren’t wanted. They come from other islands and personally I think they shouldn’t be helped here but on the islands they came from aswell as getting them to move back th
ere. Now I am aware of on going conflicts in some regions but some people have just migrated and its nothing to do with MILF or any other terrorist group. So from Minglanilla’s point of view I can understand they don’t want other peoples problems here as they have enough of their own. If people spent more time talking to the people they are trying to help you will find the root problems and may find a long term solution staring you in the face. Same as street children the majority are runaways, now I can understand people running away from sex abuse, violent homes etc. etc. but what about if some of them literally just ran away couldn’t more be done to track down their guardians and find out if at least some can head back to their families. Because living on the streets they are often sexually abused, introduced to rugby glue sniffing and on top of the begging may get attacked. So uniting with some families that may not be the greatest homes could still be their only chance of getting out of the dangerous life of a homeless child.
Religion is also one of the biggest problems when it comes to poverty as it not only feeds off it but offers hope and salvation at the same time. As a westerner generally we take religion out of everyday scenarios e.g. we know we need to work and we know we have bad days but have to get through them to pay the bills! but so many times I hear that “god will provide” and if things are really crap “god is testing us”. Well here is a reality check most of the issues relating to birth control issues and the number of kids people have here comes down to religion most of the issues are interpretation of the bible not the facts within it. Do you think if Jesus did exist a person born in a stable and wore cheap robes would expect someone struggling day to day to donate to the richest buildings in every town (the church)? I don’t think so.. because his beliefs are in helping the poor not taking from them.
How could poverty be ended? To be honest a lot of the issues are down to getting responsibility of everyone to actually take part. Here in the Philippines like many other countries the poor have got used to hand outs. Start a daily feed program they will be there everyday and stop looking to survive themselves. Education and the ability to get people pro-actively motivated in helping themselves as well as removing corruption is the only way to do it. Corruption should be tackled in a way that not only offers criminal action but public shaming to encourage others to stop. Corruption here is expected and seen as normal. Same as the scandal to do with a UK company dealing in arms contracts bribing governments its exactly the same for getting anything done look at Oxfam in Burma getting asked for $1million in import duty for the aid and vehicles it was bringing into the country. These things need tackling from the man on the street to the heads of nations. Boycott things that you find out are working in corrupt and irresponsible manners. Such as Nestle with the way it targets poor and the uneducated with its powdered milk making it out to be some kind of wonder drug over breast milk. Its not the only player but hitting the big and working your way down the list can change things but it needs people power.