Poverty in the Philippines and the problems without solutions.

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.

naked child eating from old pizza box

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.

Oxfam in Sudan

Toyota Land Cruiser - UNICEF donated to take kids to school!











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.

8 comments for “Poverty in the Philippines and the problems without solutions.

  1. Anonymous
    November 5, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Hi Matt, I applaud your thoughts on families taking on and nurturing these children. However, I have personally seen same families abuse their nephews/nieces, a lot of the times using them as slave labour. There is a family in my town using a nephew as a slave. The boy is only 10 years old, but errands around the house/family are given priority over his schooling with the result the boy can not even read or write! Granted he has a roof over his head and fed 3 times a day, but is that really all he can expect in life? Once he becomes an adult, he won’t be able to find a decent job and to give his own family decent lives. This is really sad considering this boy came from once one of the wealthiest families in my town.

    I have heard also heard nieces being sold off to prostitution. A few years ago, I saw a documentary about a crusading Priest in Angeles city who was rescuing children sold off to prostitution. One of the girls he rescued was a 14 year old half-Aussie girl who was sold to prostitution by her mother’s Filipino BF after her Australian father died. They needed the money for drugs. The girl would was very pretty and would have been a real income earner for the bar she was sold to. But the moral of this story is, families does not always mean haven. I think sometimes that if they are left on the streets, the children become so street savvy early in life. I am not advocating they should be left to their own devices, but if the alternative is a life of slavery, especially sexual slavery, then they might be better off fending for themselves.
    I am very aware of the enormous social problems in my country of birth. But I do not give to agencies because I know not much filters to the real needy. As I am able to come home at least once a year, I prefer to give to needy people in my province because I know who is needy and who is not.
    Another great post.

    • Tropicalpenpals
      November 7, 2010 at 11:43 am

      Hi Christine,
      I know there are many problems within the children’s lives but just wonder how many could be resolved. I heard of stories of kids in India with similar plights but there were several who had emotional trauma from a death in the family or their mother/father had remarried. These are things that could be understood as the parents themselves were not bad people, there was another documentary where a father although poor was searching for his son everywhere and travelled to the main cities searching the streets and although he couldn’t afford to pay for the trips regularly he didn’t give up hope and any chance he had he was looking for the child. Not all parents are bad and I know about the slavery as helps or sex slaves which are instigated by relatives who either have drug habits etc. or have already had their lives tainted by being in the sex trade themselves so put their close relatives to work acting as a pimp or selling them to the highest bidder. These souls wouldn’t be easy to save and the other issue with the sex industry is its a very dangerous industry to be involved in especially trying to get people back out of it. If there is opportunity though I think being able to give even a glimmer of hope maybe some can be removed to a better life.

    • Tropicalpenpals
      November 7, 2010 at 11:47 am

      Your right about the organisations and that’s why i was highlighting the way they waste money on expensive vehicles as well as poor administration, over calculated expenses and in some cases they even get robbed by local rebels in things like food aid which is then taken to the markets in some countries and sold still bagged in the agencies rice sacks. Which means they are also assisting with funding with rebels in directly..

      Its as I say to people when they ask how to help here the answer can only be come and do it yourself don’t ask what I see and find look with your eyes and see for yourself.. take some photos and when you go back to your country stick the photo on your desk. Want to make a difference most of it is down to remembering and being proactive in other countries not here. Change here can only happen by pressure from outside the country. If the NGO’s stopped funding many projects the country would either decline or have to accept that there has to be rules in place that force funding to be managed properly and in a efficent manner as well as no corruption.. may not happen in my lifetime but I will never turn a blind eye in the hope change can and will happen.

  2. Anonymous
    November 6, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I tell you the truth Matt, I am 31 years old but never been even once voted every election in the Philippines. Why should I vote if I know Philippines has no honest politician to choose from? It is also the reason why I rather like to stay other country than in the Philippines because I lost already my hope that Philippines will be one of the other leading country. Of course we are always proud of our country but every time I see the problems and such photos above in the Philippines, it really hurts me inside. I always have a dream hoping one day that Philippines image will change into positive but I don’t know when it will happen.

    • Tropicalpenpals
      November 7, 2010 at 11:37 am

      Thing is many of the problems within the Philippines or any developing nation are down to corruption but not just inside the country being outside your vote in Germany counts more than it will ever do in the Philippines as you have a voice there. You can talk to others and explain the issues and give the people a voice abroad. Because people think corruption is at the officials level only in general they see that a country has corruption only within its walls yet the fact is look at Nestle and how it targets mothers and children for milk by lying about the benefits of its products that’s not a Philippines company. What about all the resources taken from the Philippines islands and going to private peoples pockets who is buying the products its not Filipinos… Corruption is at the top and the biggest countries in the West are more to blame than the internal issues within the Philippines.

      • Anonymous
        November 7, 2010 at 5:46 pm

        You mentioned about Filipinos buying products that is not from a Philippines company. This is also a contributing problem to the Philippines socially and economically. Filipinos has been brainwashed to buy imported right from they were born, that our products are somewhat inferior compared to every one else’s. I witnessed this all around me from as long as I can remember. Not so much in the provinces, but in the cities in particular. When I was going to school, the koolest kid were the ones who were wearing either designer labels (made overseas of course and preferably came from the US) or carrying items (bags, jewelleries) that came from abroad. Even while shopping last time I was home, the most common sales talk is “imported na ma’am” (this is imported). I don’t think some Pinoys understand that not supporting our “made in the Philippines” can mean unemployment for themselves, their brothers/sisters/cousins/uncles, etc., that if you can’t sell your product, then you can’t employ people. The love of imports is a big problem in the Philippines, not only because the country has to pay for those in foreign currencies but people might spend 5 times as much in buying an imported item compared to buying a locally made product.

        • Tropicalpenpals
          November 7, 2010 at 9:13 pm

          Its a common problem the world over its one of my frustrations in the UK as that people absorb up consumer products without even giving local products a chance. Now for something like the automotive industry with “Rover” that company had put its own nails in its coffin a long time ago but it did have Range Rover, Land Rover and the Mini which were are all good products the problem was it refused to develop with the market and get rid of its larger factory that was at least 10 years behind the competition. They expected and relied on nationalism to keep them afloat and people got tired of it. On the other hand if more people had brought their product maybe they would have developed and caught up… The problem is the industries are all going East Burburry for example had no reason to leave the UK its products are expensive and its got a huge following. Its original links with a Welsh town could have kept the factory open as well as stayed profitable. What it has done is sold out on the country and its workers moving its production to China yet it had no need and like this :- http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/290-jobs-axed-as-burberry-closes-factory-1451593.html it continues to swap loyalty and history for profit and greed.

          The Philippines biggest problem though is the families that maintain control of everything for themselves as this hinders development. You want to buy something major people just say SM or Ayala, everything is controlled from the import to sales counter to benefit these families. There is also problems with the mail service which stops small business people being able to export due to the costs involved so even at the start of a small business your pretty much going to struggle at best it is all done on purpose because any other reason would be madness..

          • Anonymous
            November 8, 2010 at 3:34 am

            Again, the monopoly to a handful of influential and very rich Filipino families has been around for years. One of the biggest social problems in the Philippines, perpetuating the unequal distribution of wealth. Australia is like the UK and the US. We have been sending our manufacturing to 3rd world countries. We don’t even have a textile industry anymore! My last visit to the Philippines, I wanted to buy Australian made products for presents. I found very few. Even our Australian souveniers were all made in China!