The “Other Side” of Divisoria (Manila, Philippines)

The “Other Side” of Divisoria (Manila, Philippines)

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

While Divisoria has always been known as the shoppers’ Mecca, especially, during Christmas, there is” another side” of it which I do not want to present as an image of poverty but that of perseverance, patience, and honest endeavor. This is the “other Divisoria” which many people just refuse to see as it might cause them to puke! The accompanying photos show how these honest Filipinos contentedly strive to live in sheer honesty.

 

The skeptics always say, “it is their fault for going to Manila and suffer deprivation”. These hypocrite skeptics have  TV, radio, and occasionally read newspapers, so they should know that the provinces from where these people who are eking out an honest living on the “other side” of Divisoria, are infested with NPAs, Abu Sayyaf, opportunistic landlords, and loan sharks. For the arrogant, the world is just for those who can afford to live decently. On the other hand, as these skeptics have not endured days of hunger, they may not understand how it is to make a difficult decision to live a hand-to-mouth life in Manila by scavenging in garbage dumps, rather than die of hunger and be in constant fear for dear life in the province.

 

It is true that the slums have been in existence for many decades now, but there would be no slums had the government ever since the time the nation has become independent, did not get infested with corrupt lawmakers and officials. The slums have been around since the time that deprivation and exploitation have been propagated by learned Filipinos who found their way in the halls of Congress and Senate, as well as, agencies, even at the helm of the government. Unfortunately, the seed of exploitation has grown into an uncontrollable proportion today, making corruption as wrongly and unfairly viewed to be always a part of the Filipino culture.

 

The striving people from the slums near Divisoria, and other districts of Manila, in this regard, may be viewed by the arrogant as akin to dogs and cats, because of their many children, oftentimes making them utter unsavory remark, such as, “they know they are poor, yet, they keep on having children”.

 

How I wish these skeptics can also openly, make biting remarks –

  • to the corrupt politicians and government officials, such as, “they graduated from prestigious universities and colleges, yet, they do not know what is right or wrong”

 

  • to the filthy rich, such as, “they have plenty of money, yet they can’t even throw a piece of bread to a beggar”

 

  • to the stiff-necked Catholic priests, pastors, and other religious ministers such as, “they are supposed to be representatives of the Lord, but they can’t afford to take a look at the spiritually hungry”

 

Finally, compared to the disgusting hypocrites, loan sharks, corrupt government officials, arrogant “religious ministers” and conscienceless rich, who are supposed to be learned and intelligent, the people who honestly make a living such as those who belong to the “other side” of Divisoria, are worthy to be called creatures of God – true human beings…slum denizens who are viewed by aforementioned with utter repugnance.

 

(This blog will definitely, not hurt those who do not belong to the mentioned “classes” of loathsome Filipinos.)

 

 

Cristina Toledo Cabanayan Packs Food for Prison Inmates

Cristina Toledo Cabanayan

Packs Food for Prison Inmates

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

I came to learn of the advocacy of Cristina Toledo Cabanayan when I took my brunch in their roadside food stall along Camba St. in Divisoria….she packs food for some inmates in Manila City Jail. It all started when her son (name withheld upon request) who was detained asked her to include his newly found friends, in the lunch pack that she prepares for him during visitation days. Her son found out that his friends have not been receiving visitors for a very long time, hence, depended on the meager and strictly- budgeted meals served by the jail administration.

Div Cristina Bermudo OK

 

Soonest as she heard their stories, she did not hesitate to pack meals taken from what she sells along Camba St. of Divisoria district for her son and his friends. The pack meals are brought by her grandsons to their father who is thirty six years old. The day I took my brunch, a Saturday, was a visitation day for the Manila City Jail inmates.

 

I learned, too, that Cristina’s altruism also benefited Lagring, who was adopted by her family when she found her living in the area alone, after having been abandoned by her family. Cristina nurtured Lagring back to her health, and today she helps in the operation of the roadside eatery by taking charge of everything that needs to be washed – eating utensils, pots, pans, etc. Though she is still noticeably skinny, she is back to her former spritely self. I found her washing pots and plates when I dropped by the food stall.

Div Cristina Bermudo 1 OK

The husband of Cristina is a retiree with a frail health, making it necessary for him to stay at home, where he does the easy chores while the rest of the members are doing their share in the food stall. Miracle, Cristina’s daughter, though with a family of her own, helps her mother run the small business. The cooperation among the family members spared Cristina from hiring extra hands which is what food stall owners normally do.

Div Cristina Bermudo 2 OK

The food stall is the source of the family’s livelihood, the blessing from which they also share with others in the best way that they can afford, but despite such, they are able to make both ends meet, as a proverb goes. They do not even know for how long they can hold on to their roadside space that accommodates their pushcart laden with foods. Despite such apprehension, Cristina, a typical Filipino, is fatalistic though in a positive way. She grew up in the same area and had her own share of ordeals that made her tough as a person.

The “Other Side” of Divisoria

The “Other Side” of Divisoria (Manila, Philippines)

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

While Divisoria has always been known as the shoppers’ Mecca, especially, during Christmas, there is” another side” of it which I do not want to present as an image of poverty but that of perseverance, patience, and honest endeavor. This is the “other Divisoria” which many people just refuse to see as it might cause them to puke! The accompanying photos show how these honest Filipinos contentedly strive to live in sheer honesty.

 

The skeptics always say, “it is their fault for going to Manila and suffer deprivation”. These hypocrite skeptics have  TV, radio, and occasionally read newspapers, so they should know that the provinces from where these people who are eking out an honest living on the “other side” of Divisoria, are infested with NPAs, Abu Sayyaf, opportunistic landlords, and loan sharks. For the arrogant, the world is just for those who can afford to live decently. On the other hand, as these skeptics have not endured days of hunger, they may not understand how it is to make a difficult decision to live a hand-to-mouth life in Manila by scavenging in garbage dumps, rather than die of hunger and be in constant fear for dear life in the province.

 

It is true that the slums have been in existence for many decades now, but there would be no slums had the government ever since the time the nation has become independent, did not get infested with corrupt lawmakers and officials. The slums have been around since the time that deprivation and exploitation have been propagated by learned Filipinos who found their way in the halls of Congress and Senate, as well as, agencies, even at the helm of the government. Unfortunately, the seed of exploitation has grown into an uncontrollable proportion today, making corruption as wrongly and unfairly viewed to be always a part of the Filipino culture.

 

The striving people from the slums near Divisoria, and other districts of Manila, in this regard, may be viewed by the arrogant as akin to dogs and cats, because of their many children, oftentimes making them utter unsavory remark, such as, “they know they are poor, yet, they keep on having children”.

 

How I wish these skeptics can also openly, make biting remarks –

  • to the corrupt politicians and government officials, such as, “they graduated from prestigious universities and colleges, yet, they do not know what is right or wrong”

 

  • to the filthy rich, such as, “they have plenty of money, yet they can’t even throw a piece of bread to a beggar”

 

  • to the stiff-necked Catholic priests, pastors, and other religious ministers such as, “they are supposed to be representatives of the Lord, but they can’t afford to take a look at the spiritually hungry”

 

Finally, compared to the disgusting hypocrites, loan sharks, corrupt government officials, arrogant “religious ministers” and conscienceless rich, who are supposed to be learned and intelligent, the people who honestly make a living such as those who belong to the “other side” of Divisoria, are worthy to be called creatures of God – true human beings…slum denizens who are viewed by aforementioned with utter repugnance.

 

(This blog will definitely, not hurt those who do not belong to the mentioned “classes” of loathsome Filipinos.)

 

Look beyond a person…to discover more about him

Look beyond a person

…to discover more about him

Apolinario Villalobos

The title of this share, actually, is a derivative of the saying, “do not judge a book by its cover”. A not so pretty or handsome face for instance does not necessarily mean that the person has a mean attitude. Also, we should not judge the financial status of a person by looking at his or her face. This is in line with the impression that the more exquisiteness it is, the better chance that he or she is from a well-off family, because “rich people are beautiful people”. This also goes with the way some people dress up.

One Saturday, I befriended a guy who sold “buraot” items or junks on a sidewalk in Divisoria. Every time I saw him on Saturdays, he was wearing the same tattered dark brown shirt and oversized basketball shorts. I just presumed that they perhaps, consisted his Saturday get up. Sometimes his two children would be with him. One time, I endeavored to befriend him, and broke the ice by buying many of his cheap items. I was thankful that he entertained my queries, until he accepted my offer to buy snacks for the three of them. I pretended to be engrossed in our conversation so that I could patiently wait until it was time for them to pack up their wares at ten that morning. With apprehension, I asked if he would allow me to see where they live, to which the guy acceded. We walked our way to a shanty of discarded tarpaulins and plywood boards by the bank of a river. His wife was out, collecting junks from garbage dumps.

Inside the shack, I saw a framed photo of three boys between a man and a woman, obviously, a family portrait. When asked, he told me that the smallest boy was he, and those with him were his parents and brothers. I found out that he came from a well-to-do family in Mandaluyong, with the name even sounding familiar. Without waiting for my questions, he volunteered that he left their home to elope with his girlfriend, the daughter of their laundrywoman. He had to do it after learning that she was two months pregnant with their baby. His parents did not approve of their relationship ever since. Rather than give them reason to fire the mother of the girl, the two opted to just go away.

The guy was 22 years old and his wife, 25. Their elder child was 4 years old and the younger, 3. He added that his wife had already undergone the so-called clinical family planning operation, or ligation. He was in his second year college when they eloped. His wife finished high school and was working as a sales girl in a mall. Her contract was not renewed, forcing her to work in a sidewalk carinderia as an all- around assistant. They had bright plans for their kids, even showed me four mineral water bottles heavy with coins, and a purse full of folded bills. They planned to enroll their elder child in the barangay/DSW-sponsored prep school three blocks away from their shanty.

When I learned that both kids were not yet baptized, I asked if it’s okay to have them undergo such rite in Sta. Cruz church or Binondo church, expenses on me, including lunch afterwards. When he agreed, I told him to look for two sponsors, a male and a female, to which he excitedly suggested his friends who were also selling junks in Divisoria. He told me that he and his wife still had decent clothes for such occasion. From the shanty, I went to the Binondo church, the nearest to where they lived, to inquire about scheduled baptisms and make the necessary arrangements. When everything was in order, I went back to my friend and told him to alert his wife and their two friends for the set schedule on the following Sunday. Eventually, the two kids became Christians. We shared a simple lunch in a sidewalk carinderia afterwards.

For the undiscerning, the unkempt appearance of others who eke a living from the refuse in dumps, can be revolting, and they are perceived as a hopeless lot. The story that I have shared shows that it is unfair to make hasty judgments based on the external appearance of a person. Behind the unkempt appearance could be a fervent desire fuelled by perseverance to live decently. The guy whose story I have shared, showed that in this world, anything is possible, and that a happy life does not always depend on money. In other words, behind unkempt appearances could be dreams!

The family I met was a picture of happiness, living on discarded vegetables and overnight-old sometimes burnt rice asked from carinderias, and drizzled with coffee or broth of vegetables and instant noodles to make it palatable. Despite their hand-to-mouth existence, he and his wife still had the courage to make plans for their two kids. They have been painstakingly setting aside a portion from what meager earnings that they derive from the junks they sell for their future. And, for all those, they do not even harbor a bit of hatred towards anybody, much more, the guy’s parents.

The guy told me that he still loves his parents, and he plans to bring his family to them on December 20, his birthday, to seek their blessing, especially, for the kids, but has no plans of living with them again. For him, it is important that his parents will know that he and his family are doing well.