The “us” in the title refers to the four of us in the group. The two are based in the United States, but come home every second week of November for our sharing project that commences every third week of November and strictly ends on the first week of December. On the other hand, I and the other one are locally- based.
Many of those who know us still don’t understand why we “meddle” with the lives of others by helping them. One of my friends even went to the extent of sending me a message last year when he read my blogs about Baseco Compound in Tondo. His message read, “hayaan mo na sila, kasalanan nila kung bakit sila naghihirap…mamumulubi ka lang sa ginagawa mo”. I did not bother to reply to that message…but from then on, he seems to have detached himself from me. The other member of the group who is based locally, too, had a misunderstanding with his wife until their eldest son interfered…in his favor, so from then, his wife sort of just supported him. The two others, who are based abroad are lucky because aside from being supported by their families, they are also able to collect donations from friends who came to know about our projects.
My opinion is that it is difficult for others to really understand how it feels to be impoverished because, either, they have not been through such, or refused to admit that they were poor once, out of pride. I do not know if some of you experienced the pang of hunger for having not taken breakfast and lunch while attending classes. I do not know if some of you have experienced wearing underwear twice your size – being hand-me-downs from rich relatives. I do not know if some of you have experienced catching ice cubes thrown by a friend, instead of being handed even a sandwich by him during his birthday. I do not know if some of you have experienced making toys out of milk cans from the garbage dump, etc. etc.etc. I have experienced those when I was young.
My other colleague in the group and who is based in Manila, admitted to have been a scavenger when he was young. He also shared how every morning before going to school, he stood by carinderias and ate the leftover food on the plates of customers. As a scavenger, he and his brothers cooked “batchoy” out of the food they scavenged from the garbage bins of Chinese restaurants. He also unabashedly admitted to having worked as a call boy when their father got sick to earn quick money to support his two younger brothers and one sister (they were left by their mother). He got lucky when he landed a job as a messenger/sales clerk of a big hardware store in Sta. Cruz (a district in Manila City). Good fortune smiled at him, when the daughter of his employer fell in love with him, which made him part of the family business.
The third in our group, a doctor is the luckiest because at an early age he got adopted by a rich and kind couple who were US Green Card holders. But while growing up in Pasay, he was close to the less fortunate in their neighborhood. He is married to the daughter of their laundrywoman who is now operating a small catering business in the States.
The fourth in our group found his way toward us through the doctor, as he was the latter’s neighbor in the States. He shared that he grew up in a farm in Bicol and also experienced difficulties in life, as he and his siblings would cross a shallow river and hiked two kilometers to reach their school. He was introduced to our “operations” when he got curious, so he joined us in 2009, after promising to abide by our rules – no photo taking, wearing only slippers, t-shirt and shorts when on the road to share, and no giving of true name or divulging of real identity to the beneficiaries, as well as, willingness to partake of what our friends in slums eat.
What makes us click together is that, as if on cue, we practically forget who we really are every time we start hitting the road just before sunrise, to share. We would sometimes call each other unconsciously, by our assumed names…but we do not consider such slip as a joke, because we are those names every time we mingle with our friends to share. For those who insist on knowing us, we ask them to just remember us by our acts, and not by our face and name.
Though how Progressive a Country is, there will always be
Poverty because of Corruption
By Apolinario Villalobos
Perfection should be ruled out in the reckoning of a progressive country, because there will always be poverty due to corruption somewhere in the system of governance. In other words, the glitter of progress cannot hide poverty. For ultra-progressive countries, the signs may be insignificant as they try to blend with the glamour of urbanity. But in other countries, especially, the third-world, the signs are very prevalent, so that there is always a massive effort to cover them up occasionally, literally, as it is done every time there are special occasions such as visits of foreign dignitaries. This practice is successful in the Philippines.
Practically, poverty is the shadow of progress, and literally, too, as where there are looming high-rise buildings that are pockmarks of progress, not far from them are slums or homeless citizens who huddle together under bridges and nooks. These are misguided citizens who flock to the cities after selling their homestead, that have been farmed for several generations, to deceitful land developers, at a measly price. These are the urban squatters willing to be relocated but found out that the promised “paradise” do not even have a deep well so they go back to their sidewalk “homes”. These are contractual workers who have no job securities as they earn only for five to six months, after which they leave their fate to luck while looking for another job.
How does corruption ever be involved in the sad fate of the exploited? Simply, by the government’s negligence in providing decent relocation sites with job opportunities and basic facilities to those uprooted from their city abodes for more than so many years; by its cuddling of the spurious contractualization perpetrated by greedy employers; by its failure to guide and protect the rights of farmers who sell their rice fields to subdivision developers at measly prices that are not even enough to sustain them for six months; by its failure to provide the citizens with the basic necessities as funds are allowed to be pocketed by corrupt officials; and practically by looking the other way despite the availability of laws against vote buying.
Third- world country leaders should stop using the word “progressive”, but instead they should use “surviving” to describe their respective economy. If a country’s economy cannot sustain, much less, provide a “comfortable life” to majority of its citizens, then it is still “ailing”…hence, expect poverty to be trailing behind, just a few steps away from the pretentious allegations!
Ngayong Oktubre 2015, naalala ko ang isang “donor” na ipinakilala sa akin ng isang kaibigan na regular donor para sa mga project ng maliit naming grupo. Nangyari ito noong nakaraang taon. Akala ko ay ang kaibigan ko lang ang madadatnan ko sa restoran na tipanan namin sa Greenbelt area ng Makati Business Center, na malapit lang sa office ng kaibigan ko. Dahil ang pinag-uusapan ay tungkol sa fund-raising para sa pasko 2014, nakisali ang kaibigan ng kaibigan ko, at nagsabi na magdo-donate din daw. Subalit nagulat ako nang tanungin niya kung saan daw ang “office” namin. Sabi ko, “wala, at apat lang kami sa grupo”. Dagdag pa niya ay kung pwede daw ba siyang humingi ng resebo para magamit niya sa tax deduction. Muntik na akong mabulunan ng mainit na kape sa tanong niya. Sa umpisa medyo nairita ako pero nagpaliwanag pa rin ako na hindi kami rehistrado sa SEC. Naisipan kong sakyan na lang siya. Binigyan ko siya ng address kung saan siya puwedeng maghatid ng donation na mga de lata daw.
Four days ang nakalipas, habang kasagsagan ng pag-repack namin ng mga items, dumating ang “donor”, may dalang isang kahon ng sardinas. Natuwa kami, pero ang “donor” ay hindi, dahil ang dinatnan niya ay isang lumang garahe ng kaibigan ko at amoy-tuyo pa, dahil kasama ang tuyo sa nire-repack para sa mga plastic bag… akala siguro niya ay big time kami. Kahit amoy pawis kaming apat, ininterteyn pa rin namin siya, hindi nga lang namin nabigyan ng kape dahil ayaw naming bawasan ang mga donasyong kape na naka-sachet.
Halata ang disappointment niya. Wala yatang konsiyensiya, nagtanong pa kung bakit wala man lang kaming t-shirt na isinusuot tulad nang ginagawa ng ibang Foundation. Inulit ko sa kanyang hindi kami Foundation. Patanong na sabi ko, pangalan nga namin ay hindi namin ibinibigay, bakit pa kami magpapa-obvious pa sa pagsuot ng t-shirt? Ang dagdag paliwanag namin, dis-oras kami namimigay para walang makapansin.
Ang isang kasama ko ay hindi nakatiis, nag-“excuse me” at pumunta sa labas…akala ko ay galit. Nang sundan ko, nadatnan ko siyang namimilipit sa pagtawang pilit pinipigil. Tumigil lamang siya sa pagtawa nang tanungin niya ako kung saan ko na-meet ang “donor”. Hindi ko na sinagot ang tanong niya, basta ang sabi ko na lang ay, “hayaan mo na….may donation naman”. Pagbalik namin sa loob, inabot naming nagkokodakan ang dalawa pa naming kasama at ang “donor”. Nag-group picture kami, pa-selfie.
Maya-maya tumawag sa cellphone ang “donor” at ang kausap yata ay driver niya dahil ang sinabi ay,” Hoy, ang kotse ihanda mo na at lalabas na ako diyan, buksan mo na ang aircon…yong pinabalot kong pansit na natira sa restoran pala ipasok mo rito sa loob”. Maya-maya pumasok uli ang lalakeng naka-short- sleeved barong tagalong na nagdala ng kahon ng sardinas, may dalang supot na malamang, ang laman ay ang tirang pansit. Nagpasalamat kami sa dalaw ng “donor” at sa kanyang donation….at pansit. Nang ihatid ko siya sa labas ng gate, nakita kong Porsche ang kotse niya. Nag-alala lang ako dahil ang ibinigay niyang pansit ay baka para sa driver o kasambahay…kawawa naman sila.
Familiar pala sa isa kong kasama ang babaeng “donor”, kabit daw ng isang milyonaryong negosyante ng itlog at manok, at may palaisdaan pa na taga-Bulacan. Ang kasama naming nagsabi ay taga-Bulacan din, subalit tuwing Oktubre lang umuuwi mula sa Amerika at ang bakasyon niya ay hanggang Enero. Umuuwi siya para lang makibahagi sa fund-raising tuwing Oktubre at pamamahagi ng Christmas bags tuwing last week ng November. Akala siguro ng starlet ay may mga taga- media siyang madadatnan sa “repacking center” namin tulad nang nangyayari sa mga Foundation center ng mga kilalang TV stations. Makakatiyempo nga naman siya ng libreng mileage kung sakali at baka may makapansin upang makabalik siya sa pelikula. Bold starlet siya dati, at maganda pa rin hanggang ngayon…suki siguro siya ni Dra. Belo.
Ngayong taon, ingat na ingat na kami sa pagtanggap ng mga donasyon para sa pasko 2015, at baka makatiyempo kami ng mas matinding personalidad na gustong mag-“donate”. Lalong masama kung makatiyempo kami ng pulitiko, panahon pa naman ng kampanyahan para sa election 2016.