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.)
A statistician’s mind is not needed to understand the negative effect of the trouble between Iran and Iraq to the Philippine economy which is founded on her export of labor to other countries, especially, the Middle East. Even a simple pedestrian will not think deeply what the OFW Filipinos will do in beleaguered Iran and Iraq now that they are at war with each other. Rather than be trapped, they will of course come home – back to joblessness. Worse, the government has not even decided on putting a stop, albeit, temporarily to deployment of OFWs to those countries. As usual, the government waits until the situation becomes uncontrollable and millions will be spent again for the hasty evacuations, and for failures, expect finger-pointing….again.
The government is inutile such that it has not come up with fallback programs for situations like this. What OWWA offers as its livelihood program in the form of loan is not reliable. A success story from this venture is yet to be heard or read or viewed.
The agriculture sector which should have been given attention very long time ago yet, is practically gasping for breath. Literally, it is dying, as the once rice and corn fields are converted now into golf courses and subdivisions. Had these lands been preserved, they could have been used as fallbacks for displaced OFWs. In the first place, the reason why they left the country is to seek a greener pasture, as they say, because they are exploited by loan sharks that control the price of their farm products. This fact is known even by a high school student. Why can’t the appropriate government agency or agencies do something about this problem?
Self-reliance in agriculture has never been in the priority list of the government. A very clear manifestation of this negligence is the unabated importation of agricultural products from other countries. And, the situation is aggravated by smuggling that further chokes the local farmers. There is no effort in improving the agricultural products such as vegetables and rice to make them competitive with those from other countries. Ironically, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) the cradle of knowledge for high-tech rice production is located in the Philippines, particularly, Los Baἧos, Laguna, where rice technicians of other countries learn the rudiments of high-tech rice farming. Yet, the Philippines imports rice from the countries of these foreign scientists!
Trading as a gainful venture in the country is left in the hands of foreign businessmen whose stalls cram the mushrooming malls. What is left to the Filipinos are the “bilao and bangketa” business, in which merchandise are patiently arranged in piles in the round bamboo winnower and sidewalk, or the “sari-sari store”, a hole-on-the-wall “grocery”. And, this is what the OWWA expects the displaced OFWs would do with their pittance capital that it loans to them.
It is a shame that despite the availability of funds that were exposed to have been just pocketed by the corrupt in the government, the Filipinos are left with nothing, especially, for the so-called new heroes of Philippine economy, the OFWs.
Expect again the Philippine government to promise labor contracts sought from other “safe” countries…but for how long will this exportation of labor go on? Why can’t the government do something about the home-based industries and revive agriculture which was the country’s primary revenue earner? Is corruption blocking the way?….your answer is good as mine!
America is touted as the land of prosperity and opportunity which is true, but only for the disciplined and those who are willing to work. I may not have been to the United States but I have eyes that read and brains that comprehend, aside from ears that listen to the stories told by friends who went there as tourists or are still there as immigrants. Take note, physicians diagnose patients and prescribe drugs for them, not because these medical practitioners have had suffered many diseases themselves, but their decisions are based on cases that they have previously handled, written references, and information from colleagues during conventions. I am in that situation. I am making this early clarification because I am aware of the skeptic viewers who may question my right to write about this topic.
Also, I expect denials from viewers who are in situations far from their expectation of immediate success upon setting foot on American soil. These are Filipinos who want prosperity but without a bit of willingness to do menial jobs even temporarily, for immediate sustenance. Some Filipino executives who left their lucrative jobs in the Philippines expect to land in positions similar to what they have left once they set foot in America, but they were wrong. I admire those who have bravely faced the reality and immediately reset their mind to conform to the new situation they are in. In time, by dints of their patience and perseverance, they have achieved what they longed for, although perhaps, not totally. There are still many who failed until now but keep on dreaming about success which just become as evasive because of their finicky attitude.
The following are some of the situations that I can share based on my personal observations in the Philippines and second-hand information from references and friends who have experienced life in America, though not necessarily arranged according to their positive and negative implications:
In the Philippines, prestigious companies base their hiring on preferred colleges and universities, so that the intelligence of a cum laude graduate from the province is no match to a below-average graduate from an elitist university in Manila; in America, you have to prove your worth during interviews and qualifying exams.
In the Philippines, those with “golden voice” but not so pleasant face do not win in singing contest; in America, even foreign-blooded singers are given a chance and they succeed…an example is Jessica Sanchez.
In the Philippines, parents can discipline their stubborn children even to the point of using physical contact, such as mild spanking; in America, neighbors and even the children can report parents to the police, if spanking happens.
In the Philippines, coins that are less than one peso, especially, the twenty five centavos are not appreciated, an attitude of many elders which is emulated by children; in America, all tokens of exchange, to the last nickel are considered valuable, as even “coupons” can be exchanged for food items.
In the Philippines, prominent personalities cannot work even on part-time basis as Receptionist, Waitress, Waiter, or Taxi Driver; in America even popular actresses and actors work as such when there is a lull in their assignments.
In the Philippines, packaged foods usually come in small sizes; in America they come in jumbo size.
In the Philippines, one can buy from sidewalk vendors in which haggling is possible; in America items are purchased as tag-priced.
In the Philippines, consumers of electricity, water, and tenants, are given a “wide allowance” for the extension of their obligations, as extensive as 3 months; in America, pleading is not possible.
In the Philippines, tenants can accumulate even six months arrear on rented apartment or room covered with guarantee from the Barangay; in America, a two-month arrear can result to eviction.
In the Philippines, if one is depressed he or she can barge into the home of a friend to seek solace or a shoulder to cry on; in America, visits are scheduled, understandably, as practically everyone is maximizing the use of time in productive undertakings.
In the Philippines, an employee makes do with a contractual job that eats up eight hours a day; in America, the industrious can squeeze in his or her time up to four jobs within 24 hours, as they come on hourly basis.
In the Philippines, only the rich can eat in high-end restaurants; in America, part-time jobbers rub shoulders with show business personalities in such restaurants.
In the Philippines, children shyly admit in school that their father is a taxi driver or a carpenter, or that their mother is a laundrywoman or a sidewalk vendor, or worse even pretend to be scions of businessmen; in America, children proudly declare in their class that they have a single mom or single dad…meaning, they are proud of their parents.
In the Philippines, many parents give in to the whims of their children who refuse to eat vegetables so they serve them hot dog every day; in America, greens, roots and fruits are part of the family’s daily diet.
In the Philippines, those who reach the age of 60 are considered senior citizens, by virtue of which they are given discounts and privileges one of which is a special lane, free birthday cake and movies in many cities, and additional allowance from the DSWD, but only very few of them are given the opportunity to work despite their obvious robust physique and good health; in America, senior citizens are encouraged to work despite the availability of social benefits upon reaching such age.
In the Philippines, traffic lights are good only when there are traffic enforcers around, and at daytime; in America, even without the traffic enforcers, the changing lights are respected, even in the dead of the night.
In the Philippines, elders are taken care of by responsible and grateful children; in America, most of them are relegated to the homes for the aged that charge hefty fees.
In the Philippines, politicians, even those in the lowest rung of the hierarchy, expect motorists to give way to them as they speed along narrow roads and highways; in America, all motorists have equal rights under normal conditions.
In the Philippines, pouting lips indicate direction when both hands are not available for such generous act; in America, pouting lips indicate beauty!
In the Philippines, families need not leave their home to enjoy the noise of firecrackers and sights of fireworks in the sky during New Year’s Eve; in America, a place is strictly designated for this, where celebrators congregate.
In the Philippines, Christmas starts in September and ends in January, so the contaminating joy is felt for a long time, and though paganistic characteristics of the celebration are observable, still the spiritual aspect can also be clearly discerned; in America, Christmas is observed faithfully in December, but many Filipinos over there say, that despite the highly- spirited mood in the air, a clearly defined difference can be “felt” making them long with aching heart for their home beyond the oceans.
IT’S 21 DAYS FOR CHRISTMAS….LET US CHANGE OUR WAYS FOR THE BETTER…LOVE GOD AND THE REST OF HIS CREATIONS!!!!!