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.)
Malaking bagay ang pag-uusap kung minsan ng magkakaibigan upang sumariwa ng mga nakaraan. Nangyari ito nang magkita kami nina Del Merano, mag-asawang Mona at Reuben Pecson na isinama ang tinuturing kong “miracle baby” nila noon, at ngayon ay binata na, si JR. Ibinuntis ni Mona si JR nang panahong mayroon siyang malaking cyst sa sinapupunan, subalit sa awa ng Diyos, nakaraos siya sa pagbuo nito hanggang maipanganak bilang isang malusog na sanggol. Ngayon si JR ay isa nang piloto. Pananalig sa Diyos ang naging kasangkapan ni Mona sa pagkakaroon ng isang matagumpay na ngayong anak na Piloto.
Sa mga kuwentuhan namin, lumabas ang pinakatago-tago sigurong kuwento ni Del tungkol sa kending hinahati pa niya upang magkasya sa maghapon niyang pagsi-sales call noong kami ay nagtatrabaho pa sa Philippine Airlines (PAL). Isa si Del sa mga pinagkakatiwalaang Account Officers ng PAL. At, dahil sa kanyang pagka-single mom, tipid na tipid ang ganyang gastos. Nagulat daw ang kasama naming kasabay niya sa pag-sales call nang ilabas niya ang kalahati ng isang kendi at isinubo bilang miryenda. Ang natirang kalahati ay kanyang itinabi para sa hapon naman.
Ikinuwento rin niya na sa pagpipilit na makapasok sa PAL ay halos nanikluhod sa nagbibigay ng typing test na bigyan siya ng ilang pagkakataon na umabot sa pang-apat hanggang abutin niya ang standard na bilis sa pagmamanikilya. Mangiyak –ngiyak siya nang makalusot sa test. Ang unang trabaho niya ay sa Accounting Office subalit napansin siya ng namumuno ng Internationals Sales Department na si Manny Relova, kaya on the spot ay sinabihan siyang mag-report sa opisina nito upang mag-issue ng mga tiket na pang-international. Dumaan siya sa masusing pag-aaral ng iba’t ibang pamasahe sa eroplano, kasama na ang sa iba pang airlines. Dahil sa kagalingan niya, mabilis ang kanyang promotion hanggang sa ma-assign sa iba’t ibang international station bilang District Sales Manager.
Naalala ko noon ang kuwento niya nang ma-assign sa San Franciso (USA). Ang tinirhan niya ay walang kagamit-gamit kaya sa sahig siya natutulog nang kung ilang araw. Kahit bago sa America ay malakas ang loob sa paglibot kaya sandali lang ay dumami na ang kanyang kontak at mga kaibigan na nakatulong ng malaki sa kanya bilang District Sales Manager.
Nag-resign siya nang bilhin ng San Miguel ang PAL, subalit nang bilhin uli ito ni Lucio Tan ay inimbita siyang bumalik na malugod naman niyang tinanggap dahil iba daw na challenge ang nararamdaman niya bilang kawani ng nasabing airline. Iniwan niya ang isang managerial job at ang malaking suweldo mula dito. Bumalik siya sa kumpanyang nagbigay sa kanya ng magandang pagkakataon upang mabago ang kanyang buhay, lalo pa at siya ay single mom. Ipinakita ni Del na ang pagtanaw ng utang na loob ay nakakagaan ng damdamin. Ngayon si Del ay District Sales Manager na uli ng San Franciso (USA).
Nakakabilib ang Ginagawa ng BUCOR (Bureau of Correction)
Ni Apolinario Villalobos
Sa ilalim ng kasalukuyang pamumuno ni Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III, nakakabilib ang ginagawa ng kagawaran sa kabuuhan upang magkaroon ng pagbabago sa National Bilibid sa abot ng kanilang makakaya. Nagpakita sila ng katapangan at katatagan sa maya’t mayang pag-raid ng mga selda, lalo na ang pagsira ng mga maluluhong pinagawa ng mga detinadong may kaya. Sinira nila ang swimming pool, ang animo ay condo, isa pang mala-hotel room, at marami pang iba.
Marami ang nasaktan noon dahil nadamay sa pagbatikos sa mga nakaraang pamunuan bunsod ng kalamyaan nila sa pagpatupad ng mga patakaran, kaya kahit na ang ginawa ni Secretary de Lima noong personal itong mag-inspection ay hindi naipagpatuloy. Hindi lahat ng nakatalaga sa National Bilibid ay masama, lalo na ang mga walang direktang kontak sa mga detinado. Sila ang mga inosenteng nakatalaga sa opisina ng nasabing pasilidad, kaya nabanggit ko noon na walang silbi ang pagpalit ng namumuno kung walang drastic o mapusok na pagbabago tulad ng total na pagpalit-palit ng mga direktang guwardiya upang maiwasan ang fraternal closeness sa pagitan nila at ng mga detinado.
Tahimik ang pag-upo ng bagong namumuno sa BUCOR kaya marami ang nagulat nang ma-interview siya sa isang radio station. Nagpapahiwatig na iba ang kanyang pagkatao – tahimik na ang layunin lang ay maisaayos ang kinakaharap na problema. Talagang mahirap ang kalagayan ng Bilibid dahil sa kakulangan ng budget, at dapat ding unawain na ang pagbabago ay imposibleng makakamit sa magdamag. Ganoon pa man, marami ang nagdadasal na sa pagkakataong ito, sana ay talagang magkaroon ng malawakang pagbabago sa loob ng Bilibid.
Regular visitors of Isetan Mall along Recto refer to Rowena Soliano as the “girl in black”, although friends call her “Weng”. She hails from Sarangani Province in southern Mindanao. She’s got an exotic face and always chick in her tight-fitting black outfit, that make her stand out in a crowd of shoppers in the mall while delivering ordered snacks to patronizing employees. She also loves to braid her hair in various ways every day that adds to her being a stunning looker. She has been working with a coffee shop located on the fourth floor of the mall where the videoke area is located.
In 2013, she fell in love with a persistent suitor whom she thought was serious in his intention. Unfortunately, their relationship got sour and realizing that something was seriously wrong with their relationship, she broke up with him despite her being pregnant during the time. She went on with her job at the mall, but went home when she was about to deliver her baby. After a year in Sarangani, she went back to Manila and implored her employer to take her back. She left her baby girl, now almost two years old in the care of her mother, to whom she regularly sends money.
Her job at the coffee shop starts at 10AM when the mall opens until its closure at 9PM. She seldom finds time to sit down, as just when she arrives at their stall after a delivery, another set or more of ordered snacks are waiting to be delivered again. Despite her hectic schedule, her smile never leaves her face. The only break she gets is when she had to take a late lunch – standing. Another short respite is for a stolen moment for light and late dinner, still taken standing.
She is fortunate to have found a kind employer, a reason enough for her to love her job. It was her first job when she arrived in Manila from Sarangani Province. When I had a lengthy talk with her, I told her about the international resort that Manny Pacquiao is putting up in Sarangani. She told me that she was also told about it by her mother. However, she has apprehensions if she could be given the chance to land a job in such big resort due to her insufficient educational attainment. She told me that she barely finished her high school. She is also aware that there are plenty of four-year course graduates in their province and in the field of tourism, yet.
Weng is the opitome of the struggling youth from the province who try their luck in the bustling city of Manila, some of whom are unfortunate to have ended as prostitutes that ply their trade along Avenida. Some became exotic dancers in discreet beerhouses in Recto, Caloocan, and Cubao. Like their elder contemporaries who brought with them their families and ended living on sidewalks while surviving on recyclable junks collected from garbage dumps, the youth from the provinces of Mindanao are left with no choice but take the risk of uncertainties in Manila, rather than be recruited by the New People’s Army (NPA) and Abu Sayyaf.
Sarangani, the province of Weng, is already infiltrated with NPA and drug dealers. The tentacles of Abu Sayyaf which is notoriously known for its kidnap-for-ransom activities have also been wriggling around the area for a long time, too. Worst, job opportunities in Sarangani is like the proverbial needle in a haystack. These are available at General Santos City, the nearest urban area, but for hopefuls like Weng, no opportunity is left, considering the thousands of graduates from several colleges and universities around the southern Mindanao area every year.
How can we then blame provincials like Weng for coming to Manila and add up to the already teeming population of the city? Yet, those who have not experienced distressing life in the province just cannot restrain themselves from uttering hurting invectives. And, practically adding salt to the wound, are the incessant and oft-repeated arrogant declarations of the president about jobs and progress that the country and the Filipinos are enjoying!…and, under his administration, yet!…but the big question is, where are they?
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.
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.
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.
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.
I thought the woman whose name I learned was Anna, and who was sitting on the pushcart was just too trusting by not counting the money that I gave her for the items that I chose from among her “buraot” items, until she told me that her right eye can barely see while her left eye was totally useless. Her sight had been defective since she was a girl. While growing up, she was desperate and a loner because of her deficiency until she met her husband who took good care of her.
Anna and her husband had been selling junk items for more than five years. They would spread their items on a piece of tarpaulin as early as six in the morning along the old railroad track now covered with pavement as early as six in the morning, just when the vegetable wholesalers are packing up. An hour later they would transfer to the corner of the Sto. Cristo St. where I found her. With their four children in tow, her husband would leave her to clean their other “buraot” items in the railroad track.
She smilingly told me that she and her husband have been setting aside money for their children from the meager daily earnings. Just like most of the hardworking scavengers of Divisoria, they live on the pushcart…or rather, beside their pushcart that are heaped with their junks at the end of the day. Their children are aged nine, seven, four and three years. Just before noon, she told me that they, already with lunch bought from a makeshift sidewalk eatery, would join her.
Our amiable conversation was cut short by a sudden and steady drizzle. I had to help Anna gather her items on their pushcart and cover them with two pieces of tarp that I brought with me, intended to be given to the vendors like her. We stayed on the covered sidewalk, and it was at this time that Anna got worried for her husband and children. Not long afterward, a guy carrying two children, and two girls huffily came running and joined us.
As the pushcart was securely covered, I invited Anna and her family to the Jollibee outlet a few steps away. The eldest girl jumped and gleefully shouted when she heard the name. When we entered, other customers threw us inquisitive stares as the husband of Anna and the kids were dripping wet. It was their first time to enter the establishment and even taste its cheapest Yummy sandwich, but for such a happy occasion, I ordered the regular burger and spaghetti for each of them. While they were enjoying their sandwich, spaghetti, and Coke, they strike a picture of a happy family…of contentment, a far cry from many families that are virtually swimming in affluence, yet, not satisfied a bit. As a practice, I did not take their picture while enjoying their Jollibee meal, for I do not want the photo opportunity to come out as one done in exchange for something. So as not to instigate Anna and her husband to ask questions about me, I stopped asking more questions about their life….that way, I was happy not to be asked for my name, though, before we parted ways, I told them that the snacks were courtesy of a certain “Perla”. I was resolved, however, to see them again.
Sa pagsalita ni Pnoy Aquino sa anibersaryo ng pagpatay sa SAF44 ngayong araw, 25 ng Enero, ay kung ano-ano na namang matulaing kataga ang binitwan niya. Kaylan kaya titigil ang presidente sa ganitong gawain na bistado namang puro buladas lang? Hindi makakalimutan ang mga binitiwan niyang mga pangako lalo na ang “tuwid na daan”, noong nangangampanya pa lang siya, hanggang sa siya ay umupo na. Pati ang mga “pangako” para sa mga pamilya ng mga pinatay na SAF44 ay hindi pinatawad ni Pnoy dahil sa mga bulilyaso na naman.
Ayon sa tatay ng isang pinatay na SAF, iilan lang sa mga pinangakong benepisyo ang kanilang natanggap. Ang pabahay ay maliit at nasa isang liblib na panig ng Laguna at hindi mararating kung walang sariling sasakyan. Ang isang benepisyo para sa dependent ay tahasang sinabi ng pamunuan ng PNP na hindi pwedeng ibigay dahil lampas na sa minimum na gulang ang tinutukoy na dependent, subalit sana ito ay ginawang exemption na lang, dahil gagamitin sa isang hindi pangkaraniwang sitwasyon…subalit hindi nangyari, sa kabila ng pangako ni Pnoy.
Hindi makalimutan ang hindi niya pagsalubong nang dumating ang mga labi ng SAF44, pagkatapos ay sasabihin niyang dadalhin daw niya hanggang sa hukay ang sakit na dulot ng nangyari na gusto pa niyang ituring na isang “insidente” lamang, at hindi “masaker”? Dahil sa kasanayan na niyang magbigkas ng mga kasinungalingan, akala niya lahat ng mga sinasabi niya ay totoo….napaniwala niya ang sarili sa ganito. Subalit hindi tanga ang taong bayan upang paniwalaan ang mga sinasabi niya.
Upang mabawasan ang bigat ng kanyang mga pagkukulang bilang presidente ay panay paninisi ang ginagawa sa nakaraan administrasyon ni Gloria Arroyo na nagpamana daw sa kanya ng mga kapalpakan. Bakit hindi na lang niya ituwid kung may mali at punan kung may kakulangan, sa halip na siya ay magdadakdak na hindi gawain ng isang lalaking tao, lalo pa at ayon sa kanya ay “ama” siya ng sambayanang Pilipino? Ang salitang “ama” ay nanggaling din sa kanya dahil sa kahiligan yata niya sa tula, subalit hanggang turing na lang ito, dahil hindi nga niya pinapakinggan ang kanyang mga “boss” na taong bayan, ang bago na namang turing na “ama” pa kaya? Hindi lang tahasang pagbibingi-bingihan ang kanyang ginagawa, kundi pati na rin ang pagbubulag-bulagan, at lalo pa ang pagmamaang-maangan kaya marami tuloy ang nagtatanong kung may presidente ba ngayon ang Pilipinas.
Ang pinakamagandang magagawa ni Pnoy upang makabawi sa mga kahihiyan ay huwag nang mangako at bawasan ang paggamit ng mga matalinghagang salita sa kanyang mga talumpati. May panahon pa naman siya upang mabago kahit kapiraso ang pagtingin sa kanya ng sambayanang Pilipino at makakuha uli ng respeto…yan ay kung pakikinggan niya ang mga matitino niyang taga-payo, lalo na ang mga “boss” niya.
I ask from friends and collect myself, what others consider as “trash” – empty rice bags, used shopping plastic bags, brown paper bags, net bags, used tarpaulins, empty jars, lengths of straw rope, etc. – to be distributed among my friends who sell recyclable junks and vegetables by the pile on sidewalks. They are called “buraot” vendors and the “buraot” refers to the junks and wilting vegetables that they sell. Some of them keep the brown paper bags to be used by their children as book covers, and the sturdy plastic grocery bags as “school bags”. On the other hand, the rice bags have many uses, one of which is safekeeping of things in the absence of decent bags that are sold in department stores.
It takes me about two weeks to be able to collect a sizeable volume of these various “treasures”, classify the plastic bags according to size, carefully fold them and finally apportion them together with the rest of the items among the pre-identified recipients for easy distribution. I am most glad if I am able to collect big plastic cover of refs and washing machines because they can be used as extended roof for “kariton (pushcart) home” of my friends. I taught them to fold big plastic bags in such a way that they can be used as “rain coat”. I used to do that when I was in elementary during which I would scavenge the garbage dump of a bakery in our town for recyclable junks especially plastic bags.
One time, a friend in California, “Perla” sent plenty of blue tarps that went straight to sidewalk and “kariton” dwellers. But I told her to stop sending such kind of item because I met a couple who sell “tinseled” bags of condiments that when spread by slicing open the two sides can serve the purpose of a mat, as well as, protection against the rain – for just Php20.00 apiece.
Every time I come home from shopping, I see to it that the bags, both made of plastic and brown paper are properly folded and set aside instead of tossing them into the garbage basket. The brown bag can also be used in keeping extra portions of vegetables before storing them in the ref. Also, I am not ashamed in picking up lengths of straw ropes from the ground while shopping in outdoor shopping areas such as Baclaran and Quiapo, as they are also needed by my friends in tying things that they always bring along with them. As a recycling advocate, I had been doing this for more than thirty years now.
Every time I hit the road for my random acts of sharing my backpack is full of these “treasures”, aside from Skyflakes crackers and home-cooked pudding for sharing. I just want to show that sharing blessings need not be a “big time” effort that involves a lot of money. If I can do it, I am sure others can do it, too. Those interested to do the same can start with the plastic bags that can be collected and given to their favorite vendor in the market….by doing so, we also help Mother Nature as the plastic bags that we recycle are prevented from clogging esteros or canals.
The only “order” that can be felt and experienced in the world is the 24-hour cycle divided into night and day that further accumulates into seven days in a week, further accumulating into the 28/30/31 days in a month and finally into 12 months in a year – according to the Roman Catholic calendar, however, the Chinese, the Jews, and the Muslims have their own calendar in this regard.
The long-respected Bible is now being touted as a source of various confusions, especially, because many religions have allegedly thwarted the original contents written in the original language, to serve their own purpose which is to prove their having the “true religion”. So, today, instead of being enlightened, many people became confused that they have gone to the extent of leaving the religion of their birth to become Atheist, Agnostic, or Satanic. They should not be blamed because they followed their own judgment, and nobody can rightly say that they are wrong, after having gone through the harrowing confusion.
Due to survival instinct, countries have become hypocrites. Openly, leaders deal amiably with each other despite differences in ideology, and proof to this are photos splashed on the different social media where they are shown smiling at each other and shaking hands, but days after, the same leaders make pronouncements that run counter to their friendly stance shown earlier to the world. Citizens are confused which of the two “expressions” should be believed.
Drugs are invented to prevent the onset of diseases and cure people of ailments but most of these drugs have contra-indications when used at the same time due to simultaneous inceptions of disorders. Even the long-traditionally used drugs, one of which is aspirin, are deemed to have negative effects on some organs. Most antibiotics today are also declared as ineffective and can harm many organs if used unabatedly, especially, without prescription. This confusion resulted to the loss of confidence to physicians by skeptic patients who have resorted to herbals, instead.
Confusion did not spare the foods, as many of them are not just fit for anybody. Some people get sick when they drink milk, eat seafood, beans, and even peanut. Some people vomit when they eat any fibrous vegetable or get a sniff of banana. The list of foods that are not supposed to be eaten by some people is still getting longer by the day. This deprivation is confusing, for how can sources of nutrients for the body become poison to others? Explanations are offered by experts, but the question still remains because life is supposed to be viewed as full of promises, including health and happiness. But how can it be possible if one is deprived of things needed to live happily and glowing with health?
Universities and colleges are supposed to breed intelligent graduates who are expected to be part of the effort in the development of their nation and betterment of society. But why are there corrupt government officials and even leaders who are supposed to have even earned Masters and Doctorates from these institutions of learning? Why are there evil-minded scientists, whose intellect and moral values have been bred in these institutions where only what’s good for mankind is supposed to be taught?
The confusion is compounded by greed that has muddled man’s mind making the upshots of his intellect become tools for his self-annihilation!
Kawawa talaga ang kalagayan ng karamihan sa mga pensiyonado ng Social Security System (SSS) ng Pilipinas. Sa isang banda, ang hindi kawawa ay ang mga dati nang may kaya sa buhay bago nagtrabaho at ang mga namuno sa SSS mismo na milyon-milyon ang sweldo. Ayon sa balita, ang SSS ay may 7 Senior Vice-Presidents at 16 Vice-Presidents. Ang mga sweldo at bonus nila ay milyon-milyon din daw, pati ang mga allowances na kasama ang gastusin para sa mga alagang hayop o pet at grocery. Wala ring aalalahaning problema sa pensiyon ang mga kurakot na opisyal ng gobyerno dahil kapag nag-retire na ay siguradong milyon-milyon na rin ang naipon nila na kayang ipamana maski sa mga apo sa tuhod.
Samantala, ang mga nag-retire nang mga miyembro ng SSS ay nagtitiis sa barya-baryang pensiyon. Nauunawaan naman ang sistemang binabatay ang pensiyon sa buwanang naiambag ng miyembro, kaya mayroong nagpepensiyon ng minimum na mahigit lang ng kaunti sa isang libo kada buwan dahil sa ikli ng panahon ng pag-ambag at kaunting halagang naiambag. May iba pang batayan sa pagminuta o pag-compute ng pensiyon kaya lumalabas na ang iba, kahit ang dating trabaho ay foreman ng mga kargador sa pantalan ay mahigit sampung libo ang pensiyon kung ihambing sa ibang manager na mahigit lang sa 7,000 pesos. Ang masakit nga lang ay ang katotohanang nagpabaya ang SSS sa paglikom ng mga naiambag ng mga empleyado na kinaltas ng kanila-kanilang switik na mga employer kaya hindi lumalago ang pondo upang maging batayan sa pagpalaki rin ng pensiyon ng mga retirado. Kadalasan din, ang mga aktibo pa sa trabaho ay hindi rin malapag-loan dahil hindi nire-remit ng kanilang switik na employer ang kanilang contribution. Ayon sa balita ay wala pang 40% ang pinakahuling nalikom ng ahensiya batay sa kabuuhan ng mga miyembro, na sa kasalukuyan ay umaabot na sa 31milyon.
Nangangamba daw ang SSS dahil pagdating ng 2029 ay maaapektuhan ang pondo kung ibibigay sa 2milyong pensiyonado ang 2 libong pisong dagdag sa bawat pensiyon kada buwan kaya hindi inaprubahan ni Pnoy Aquino. Ayon naman sa gumawa ng panukala sa Kongreso na si Cong. Colmenares, dapat nga raw ang minimum na pensiyon ngayon ng retiradong miyembro ay 7,000 pesos. Marami daw namang paraan upang mahabol ang pagpalago ng pondo nito, tulad ng nabanggit nang pagpapa-ibayo pa sa paglikom ng mga ambag, at pag-streamline o pagbawas ng mga “top-level managers” na malamang ay nagkakapareho o nag-ooverlap ang mga responsibilidad. At lalong higit ay ang pagbawas ng mga nakakalula nilang allowances at mga bonus!
Sa Pilipinas, ang mga retirado ay hindi nabibigyan ng pagkakataong maging empleyado pagtuntong ng ika-60 na taong gulang. Ang may gulang na 40 nga ay itinuturing nang “overaged” ng ilang employers. May iilang nai-extend ang trabaho subalit hindi na regular ang status nila kundi “Consultant” hanggang umabot sa gulang na 65, kaya ang turing sa suweldo nila ay “Consultancy fee” na wala na ring benepisyo tulad ng allowances na kung tawagin ay “perks”. Ito yong mga nasa “senior management level” na ang saklaw ay mula manager hanggang Senior Vice-president, pero ang mga performance bago mag-retire ay namumukod-tangi, o yong may mga dating responsibilidad na napakahalahaga sa pagpapatakbo ng negosyo o opisina. Ang mga nasa supervisory at rank-and-file level naman ay napakanipis ang pag-asang ma-extend bilang “Consultant”. Ang matindi pa, malimit ay hindi agad naibibigay ang retirement o separation pay kaya ang pag-follow up lang at pamasahe ay problema din. Dahil sa mga nabanggit, pagkatanggap ng separation pay o pensiyon ay makakaltasan na agad ng pambayad sa mga inutang na pamasahe at panggastos sa pamilya nang panahong nagpa-follow up ang nag-retire!
May nakausap akong retirado na ang ginagawa ay hinahati ang tabletang gamot na nireseta ng doktor upang tumagal kaysa naman daw mawalan siya ng maiinom dahil hindi kasya ang kanyang pensiyong pambili. Ang iba naman ay hindi na komukunsulta sa doktor kahit masama ang pakiramdam dahil mababawasan ang badyet na pambili ng pagkain. Ang iba pa ay dalawang beses na lang kumakain sa isang araw, at sa halip na isaing ang bigas ay nilulugaw na lang. Nang tanungin ko kung bakit minimum lang ang pensiyon nila, ang sagot sa akin ay dahil hindi permanente ang trabaho nila noon, mabuti nga daw at nakumpleto pa nila ang pag-ambag sa SSS hanggang sa sila ay mag-retire. Hindi naman daw sila nagkulang ng pagpursige sa paghanap ng trabaho subalit talagang wala daw silang makita noong kalakasan pa nila. May mga retirado akong nakausap na nagsabing kapag namamasyal sila sa park o mall ay may bitbit silang mga shopping bag na malaki o backpack para lagyan ng mga junks na mapupulot, lalo na plastic na bote ng mineral water o lata ng soft drinks dahil kahit papaano ang maliit na kita sa mga ito ay nakakatulong din.
Sa mga mauunlad na bansa, kahit malaki ang kaltas sa suweldo ng mga empleyado para sa buwis at ambag sa social security ay sigurado naman ang mga benepisyo nila dahi ang pagpapa-ospital, gamot, at pagpapa-aral sa mga anak ay libre. Ang ibang hindi gaanong maunlad na bansa naman ay maliit ang kinakaltas sa suweldo para sa buwis at social security, na ang pinakamalaki ay hindi umaabot sa 20%, subalit magaganda pa rin ang kanilang mga benepisyo. Sa Pilipinas naman, ang kinakaltas sa suweldo ng mga empleyado ay mahigit 30% subalit wala halos katumbas na matinong benepisyo. Ito yata ang sinasabi ng pangulo ng bansang si Benigno S. Aquino III na “matuwid na daan”….at saan naman patungo?….sa pagkagutom?
Mahirap talagang magkaroon ng presidenteng hindi nakadanas ng kahirapan sa buhay. Ang problema sa pensiyon ng SSS ay dumaan din sa ilalim ng nakaraang mga administrasyon, at lalong lumala sa panahon ni Pnoy Aquino ngayon. Kung sa halip na puro sisi ang ginagawa niya sa nakaraang administrasyon ay nagpakasipag na lang siya bilang presidente, sana kahit kapiraso ay may maipagpasalamat sa kanya ang mga Pilipino.