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.)



Minda….sidewalk vendor na may pangarap


Ni Apolinario Villalobos



Sa sobrang pagod ko dahil sa paglalakad alas singko pa lang ng madaling araw sa kahabaan ng  Roxas Boulevard ay tumawid ako sa Ermita upang maghanap ng mapapagkapehan. Nasumpungan ko ang puwesto ni Minda Bantan na nasa isang bangketa kung saan ay matatagpuan ang mga sarado nang dating tanyag na mga antique shops. Sa di-kalayuan naman ay ang kuwartong inuupahan niya ng 1,500.00 pesos. Hindi kasya silang dalawa ng anak niyang nasa second year college sa kuwarto kaya nagtitiyaga siyang matulog sa tabi ng kanyang puwesto. Kaya pala doon ko na rin nakita ang iba pa niyang gamit dahil malamang kung ipapasok pa sa kuwarto ay wala na ring matutulugan ang anak niyang si Maria Antonette.


Limang taon nang nagtitinda sa bangketa si Minda at dahil marunong siyang humawak ng pera ay nairaraos niya ang mga pangangailangan nilang mag-ina pati ang pang-matrikula ng kanyang anak. Taga-Bohol si Minda at nakipagsapalaran sa Maynila dahil wala daw siyang mapagkitaan sa probinsiya. Nasunugan na rin sila sa unang tinirhan nila sa Maynila subalit wala siyang natanggap na tulong mula sa kanilang barangay kaya sa halip na maghinagpis ay nangalakal silang mag-ina…namulot ng plastic, bote at iba pang mabebenta sa junk shop. Wala rin daw siyang natatanggap na 1,500 pesos na galing sa DSW para sana makatulong maski papaano sa pangangailangan ng kanyang anak. Sa madaling salita, matagal na panahon din silang tumira sa bangketa.


Ang tanging inaasahan ngayon ni Minda ay ang “5/6” na inuutang niya sa Bombay. Kape, softdrink, biscuit, tinapay, at mga chichirya ang mga tinitinda niya at kahit papaano ay pinagkakasya sa pangangailangan nila ang kinikita. At dahil isang sakayan lang ang layo ng kolehiyong pinapasukan ng kanyang anak, sa Universidad de Manila sa Liwasang Bonifacio (Lawton Plaza) ay hindi gaanong magastos ang pamasahe, subalit ang problema ay ang baon na hindi ko na lang itinanong dahil halata namang siguradong tipid na tipid.


May pangarap si Minda para sa kanyang anak kaya halos igapang niya ang pagpapaaral dito. Mula pa man noong maliit ito ay naging bahagi na siya ng pagsisikap ng kanyang ina. At, dahil sinabi ni Minda na matalino daw ang kanyang anak, hindi na kailangan pang ipaalala sa kanya ang mga dapat niyang gawin upang makaraos sa kahirapan.


Nang inalok ko si Minda ng trapal na magagamit dahil napansin kong mga plastic na pira-piraso ang ginagamit niyang pantakip sa kanyang mga gamit, marami siyang sinabing dahilan para makatanggi. Akala niya siguro ay isa na naman akong “researcher” na nagkakanulo ng mga tulad niyang sidewalk vendor sa kinauukulan. Nang ilabas ko ang mga kopya ng National Geographic, stuffed toys at mga damit pambata upang ipaliwanag na pinamimigay ko sila, napanatag ang loob niya kaya humingi na rin ng ilang kopya ng babasahin para sa kanyang anak, at saka pa lang tinanggap ang trapal na binigay ko. At, dahil napansin ko ang interes niya sa isang stuffed toy ay ibinigay ko na rin, at saka pa lang niya nasabing siguradong magugustuhan ito ng kanyang anak. Nagpaalam na ako nang maubos ang kape ko, dahil may pupuntahan pa ako sa Pandacan at pagkatapos ay susuyurin ko naman ang gilid ng Ilog Pasig mula sa Luneta papuntang Divisoria…



Sharing Need Not Be a “Big Time” Effort

Sharing Need Not Be a “Big Time” Effort

By Apolinario Villalobos


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.

Sa darating na APEC Summit, pansamantalang gugutumin ng gobyerno and mga vendors…

Sa darating na APEC Summit, pansamantalang “gugutumin”

ng gobyerno ang mga vendors…

ni Apolinario Villalobos

Talagang tumitindi na ang pagka-hindi makatao ng gobyerno at pagka- mapagkunwari nito, maipakita lang sa buong mundo na talagang “maunlad” na ang Pilipinas dahil walang makikitang vendors sa mga bangketa at mga nagtutulak ng kariton ng mga hiniwang prutas, mani, at iba pang street foods pagdating ng mga kinatawan sa APEC.

Ang gusto ng sakim na administrasyon ni Pnoy Aquino, sila lang ang kakain sa loob ng panahong nagpapayabangan ang mga kinatawan sa nasabing kumperensiya, dahil pinagbawalang magtinda ang mga vendor. Gusto rin niyang ipakita ang Pilipinas, o Maynila na siyang showcase nito, sa mga darating na delegado, na malinis at maunlad tulad ng Singapore, na isang nakakahiyang pagkukunwari, dahil alam naman ng buong mundo ang tunay na kalagayan ng bansa. Ang kailangan lang naman ay magbukas ng internet at magbasa ng mga “tunay” na report, at tumingin sa mga nakakalunos na mga larawan ng  kahirapan, at nakakasukang naglulutangang basura sa mga estero at Pasig River.

Hibang na hibang ang administrasyon sa mga sinasabing “report” na umunlad na ang bansa at pangalawa pa sa buong Asya! Napakalinaw naman na kung unawaing mabuti ang kahulugan ng isang pag-unlad, dapat ito ay napapakinabangan ng mga mamamayan ng isang bansa, subalit walang ganitong nangyayari sa Pilipinas, dahil hanggang ngayon ay matindi pa rin ang kagutuman.

Iba ang “paglalagak” sa “pamumuhunan”. Ang paglalagak ay pag-iiwan ng mga kinitang tubo ng negosyo sa isang bansa upang lalo pang mapalago. Kabaligtaran dito ang  pamumuhunan lang ng negosyante dahil ang tubo o kita ay hindi niya iniiwan, sa halip ay inuuwi niya sa sariling bansa. Kung sa agrikultura, ang bansa ay parang isang tanimang inupahan lamang…. pagdating ng anihan, ang mga naani ay hinahakot ng kung sino man ang nagtanim, at kung may maiwan man sa may-ari ng pinagtamnang lupa, ito ay kakarampot lamang. At yan ang nakikitang huwad na “kaunlaran” ng taong may makitid na pananaw.

Ang gobyerno ay may responsibilidad na mangalaga ng kapakanan ng mga mamamayan…upang mapanatili ang kanilang kaligtasan sa lahat ng oras, at lalo na, upang hindi sila magugutom. Ngunit iba ang gobyerno ng Pilipinas – mayabang na sinungaling pa, hindi makatao at pinamumugaran ng mga korap na opisyal. Sa pamumuno ni Pnoy, halos wala na ngang  maipakitang nagawa ang gobyerno, sinusupil pa nito ang karapatan ng mga naaaping mabuhay ng marangal.