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.)


Agrarian Strife… root of poverty and Red Movement in the Philippines

Agrarian Strife…root of poverty

and Red Movement in the Philippines

by Apolinario Villalobos

During the pre-Spanish time, nothing was on record about any agrarian discontent in the country, as it developed only when the Spaniards came and imposed their “encomienda” system. The practice was maintained by the Americans who took over the grip on colonial reins, and worsened when the country became a Republic under corrupt Filipino leaders.

The country is an agricultural nation. But, because of agrarian problems in the provinces, the starving Filipinos sought a better life in the city, where they lived on pavements, under the bridge, along waterways, and slums. In the city they still suffer from poverty, but they are on their own, their life not controlled by landlords who bound them in perpetual debt. They rummage in dump sites for morsels of food and recyclable stuff that they sell to junkshops. Most often what they earn is not enough so that rather than stare at their children dying of hunger, they commit crimes – some petty, some grave. They resort to “running” drugs for pushers, go into prostitution, pick pockets, break into homes, and steal goods in groceries. Had life been good in the province where they tended rice fields and vegetable plots, they would have not spent precious savings for fare to Manila to seek a better life, but found another hell, instead.

The advocates of Communism saw an opportunity in the poor Filipinos’ discontent. They sowed the seeds of the Red ideology among them – successfully. The mass base of the Red Movement has become firmer and broader. Not content in Manila, young Red agents go to the provinces which before were peaceful tourist destinations, especially, the island provinces. In cooperation with the New People’s Army, they meld with the villagers who have been suffering from the exploitation of their landlords, and who did not need any elaborate persuasion….more success.

Meanwhile, instead of resolving the issue on agrarian unrest, the government since the time of Marcos is more interested in developing rice and corn fields into high-end subdivisions and malls. Foreigners in drove took the opportunity using their Filipino dummies. The idea of the government is to make the country at par with neighboring Asian counties that are resplendent in their progress, as well as, provide employment for thousands of graduates with sophisticated courses. Nothing came out of this idea due to corruption which evolved from bad to worst!

And, finally, the once rice-exporting proud nation has become an importer of rice from countries whose rice technicians derived their knowledge from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in Los Baῆos, Laguna – Philippines!

That is the gloomy picture and sad story of a country called, “Pearl of the Orient Seas”, somewhere in the Pacific. It is my country, but, I am still proud of it…though vehemently pray and hope that it will someday be transformed into a better place to live in, with the united effort of the persistent fellow countrymen who still remain “true” Filipinos…at all cost!


The Dismal Failure of the “Resettlement” Program for Informal Settlers in Manila

The Dismal Failure of the “Resettlement” Program

for Informal Settlers in Manila

By Apolinario Villalobos

While the effort of the government to “save” Manila’s informal settlers from the danger of their abodes on the banks of esteros, underneath the bridge and unhealthy, as well as, filthy slums, is commendable, the sincerity is questionable. Where is sincerity in the promise about comfort in these resettlement areas that have no water facilities, lighted roads, public transportation, and electricity? To give a raw impression of these projects, footages of “comfortable” life in these areas are shown on TV, though it is purported that they consist just a very minimal percentage of completed units. The resettled families have no choice, but be resourceful to make the “shell” that the government call “house”, comfortable, rather than wait for the agency people to tell them that that at least, they need not worry about any demolition.

The resettled people worked in Manila business centers such as Divisoria, Sta. Cruz, Quiapo, Intramuros, Port Area, Malate, and Ermita, as well as airport terminals in Pasay City, and Makati. Some were paid the minimum wage. The rest were on daily contracted rates which were way below the minimum such as those working in stores and mall shops, in restaurants as waiters, cooks and waitresses. Some were junk collectors that rummage city dumps. Some were porters in piers and airport terminals, and still some were janitors, street sweepers, and part-time housekeepers. Their children went to schools which were walking distance away from their makeshift homes. Before the resettlement, the working members of the family already had barely enough daily fare, so that some walked to their job sites, making do with just biscuits for lunch. And then, they were forcefully resettled in the middle of school year, cutting short the studies of their children. Resettlement areas are in far off Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and even Batangas. After the resettlement, most working members of the family quit their job for lack of daily fare to work.

Where is sanity in this supposedly “humane” program of the government? At times, even the rain could not stop the demolition of the makeshift homes, leaving the hapless families shivering, soaked to the bone, wet and hungry, crying their heart out while witnessing the tearing apart of their home that they painstakingly built out of salvaged tins and boards.

Cleared areas give way to malls and condos put up by foreign investors. Some are left as is – vacant, and just fenced in with barbed wire. The esteros or waterways that get cleared of shanties become clogged again by the waste from the upper portion of the Pasig river… floating on the stinking and murky water that flows out to Manila Bay, And the reason?… inconsistent cleaning and monitoring by authorities!  Yet, the government blames only the squatters for the perennial overflowing of these esteros! How about the factories and “legal” homes along the rivers which are also responsible for the waste and garbage that clog these waterways?

Meanwhile, the families in the pathetic resettlement areas try to survive on sweet potato leaves, kangkong, malunggay and wild indigenous vegetables, to go with their daily gruel of NFA rice. Some teen-aged daughters whose studies were cut short, try to help their family by trekking to nearby towns to work in market stalls and small eateries at Php100 a day. Mothers who used to gather vegetable trimmings in Divisoria to be sold on sidewalks or as part-time laundress near their former shanties in the city are left with nothing to do. Their husbands on the other hand cannot afford the more than three hundred pesos fare to their former jobs as porters at the port area and busy city wet markets.

As a last resort, desperate families sell the rights to their “home” and go back to where they came from to start another stage of survival. The government and the agency concerned seem blind to this vicious cycle as a result of their program that lack long-ranged planning. They thought that the solution to the urban squatting problem ends in the resettlement of the families. They forgot that the roof over the head is not just the basic need of man in order to survive. They forgot that such man has to work and earn in order to eat and do other endeavors to better his life, such as go to school.

What the government obviously wants are the numbers that they can print on reports about “rehabilitated” indigent Filipinos! Something for the world to see, that, indeed, poverty in the Philippines has been reduced!

Maynila…sa mata ng Bagong Salta

Maynila…sa mata ng bagong salta

ni Apolinario B Villalobos

Hindi ko na maalala pa

Ang ibang yugto ng aking buhay

Mula’t sapul nang ako ay lumisan

Sa aking sinilangang bayan

Kung saan ang nakagisnang pagdarahop

Ay bahagi na ng buhay

Ng mga taong kakambal ay hirap

Nguni’t hindi nagsisisihang magkakapitbahay.

Musmos na isip at murang katawan

Ang nagpati-anod sa tawag ng pangako

Kumukulo ang tiyan sa kawalan ng laman

Dahil iilang pirasong barya

Hindi magasta-gasta

Sa pag-aalala   na kapag mga ito’y nawala sa bulsa

Sa laot ng buhay na malupit pala

Ay lalo akong magmumukhang kawawa.

Puyat at pagod ay di ko inalintana

Sa pag-aakalang bukas ako’y may pera na

Kaya halos hilahin ko ang araw

Sa kanyang pagbaba doon sa kanluran

Para mapadali ang pagdatal ng kinabukasan

At mga ilang araw pa nga ang nagdaan

Narating ko ang Maynila

Lunsod ng iba’t- ibang kulay at mukha.

Hindi ko mawari ang unang naramdaman

Nang ako ay unang tumapak sa pantalan

Para pa rin akong namamalikmata

Sa aking mga narinig at nakita-

Walang kapatirang daloy ng tao

Ingay ng nagtatawanan at naglalako

Kaya’t ang dating masaya

Kagya’t na pumalit ay takot

Nabahid sa aking mukha…

Sa sarili, nasabi ko na lang –

“Ah, ito pala ang Maynila”.

(Batay sa kuwento ni Ramon na taga-Calbayog, Samar…namulot ng plastik at lata, pati tirang pagkain sa mga burgeran upang ilutong batsoy, may makain lang ang asawa at anak. Tumira sa Baseco Compound, Tondo, nguni’t bumalik sa probinsiya pagkalibing ng anak na namatay sa dengue, noong huling linggo ng Setyembre 2014.)