Came 2015 Feb 11 while sitting at the makeshift bench outside a sari-sari store in Sampaloc, I had a full view of the day-in day-out lives of economically marginalized kababayans. Their plights may have been so common that a day scene is just like any other day in the Philippines, more specifically in Manila. A neighborhood’s perspective is directly different from that of mine who have been out of this place for almost a quarter of a century.
As I was preparing for my departure for Hong Kong that day, I woke up quite earlier than planned. I took my hot cup of coffee my sister-in law prepared for me, sat at the bench outside the grilled sari-sari store and gave myself a full view of Antipolo St. where used to be a hustle and bustle road given that it was teeming with people living in shanties that almost embraced trains as they traverse the railroads. Recently the looks seem a reverse of the past pictures of tyre weighed roofs and checkered plyboards walls. It is now replaced with greened lots, some young palms and painted roadside concrete gutters. It’s refreshing to watch from my distance that part of nature in the middle of the city. But looking farther right there are new shacks appearing and from what I learned from “suki” of my sister-in-law’s store, these are the same families who would not want to stay in Bulacan or Laguna as the place where the government relocated them 2-3 years ago. Their reason for coming back to the city is that money is easy even for a day subsistence. Yes, the sense of dignity of having a shelter and accommodation, the comfort it brings doesn’t give justice to gnawing stomach. They reason out the failure of the government to create jobs in the relocation area where people end up still traveling back to the city, where for several years they have been accustomed to easy cash in whatever way this will be possible. But to travel daily to the city also create pressure not only for the time but for the limited earnings which is now even squeezed tightly, thus the decision to re-emerge as shanty-living family in Antipolo Street. In Bulacan, some families were able to adjust, put order in their lives, renewed as we call it, and made a fresh start. Those who failed the new beginnings that were offered either sold the shelters or just abandon them all together. The view that I was seeing from that bench affirms that the vicious cycle of poverty in the Philippines remains unresolved despite the big pronouncements from the government. I believe this problem is to be tackled by every sensible and loving Filipino, who wants to see a brother living in dignity and improving access to available opportunities. We can do our part and be instruments in the alleviation of poverty. In my own little way, I start within my backyard, my families back in Romblon, Mindoro and acquaintances to whom help should be rendered to.