The ugly head of poverty
Over a Cup of Tea
Heidi M. Pascual
Publisher & Editor
2006 Journalist of the year
for the State of Wisconsin
kinds of questionable education just roaming the streets. There are also a few people with severe mental issues (sometimes roaming naked!)
that obviously need special medical attention.

Though the Philippine government is doing the best it can to help the poor through its Department of Social Welfare and Development, the lack of
necessary budget to cover assistance to millions is often cited as the reason DSWD cannot assist everybody. There is always filtering as far as
who gets into certain assistance or service programs for indigents or the sick, or the elderly. There is one particular program whose reason for
being, I admire most, but should be revisited. There is that financial aid for families with school-age children, focused on the education-only
aspect of the kids’ growing up years. I am sure this program has helped a lot of kids belonging to families living under the poverty line, though
there are also exceptions. In our barrio, for example, the financial aid is sometimes being used by parents to buy food and other necessities at
home, so the kids end up not going to school at all, and in the end the families of these kids lose their membership in the program.

In the U.S. where there is free schooling in public schools and kids are bused going to and from school, the choice to stop schooling is left on the
family. Here, everyone has the privilege to go to school for free until high school. Well, college education is a different matter, of course. It is very
expensive to get a college education in the U.S., unless you have lots of scholarships or family savings for college education! My siblings who
were all college educated in the U.S. had to get student loans which they repaid for several years after graduation. They also had to work while
they went to school. Well, nowadays, there are also many working students in the Philippines, especially in many multinational food corporations.

Going back to the issue of poverty, I am most impressed by Filipinos who have chosen to leave the country to work abroad in order to change their
lives and those of their families. Because of their monthly remittances, the Philippines consider them the country’s major export. It’s their efforts
and sacrifices that keep their families alive and take them out of poverty as a result. Hence, when we see big beautiful homes around (except of
politicians and big corporate owners), for sure, they’re built by money pouring in from OFWs.

For the less fortunate ones with no means to get educated, no way to land a good job, or no opportunity to get out of the country and work abroad,
it is simply accepting their fate and doing the best they can to survive. I took some photos of homes that reflect their inhabitants’ economic status. I
know that these are not proper measures of poverty or wealth, but for me and many other Filipinos, our homes describe our earning capacity, what
we have achieved so far in terms of our past jobs or relationships (many marry foreigners with lots of dough), or what we have inherited from our
parents or grandparents.

Living in a relatively poor barangay in the province of Laguna, I am sensitive to the plight of some of my neighbors. I guess I have here a mission
to help convince people that being poor is not the end of life. I have been there, and though I’m not rich in the strictest sense of the word, I am
blessed. I just want to spread the idea that blessings come pouring for people who work very hard to get them.
There is that false idea that poverty doesn’t exist in a rich country. That’s the main reason a lot of our Filipino
Overseas Workers (OFWs) choose wealthy nations to work in and work for wealthy families, especially in the
Middle East. But once I  arrived in the United States of America, which has also been considered as a “greener
pasture,” that particular view changed, at least in my mind, because I saw in person people who are homeless,
people who are lined up in soup kitchens, people who have almost nothing but a dirty set of clothes on their backs,
and long lines of people who get government assistance for their basic needs.

I then realized that whether or not you live in wealthy country, there are always very poor people. The good thing
poor people in wealthy nations have that poor people in poor nations do not have in abundance are government
and private assistance. Nobody in the Philippines, for instance, can get “food stamps” or free lodging for a certain
number of days. Beggars abound, around many corners of any town, most especially outside churches,
restaurants, and parks. Street children who are sometimes barefoot never experience going to school but get all