There is a pain I’ve carried in my life for some time now and when something hurts too much, I find I retreat far deep down inside me and I don’t write a word about it. I’m like that kid who’s just too astounded at the heartlessness she bears witness to, that she has to listen to and read words written—actually written so there is no mistaking what they mean. In black and white. Stark. Without a doubt.
And it is this: the way the poor are regarded.
Let me say my piece. Let me sit you down and let me tell you—and I hope you listen.
The poor have had it the roughest.
They make do all the time because this is what’s been expected of them.
You are not as human as we are therefore you must bend where we are not expected to bend. And you must eat what we would never imagine feeding ourselves and our children. And look, here are my old clothes—I no longer want them—so full of holes! Yours! All yours. Surely you see my good heart. Am I not the most generous?
You can have my dilapidated Adidas—the one with a flapping mouth on the left shoe. It’s just one shoe anyway. The right shoe is still good. I would never use it but surely YOU have some use for it.
And here’s the public hospital for you. Yeah sure you have to share a bed with another stranger but so what, right? You’re poor. Surely you don’t mind. In fact, you ought to be grateful to have been given this. THANK YOU MR MAYOR FOR YOUR PROJECT! WE ARE EVER SO GRATEFUL!
And if a DSWD Secretary descends from on high on your dusty poverty-stricken barangay to make you part of the 4Ps program and then tells you you must vote for Mar Roxas or else you will lose all these benefits—why, you vote for him because that 500 pesos per child is what comes between your child and hunger.
Doesn’t matter that she left you hungry, wet, cold, with no roof over your head when the strong winds of Yolanda made landfall and destroyed all that was dear to you. You’re poor. Nothing is owed you—not even by government. Every little bit of crumbs thrown you, you must be grateful for.
The poor must grovel your thank yous to those who have stolen from them—and in their darkest hour.
Society is designed in such a way that not only are the poor kept poor but at some point, the ineptness and indifference and corruption of those in power will catch up with them, leaving them poorer than when they started.
Banks will not lend to them. Health care is a joke. Food, for some of them, is optional. Their children go to schools that overflow. And those are the luckier ones. Unbearable numbers of Filipino children do not go to school. These are the ones who live under the bridges, all the way up in the mountains, in the city’s dumpsites— children who need to labor to keep their families together.
They are so totally disempowered. And it is not for lack of trying.
The poor are some of the most industrious I know. Their industry shames me. they think nothing of waking up at 3am to be able to sell whatever vegetables they’ve grown in their backyard or sell ice water—carrying a styro container under the heat of the sun –and for what? For 100 pesos a day.
So when you tell me the poor are lazy, the truth is I want to slap you right across your face. From left to right—all the way through—till you bleed. For the shit you just said.
And when you say the President spoils them when he gave them the empty-for-years houses, let me tell you just how much he stands on solid ground. All the things you’ve read about how to solve poverty, how to achieve social justice—my dears, open your eyes. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE PRESIDENT HAS DONE. And he stands on solid ground here.
You cannot possibly spoil a highly disenfranchised, highly marginalized group.
Spoil is what you do—what’s been done since time immemorial—to greedy bastards like Lucio Tan and the Cojuangcos and Prietos and other oligarchs who, all these years, have been afforded protection by the very laws they break. Spoiled is what they are which is why they feel so totally entitled and have run roughshod over us forever. Go the fuck after them.
And when the poor organize themselves, APPLAUD THEM, PRETTY FUCKING PLEASE!
BECAUSE THIS IS THE WAY THEY EMPOWER THEMSELVES. This is the way a highly inequitable situation is made equitable—when power is seized by the powerless.
AND WE APPLAUD THEM BECAUSE A MOST EMPOWERED CITIZENRY CAN ONLY LIFT UP A COUNTRY. WHEN A MOST MARGINALIZED SECTOR GETS ORGANIZED, THEY CLAW THEIR WAY BACK TO THE CENTER AND THEY SUDDENLY HAVE A VOICE AND THEY NO LONGER ARE HEAVY BURDENS TO SOCIETY—THE WAY THOSE OLIGARCHS—THOSE USELESS, GREEDY AS HELL OLIGARCHS WHO STEAL AND STEAL AND STEAL SOME MORE ARE BURDENS TO US ALL.
When the poor get organized, they remind government of its obligations—YES, OBLIGATIONS AND DUTIES—TO THEM. YES, THEM. That they are as human as we are and that what we expect for ourselves we must expect for them too—food, shelter, education, health care. HINDI LANG TAYO ANG MAY KARAPATAN MAMUHAY NG MASAYA. GUSTO DIN NILA MAG-BEACH PAG SUMMER VACATION!
So pretty please, educate yourselves. When you stay stuck and never open a book about poverty, you will, forever, be caged in the cruel generalizations you have of them and when you are caged, you cage them too.
This makes you part of the problem.
The President is on solid ground in this. Those who have less in life must have more in the law.
For those who are temporarily disempowered by poverty—because poverty doesn’t have to be a life sentence– the law must be on their side. Those who are in power must protect and shield them. Their power must be the power of the poor.
This is why this President stands solidly on their side.
That is how it is with Rodrigo Duterte.
That is how it ought to be.