Category Archives: Hunger

An aid that never existed

A photo taken in Pigcawayan before the flood -ed

In this report by Mindanews on May 1, it reported that the North Cotabato provincial government, a province in Central Mindanao, have declared the affected municipalities in their province devastated by flood in a state of calamity; and started distributing food aid and relief.

At least 8,500 hectares of farm crops–rice, corn and vegetables–had been destroyed and wasted. Some of them are even ripe for harvest or just been planted by farmers. The affected municipalities were Pigcawayan, Libungan, Midsayap, Aleosan, and Pikit, all in the first district.

Declaring an area under a State of Calamity, as what the provincial government already did to these towns, would enable them allocate funds and needed assistance for the villagers. A certain amount of money would have to be drawn town’s coffer for this.

As what the local officials and social welfare personnel had been claiming they already did distribute food aid, allocate fund and other assistance.

…the provincial social welfare and development office have been distributing rice to about 900 families affected by the disaster; the local government has allotted some funds for additional assistance.

However, in a check with my parents-in-law living in Pigcawayan, we were told though this never existed. No food aid, relief goods, or any sort of assistance had reach them. We learned of it on May 11, ten days after this report from the government had come out.

So, where have these food aid and assistance gone?

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Filed under Calamity, Hunger, Poverty, Public opinion

Poverty: a reality can’t be denied

marianet.jpg

After getting much attention, the local authorities in Davao City now downplays the death of a 12-year-old girl, Mariannet Amper, as not aggravated by her family’s poverty(photo above). Instead, they insisted the girl could have been raped prompting her to hung herself.

City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said in this report. He was quoted is similar report as saying;

“It’s not fair to us, it’s not fair to the girl who died, it’s not fair to the Filipino people because you are covering the truth,” Duterte said. “If there’s poverty in our midst, it’s not the fault of the city government of Davao, we are not the captain of the ship, it’s Manila”

His reaction is typical to that of local politicians in defensive position. Of course, refusing to take responsibility to their failures, much more of a death aggravated by poverty, is expected rather than unexpected ones. No politicians and leaders admit mistakes damaging to their own selves.

What has become for local officials is that they rather defends and justifies themselves instead of acting on the problem, and to acknowledge it. My cousin, Maricel and her son, died aggravated by lack of food and abject poverty, but the local government in General Santos City too, where they resides, have also refused to take responsibility. They put the blame on her relatives.

Whether or not Mariannet commits suicide aggravated by her family’s poverty; still her family’s condition is undeniably in abject poverty. The motivation of her death cannot correct or denies anything about the abject poverty they are into.

As mentioned in her school diary before she died, she and her brother hardly had allowance for their transportation going to school, buy food to eat, and sometimes forced to absent from going to school.

Mayor Duterte yet again, like other local officials who have failed their constituents, put blame on other government agencies for the continuing poverty by some residents in his city, if not for the girl’s death.

It’s a fact of life in the Philippines. Nobody takes responsibility to anybody, even government officials and the concerned agencies who are supposed to ensure the welfare of its citizens.

The message there was clear: clean up your own mess.

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Filed under Human Rights, Hunger, Poverty, Public opinion

Can’t afford to buy tomb

Even dying is expensive.

My cousin, Maricel, was laid to rest in a tomb where my uncle was. She died from acute pneumonia. Her illness had been aggravated by the lack of food and continuing abject poverty she and her family had been experiencing.

She did not have her own tomb. The contributions of money by my relatives and her family has not been enough to buy a piece of land where she would be laid to rest. It cost USD 233. What they did was to exhume my uncle’s tomb, collect his remains and burn his casket. The emptied tomb of my uncle would soon to be the tomb of my cousin too. She was laid to rest together with her father on November 11.

On October 31 she had ceased to live an inhumane life when she died at a public hospital in General Santos City. She died of complications. She never had regular medicines nor medical check-up at the time of her death. She and her family can’t afford to. If she has money, I’m sure prefers buying food to feed her child than spending them for medications.

She died with her three-month-old fetus who never had a chance to born and to live. Yes, she was pregnant when she died. Perhaps, the fetus need not to be born. Perhaps, my cousin’s death have instead save her child from living an inhumane life.

My cousin and her family had long been struggling in abject poverty and even to buy food for them to eat. After her son died from severe malnutrition two years ago, she and her family have instead been ridiculed and humiliated by some of their villagers when their family condition reached local authorities. It is a place where being poor had become a shame.

Those who reprimand them are those who are supposed to ensure their welfare in the village. Obviously though, they refused to take responsibility of their neglect and failure for my cousin son’s death and suffering of her family. Otherwise, they themselves would be held to account–which could mean dismissal from their work.

Even the social workers who had interviewed her after her son’s death had told her that she could have told them first before informing the city’s mayor. The social workers were reprimanded by the mayor upon learning of her son’s death and his family’s condition. Anyhow, the authority’s reaction was short lived. And even their assistance.

Living had been expensive for them.

Now that even dying, for my poor cousin who didn’t even have a descent burial, had become expensive, what is life had become?

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Filed under Hunger

SAD NEWS: My cousin dies

My sister, Ana Bella, informed me few hours back that our cousin, Cecil, has died.

In my previous entry, I have mentioned about the death of Cecil’s son who died from hunger-related disease, severe malnutrition. I find myself finding it difficult to express my thoughts to describe her death now.

Just last Friday, I was discussing in my last blog entry about how hunger and starvation is hardly understood in my country, at least in my village. I cited her case as an example but never did I have any idea that she died already.

I shortly forgot about the sad news of her death when I phoned my friend, Benson. Yet, he informed me about the death of Marianette in Davao City. Once again, my cousin’s death and that of her son reminds me of what they had in common with that of Marianette. They all died and they never lived a humane life.

Their death is a shame on us all. If life for them was so cruel perhaps by dying would give them escape from what life they have had. I feel sorry for myself for not having done enough for my cousin; however, what angers me most is of how the state neglected them.

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Filed under Hunger

Girl chooses to die than live inhumane life

The story of Mariannet Amper, a 12-year-old girl in Davao who hung herself due to abject poverty her family has been facing, is a tip of the iceberg of the long standing problem of dysfunctional social services program in the Philippines.

Hers was among the many unreported cases of suicides, starvation deaths and extreme level of malnutrition there.

Poverty is nothing new there. One need not to conduct surveys, research or interview of how depressing the poor’s lives there; and how they struggle to even fed themselves to survive. The extent of its condition could be weight on how the people reacts to it. Unlike other cases Mariannet’s story gets fairly enough attention.

But do you know that in recent months, a couple are amongst those to commit suicides as a result of severe depression due to abject poverty?

Fighting poverty requires more of deep reflection that calling for justice for victims, putting blame on others, or for the government to be reminded of their program.

It requires deeper understanding to the concept of: poverty, starvation deaths, hunger, death resulting from malnutrition, to which this time is almost nonexistent in the psyche of the Filipinos. Even the officials who are supposed to implement social services and poverty alleviation programs finds themselves hardly understanding this.

For instance, my cousin’s son died of hunger-related diseased, severe malnutrition, which was cause by hunger. She and her surviving family never get adequate assistance. When the social welfare staffs interviewed her family to assess their conditions, whether or not they deserve assistance, the social worker declared they are not qualified.

Why? Because my aunties and uncles are public school teachers which suggests that she had well-off relatives who could support her. Blame it to my aunties and uncles for being teachers. Never mind whether or not these public school teachers are even struggling to support own families due to meager pay. Evaluation does not depend on the condition of victim’s family being evaluated, but rather their relatives.

So, what can you expect from social services? Perhaps what they are looking for are not only poor, but poorest of the poor. But who and where these people really are? If the purchasing power and standard way of life is made as basis in measuring and evaluating each family’s condition requiring assistance, perhaps over half of the country’s population would qualify for this. Even public school teachers or government employees would do.

Moral values had long come to its ever degenerating condition. When people chooses to die than living an inhumane life; the meaning of life had gone cheap. When people show less care for others, or if reactions are short lived, perhaps it suggests there is nothing new to this already. And the people tends to let it pass.

While we condole and shed tears on this girl’s death, we should also bare in mind that we could still save the lives of millions of other girls, and families who are now, right there, suffers the same depressing condition of life. To save theirs is what we and the concerned Filipinos should be doing and act on it.

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Filed under Human Rights, Hunger

Sorry for my country

At age 8, I thought the only people and country that exist are Filipinos and Philippines respectively.

I could not comprehend images of foreigners appearing on television shows, as I don’t see them actually in person in my hometown–General Santos City. As long as I am entertained with movies of western youngsters performing bicycle stunts on movies, that’s all that matters for me.

Never did I thought that a better place to stay should be fought. Never did I thought that my country is worst, poverty and injustice has long exist, people were killed and disappeared, and people died of hunger. That this is a way of life here.

I feel deeply sorry of how fast my country and its system degenerate.

Of how deeply engulf my country is into disaster and how long Filipinos had long been denied of their rights had long been a hard-won struggle.

The dollar to peso rate has improved but it has no meaning for us Filipinos who do not have dollars or using it. What disturbs me at least, is that our economy had been left out by the Vietnamese that is improving.

That skilled workers, professionals and medical experts had long opted to work way below of what they’re trained of to improve their family’s condition. The “Brain Drain” problem I fist encounter in my high school textbooks had long been left not arrested. I feel sorry for my country.

My fellow mass communication graduates in Davao City, at least two of whom, has instead work in outsourcing companies or call centers in Metro Manila. It seems working at call centers is becoming a descent work nowadays. The employment and underemployment rate is still high and continued on increasing yearly.

My sister too is unemployed. She completed her studies for Bachelor of Secondary Education Major in English in 2005, but until now she has no work yet. She had been finding difficult of finding job fit for her. When she was hired in 2005 in one of the exclusive private school, it was through agency.

Even though how deeply sorry I am for my country, still there’s something inside of me that someday things would change. I feel sorry but the hope for change is still burning inside of me.

What shocked me is of how passive some Filipinos are to get involved on social issues. It reminds me of how my mom and dad did not even bother explaining to us when we were young what martial law was and why there are curfews in our village. While the selected few exploited and manipulated their power and authority to advance their interest, those affected people seemed to have ignored all this.

As I hate such people, I hate my self too. I hate of feeling being affected of the worsening condition in my country but only few people seemed to realized this. Often they are ridiculed for airing their voices and breaking silence.

I hate the politicians who are not advancing their constituent’s interests. I hate abusive police and military who remained unpunished. I hate the defective justice system we have denying violations victims of justice. I hate usual political bickering at the expense of the people. I hate that while other countries are improving we are moving backward. I hate Filipinos who discredits their roots and country instead of helping it.

I dreamed of the day Filipinos fight for common good. Not for their political agenda, selfish interest, and inimical to common good.

Despite how hopeless our country maybe is today–I still hang on to it. As long as I breathe, I’ll do my little own way of achieving this. I hope other Filipinos too thought of this.

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Filed under Human Rights, Hunger

Living in coastal dumpsites

When me and my colleague went to a coastal dumpsite early today, the desperate experience i have had of how difficult life was when I was younger flashes back.

Although makeshift tents and houses made of garbage recycables, like sacks and used tires, is perhaps commonly seen in dumpsites communities, but the feeling of integrating in a place is different.

There in Rosario, Cavite–and any other dumpsite communities, you feel and see first hand how wide the gap of inequality between the rich and poor is.

You see them getting immuned to a stingy smell of garbage, harvesting leafy vegetables (kang kong) from a dumpsite’s swamps, children walking along a pile of garbage barefooted, amongst others. Not only the life in the dumpsite community is backward but desperate for survival.

The people’s livelihood, mainly garbage collecting and fishing, is threatened not only by health concerns of the dumpsite due to poor environmental conditions but of the bloating population of people whose resorting to garbage collecting as their only and last option to survive.

No proper toilet were built for shanties, villagers took water for drinking and cooking from deepwell close to dumpsite, fishermen fish few meters from the dumpsite’s coastal waters and villagers often rebuilt their shanties once they’re hit with huge waves due to tropical storms.

I was told Payatas situation is worst than what’s in there. For me, whether it is in Payatas dumpsite (Quezon City) or somewhere, it reflects how Filipinos are being denied of their constitutional rights to food, housing and livelihood. In particular of what is spelled out in the Social Reform Agenda and Poverty Alleviation Program (RA 8425).

Stories of hunger-related deaths of children, villagers getting sick due to poor environmental condition and hunger, absence of opportunities to uplift their lives other than scavenging–is far worst than we could imagine.

What is worst to having no options at all to survive but to scavenge?

Not only these people are deprive of their social and economic rights, obviously of the non-functioning social reform law or the non-implementation of it, these villagers are also threatened of their only means of survival. An influential person who is also an ally of a local politician is claiming the land they are occupying and where the dumpsite is located as his. The land is actually formerly part of the seawaters in the coast.

These people have no satisfaction of what they have. Their vicious greed threatens the scavenger people’s only means of survival. It’s unthikable but is happening in a democratic country like the Philippines. All these things are happening yet the government is turning a blind eye.

As i was extremely shock to what i have witnessed, I was more extremely shock of the people’s silence to fight back.

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Filed under Human Rights, Hunger, Poverty