The continuing shame of our nation


Poverty in the Philippines cannot be effectively and substantially resolved. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot raise at least 5 million Filipino families out of poverty, not for as long as they do not change the way they look at the poor.

The poor are not the problem, we are. The poor are the victims, not the cause, of poverty. If government wants to effectively and substantially address the cancer we call poverty, then government has to look at itself as the primary culprit. After it, the next culprit is the Church and the elite that have long been in bed with government.

It may be that there is less malice among the culprits than a historical amnesia, and greed, of course. Government shamefully forgets our very history, especially the fact that we were never an impoverished people until we were conquered, abused and exploited by our colonizers. Because poverty was not a natural state of the natives of our islands until we were baptized “Filipinos” by Spain, there is an easy way to trace our poverty.

For one thing, and I hate to disappoint some Filipino bashers, it is not because Filipinos are lazy. If we were, our poverty would be closer to 90 percent than 30-50 percent. After all, we used to be 90 percent poor, if not more. But because Filipinos are not lazy and because Filipinos are resourceful, determined and ambitious, almost half of the once-poor have pulled themselves up  by their bootstraps. Take a bow, my people, you did it by yourselves despite government, despite the elite and despite global competition.

It was not so long ago, in the 90’s, when the economic demographics divided Filipinos as follows:

Classes A & B – 1%

Class C             – 9%

Class D             – 55%

Class E             – 35%

Today, we are told that poverty is down to about 28 percent. I think it is measured largely by food threshold and other life necessities called poverty threshold. All I know it that 28 percent is too low, way too low, both in the number and in the shallowness of how we empathize with the suffering of the poor.

Let me concede 28 percent as the estimate of the poorest of the poor, but let me double it for my estimate, and the people’s own estimate, of who is poor in the Philippines. When asked to rate themselves, Filipinos from the high 40 to 60 percent claim they are poor. That’s poverty. With 28 percent and below, that’s shameful, that’s criminal.

From the upper portion of Class D has been born the new class of Filipinos—the OFWs. From the pain of separation has emerged tens of millions, estimated conservatively at 30 million, who have heroically defied historical odds, governments and the elite who rule and climbed out of their inherited pit. They have gone through their revolution, paid and still pay the price, just to break a pattern of misery imposed on them by those who had power and advantage. By their sacrifice, they are the greatest builders of the nation.

If our leaders from the State, the Church and Big Business really want to learn how to defeat poverty, they have a good model to study in the OFW phenomenon. Though they did not start from the poorest of the poor, many were poor enough, desperate enough, to grasp at employment even as domestic helpers. They have gone through indignity after indignity at the hands of insensitive masters of all races, but they keep doing so and many more here would prefer that to what they have, what they face, in their own motherland. This is the first lesson, that our poor live in so degrading a life and so hopeless a future that they would rather risk indignities abroad to have a stab at a brighter tomorrow for their families.

The second lesson is to imagine what kind of indignity the poorest of the poor swallow day by day, lifetime after lifetime. If those who are better off than them in the poverty chain feel desperate enough to accept humiliation from foreign masters to build an opportunity for a better future for the families they have left behind, what kind of misery defines the existence of the so called 28 percent poorest of the poor? This is lesson # 2, that the poorest of the poor, despite their misery, have not opted for a bloody revolution because they have let go even of desperation. They have chosen resignation, they prefer to live a life without hope, they adjust to being more animal than man; they simply try to survive.

On the brighter side, from the billions of dollars that OFWs remit to their families, on what do they spend on over and above the luxuries they always dreamed on but could never afford? In terms of priorities, OFWs try to buy a house. They buy as much as they can, but they try to buy a house, all of them, except those who had small houses that now have become two floors made of cement and hollow blocks—bahay na bato.

To those who are appointed by the State, by the Church, and by Big Business, this is lesson # 3. Look at the house, or the attempt to buy or build a house. It is not just a house, it is not just shelter. Look deeply at what the house represents and learn the greatest lesson.

It is about security. It is about land. It is about a sacred spot in this planet and in their motherland that they can call their own. Here, they are safe. Here, it is home.

If we can learn the three lessons, we might remember what happened, why we lost our sacred spots and the security that is patrimony of all humanity. Only when we remember can we erase the shame of our nation.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Don Ryder

    paano silang hindi maghihirap kung anim, pito, walo ang anak nila? tapos meron pang mga bisyo tulad ng alak, sigarilyo at sugal? may kilala akong manikurista, sabi niya: “kaming mag-asawa kayod ng kayod para sa dalawang anak namin, at konti lang ang na-iipon . . . pero ang ibang kapitbahay namin, walang naaasahang trabaho pero meron pang-sugal, inom, at sigarilyo pa!” Ang mga may-kaya naman, tipid ng tipid. kaya ang mga mayaman ay lalong yumayaman at maraming mahirap, lalong humihirap.

  • Mary Jane Ammari

    You want to know why Pnoys walang kurap ,walang mahirap is hard to implement ? Because the politicians who were comitting those crimes , just changed sides to yellow side and pretending to have the same vision as Pnoy , just so that they can get the vote of the people who supports Pnoy .And continue to plunder the cavan ng bayan . I know , don´t ask me how I know kasi if I talk again marami ang ma-ooffend sa akin , sa mga binanggit ko .

  • Mary Jane Ammari

    Exactly , but there are still people who pledge their alliance with these corrupt families


    One of fundamental reasons why the government exist, is the delivery of the basic services. One of the basic services is the power generation…and this current government is focusing to privatized almost all of it (and the president will surely have that “corporate per diem” thru a board resolution from that privatization).
    One of the solution to alleviate poverty is for the government to provide this basic services…and to build some of this basic services is an income and job generating activities necessary for that purpose. A loan by the government to create/build this basic services is a positive economic and income generating activity…but sadly, they’re all tapped by the private sector (the oligarchs).

  • jackereno

    it is the ruthless political system that turn this country in a continuing decay. abolish the pork barrel so that only dedicated, nationalistic, intelligent pinoy will be interested in it less the corrupt, opportunistic clans who have no proper education to boot. 2nd, only the best in the family should be qualified for candidacy, only one. 3rd, must have only 3parties to contest, only the best can be accepted in the party and ban for life the balimbings. 4th, proper screening of candidates and voters at a highest standard. 5th, we must have govt auditors that have decent salaries/ allowance with esp. securities backed by high calibre lawyers, only the president can make these changes, mr president let this appeal be heard, or we shall remain hopeless.

  • jay_aaa

    They do sell them..i know because my relatives are among “those” people. It is not the same as legally selling it (with titles, deed of sale etc.) as how you imagined. Be socially aware kaibigan. Matagal nang ganyan ang nangyayari, at alam yan ng lahat. Im surprised that some people still didnt know.

    • AlzheimersC

      So walang legal binding ang pagkakabigay ng NHA ng bahay sa kamag-anak mo? :)

      • jay_aaa

        Like i say “It is not the same as legally selling it”. Dont expect them to give respect so much on “legal binds”.

  • Leo Angelo Salinel

    Radical in the sense na out-of-the-box. But if you mean Nat Dem solutions a la CPP-NPA-NDF dogma, sorry, sir, but no dice.

  • Ganymede

    They need somebody who could whip them up to work their as*es. Masyadong ini spoiled at ine exploit kasi ng mga local officials. Local officials condone them since they the more these people depends on them the more they can perpetuate in power.

  • Ganymede

    I don’t think we can emulate Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Because these countries have, first and foremost, genuine national pride which the Filipinos don’t have. We all have reason to, one is due to the quality of our politicians nowadays. But we only have ourselves to blame because we elect them time and time again. Another thing is lack of unity, then lack of action (magaling lang bumatikos), the list could go on and on… Compare these traits to the Japanese, you’ll find the opposite.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks

May 23, 2015

Tough guy

May 22, 2015

China versus Edca