Asian
Wisconzine
by Heidi M. Pascual
The Ugly Head of Poverty
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 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