Yesterday, the members of the faculty had a Parmenie Encounter Program organized by the Lasallian Mission Office. We went to Balibago Complex and we were supposed to interact with the poor there. I was privileged to talk to a 9 year-old and a couple.
The 9-year old “Gina”
I began my conversation with Gina by asking how she was. She said she was okay, but a little tired because she just came from playing with friends in the street. I asked further about her parents, what they did for a living. She said that her mother is a labandera and her father was a janitor but recently lost his job because he frequently absented himself from work. I continued getting to know Gina. I asked if they were able to eat at least 3 times a day, she said, “No.” Sometimes they only eat once. Her father just told her that morning, “Anak, pasensya muna ha, kasi hindi tayo makakain ngayon.” What struck me was her answer when I asked her what she does when she is not able to eat: “Tinitiis ko na lang po. Pero di po ako nagru-rugby kasi masama daw sa ulo yun. Ayaw ko nun.” I just had to ask this follow-up question because I wanted to know their source of income:
“Eh ikaw, nanlilimos ka ba sa kalsada?”
“Hindi po ako pinapayagan ng tatay ko kasi baka makulong daw ako.”
After this conversation, I realized that even the poor are capable of teaching their children values and living these values. They very well need the money, and could very well ask their children to go to the streets and ask for alms. But no. They love their children no matter what. They won’t put them in harms way. No electricity, no money, but will not impose the burden on their children. Exception? Yes, perhaps. But a good example of the poor to be capable of exercising virtue.
The street couple with 2 children and 1 on the way
They say that the poor only makes babies. This family is another exception. The mother is 26 and the father is 29. Their eldest is 8 years old, followed by a 3-year old and 1 on the way. Family planning? Yes definitely! They were able to space their children in these long year gaps! Contraceptives? Pills? I don’t think so. The Barangay health center even refused to entertain her since she’s not from the area. My colleague had to buy her P100 pregnancy test at the health center (binibili pala itong mga ito? Di ba dapat libre?!?!?!) to check if she was indeed pregnant. Do we still expect that a health center gave this couple pills? They knew they had to space their children. Poor, living in the streets, sleeping on kartons. The mother was a dispatcher, and the husband earns a living doing “pangangalakal” or junk trading.
The poor can’t do self-control? Of course they can! They are the same as us who have jobs and shelter, and more than we need. We are just clean, and they are covered with the street’s dirt. We distributed the binalot to our poor partners. At first, I was just given one set, and I gave it to the mother. The mother instinctively gave the food to her 3-year old daughter. I was so impressed that I told the mother:
“Bilib naman po ako sa inyo, ‘Nay, kasi ibibigay niyo ang pagkain ninyo sa anak ninyo.”
“Alam mo, wag na kaming kumain mag-asawa para makakain lang anak namin.” She continued, “Hindi pa nga namin naaayos ang birth certificate ni Dimple eh. Gusto namin siyang ipasok sa eskuwelahan eh kailangan ang birth certificate para makapasok.”
Education. Education. Education. The poor hold on to education as a means for them to rise out of poverty not contraceptives, pills. That’s what the poor wants and cry for! They know that they can get better jobs if they are educated! What does the government think about contraceptives and pills as a solution to poverty? Ask any child, they know that they will become richer with education.
What stops them from going to school?
“Wala pa po akong bag pampasok sa school.”
“Wala na po kaming pera para sa pagbili ng school supplies.”
Why can’t the local government do anything about this?
What the barangay did to help a couple with 21 children
A colleague was sharing that a barangay health official pitied this couple who lives on a kariton, but has 21 children, and ligated the mother. Did the ligation make them richer? No. They still have 21 children and they still live in that kariton. How elitist this thinking is! Why can’t the barangay give the father a decent job, or a livelihood? What is the barangay planning to help the poor in their area? None. They have none. They excused themselves from making programs for the poor saying, “They don’t belong to our city. They are not our constituents.” What they don’t realize is that these poor that we are talking to are actually their constituents. It speaks of the laziness of these officials to even just survey the streetchildren in the town.
These government officials need to do their own Parmenie Encounter Program.
Education and employment. Where are you?