This post is my take on Blog Action Day 08 - Poverty
Why are Filipinos poor? That is the one billion peso question which has hounded us for the past decades.
More than a hundred years ago, Jose Rizal gave his piece about the Philippines' state with an article entitled The Indolence of the Filipino.
He wrote, "Before the arrival of the Europeans, Malayan Filipinos carried on an active trade, not only among themselves but also with all the neighboring countries," He added, "Wealth abounded in the islands." Filipinos were described by early historians as "well-featured, with good aptitudes for anything that they take up, keen and susceptible and of resolute will, very clean and neat in their persons and clothing, and of good mien and bearing."
However, Rizal explained that, "A fatal combination of circumstances... has led to the decline of labor. He cited a number of reasons why the Filipinos of his time had become indolent: wars and internal disorders, gambling, overdependence in religion, lack of capital, absence of means and even the hot climate.
But Rizal intimated that there were really two main causes, which are: defects in training (Very limited training at home, tyrannical and sterile education of the rare centers of learning, the blind subordination of the youth); and lack of national sentiment (The absence of all opposition to measures prejudicial to the people and the absence of any initiative in whatever may redound to its good).
More than a hundred years after our national hero's observations, the Philippines is still hounded by the very same problems that has kept us poor: substandard education and lack of national identity.
It's easy to blame the government for poverty in our country. And make no mistake about it, it shares a big part of the blame, since it is the one steering the ship. The government, it seems, is being run by people who look out only for themselves. Education has taken a back seat. Taxes are increased irrationally without the requisite improvement in tax administration. 'Reforms,' which in reality are dressed up dole-outs, are paraded to the people to give the illusion that things are being done. Such a dismal state of affairs just makes even the most patriotic say "to hell with the Philippines!"
But individuals are part of the blame too. We cannot really expect the government to do everything for us. The last time I checked, we are not a communist country. We have to do our part too. A little pride and accountability can go a long way in our fight against poverty. And it starts from the simple things: throwing the trash in the proper place, following traffic rules, paying the correct taxes, objecting when the government does something wrong, applauding when it does something good. We can do big things by doing the little ones right.
And while we are still a long way from eradicating poverty, and despite all the seemingly insurmountable obstacles, we are surviving.
A great many examples abound as to the resilience of the Pinoy to survive: The OFW who risks life and limb in a foreign land, away from loved ones, just to send money back home; The teacher, with her many sidelines just to get by; The sidewalk vendor who hawks his wares day in and day out, knowing that anytime the MMDA would swoop down and confiscate everything. The list goes on and on.
Indeed, we play the hand that providence dealt us. Good thing that the Filipino has the resilience of a sturdy tamaraw and the disposition of a singing maya. We're still hanging on despite all odds. Buhay pa tayo.
Photos: Kevin and Siomuzzz, Flickr, Creative Commons