On the laziness of many poor Filipinos

April 19, 2012.┬áThere is this prevalent and misguided notion among several sectors of the ‘educated class’ that the cause of a person’s or a family’s poverty and want is a function of one’s lack of “diskarte” as they call it, or even more insulting, a function of one’s indolence (echoing Spanish colonial friars), or worse, a function of the number of children in the family.

If that were the case, then they should agree with the idea that the primary solution, then, to the persistent poverty that cripples majority of Filipinos is a nationwide psychological self-help and motivation seminar and the mass castration and ligation of couples nationwide. But clearly, that is absurd as it is naive.

Poor millions of Filipinos are but lazy they are certainly not. They are neither a class of irresponsible offspring-makers as some insultingly try to portray them to be. God knows how many Filipinos work tirelessly in the fields and in the factories and workplaces in the country and overseas from sun-up to sundown and yet their lives do not improve. (For if you are looking for the laziest people in the planet, you need not look further than the corner offices of men and women who take no part in production but acquire the wealth of collective labor). Certainly, the hand to mouth existence of millions is not a mere consequence of individualized and separate circumstances of their God-forsaken lives, as some religious conservatives insist (and thus the solution is simply–prayer). The poverty of any one Filipino family is a condition that they share with millions of others across the archipelago, not because of some common trait of indolence or libido, but because we are all subject to the same political and economic rules of the status quo. Indeed, larger political and economic forces are behind their shared misery.

So, to my idealistic friends, who remain hopeful but misguided by the onslaught of a cacophony of bourgeois solutions to poverty: perpetual charity work, seminars, scholarship drives, outreach missions, “fun runs” just won’t do. The challenge is to unite with the different sectors of society to collectively confront the political and economic roots of this centuries-long calamity.

* Charity is a virtue?

On Squatters

Nakiusap ang mga nanay ng Corazon de Jesus na makabalik sila sa kanilang sinisira nang mga tahanan para maisalba ang natitira nilang mga gamit. Pero pinipigilan sila ng mga pulis. (photo and caption by KR Guda of PinoyWeekly.org)

January 12, 2012. There is something particularly bothersome with the condescending arrogance displayed by some people with regard the issue of the urban poor and their problem on housing. Relying on pure legalese, they forward an overly simplified position that since “squatters” do not own the land where their shanties are built on, they deserve to be evicted–by force–using the entire arsenal of the state to protect the property rights of the owners.

These people fail to recognize the social context of the problem. A fourth of Metro Manila, a staggering 584,425 families according to the National Housing Authority, are informal settlers. When the problem affects a significant portion of the population it ceases from becoming a purely legal problem of property rights and land ownership. It becomes a tragic social phenomenon, in much the same way as peasant landlessness is, and thus calls for fundamental political and economic solutions like agrarian land reform. It is a social phenomenon because it finds its roots in political and economic forces that compel hundreds of thousands of Filipino families to move to urban centers and “squat” on idle lands.

If you think squatters are not entitled to live in their homes, you might as well ask for the eviction of a fourth of Metro Manila for squatting on idle lands. Wow. If you don’t realize it, many of Manila’s laborers come form the urban poor. They do everything from cooking and serving your food, doing your laundry, and ironically–building your homes. You might as well ask for the paralysis of economic activity in the national capital.

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Alin ang mas matimbang

August 8, 2007. There was a time when I couldn’t care less when I see news of residential demolitions on TV. I used to subscribe to the idea that it must be done for “aesthetic purposes” and for infrastructure projects that’s supposed to facilitate economic development. Those, or I couldn’t care less.

Last Thursday afternoon, while lounging at the basement of Vinzons Hall with some friends, an unusual commotion along Tandang Sora caught our attention. There was an ongoing demolition of the Balara residents’ establishments along the road for the supposed expansion of Circumferential Road 5 (C-5).

It really is something to witness personally their tragedy and hear them express their anguish than to watch these things on 30 second briefs in primetime news. It’s despicable how the government can easily trample of the rights of the marginalized for mere aesthetic purposes and for infrastructure that only serve the privileged. What can get more infuriating is when you witness yourself how government ‘mercenaries’ violently insist on taking away everything from their carts, to the goods, to the money, to the tiniest block of ice. And even within the borders of the university, which is illegal. Interestingly, the Ayala Heights golf course will remain untouched.