Friday, August 18, 2006

We've Done Our Share, Now GMA must Do Hers.

Early in life, I was exposed to social concern. I remember an old lady who begged outside my school. She reminded me of my favorite Lola. Grimy and often mumbling in her own world, I wondered how she could live from day to day. I was five back then. People would just pass her and quite a few threw coins in her little can. Food was cheap back then and my daily allowance was five centavos a day. My Mom worked at a government office just across the school and she would fetch me everyday at noon. My Mom prepared a sandwich for my recess and rice and viand for my lunch. Every day, I would sneak out to give half of my lunch and my five centavos to that poor old lady. My Dad who was a banker often asked what I did with my money and why unlike my sister, I was never able to save. He often told me I was too "magastos". When I transferred to another school, I never saw the lady again, even when I went with my Mom who had to work overtime on Saturdays. My parents never knew my little secret.

My parents, with their meager earnings adopted two kids, whom they sent to school. I didn't understand back then why we had a new sister and brother who were much older than us. That time, my younger brother had just began to walk. Obviously they were not my parents' kids as they had a different surname and a woman they called "Inay" would visit them on weekends. My parents told me that they were too poor to attend school and we were helping them out. Years later, they left after finishing college and I would only see them on special occassions. The boy finished accounting and the girl became a teacher. This stuck with me and I promised myself that I would also do the same when I grow up.

I studied in a Catholic school run by missionaries and became more exposed to the poverty around me. From time to time, I joined their "field work" where I realized how fotunate I really was. I often went home without any money in my pockets as I gave them all away to the poor kids we taught. Entering college meant more allowance. But sadly it was not enough for my "special work" and asked my Mom to give me a little money to start a small business. I bought shirts from Cartimar and sold them to my batchmates. The proceeds I got, I donated to my favorite charity. Every Monday during my break, I would pickup my supplies and by mid-afternoon, I've sold them all. I did all sorts of "jobs", like research and reports for a fee to add to my donations. Through those years, I think I helped send more than 50 kids to school.

I had gotten married and had to stop my "special mission" as I now have to build a family of my own. Still, I told myself that I will continue in one way or another, my advocacy. My kid had her parties at an orphanage and instead of getting presents she gave toys away. My job enabled me, with the help and understanding of my boss to hold Christmas events at our establishment where we invited orphans for some merienda and gift-giving. I of course had to look for sponsors for those special events. But my work was too stressing that I eventually resigned, my wife and I started our own business. Business was good back then and every so often, we would give clothes and toys to my favorite charity. At the same time, we were sending our househelp to school since my wife and Lola were there to look after our child.

I thought everything would continue until the Asian crisis which saw my business collapse. My grandparents lived with me and I saw to their daily needs, while my parents spent for their health. My Lolo passed away leaving me a number of apartments. My Lola soon followed him and I transferred to a new house. Doing some freelance design work and having a small bakery plus the rent I collect monthly is just enough to send my two kids to school. The workers we employ now attend vocational classes in their free time, that's what I can afford at present. I also ask my baker to bake extra bread for the streetsweepers and beggars who would pass by the store every afternoon. Noche Buena and Media Noche were spent giving food to those who live on the sidewalks in their "karitons". My children, nephews and nieces always look forward to this.

What I wanted to impart to anyone who reads this is that we can, in our own little way help improve the lives of our less-fortunate countrymen. To give just even one person some ray of hope in life would be a great help. My neighbor who's a dentist treats the poor in our community for free and so does the doctor from the other street who's on call 24 hours a day. The warm smile and thank you we get out of this is more than any monetary reward. If we can do it I expect our leaders to do the same.

What saddens me is how the government, with its vast resources has failed to address poverty. Instead of spending huge amounts on senseless projects and redundant agencies, they could have used it to lessen our people's suffering. They would rather inflict suffering than help alleviate it. I scoff at GMA for asking us to sacrifice when she can't do the same. Our politicians are too busy enriching themselves, depriving their constituents of the service they sorely need. Those who are pushed to seek employment elsewhere are even exploited by the very government that's suppose to protect them.

I often hear and read this remark, "instead of whining and complaining, why don't you do your share?" This irks me as I have been giving more than my share. I know many Filipinos have given more than their fair share too. We've paid our taxes for what, so the people in power can spend it on their gas, their electricity, their water, their food, their trips, their celphones and even their mistresses. They say they've saved huge amounts while they continue to create new positions to be filled by their "friends". They save by cutting down not on their personal expenses but on the social services like health and education. They give big bonuses to corrupt officials, bribe and praise the military, while people in the countryside are terrorized and their rights trampled upon. Where is justice then?

I guess they never look out the windows of the mansions and SUVs and look at the poverty and suffering around them. Nor do they look in the mirror and ask what they've done for the country. But come election time, they remember the poor who sell their votes out of desperation and hunger. They label us as distabilizers for voicing out our concerns. Hit us with truncheons because we dare to expose their wrongdoings. Silence us through their assassins. Abduct our youth and progressive leaders. All these we got from a government who calls itself a democracy.

The Filipinos have done more than their share, its GMA's turn to do hers. RESIGN!