ID :
Wed, 07/30/2008 - 20:47
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Jakarta, July 30 (ANTARA) - A little girl beggar about seven years old wearing a black dress and holding her younger sister, came to me, tugging at my shirt. "Sir, please give me some money?" she asked.

I gave her P10 (10 pesos, one peso is equal to Rp200) and asked what her name was. "Mary," she said and left without saying thank you.

Mary was among the many beggars I saw hanging around in Quiapo, one of the oldest parts of Metro Manila, the Philippines. There were old people and cripples begging on the streets and stairs leading to the underpass. The beggars in Quiapo are, however, different from those in Jakarta. They tend to touch people while begging.

Quiapo was humid, dirty, dusty and noisy with the vendors, crowd and jeepneys, a unique public transport popular in Metro Manila, modified from the jeep -- working their way through the chaotic, overcrowded streets.

Sidewalk shops sell all kinds of goods from fruit, electronics, and pirated DVDs to clothes, herbal medicines, candles and at half the price in the shopping mall. The quality, however, is not guaranteed.

One female vendor offered an Asian tourist a T-shirt for P250. She followed the tourist about 50 meters from her sidewalk stall to close the sale. The tourist refused. However, not far from the first vendor, another one offered a similar T-shirt for just P20. The tourist shook his head.

The vendors in the traditional Quiapo market mostly come from the provinces. Alan, a pomelo vendor is from San Carlos City, Pangasinan province, and had been selling pomelos for the past two years.

The pomelos come from Davao City. He sells his pomelos for as much as P50 each earning him a net income of about P300 per day.

A journalist friend, Germelina Lacorte from Davao City, asked Alan how he became al pomelos vendor in Quiapo. Speaking in Tagalog, Alan said he had stopped going school as he had not enough money. "Every night , I sleep on the sidewalk here," he said.

Quiapo is similar to certain areas in Jakarta such as the Jatinegara traditional market in East Jakarta or Tanah Abang market in Central Jakarta.

I saw a vendor in Quiapo selling lumpia (chicken rolls) for P10 (Rp2,000) each but it was filled with vegetables. We were eating the lumpia when four beggars surrounded us and touched our arms.

According to information in for adventurous travelers, a trip to Quiapo will provide a taste of third-world realities, a merging of Filipino religiosity and indigenous commerce.

Indeed, it was a surreal experience.Quaipo was originally a complex maze of rivers, canals, and marshes. It thrived as a fishing village, abounding in a water lily called Kiapo from which the area derived its name.

By the latter part of the 16th century, Quiapo had become a flourishing center of commerce, awash not merely with water lilies, but also crafts and trade stores, theaters and movie houses, open markets. Then, the elite, the 'illustrados' and the new rich also built luxurious homes and mansions in the area.

Glamor of MakatiGermelina and I continued our field trip to Makati, a bus-ride of about one hour from Quiapo. Makati is the main business district in Manila. It offers a lifestyle of comfort and relaxation, clean environment, deluxe class hotels, skyscrapers and fine dining. It's a world full of contrasts with conditions in Quiapo.

The Greenbelt Mall adjacent to Shangrila Hotel is lined by trees and landscaped gardens. Instead of jeepneys and beggars, there were luxury cars and security guards with metal detectors. .

A cup of coffee at Coffee Bean cost as much as P125 (Rp.25,000) , the equivalent to two square meals in Quiapo. A group of ladies were chatting at the next table, with their expensive looking dresses which would certainly be out of place in Quiapo.

Makati reminded me Pondok Indah, Plaza Senayan, or Plaza Indonesia in Jakarta where people in business attire look as if they are always in a rush.

I read in entry in that Makati has a history dating back to the time when Don Miguel Lopez de Legaspi first set foot on it and gave it its present name, derived from a Tagalog phrase meaning "ebbing tide". Makati was part of the territory ruled by a chieftain called Lakan Tagkan and his wife, Bouan, who lived in Namayan, now part of Sta. Ana, Manila.

In 1589, when a permanent seat in the city corporation was put up for sale at a public auction in accordance with the custom of the period, Captain Pedro de Brito, then an aide to the Spanish Army of Staff and chief constable of the Audencia, bought the property, which included the territory now occupied by Makati, for 1,400 pesos.

The House of Probation and its adjoining church were to be built on a hill called Buenavista, within the confines of a cattle ranch, which the founders owned in a district called Makati. The church, now located in the center of the Greenbelt mall,was to be placed under the patronage of Saint Peter. (This condition probably accounts for the prefixing of San Pedro to the name "Makati", which later also came to be called "Sampiro").

Three centuries later in 1914, by Act No. 2390 of the Philippine Legislature, the name "San Pedro de Makati" was changed to "Makati".

Wide GapDr.Eric Loo, a scholar at the MA Journalism programme of the Ateneo de Manila University told me that we could see the different situation and life style between Quiapo and Makati. In Quiapo we could see the poor and their simple life style while in Makati we could see the rich people with the glamour life style.

Is it reflexing an economic gap between the rich and the poor in the Philippines ?"Yes, we can see that there's a wide gap between the rich and the poor here," said Germelina Lacorte, who is associate editor of

According to the site in October 2001, the Population Commission (Popcom) said there are 30.6 million Filipinos or 6.12 million families who are suffering from poverty.

There are about 77 million Filipinos in 2001 and this number is growing by 2.05 percent annually. This means that some 1.5 million Filipinos are born every year, 600,000 of whom to poor parents. Some 32.5 million Filipinos, comprising 66.3 percent of the population, are considered matured enough to work. But 3.3 million of these people, or 10.1 percent of the workforce, cannot find jobs while 5.2 million others, or 17.7 percent, have no regular source of income.

According to the World Bank, the Philippines had a per capita GNP of US$1,050 in 1999, compared to China's US$780, Indonesia's US$600, Vietnam's US$370, Lao's US$290 or Cambodia's US$280. Yet, the Philippines' poverty incidence rate of 40 percent is higher than China's 3 percent, Indonesia's 23 percent, Vietnam's 37 percent, Lao's 38 percent or Cambodia's 36 percent. World Bank said that in the Philippines, the welfare is concentrated on the hands of the few.

In 1986 President Corazon Aquino focused her presidential campaign on the misdeeds of Marcos and his cronies. The site stated that the economic correctives she proposed emphasized a central role for private enterprise and the moral imperative of reaching out to the poor and meeting their needs. Reducing unemployment, encouraging small-scale enterprise, and developing the neglected rural areas were the themes.

It soon became clear that the plight of the people had been subordinated largely to the requirements of private enterprise and the world economy. As the president noted in her state-of- the-nation address in June 1989, the poor had not benefited from the economic recovery that had taken place since 1986. The gap between the rich and poor had widened, and the proportion of malnourished preschool children had grown.

How about in the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) 's government era ?In March 2008, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo said soaring oil prices had hurt her country's fight against widespread poverty despite high economic growth last year. "We are aware that no matter how much improvement there is at the top of the economic ladder, many of our people still struggle mightily," she said late Sunday, with the text of her comments released Monday. "The high price of gasoline and everyday commodities hits our poor the hardest," she said , at, quoted from AFP.

"While the high price of oil is a global issue outside the control of government, we have nevertheless taken and will continue to take actions to reduce the pain on our people of these high prices." Official figures released last week showed 3.8 million more people had joined the ranks of the poor between 2003 and 2006, amid cuts in social spending and new taxes to boost a narrow revenue base.

The data showed one in three Filipinos live on a dollar or less per day. The economy grew at a 31-year high of 7.3 percent last year, when inflation was kept at a 20-year low of 2.8 percent. But the Asian Development Bank has said not enough jobs are being created amid insufficient investment and obstacles to growth like poor infrastructure.

"Many things are left to be done. I plan on working hard with you the next two years to fulfill our Philippine Reform Agenda until the day I leave office in 2010," Arroyo said, quoted by AFP. "We have made tough and unpopular decisions to raise revenues and as we in the executive crack down on tax cheats so that we could invest in our physical infrastructure and in our people," she said.