Friday, January 12, 2007 at Friday, January 12, 2007 | 3 comments
Signs of poverty are very visible nowadays. Just yesterday, I witnessed an altercation between a jeep driver and a passenger. The passenger, a woman in her 30s, was asking for additional change amounting to 75 cents. She kept on insisting that there was 50-cent discount given to commuters as per LTO directives. The driver shot back, saying the discount was good only until December 31 last year. The woman muttered something I didn’t understand and I thought she resigned, so it blew me off when she suddenly said “sige, pero ibigay nyo na lang sa’kin yung kulang pang bente singko sentimos.” Some passengers cleared their throats, startled; others gaped in disbelief. The driver gave up and just scratched his head.

I see nothing objectionable in what the woman did. In fact, for staying true to herself and her pennilessness, she should be complimented. Since when does asking for a small change become something to sneer at? I have to admit I am one of those who wouldn't have done the same thing. It's not because I thought 25 cents is nothing. Perhaps it's because I want to save my pride before the humiliating poverty that envelops us.

Poverty among us is a fact. Majority of over 80 million Filipinos are uncertain whether there will be ample food to eat on the table or enough money to pay the monthly bills in the next five years. Some see our nation as incorrigible barren land of unfulfilled dreams, others see it as a junk shop — which may explain why we have some thriving clans of corrupt politicians who see money in every rubbish thing. Our country is close to being declared “clinically-dead,” as far as the ongoing exodus of skillful and intelligent people is concerned. Those who dare say life today is easy have not been on the other side where grass is not green, and probably have never ridden on PUVs. Those who dare say life today is easy are mostly vacationing foreigners from a First World country, or worse, politicians. Is there a way to escape from this destitution aside from leaving the country?

Life in this country is like getting inside a run-down building which offer different rooms. Which one should be taken is for us alone to decide. How you got to the building doesn't mean anything. We’ll never know which room is of our own advantage until we open the door and enter the room. It’s called luck — opportunity — and with it, our lives basically become games which we are destined to play.

I can say that it's like playing poker, where intelligence and diligence do little to win the game. Success in life is more than just an ability to shuffle the cards to get the elusive royal flush; it’s also about getting those cards that make the royal flush. Those who say that the only ingredients to a successful life are perseverance and intelligence are living in a fantasy world or are too much absorbed with fiction novels. If being intelligent and diligent pulls one out of the quagmire of poverty, nobody will leave this country to chase dreams abroad. Nobody will look for some buildings in which lucky rooms are spacious enough to accommodate intelligent and diligent people.

Apparently, no one knows how the future can become as good as what our heroes envisioned. And nobody wants to waste time knowing when. It would take a French Revolution to change all these things. And no one likes to sacrifice and become poorer than they already are today and start again from scratch. In this jungle, it’s more important to make sure you’re going to have something to eat than to contemplate if the sun will make up his mind to rise the next day.
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