Filipino Poverty: Choice or Circumstance?


The Philippines is a country in denial when it comes to dealing with poverty. The majority of families in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are living within or below the poverty line and a succession of governments have failed to resolve the devastating tragedy.

Although the economy has shown signs of growth the question of whether this growth will stave off further poverty and unemployment has no genuine response.  Half-way through 2017, an increase in employment has not led to a decrease in the residuals of poverty such as prostitution, selling illegal drugs, theft and robbery as well as solvent (glue) consumption among street kids.

Lack of income has hidden costs such as undereducation and undernourishment of Filipino children. The government has been doing its best to fight poverty by providing a subsidy for those living below poverty line but it is a stipend at best and in many cases, is used unwisely.

Philippine poverty has existed for several decades and the old adage of the “rich keep getting richer while the poor keep getting poorer” has become more telling than ever before.  Still, are the rich to blame or is there another argument?  Is poverty acquired by choice or by circumstance?

The Harsh Truth of Entitlement and the Filipino Mentality

Filipinos, in a way, are resilient, which means that they find contentment in the simplest things in life. While doing my research, I came across a blog post where the Filipino “squatter mentality” was discussed. The article may have been a little offensive for some, but it had its strong points that were fair and applicable.

Most Filipinos are so used to being poor that they no longer settle for more or better. This may be a positive take on poverty, saying that the poor are happy with the little that they have, but it also indicates that they no longer have a long-term vision that can benefit their children.

The harsh truth of the Filipino mentality is the fact that we (myself included) settle for less, thinking that we deserve what we have. Entitlement is so entrenched in our mindset that even the poorest of the poor seem content with their present situation. It’s sad to see that physically fit beggars who are capable of working, would rather beg than work.

Some families rely on government’s program such as the 4P’s (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. A government subsidy program that provides families living below poverty line a cash allowance to help them start a small business or serve as capital) can be a significant help to the poor, but there are those that use it for gambling and drinking, rather than use it as a capital to start a small business.

Alms for the Poor

The downside of helping browbeaten Filipinos is the fact that the majority of them are comfortable with asking for alms. Yes, most are capable of working, but it is easier to ask for sympathy, stretch one’s arms with open palms and beg for money or food.  There are so many who are fit to work as house help, construction workers, waitresses and other jobs that require hard labor. There are countless opportunities but too many opt for the easy way out and easy money.

The Sense of Entitlement

if you’re a Filipino, you might have heard of the “Kadamay Partylist.” This group pushes for free housing, water and electricity. They would often loot a housing community, or occupy a private lot and claim it to be theirs.

“There are millions of Filipinos without a home or are under threat of demolitions. Throughout the country there are idle homes spread across numerous housing projects merely deteriorating in communities with little access to basic utilities,” Kadamay chairperson Gloria “Ka Bea” Arellano was quoted as saying in the statement. “This is something we already know and can change. Kadam.ay will conduct organized efforts nationwide to push the national housing agency and the Duterte administration to distribute idle housing units to the poor as an immediate source of relief to those who need it most.”

Their sense of entitlement is so high, that they claim that the government owes them something. Just because they are needy, compared to other citizens, they think that they are more entitled to own whatever land they come across.

Poverty by Circumstance

“If you are born poor it’s not your mistake, but if you die poor it’s your mistake.”Bill Gates

There are those who choose to stay poor, but there are Filipinos who work their hearts out, but still can’t earn enough to live a stress-free life.  As per a recent Rappler article, hard-working citizens who are still trapped in poverty are the victims of powerful businesses who prey on workers working below minimum wage. Capitalism makes the rich richer, while the poor are most likely to die poor despite their efforts.

Writer’s Note:

It’s heartbreaking to know that we Filipinos settle and live lives that we are dealt. Contentment is a word that can have both have positive and negative connotations. It can be something positive because the word itself means a state of satisfaction despite what you have.

The country has a long way to go to end poverty so it is essential that as many of us as possible never settle for less or never settle…period.


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