There is no doubt that the Philippines is one of the most beautiful places in the world I have ever been. But the truth is, it’s also probably the poorest country I have ever been to as well. I mean, after all it is a third world country.
From day 1 in Manila, I saw children in raggedy clothes on the street and could tell they had no home. While it’s tough to see, it’s easy to overlook this in Manila because it is a major city.
When I traveled to Palawan, evidence of poverty was a little more clear. You could tell from the makeshift tuktuks and people’s homes, that there wasn’t a lot of money here. As I traveled to El Nido, I watched hundreds of kids walking along the side of the road for miles, just to get to and from school. There’s no public transportation for these kids, and no school buses. Something that is hard to phathom coming from the US. In El Nino it self, the roads would quickly flood during a rain storm with no proper drainage facility. Roadside trash would float on top of the muddy water. Homes were made of plywood. But again it was somehow easy to overlook for the most part, because as poor as people are, they are extremely happy. They all have smiles on their faces, they laugh, and wave as you pass by. For me, it was just part of the culture. And it is to a certain degree.
But it then the realization of how poor this country is really hit me when I was in Cebu. I had a child grab my arm, look me in the eyes, begging for food. Another woman stopped me on the sidewalk, asking if I’d pay her for sex because she needed to feed her children.
Piles of trash were seen on sidewalks, in the streets, and along people’s homes.
One village I passed looked like the homes were made out of trash themselves. These weren’t just little homes either. I’m talking 2-3 story homes, poorly built, and fixed with any trash they could find.
The realty of it hit me so hard, I went back to my hostel stunned, and cried a bit. It actually took a lot of energy out of me. I’m still not even sure how to process it.
I’ve talked with a few locals along the way. We talked about how despite having nothing, they were still happy. But they also told me there is a lot of depression because it takes a lot to support their families, and theres a lot of dependency on each other.
I know poverty is not just an issue in the Philippines, it’s a problem all over the world. But it’s an issue I think first-world countries needs to address and somehow help find solutions to help underdeveloped countries out. Will every country ever be a first world country? Probably not, but I think it’s our duty as citizens of the world to help each other out in ways to improve each others lives.