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A Filipino Philosophers thoughts on “Poverty”

If your a follower here you know my connection with John Ray of Palawan Anecdotes.

John Ray wrote the following article and sent it as his thoughts after reading my series “Poverty and Survival”.

John Ray is a English Teacher on Palawan and his insite and thoughts of being a Filipino, the trials and lifes lessons, and living in the Philippines is very thoughtful.

I hope you enjoy his article. He has been away for the summer and has ignored his site, now I am looking for more interesting articles and stories on his site in the future.

And now for a  Filipino Philosophers thoughts on “Poverty” by John Ray F. Arquisola of Roxas, Palawan

Poverty is an age old issue. No historian or scientist has ever been able to record when it sprang up, how it became, or why it occurs. But history attests that nations have been trying to deal with it like an incurable cancer. Effort, time and money have been spent for countless times to prevent and eradicate it yet those who do try to defy face a wall of what seems impossibilities. For many years, there have been talks about poverty eradicating plans but again these plans fail miserably against the harsh reality of poverty. I am not a pessimist nor am I bound to realism, however, so much has been spent and wasted only to find out it is not the entirety of a nation’s problem.

Sometimes we forget that poverty itself is not the only problem that hinders progress. I think one mistake the Philippines been making so far is it has been focusing too much on poverty itself. Since I was a kid, I always hear bank robbers, snatchers and thieves say that they were stealing and robbing because they were poor. On the other hand, I encounter other people who have much less in life rear their family successfully without resorting to crime. Then I encounter people who would not exchange their current life for wealth. Again, I also encounter people who look like millionaires but could rarely eat a decent meal and then there are people who sell “ice scramble (crushed ice with sugar, milk and peanuts)” but are 3x richer than a teacher.

Though poverty to some is the root of their problem and the hindrance to their success, I believe that for many people, poverty is the fruit of a much worse problem. Greed, for example, results to poverty. Waste results in poverty. Laziness results in poverty. Quitters become poor. The lack of know-how usually makes you poor. There are many Filipinos who are still living below the poverty line and the reason why they are still there is not even directly related to poverty itself.

So what is my point in all these? Well, for one, poverty cannot be solved in the general scale. Being in poverty is unique in each individual and trying to solve it using fix systems is all but disastrous. It’s like trying to open a screw using a hammer. Each one need different solutions and most of the time they themselves hold that key. Don’t blame it on luck or on opportunities.

Secondly, poverty has been heavily associated with financial stability. While it may seem true, looking at the economic situation we are in, everybody is prone to poverty. Financial stability is not a security and those in and under the poverty line will more likely survive the financial crisis than those who claim financial stability. I guess they are above the poverty line in terms of survivability.

Lastly, poverty is most of the time a matter of perception. I once heard an American girl say she felt she was very poor because she did not have new clothes for prom. This may sound funny but being in social networks and constantly surfing the net I have found numerous first world country citizens who “felt” they were extremely poor because they could not buy what they wanted. I doubt I could convince them they were rich base on the figures they were earning every month and comparing it to extreme poor countries such as Bangladesh. While on the other hand I see people who could barely eat three times a day feel rich and satisfied. Confusing eh… I guess dissatisfaction creates poverty in the rich and gratitude makes the poor wealthy.

18 Responses to “A Filipino Philosophers thoughts on “Poverty””

  1. Billy Escobar says:

    Pollution and the destruction of environments can cause poverty. Once our natural resources are gone in particular regions we become dependent on ‘foreign” sources.
    Overpopulation also is another great factor. I’ve always wondered why the richest people normally don’t have kids, adopt or only have 1 or 2. The poorest people seem to have as many as they can without any forethought. It’s heart breaking to see whole families in the poorest conditions but then why would they chose to have so many kids. I have a friend with 6 kids and one on the way and he doesnt have the income to support that sufficiently. Education and good family support can help alleviate poverty but these have to be instilled early in ones life.

    • Bruce says:


      I guess poor people do not have television or cable so at night sex is about all they can do. Rich are too busy to make kids and buying is easier then producing. Also the rich ladies do not want to destroy that body that they paid thousands to create with plastic surgery.

  2. Hi Bruce, your comment that the poor people today, do not have TV was probably true about 20 years ago. Today,even the poorest families in rural Marinduque or for that matter in the Philippines have TV’s and even cell phones. I think one of the reasons why the poor have more children than the educated and the rich is that they never heard of the word “Birth Control”.I enjoyed reading the article on Poverty. Cheers!

    • Bruce says:

      With the strength of the Church, I do not think birth control is used much at all. The comment about tv was from an old joke and large familes “Don’t they watch Johnny Carson”
      I am working on part 5 but trying to be respectful, it is about women, internet and sex.

  3. Riza says:

    My pastor once told a story, there was this couple who was in the mission field somewhere in the Philippines, who was living in a condo, but having no gas for the car, no money for the gas, no food in the fridge, they felt they are too poor that my pastor said to himself, here are two people living comfortably and just because paycheck is delayed, they felt they are too poor, when people walk barefoot to get to their destination everyday and people living in shacks, when they have aircon running while they sleep. I don’t know if you can get the connection, but I’m always reminded of this of this quote “I think, therefore I am”

  4. Per says:

    This is a big and complex issue.
    I’d like to echo some comments and add maybe if I can.
    – Poverty is not only an actual state of lacking money, but also a state of attitude.
    – As you wrote in some other article, Bruce, it is also a question on how you use the money… many people splurge as soon as they get their pay check (or monetary gift or other income), and the next day its all gone. So its also management of what little resources you have.
    – Its not as much that the poor have many children and rich dont, its rather that the higher education the women have, the less children they have. This has been shown in e.g. Bangladesh and India, where efforts have been put in to help girls go to school. Its a result of a higher general education rather than just a specific education on birth control and family planing.
    – the Catholic Church. Their control over peoples minds as to “if you use condoms you will burn in hell” keeps the people in poverty, much because of the point just above: young people in puberty have sexual urges, so they have sex. But since its taboo to use birth control, the girls get pregnant and quit school, so they lack education and skills to support the child (since the father of the child bails out and isnt heard from again). So she searches for a husband, has sex, gets pregnant again and this guy runs heads over heals away too… In my (not so) humble opinion, the Catholic Church carries a very heavy blame in Ph.
    – As to not having a TV… I once knew a man who had worked many many years as a country doctor out in the boonies in some God forsaken part of south-eastern USA. He told me of one family that had 11 children (he had delivered 8 of them) and after delivering the 11th child, he took the husband for a talk and asked him why they have so many children… the woman was worn out and shouldnt have more children… did they love children that much? Nope… after reasoning with him, he realized that sex was their only entertainment, so he prescribed a TV… after the family bought a TV, they stopped having more children. 🙂
    – Small time loan-sharks. In Ph (as in many other poor countries) it is common with buying food on credit for a very high interest, or borrowing small sums of money for high interests. Its not big gangsters that do the lending, its just normal people who happen to have a few pesos more than the her friend. This keeps people perpetually in debt.
    – Men who rather use the income in the bars with friend rather than in the family. This is why the Grameen Bank (dealing with micro credits in Bangladesh) almost exclusively lend money to women (originally only lent money to women… if a man wanted a loan, he had to get it through his wife).
    – My main peeve of all: export subsidizes. Western countries use tax money to cover the cost of selling goods cheaper in other countries than it costs to produce and transport them to that country. This is absurd. It is cheaper to buy American cotton in India, than it is to buy American cotton in America (!!). This has only one goal: to conquer a country financially by destroying its domestic production. So once the domestic production is ruined, USA can start selling cotton to India for a much higher price. This is _not_ fair trade. Couple this with high import tariffs from 3rd world countries to USA and Europe and the scheme is complete. Same with coffee in Ethiopia… its cheaper to buy American coffee in Ethiopia than Ethiopian coffee, not because it is more expensive to make the coffee in Ethiopia than the American coffee companies can and import to Ethiopia (on the contrary its much cheaper to produce the coffee in Ethiopia) but because the coffee companies get export subsidizes. Once the Ethiopian coffee farms go broke, the American companies buy them and the prices go up… over and over again this is done with various goods and is killing poor countries.

    Yes, this is a complex problem, from the individual person’s situation be it that he/she is lazy or born with heavy metal poisoning and lacks brain skills or has physical defects, lack of education or too many mouths to feed because the Church threatens with Hell-fire if they use a condom, up to governmental and institutional problems of corruption and lack of social responsibility up to global unfair trade.

    This is something that can be debated until the cows come home, go out, come home again and finally until they die.

    I have invested money in 3 young women in Mindanao. 2 go to school (of which one with my help also has a small eatery that her mother runs) and one has got some pigs and has opened a rice field in her province with the physical help of her Kuyas. I am not rich (actually at the moment unemployed, and no form of gifts are tax deductible here), but I believe in these people and have seen how they grow now that they have got a change in their life and are working hard to succeed. I cant help everybody, but that cant stop me from helping some.

    • Bruce says:

      Thank you for your comments and thoughts. I see your an intelligent and have a good heart. I look forward to meeting you and can see us sitting for hours talking and enjoying each others philosophy on life.

      • Per says:

        Thank you. The feeling is mutual.

        • Sonia says:

          I am too is frustrated with the poor people and their ignorance of perpetuating their situation and blame the government and everyone for their hapless situation. I have many relatives who are in the same boat inspite of warnings and education.
          These are some of my recommendations to eradicate the poverty mentality.
          1. change the mindset by preaching about responsibility in our school system.
          2. Fire the Pope for advocating abstinence as a form of brith control…….that does not work at all. At the same time not allowing priest not to marry (celibate) is an abomination and not biblical. A lot of priest are having unlawful act because of that. I left the Catholic church because of this failure mindset.
          3. Women should avoid men that are losers or git rid of them.

          Poverty is a mindset. I came from a poor background and I was able to beat the odds and became successful!! So these people can change their destiny.
          I ran out of space. I will write more later.

          • Bruce says:

            Thank you for your comment. I enjoy receiving comments and feelings about their country and people from actual Filipinos. I try to write what I observe and experience in the Philippines, but try not to disrespect the people of the country where I now live.

            About room to write, if you would ever like to place an article on this site, I welcome it. Just use the “Contact Me” tab to email me direct and I will give you a direct email or messenger account to contact me directly.

  5. ocnic-plok says:

    The crisis here in Philippines will not be stop. why? because the reason of poverty here are graft in corruption, political issues, Hidden Agenda, Wars, Political Killing or any kind of unbelievable behavior of these Political Warlord. And mother F__ker Church

    • Bruce says:


      Thee are many problems here in the Philippines. But with the control in its history, they have developed these problems. Look at other countries originally developed by Spain and China. They have bad corruption too.
      I hope in the future, the young people of the Philippines will work to change life here for the better. Talking to many young, many look for smaller families.

      P.S. I edited one of your words. Respect is needed here in words and thoughts.

  6. Travis says:

    Get rid of corrupt government and educate…And since it’s difficult to rid corrupt government then focus on something we can and that’s education…My wife is from Samal and we usually spend the winter months there. This year I have decided to become more involved on the island. I will be starting a foundation for the kids on the island. I just finished video recordings with the superintendent on the island as well as some footage of the schools. Over the next month I will organize this into a video and start the foundation.
    Will keep you updated..

    • Bruce says:


      It is nice how you plan to help. Even though we cannot help all, every little bit counts. There was a man who started the “Field of Dreams Boys Home” and funded it for two years. Unfortunately his dreams of continued raising of money got difficult and he has stood back and now is letting them try to find local funding. If a foundation ends, the only one hurt are the kids.

  7. bemboy says:

    nice conversation.. hope and pray that our new government now will look forward in this controversing issue… tnx

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