In the Philippines September starts the Ber season. That is because the all the month’s end in Ber and that is what marks the coming Holiday season of Christmas. The stores are already displaying and selling Christmas decorations and you will hear the holiday music.
Soon the houses will be lit up with Christmas lights, Christmas trees will be set up and their decorations will be everywhere. But this is not the only signs of the upcoming holiday season.
There is something else that becomes noticeable that the holiday system is coming and that is the increased presence of the Lumad beggars. Lumad is the Cebuano or Bisaya word for the indigenous peoples of the southern Philippines. There is always a presence of these people, but the amount magnifies this time of year. Many of these people live in the mountains and highlands of Mindanao. During the holiday season many come into Davao by busses and trucks.
These people, the most noticeable are the females. They are in long loose skirts and T-shirts, darker completion and by all places there is a business or shopping. Many carry young children or babies in their arms and come up to you, tap you on the arm if you are not looking towards them and then put their hand out or they are carrying a plastic cup. They will motion to their mouths to say “I am hungry” or some know the word hungry. They will be at intersections and go from ca to car, tapping on the window and then motioning to their mouths or put their hand out. Some small boys will tape a few metal cans together and come up to your car and play the cans like Bongos and then put their hands out.
If you try to ignore them, many will continue to tap on your car window or your arm. No matter if you shake your head no, or say no or “wala kwarta” which means “no Money” many will continue to stand there.
It is especially bad when they see a foreigner; our lighter skin is like a beacon on a dark night. They will ignore all others and come up to you and start the routine. Many have no shame and will walk around with a baby in their arms, with their blouse raised and breast feeding the babies.
I can understand the poverty here in the Philippines and the lack of government support for the poor and unemployed, but this bussing in of the Lumad for the Christmas season to beg, and then bring them back to the mountains for the rest of the year has to be hard on these people and also on the City. The sidewalks and markets get full and so many in the streets with the heavy traffic makes a difficult situation and a danger for all.