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Poverty and Survival in the Philippines

As we all know, the Philippines is over populated and there is high unemployment. Then also you have the problem where employers use the system to pay as little as possible.

In the Philippines, if you have less than 10 employees or contract employees that work for less than 6 months, the labor laws and benefits can be ignored.

Most malls hire their employees for 5 months. They pay less then minimum wage and no benefits. If an employee is good, they might be offered another 5 month contract.

There is also the “It’s ok” mentality where employees are happy to have a job and if the employer is not willing to pay the “13th month” bonus, which is the law, the employee feels “it’s ok, at least I have a job.”

There are also many tradesman that work day jobs for cash. These people are not in the “employed” counts since there is no record to the cash pay.

In most places in the States we live in nice conditions. If we do not have a high income, we still either live at home with parents, or have an apartment. If needed you get roommates, but you have a decent place to live.

If you have ever visited the poor areas of other countries, you see people living in conditions you would never understand. But for them, they are happy to have a roof over their heads, somewhere to soft to lay down to sleep and something to eat.

I have noticed over the years that the poorer the family, the more love and enjoyment of small things mean to them. They do not have much, but they are content and have so much love for each other.

Two weeks ago, when I was honored to be Ninong (Godfather ) for a friends baby Noah, it turned out another friend who lived across the way was having his baby girl Baptized too. Elena and I know them as I was Ninong for his wedding.

Because of this connection, Elena and I were being called from one home to the other to be the first one feed and first to be toasted. We had to be there with the Priest came to say a prayer.

Seeing their homes and how they live reminded me of the conditions people live here. Both these men are talented tradesmen. Jerry is a construction manager and does quality work in most construction areas. Ramil is a licensed electrician. He does complete electrical in residential and commercial construction.

In America these two men would be making a high income and would be living in nice homes.

Here they live in a small 2 room house plus a small CR with a shower and a toilet that has to be flushed with a bucket, no tank. There is minimal furniture and one of the homes does not have a stove or burner. They have a metal stand where they burn charcoal a put a pot on top. With Filipino engineering that have a small fan unit to blow over the coals to get them hotter.

Since Filipinos love music, they both have a TV and a DVD player so they can play karaoke disks so they can sing for enjoyment and entertainment.

When I first moved here, and I would see this type of conditions, I would feel so bad but over the time here, I see how hospitable and happy they are with their family. They would love to move up in economics and have a nicer home, but they find happiness with what they have since they know there are families with much less.

In future articles I will write about how people find ways to support themselves.

8 Responses to “Poverty and Survival in the Philippines”

  1. don m. says:

    I understand what you are talking about. That is one reason I want to move to the philippines. I want to make sure my nieces and nephews get a good education so they have a good life. I have no children of my own so I am able to help them. That is my dream at this point in my life. I could live a good life here in our house–four bedroom and two bath house–rather I can go there and help the children go to university. A limited legesy but it is mine.

    • Bruce says:

      It is nice of you for caring and willing to give up a higher, even if more expensive life to come here and help. Our 3 nieces live with us and are in nursing school. One of the reasons I moved here. I could have stayed in the US and found a job, yes for a lot less money, and once Elena was there, the 2 of us could have survived. We do not pay their tuition, but without my help they would have lived in a very hard existence and with me here, they have a better roof over their heads and good food to eat.

    • Dan2vero says:

      Hey Don,

      My hats off to you, I love to see that kind of compassion still alive and kicking. I hope to do the same, when I am there in the Philippines.
      God Bless You, and take care,

      Danny H.

  2. Alan says:

    Bruce , this is an issue i still struggle with after being here for 7 years now . I do believe that the more you have the more you want but i also believe that Filipinos should be able to have the basics in life which many do not .

    Like most Americans i had seen tv news of poverty in 3rd and 4th world countries but that is not the same as being in it and having to deal with on a daily basis .

    My wife is a very religious woman and active in local charitable activities while i am not religious in nature ( though i would argue spiritual ) . She deals with the poverty much better than i do probably because it is her culture .

    To be honest at times i just have to block it out because no matter how many you help on an individual basis there will never be enough to go around . But i do echo your sentiments regarding the Filipino’s ability to be ” happy ” with so little . I think in many respects they have something that our American fore fathers brought long ago but we have subsquently lost in our heritage .

    • Bruce says:

      It is impossible to help all in need and there are so many charities who could use our support. One Expat group I belong to helps Field of Dreams a Boy Home. As you can see in my older articles. Once there they find a place in your heart.
      I do not like the beggars but do not mind helping someone trying to help themselves. As I wrote about in a recent article, there are 2 little girls that try to make some money to assist their family by selling Calamansi at the local outdoor market. They stop selling and come around with Elena and I and carry our bags. Elena gives them 20 pesos each for their help.
      I also try to help my construction friends with projects at home and try to get them projects from others.

  3. wildcat75 says:

    The good thing about filipinos are by nature they’re very appreciative of everything no matter how hard they deal w/ the situation and they never forget to give thank’s for Our Almighty Father for all the blessings they recieved in their lddaily lives. Just take a look at this short film, this brought tears on my face and touch my soul. On the serious note i hope that my families and my next generation will never encounter this kind of situation., it’s really break my heart

    • Bruce says:


      Thank you for giving me this link. It shows what people have to resort to to survive. It is the cold hard facts of life. With the high unemployment and the over population, this is a good story compared to how some others have to survive. I think I will put this link in my next of the series.

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