The Life Of An Underprivileged Filipino

The word "underprivileged" is thrown about so much these days. So much so that while the mind grasps what it means, the imagery that goes with it is no longer there. So for the next 2 minutes, let’s re-learn exactly what the life of an underprivileged Filipino is.

When an underprivileged Filipino child is born, he doesn’t see a doctor in a delivery room. Rather, he is introduced to the world by a midwife (licensed or unlicensed, no one cares much) either in his parents shack or in the midwife’s house. No one questions how sanitary his birth conditions are.

He is further born with another disadvantage - his health. His pregnant mother was not able to take the right amount of vitamins and nutrients necessary for a healthy baby. It is just hoped that his mother will have enough breast milk to at least give him milk for the first few months. Because when the breast milk runs out, his parents will either buy the cheapest milk available (never mind the fine print on the nutrient content) or skip milk altogether.

So the baby grows in an environment of squalor, where there is not even enough clean water for a decent bath and certainly not enough money for decent food. At least he can go the health center for his vaccines, IF his parents believe in their importance and IF the health center has them in supply.

Time passes and the baby is now a toddler. Let’s call him Juan (a common Filipino name). Juan walks around naked on his little bare feet, similar to the other toddlers around him. He plays with them in the dirt with broken toys and bits of items scavenged from trash bins.

A few years older, and Juan is lucky if his parents decide to send him to public school. If he lives a good distance from the nearest school, he might have to walk 2-3 kilometers every day just to get there. And don’t forget the walk back home every afternoon.

However, while school sounds nice, it often isn’t. Public schools are often run down without enough facilities. The quality of education also puts Juan at a serious disadvantage as this is often very poor.

By the time he graduates from elementary school, his parents do not have enough money to send him to a public high school.

Juan is now 13 years old with nothing to do. He often gets into mischief and may be induced by his friends to try smoking or smelling rugby (an addictive adhesive substance). Physically, he also looks malnourished, with sunken cheeks, protruding bones, and angular body.

A few years older and at 15, Juan is now ready to try his hand at petty theft. He isn’t really bad; he just wants nice things and he needs money. Besides, he never steals from his neighbors. That would never do. He just steals a little from strangers. In his mind, these people have more than he does, so what’s the harm?

Still, petty theft doesn’t get him very far. Plus it landed his pal in jail where he got a little worked up by the police. So Juan tries looking for a job. With his lack of credentials, his only option is to be a stevedore. So he does this, as well as other odd jobs that go his way.

By the time he is 22, Juan unfortunately gets a girl pregnant. Her parents are demanding his blood, the girl is demanding his hand in marriage. He gives in.

Without any savings and without any sound future prospects, Juan’s baby is born in a dinghy room with the aid of a midwife. Therein lies the unbreakable cycle.

Time passes and Juan is now an old man. He still doesn’t have any savings and he still doesn’t have enough to feed himself and his family every day. But that’s the life he knows. It’s how his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father lived. And as he leaves this world, it is also the legacy he leaves his children.

It’s a vicious cycle. The same thing happens over and over again. Except that with every generation of Juans, more babies keep coming. It’s a population explosion that cannot be stopped. Still, we have to try.

We have to try to control the births. If we cannot, we have to try to feed the children until they can be taught to feed themselves. We have to try to answer their health needs. We have to try to give them education so that they can arise above their current circumstances.

We have to try to save them from themselves, especially those who sell themselves or their children to prostitution in order to survive. We have to try to give them livelihood opportunities so that they can be self-sufficient.

And we have to try to help them believe in themselves - that there is something bigger out there for them and that they are meant for better things. And we have to try to believe in them as well.

We can’t just work for their present. We have to work for their future. So that one day, they can work for their futures on their own.