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Lola (Grandma) Begging

When I started writing this mini-series of posts profiling different Filipinos I had a few different specific people in mind for the Part 3 feature. But in just 2 weeks I’ve encountered so many people in such a variety of circumstances, that I couldn’t decide upon just one person for this 3rd profile. In fact, I’d also encountered so many people who’s story I don’t know in depth but it’s all told in a single photograph.

For example, the old lady I saw sitting, begging on the sidewalk near Robinson’s Mall, Pedro Gil.

I’ve seen many poor people and, as much as I’m moved my their plight, I can normally hold myself together reasonably well. But this old woman tugged doubly at my heart strings. At this age, she should be cared for by family and relaxing a little to appreciate the twilight years of her life. Instead, she’s reduced to the indignity (and danger) of sitting on a footpath and begging.

Blind Musicians in Manila

Just a few steps further along, I encountered the most amazing blind musicians. I admired their skill, perseverance, and upbeat attitude. Although they didn’t dissolve my composure in the same way as the old woman, I nonetheless was incredibly moved to see such awesome people having to rely upon the generosity of strangers as they sung in the street.

Kids delivering scavenged metal

Or I could also share with you the encounter I had with 3 children in Valenzuela, who had collected wire coils and were taking a bag of this scrap metal to sell for the princely sum of 3 pesos (about 7.5 cents). I’m only guessing at their age, but the younger two were apparently primary school age and this was their daily work. School would hardly even have been a distant dream for them — the harsh realities of life demand that they do whatever meagre entrepreneurial work they can to put food in their mouths.

Although the smiles on their faces were incredibly broad and charming, nonetheless I realised that such happiness is fleeting and that there would be many other occasions when the inhospitable realities of life in poverty would obfuscate their natural tendency towards simple contentment.

[More photos of this series at Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/philipbrookes/sets/72157624477086893/]

Young worker girl in Valenzuela

Each of these chance encounters lasted only a few short moments, and I don’t know much detail about the history of each individual concerned. But irrespective of their past history, their current plight is self-evident. And for each of the individual stories represented in these images, there are millions more in the Philippines alone. It is my hope that this brief foray into the lives of a handful of representative Filipinos will in some way encourage you to play a role in impacting the lives of so many in some small way — whether by purchasing products that assist their communities, by providing financial assistance to organisations that are working to overcome poverty, by sharing with others these short stories, or even by considering a trip to Philippines to encounter these people first-hand and perhaps to volunteer your time, skills and energy to make a difference.