by Seneca Moraleda-Puguan
Roof on our heads, comfortable beds, a nice bathroom with hot and cold water, a warm place to stay, a spacious car that brings us from one place to another – these are just some of the things our little family enjoys and are grateful to God for every single day.
But not everyone gets the privilege to enjoy these things. For us, these are necessities but to many of my ‘kababayans’ in the Philippines, these are luxuries. For millions of Filipinos in poverty, life is a daily battle they seem to be losing.
My husband and I usually spend time watching dramas and vlogs once our children are tucked into bed. One night we came across a documentary by Mr. Oscar Oida for ‘I-Witness’, a multi-awarded documentary program of GMA-7, a local Philippine television station.
His documentary was entitled ‘Komyuter Problems’ (Commuter Problems). It was about the daily struggles of ordinary commuters in Metro Manila.
He followed the commute of two mothers who work in the Metro but live in the nearby provinces. Watching the length of their travel from their workplaces to their homes just made us realize that the struggle is indeed real for Filipino commuters.
The daily battle to be able to secure a place in the bus and the length of time stuck in traffic could be so exhausting and energy-draining. They leave work at 6 in the evening and arrive at almost 10 in the evening, wasting precious hours that could have been spent with family. They have to leave at around 5 am the next day, giving them insufficient time to rest.
This is not a new thing. Living in the Philippines for almost half of my life before moving overseas, I have experienced the ordeal of being a commuter in the Philippine capital. I am just grateful I was able to escape such terrible experience but my heart breaks for many of my friends and countrymen who have to brave the streets each day just so they can make a living.
Traffic and commuting aren’t just the problems my beloved country is facing. Another major issue that has to be dealt with by our leaders is housing.
Ms. Sandra Aguinaldo, another broadcast journalist from GMA-7 featured the homes of those living in slums on her ‘I-Witness’ documentary entitled ‘Bahay, Buhay’ (House, Life).
Watching her stories really caused our hearts to sink. We slept humbled and grateful for the small but comfortable apartment we are living in. Here we are, sleeping comfortably in our home, furnished with aircon for summer and heater for the cold days, complete with running water and everything we need, but countless Filipino families go home to a room as small as 1 square meter.
There was even one family who lives near Manila Bay and every day, their house gets flooded when the tide rises. This is every single day. When asked why they choose to stay in such a house, the mother of the house answered because it’s the only cheapest rent in the neighborhood, just 1,600 pesos or approximately $30 dollars per month.
They couldn’t afford to pay more because they don’t have any other source of income. Another family lives on a 2 square meter room, it’s so small that it can’t fit the whole family so the father waits outside at night and sleeps during the day when space is available. They don’t have a toilet so they just do their thing on a plastic and dispose someplace else.
These are just few of the heartbreaking stories that many Filipino people are telling. While many politicians and celebrities flaunt their mansion-like homes on their social media accounts, countless Filipinos face discomfort in homes that are supposed to be their place of refuge and rest.
Watching about the plights of the ordinary Filipino people has opened our eyes once again to the huge chasm between the rich and the poor. It broke our hearts big time that it caused us to pray for the leaders of the nation, that they will provide solutions to the problems their people are facing, and also pray for God to send help and provision to those who are suffering.
It moved our hearts to be grateful for every blessing we receive, big and small, and refrain from complaining about the small inconveniences of life. It compelled us to be content and satisfied with our lot and be generous with our extras.
The issues of transport and housing in the Philippines are perennial problems that have no easy solutions. But I pray that our leaders and every one of us will not just turn a blind eye on the plights of the ordinary Pinoys.
Something has to be done and those in position who promised to make the people’s lives better must act now.
by Seneca Moraleda-Puguan