Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the many faces of poverty.

Some 30 years ago (upon her return from her world tour), my grandmother said that it's better to be poor in a poor country, than to be poor in a rich country. I never really understood what she meant until that day I was walking the narrow streets of Termini in Rome. My sister Mcel and I were shocked. Literally.

The previous day, we were floored by the Colosseum. Truly, it was the glory that was Rome. And that morning, we were at St. Peter's Square. The Vatican City tour overwhelmed us. I bragged about my limitted knowledge of history, and told my brother that the oldest monarch in the world lives there. My brother in return, impressed me with his knowledge of the works of Bernini, Raphael, and Michaelangelo.

But nothing impressed me there as much as the opulence of the building's interior. The attention to detail, and the massiveness of the structure. Everything was grand and majestic. I never thought the Catholic Church was that rich, and especially during the Baroque period.

That evening however, when Mcel, J and I walked to the Termini, we were welcomed by homeless and vagabonds. Most of them are dark skinned. Right at the Pope's backyard, there was poverty. It was lurking in every street, and every corner. It was unfathomable. I was outraged and scandalized.

I couldn't get the impression out of my head that everytime I think of Italy now, I think of those homeless gypsies.

When I went to UK, I also saw some beggars. They didn't strike me as poor. I mean, how could you afford to have a dog with you and beg at the same time? You see, all the beggars that I ran into during my brief stay in the UK, have dogs with them. (have a good look at the pic I posted.)

It was infuriating. But then again, how could you be angry at someone who has given up pride? Someone who looks hopeless, cold, and hungry?


In Chicago, the homeless live under bridges. They didn't beg. They demanded that you give them something. Some were pushy, even rough. Others were mentally challenged. And there were those children who reminded me so much of the street children in Manila. (Today, they sell sampaguitas. Tomorrow, they sell their bodies.)

I must say that the poor people I saw while I was visiting Chicago, were either Afro-Americans or Latinos. Thank goodness, I did not bump into a Filipino beggar. That would have been quite an experience!

Berlin was different. The poor people there were mostly confined in the eastern part of the city, and the places most frequented by tourists such as the Brandenburg Gates, Museums Island.

In this part of Europe, beggars speak different languages. It was amazing! One girl who looks Polish to me, asked me if I were Spanish. I said, yes. Then, she started to talk in Spanish. She was telling me how hungry she was. I was so impressed, I decided to give her a euro! (Normally, I don´t give money. Food is ok, but money is out of the question.)

According to my friend, most of these beggars are Romanians, Czechs, Polish, and Russians. Germans don´t beg, he said.

And today, I was bothered by the news about the 300,000 poor children in the Netherlands. As I went through the article (yes, in Dutch! hehehe), I realized that their definition of "poor" is entirely different from my concept of what poverty is all about!

It says, a poor person is "someone who is denied to go on vacations; someone who doesn't have an LCD television; someone who eats 5 small quantity but healthy meals a day, and can not afford to have burger and fries."

The article is appealing to the government to allot a budget for these poor children so that the kids can go on vacation, have LCD tv, and eat more.

When I reached that point, I folded the paper and went to the bathroom for a warm bath! See, this is one of the reasons why I never bother to read papers on weekdays. I only get annoyed!


cherie said...

alright, batit, you had me there for a moment! until the part on the netherlands poor. hmmm, time for me to have that warm bath, too, hehe...

++retno said...

what annoys me more, beggars in brussels who are mostly beg for a bottle of beer!!


Droomvla said...

Cherie: what's with this batit thing? Nanu, miss mo na an bicol? Hala, pagkarigos na lamang. hahahahaha

Retno: One time, I bumped into this beggar in a train station. He was asking for a euro and was smoking Marlboro. I was wondering, how could he afford to buy cigarette and beg at the same time. It was unthinkable!

cherie said...

misunun na - dili kaupod si badong buang, ha? (ay, patawada man kunta an kalag...)