This election season has been a very interesting ride. One can argue that it is the most polarising and emotional one since people seem to be so impassioned by their opinion. On the other hand I imagine previous elections particularly during the Marcos era to be just as dirty, scandalous and divisive. But the dramatic 2016 race to Malacañang had one new key player- Digital and Social Media.
Facebook and Twitter has become a bloody battleground of sharp and piercing opinions that can seem more damaging than actual swords. Get caught in the crossfire and relationships, friendships and even families are damaged. But amidst all the rage, emotion, and tension, are little golden nuggets of true thought that attempt to understand and make sense of the chaos.
This facebook status by an Educator is one of those diamonds in the rough.
There are two Philippines.
There exists a Philippines where the biggest problems are inconveniences. The Filipinos who live there are, at times, inconvenienced by slow internet speeds, traffic jams, and long queues at government offices. These people can, of course, afford to avail of more expensive high-speed internet, purchase or rent a condominium to live closer to work or school, and, of course, spare a day to go through mandated government procedures. There isn’t much uncertainty to worry about in their futures. They worry about which European country they will go to next for the Holidays or which beach to visit for summer. They (or their) children worry about which school to go to for graduate studies. In this Philippines, the aspirations for a middle-income country are tantalizingly close to reality.
There exists another Philippines – where the majority of Filipinos live. In this Philippines people live from day to day moving from one worry to another. How long will my next contract be? How much do I have to set aside to pay my monthly bills? Could I work extra hours? Could I afford to get sick. The lives of these people are marked with uncertainty. Uncertainty about where to get income, uncertainty as to how best to provide for themselves and their families, and uncertainty about their future.
These people are not merely inconvenienced by traffic jams. They suffer through it day in and day out. People commute for six to eight hours daily to get minimum wage on 4-5 month contracts. They spend two thirds of their day working or commuting just to eke out a living. They can’t afford to take vacations because if they don’t work they don’t eat.
Oftentimes they can’t afford to send their children to school because their minimum wage is nowhere near enough to provide adequately for their needs – despite pronouncements that a minimum wage allows people to live above the poverty threshold. They struggle to keep afloat.
These Filipinos – in this Philippines, do not live in gated communities. They are not protected day and night by security guards – some of them, in fact, are the security guards. They are exposed. They are vulnerable to crime. They live in fear.
These people have been slaving away for years and yet no hope could be seen on their horizon. All that hard work is just to keep them alive. In this Philippines opportunities for economic advancement are painfully scant. Unlike the Filipinos in the other Philippines, they were not born and raised to get ahead in life – but rather to try their damnedest to try to survive. Inequality is real – and it is worsening.
These are the people who cannot wait for the supposed economic gains to trickle down. These are the people who, despite all their efforts, cannot get ahead. The opportunities of the wealthy are vastly different from the “opportunities” of the poor.
Who are you to tell them what they need? Who are you to tell them what is good for them? You who have never felt poverty, you who have never felt the crippling fear of uncertainty. Poverty is something you’ve read about in books and journals – not something you’ve lived, not something that you’ve survived.
Who are you to tell them to wait for growth to trickle down? They are struggling NOW. They are starving NOW. They are suffering NOW. And you ask them to wait. Unlike you they do not have the luxury to wait. Unlike you they were not winners in the lottery of life.
You tell them to work hard. You tell them to work harder. The opportunities will come. You don’t realize that they already work harder than you. They work longer hours for smaller pay and yet you tell them that they will succeed through hard work and perseverance. You insult them with your platitudes. You insult them with your painfully condescending platitudes.
And you wonder why they cannot accept your candidate. And you wonder why they cannot accept Daang Matuwid.
And you wonder why they are hungry, starving, desperate for change.
David Yap is a graduate of the University of the Philippines School of Statistics and has a masters in Economics from ADMU. He was an economist at the AIM Policy Center and has recently resigned from the Ateneo Economics Department to focus on my doctoral dissertation and my consultancy work.