The definition of poverty in the Philippines differs from the way it is defined in America. The Philippine government defines poverty as a family of five living on 40 pesos (equivalent to $1 US) a day. However, many individuals make about 32 pesos on average. Approximately 52%, 10.3 billion people, are considered within this category. These statistics are ridiculous, yet true.
Along with the differences in how poverty is defined, the way poverty exists within the two countries also contrasts. The poverty in America, for the most part, remains out of sight. We, Americans, are fully aware that poverty exists. However, we are able to easily turn a blind eye, especially the individuals that reside in the middle to high socioeconomic class.
In the Philippines, poverty is a way of life. Anyone from anywhere would be able to identify the alleys and lots where the poor live. These areas are referred to as ‘slums’. The individuals who live in these areas of poverty are the strength of this country. Ironically, these ‘slums’ are located throughout the Philippines exist next door to five-star hotels, such as the one my classmates and I are staying. The contradictory extremes of the slums and other parts of the country perpetuate the largest socioeconomic gap I have ever witnessed. The disparity between the poverty in America and the Philippines is the basis for my intern conflict.
While debriefing with my classmates, I have realized that I have not been able to, as of yet, completely wrap my head around such observations of poverty. As a social worker, I conceptually understand how poverty comes to exist and I am aware of the various relationships between the systems that perpetuate poverty. Yet, on an emotional and humanistic level, I don’t understand how this country’s poverty came to exist. Seeing the children on the streets make me want to hand them the clothes on y back and the money in my pockets. Meeting the women and girls who must compromise their safety and bodies in order to financially support their families makes me feel an overwhelming amount of anger towards the Philippine government and the men who are exploiting them. These men are not only Filipinos. They are also Americans, Europeans, Australians, and many more.
The contradictory images of wealth/poverty, social power/oppression, and private/public sectors are, without a doubt, extremely visible and shocking.