‘He esparcido mis sueños a tus pies; písalos con cuidado, porque son mis sueños’. (William Butler Yeats)

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MANILA, a city of contrasts

Posted by sinparardeviajar en septiembre 11, 2009




Manila: at one side Sam, at the other God 

 « It is important to defend life;

but what’s more important is to defend the joys and beauties of life

 under common decency and dignity today »

Manila is a city of contrasts; A capital wounded by an enormous gap between its citizens.  « Maynilad », the land conquered by Legaspi during the Spanish colonial occupation, holds since 1565 a terrifying inequality. Throughout 333 years the « encomiendas » system has distinguished the « españoles » from the « indios », becoming the latter  slaves of   Spanish wishes. 

The differences, nowadays,  do not only remain,  but grow making the wound deeper.

 Indeed, this reality is an unfair issue that one can find in almost every undeveloped country. However, the capital of the Philippines presents a flagrant peculiarity that raises the depth of its breach. The upper class is supported by the might hand of America and the poorest class increases their families and bear the injustice through their faith in God. On one side Sam, on the other God. Two of the most powerful influences in the world attitude. Therefore, how can this country get rid of its disproportionate welfare ? How can it reach the equality?SE_ALQUILA_HABITACION

 The decisions of the government are, thus, never taken without the consent of these two ‘examples of life’ according to the Philippines: the Church and the United States of America ;« we want to do as USA has done », said the driver of a jeepnay when I asked him about the « Americanisation » of the Philippine culture. Hence, Uncle Sam is the  most common spectacle in the richest areas of Manila.  Huge malls packed with ‘junk food restaurants’, cinemas, tremendous supermarkets (full of the « American way of eating »: pizzas, crackers, Doritos, marshmallows…) clothing shops and everything that can give a picture of consumerism; McDonalds, Wendy’s, Dunking Donuts, Subway…are everywhere and are visited by almost everyone . Can a Philippine say that he/she has never eaten  American fast food? If so, it would be one of the 18 to 25 million Filipinos-according to several Philippine poverty surveys- who live below the poverty line. This people are not just handled by the greed of the upper class but also by their own blindness.  Their faith makes them acquiescent in such a misery, in such an indignity…;they believe in the kingdom of heaven. Why then to get worried ? Sooner or later, they will reach the paradise in the other life. The present is now left to God’s will. At the meantime they keep on placing colourful virgins and Christ in the kitchen, in the car, at the top of the mountains, in the bathrooms… The religion is, thus, « the people’s opium ». Sam and God, the security of our strength, extreme power, written destiny; lack of personal wish.: not need to worry; Just relax and pray. The dollars of uncle Sam will keep on protecting us and God will ensure the happiness denied in earth.

 Ermita bay: a sub-human spectacle

 In Manila one can see the indecent poverty at different levels.

Even though it strikes at the same flagrant way, sometimes this misery is hidden in barangays (small neighbourhoods) and others around the squatters (those who build their houses over a land property)  surrounded by the luxurious buildings and restaurants that fill the richest areas. In both examples housing is present. Nonetheless, this is not always the case. The inhabitants of Ermita Bay are the third degree of a merciless atrocity.  They don’t know anything about houses. Neither about cleanliness. They just search nourishment within the sea. Here, at the bay, they find a way of leaving, denied by the earth. The China’s sea provides them with mussels and crabs that they will eat and sell. Children and parents, they all dive deeply through the darkness of the coast, inside the polluted water, within the dirtiness of the garbage. Just few of them have diving-glasses … Their extreme situation doesn’t let them to stop facing up the shattered sea. What matters is that the fishing will help them to survive. The pollution is there, but they are not allowed to feel it. Once they go out, a carafe of clean water waits for them. There is no soap, thus, just their hands will remove the rotten smell of the skin.



Still throughout the bay, indignity and dread. The spectacle continues.  Tons of basura (in tagalog, litter) are spread at the place of what could be a space for a beach. The rubbish, collected all around the small boats, is a playground for the children. Bare feet, they seek into the debris for coins, wastes or anything that could help them to pursue their struggle.

Ermita Bay

As long as the government ignores them, the sea will be their only resource; The sole companion in a country where the politicians suffer from amnesia and where the growing inequality pulls out the governors from the moral balance. The result turns to be the violation of the Human Dignity…Ermita Bay

Once again, the comfort causes the oblivion; the wealthy classes- within it the governors- don’t want to know about the reality that bites their country. Therefore, Ermita Bay will keep on being the breathtaking shelter of the underprivileged.


 The misery of the garbage

 I’ve seen the atrocity of the poverty at different levels.  City misery, at Manila. Pollution, traffic jam and noisy streets make the spectacle heavier. Breathless. They are the “city” features. The underdeveloped-city do not present the same setback. Those who live in Makati, know the security and the calm of their wealthy houses. Their  double glazing keep them off  reality.  They don’t need to hear. Makati, Malate…they are so different from Malibay, Ermita…They are two worlds, two Manilas…Two levels in the city; a shameful contrast, an unfair issue founded in almost every underdeveloped country, a terrifying gap that keep us away from equality and poverty.  The government that allows the extremes, gets, soon or later, out of the moral balance. Consequently,  the civic differences grow at a frenetic rhythm, increasing the gap of  injustice, and  poverty,.  The result turns to be the violation of human dignity.. Meanwhile, those who already own a property, etc will want more and more, and those who have nothing will become conformist with what they believe is ‘God will’. In conclusion, things will not change, as long as the government will not become aware of the reality that merciless bites his country.

Tirma BENITEZ FORNIES   En Manila, durante mi Mision con la ONG francesa “Alouette Foundation” del 5 de julio al 15 de agosto de 2001

Y hoy ( Paris, 2009) me pregunto, acaso serà verdad que, como afirmó Nietzsche, ” quien ha encontrado un por qué para vivir puede soportar cualquier cómo? (??)




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