There are two sides to everything, two extremes to every situation. Coming to the Philippines was a great example of that. Before coming here we talked about how there is not much of a middle class in the Philippines. It is one extreme or the other. Rich or poor.
Driving through the Philippines, on the way to Laoag city, we would pass slum communities where houses were made out of plywood and tin roofs. In the middle of the slums there were huge beautiful palaces. They seemed so out of place. It made me realize just how huge the difference between the rich and the poor really was. I was able to see first hand how closely related the rich and the poor were as well. It is heartbreaking to see how some people can own such huge houses and live in such luxury while in their back yard there are people living in huts with no money at all.
Our home stay in Laoag was another example. I stayed with the vice president of North Western University. They had an amazing house. Complete with a spiral staircase, and a bathroom in every room. The kitchen was huge, and there was a beautiful balcony that overlooked the university. There were only three people living in this mansion. These people were rich even by American standards. While we were living in luxury there where others whose home stays didn’t even have running water, some where families slept on the floor. Some had huge extended families all living in the same tiny house.
Laoag had this mix of rich and poor everywhere you went but nothing compares to what I saw when we got to Manila. Driving through town, my heart broke for the people on the street and the state they live in. As we drove we saw families whose whole life was in bags and scattered along the side of the road. They slept on pavement and begged for money during the day. Every time we passed a person living on the street it made me sick to my stomach. No one should have to live like this. Street children are common here. They walk around trying to get money any way they can, even by stealing and pick pocketing.
I felt even worst when we got to where we were having a museum tour. This was in the rich part of Manila. There were rich people everywhere you looked, Filipinos, Americans, and many others. There were highend restaurants and brand name stores like Hugo Boss, Gucci, Mark Jacobs, etc. I couldn’t believe these lush gardens and beautiful patios were here. There were no street people anywhere. Only the rich. I couldn’t believe this place was here when such a sort distance away there are families with no money for food or money to put a roof of any kind over their heads. The people in this district walked around with not a care in the world, completely oblivious to what is happening in their city.
The Philippines is an amazing place but there is such heartbreak everywhere you look. I could not believe the contrast between the rich and the poor. I had read, and people had told me about it. But it is so different when you see it for yourself, when it is you that a street woman holding a baby is crying out to for help, and, when you live in the huge beautiful houses surrounded by the poor. It is different when you see first hand the smiles as well as the sad faces of the street children just trying to survive, when you see for yourself the two extremes.