I have known her for 4 years when I first started coming to Catbalogan. She was using her children the beg but that baby with the facial issues had not yet been born. Now she has that baby and one more after that. I have twice made arrangements to have her get the baby’s issues fixed and both times she ‘forgot’. So I assume that she is not wanting to decrease her begging income by having the baby’s face repaired…. She is already having issues as she begs outside of stores and with that baby’s face, it is hard to miss and not remember her. So after a while people stop giving her money.
I give her 50p a day, about $1.25 which will buy and some fish to feed the family for a day or two. When I say fish, I mean what we would call bait or minnows. Larger fish cost more money. I had been to her shack area before but not actually to her shack because it sits up on a hill and behind another shack. 4 families live in that one area. The men are farmers. I already met with the group and gave them a donation of seeds so they can grow some to eat and some to sell.
Today is a holiday here and as such the town is mostly closed and there is a parade later today which I have been told will include a live crucifixion and some other people with some issues beating themselves with barbed wire. They take Easter very seriously here in the Philippines!
So I did not see her when I went in for breakfast. I rode out to her house and called, but no answer. Her neighbor came out and said she was in up her house. I walked up the hill and when you look at the pictures, you will see what I was confronted with.
No amount of money will fix this situation. They choose to live this way and I know this as I have been in many poor peoples houses / nipa huts / shacks who live like clean people, regardless of money. And they are raising their kids to live like this as they become adults. You can give her $1 or $1,000 and all you will accomplish is that she will not beg again until the money runs out. Hopefully the seeds will work out better for them than simply giving money. My issue is that she is what she is, but it is not the childrens fault. So at least while I am here, she will be able to buy food for her kids. And yes, for those of you looking close at the pictures…. there are rum (rhum here and cheap) bottles under the house. but they are reused for some salted fish product. Looks like chopped / minced clams to me. I am not brave enough to try it. I have never seen her drunk…..
I asked about the roof and what happens when it rains…. They hide in the corner was her reply. So when I went back in to the town I bought some 100 pieces of nipa, which is a woven together palm fronds that when added to other pieces, make the roof and sides of her house. The new nipa is green and the old is all dried out looking brown. After several years, it turns black as is degrades into compost and falls off the house. The 100 pieces is enough to do 1/2 the roof so at least they do not have to hide in the corner when it rains after her husband installs the nipa.
In one picture you can see where she cooks which is just a hole in the floor where she can jump down and cook on an open fire under the house. Looks like a bad dream for a fire inspector to me!