Today is April 5, 2008.
I just read this line:
“…Poverty is not just the failure to meet income requirements. It is the presence of factors undermining the capacity of communities and individuals to reach their full potentials.”
I’ve saved the above lines as a draft for a blog post almost 3 years ago. When I saw this draft I thought I would like to continue with what was running in my mind at that time. I was thinking about it while walking across to the other side of Ayala MRT Station on my way to meet a dear friend in a coffee shop inside the Global City.
I was so deep in my thoughts when I suddenly heard a voice cry out loud.
“Hindi po, hindi po. Nagugutom lang po ako!“
When I raised my head to see what was happening, I saw three of the security guards inside the station tugging at a young boy, dragging him actually while the young guy kept struggling to free himself.
I heard one of the security guards tell the other guard:
“Hawakan mo kasi sa kabilang kamay!“
There were several onlookers watching while this was happening. When I approached them to ask what was happening, they just stared at me, nobody could tell me why there were already 5 security guards surrounding the boy.
Then I walked slowly, still looking back wondering what that was all about. The young boy had his back already on the floor and being pulled up by the two guards holding both his hands. I couldn’t stop myself from approaching two saleslady in one of the stalls and asked: “Do you know what is happening there? Why are those security guards dragging that young boy?” One of the ladies replied:
“Pumasok po kasi yong batang yon sa KFC at nanghihingi ng pagkain. Ayaw kasi ng KFC yon kaya ayun … pinahuli sa mga security guards.“
For a few sec I felt my breath stop when I heard this. My goodness, I heard myself speak, they could just have given him some food. He really looks hungry. But just like all the rest of the onlookers, I wasn’t able to do anything about the situation there.
I walked away sadly thinking that while some of us may be busy thinking and updating our definition of poverty, searching for the right measures to look at capacities and vulnerabilities, this reality continues. Still thinking about it after several hours of having been in that scene, I am writing it down now, maybe to remind myself why I have been engaged in development work for almost three decades now. And maybe … to remind others, too, that poverty is not an abstract thing at all. We only have to look around and strive to make a difference to someone, even just for a meal.