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A few days back, I got an email from a reader of my site, and a friend on Facebook.  I will not give his name, but would like to share his email, and my reply.  It might be information that other readers have an interest in.

eMail received

I have slightly edited the email I received in order to remove information that might identify the writer.

Visa Assistance

Here is the email that I received from this reader:

Hello Bob

I just got back to my home town from my trip to the philippines , but I definitely left my heart in the Philippines , I know it was great traveling around with my wife but it was exhausting I wanted to get your opinion a couple things.

One is how difficult it is there for the locals. I know it’s an amazing country if you can afford to travel and do things, but for the average Filipino it seems to me to be a real struggle, so many requirements to get jobs if they are available.

Going to school to get post secondary education seems almost impossible for them and is only there for those who can afford it. Do you see any change in that ?

Also the other thing that was disturbing was the garbage. It seemed to be everywhere, and not much effort on the locals to clean it up or even thow the refuse into the trash bin, which seemed to be lacking in a lot of areas. I felt so much more could be done to clean it up, do you see any change in that? It would go a long way I think on the tourist image that visit the Philippines if more effort was done to change the mindset of not only the people, but not much effort seems to be on the minds of local governments.

Lastly, by the way , who you like in the election, I know Dueterte is almost walking away with the election, coming from your home town, what do you think of him?

Thanks Bob , always nice to hear your take on your Facebook page , take care always.

My Reply

Nice to hear from you, and I hope you had a great trip! It sounds like you did. No matter where we travel, we will always have a few things that don’t sit well, or that we think require change. Let me see if I can address each point that you are concerned about.

Difficult life for local people.

Yes, life here can be quite difficult for the local people. No doubt there. There is poverty that is very widespread here, and it is not easy to make a difference. For myself, I have done a lot of charity type work here to try to make a dent in my local area. Truth is, no matter how hard an individual would work on this, even with the help of his friends, you can only make a very small dent in it. Just a knick really. Over the years, particularly at Christmas time, I have distributed food and other items to the local population. Most of this work has been done through donations given by my website readers, and each year the amount donated has been pretty substantial. There have been years where I have been given large amounts to spend on food, toys for kids and such to distribute at Christmas.  Because of the large sums, I have been able to make a fairly decent difference, but only for a relatively small number of people in the scheme of things.

Water for typhoon victims

Water for typhoon victims

Also, there have been a couple of times when severe weather caused deaths and hardship in my area, and again, through donations from my readers, I have been able to provide relief. One time we rented a large truck and purchased bottled water (hundreds of cases) to truck up to the affected area. At that time we also brought food and clothing to distribute.

So, I guess what I am saying is that an individual can make a difference, even if only a small difference, if he is resourceful and applies his skills and contacts to make a difference.

As far as education, I have never felt, and still don’t feel that getting a college education here is difficult. In fact, I would say that getting a college education here is relatively easy. In fact, if you are not college educated here, you basically cannot get work. Almost everybody, except the extreme poor, gets a college degree here. I don’t see that as a problem.

Garbage

Davao Garbage Cans

Davao Garbage Cans

I do see garbage as a problem in much of the country, and I don’t see it changing much. I will say that about 10 years ago here in Davao where I live, the Mayor went on a campaign to alleviate the litter problem. He purchased thousands of very nice garbage cans (imported from Germany and very costly) and put them into every neighborhood in the city. They also purchased a fleet of first class garbage trucks that go around the city and collect garbage in all of the neighborhoods. The frequency of the garbage pickups varies, I am not sure how they decide on the frequency. However, in the neighborhood where I live they pick up the garbage as often as 5 days per week, but a minimum of 3 days per week. Garbage collection is free, no charge from the City (of course we pay for it through our taxes, there is no such thing as a free lunch!). Since this program was implemented a decade or so ago, I have seen a big improvement in garbage around the city. There are places, though, where garbage cans are hard to find. For example, inside malls and businesses. But in general, I think that the program has been quite effective.

From what I have seen, though, this kind of program is limited, and certainly only in a few (or just one?) cities. Perhaps the program will grow and be done in other parts of the country, or maybe an even better program will come along and help things improve here.

Politics

You asked about our local Mayor and his campaign for President. I will reserve comment on that, as it is not really appropriate for me to support any particular candidate for office here. I will only say that based on my observations of living here for 16 years now, I have always felt like our local leadership here in Davao has been good and effective. They try to make changes here for the better, and I hope that can spread to the rest of the country as well.

Glad you had a good trip! Thanks for writing!

Bob

Posted in

Bob Martin

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur. Bob is an American who lived in Mindanao from 2000 until 2019. Bob has now relocated back to the USA.

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Gerardo Reynaldo
Guest

As always bob, you strive to be fair. But as a fellow Davaoeno, i say that there’s a lot of work to be done for our city (and my country) if we want to improve things.

Bob Martin
Guest

Hi Gerardo. I never said in the article that Davao is perfect. It is a pretty darn good place, though, for me. No place is perfect. Every place can improve, but I am very happy living in Davao City.

Ronald McCarthy
Guest
Ronald McCarthy

Bob, your answer to this e-mail is a good one. I might add that because your help may seem small or insignificant in the scheme of things here, it is still very worthwhile. Being involved in philanthropic exercises in the Philippines over a long period of time, I’ve received a few negative comments from time to time. “Poverty is so wide spread, how can you possibly make a difference?” or “No matter how much you help, nothing ever changes.” These views are myopic at best. Everything one does to help does make a difference to someone. It reminds me of… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

Thanks, Ron. I appreciate your sentiments, and I also agree with what you say.

LeRoy Miller
Guest
LeRoy Miller

I agree with the comments above. Yes, there is much widespread poverty and hardship and no one can address all of it. However, we each have different resources and a different circle of contacts. If we do what we can, given our resources, within our circle of contacts, there are needs that would otherwise go unmet. Regarding the discussion about college. I have watched the family members and it seems that they have a hard time making the jump from general day laborer to any kind of skilled labor. For example, Ricky helps a builder when he is not able… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi LeRoy – I wanted to address the part about Ricky, with a couple of suggestions.

Firstly, the Philippines has a system of schools called TESDA, which stands for Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. These are VoTech type schools. They are very inexpensive, and teach courses in the blue collar type skills.

Secondly, if you like Ricky and want to help him, maybe you could help him start his own roofing business. I don’t think it would cost much, just buy some tools and such. A TESDA course or two would also be very inexpensive.

LeRoy Miller
Guest
LeRoy Miller

Thank you. I will look into that and see if he has done that or not. I am happy to help someone when I see them willing to do whatever it takes to support his family as good as he can.

He has never asked for a handout, just if there is any work that needs to be done.

MindanaoBob
Guest

Good luck, LeRoy! I hope things work out for Ricky!

Bob New York
Guest
Bob New York

There are technical colleges in The Philippines where you can have the best of both of a college education and technical / tradesman type of education. One that I am very familiar with and in a way, became a part of is Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology ( MSU-IIT ). One of the things that attracted my attention to it in the first place was the technical / trade offerings such as Air Con & Refridgeration, Auto Mechanics, Automation , Electronics, Computers etc. Full academic type of education is also available here. I continue to be most… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

IIT is one of the most famous technical colleges in Mindanao, nad it is excellent! I have several friends who are graduates of IIT, and they have been well trained.

ProfDon
Guest
ProfDon

Bob, you might consider moving from a model of sporatic giving (Christmas, disasters) to one developed by David Wasson of Tagum Food Bank. His model has two parts: 1. Multiple feedings over several weeks/months to get the kids body weight within the normal range. 2. At the same time training mother in sellecting, buying and preparing low-cost, nutritious, yet flavorful food instead of the high-cost, low nutrition, high salt, sugar and fatty food in their usual diets.

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi Don – Hope you are doing well. I appreciate your suggestion. To be honest, though, I just would not have time to set up and operate an organized shelter and feeding type operation. I barely have enough time to do the things i already do. Also, I like what we are doing now. So, I will stick with what I am doing. Of course, you and others are always free to set up such a program on your own! Go for it!

Dr Russell Cunning
Guest
Dr Russell Cunning

Hi Bob, An interesting email and excellent reply. One of the first things to strike me when I first visited the Philippines in 2002 was how poor most of the people were, yet how happy they were. I saw school children leaving nipa huts with dirt floors, but with uniforms that were immaculately clean and well pressed. The happiness of the people in the face of a difficult life is one of the main things that makes me love the Filipino people. I really respect your attitude toward helping, and I’m so happy to see that you’re buying what you… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi Russell – Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I had never considered about those donations that come into the country being a bad thing in terms of hurting local business, and thus causing local jobs to decline. That is quite a profound thought, and I believe it is very true. You are also right that if many of us expats pitched in and spread the help a lot more than now. The problem is that most people would rather complain than to actually do something. Still, I am sure that enough “doers” could be put together to make a big… Read more »

PapaDuck
Guest
PapaDuck

While it may be true that donations from other countries could affect the local businesses, it is also true that a lot of the people are real poor and would benefit from the donations and what money they didn’t have to spend because of the donations could be spent to help other local businesses and keeping them in business.

Dr Russell Cunning
Guest
Dr Russell Cunning

Hi PapaDuck, I’m glad you feel passionately about this. I may have given the wrong impression. I’m not in any way suggesting that donations from other countries are bad. I am pointing out something I discovered when I was collecting clothing in Australia to send to the Philippines. Donations of goods sent from other countries will cause harm to the local economy. If people in other countries donate money, it can be spent in the local economy to help the needy while not putting anybody out of business. Here is a really insightful article on Huffington Post – it includes… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

It certainly ly is a two way street. Pluses and minuses. For Mr when help is offered it ys a net plus though.

Jeff Kelton
Guest
Jeff Kelton

I also just returned from a trip to the Philippines. We were there 18 days. We were there for 17 days about 4 years ago. We spent most of our time around Bauang,La Union While I wasn’t there to make in depth observations,a couple things jumped out at me. First,it wasn’t as easy to hire a cook for the time were were there,and we paid more than last time. We had a relative look for someone and most she contacted were working. The family friend that used to be the gardener/caretaker found another job. This indicated to me that there… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi Jeff, Hiring any kind of domestic type help is very difficult now. When we first moved here, it was easy, not is can take months to find that type of help. When you find a good person you really have to take good care of them to keep them around! You are right, these type of people find lots of job offers, and working overseas is one of the big ones. You are also spot on about recycling. They recycle almost everything here! In fact, recycling is a business that a lot of poor people get involved in, and… Read more »

Violet VL
Guest

Good article Bob- always

MindanaoBob
Guest

Thanks, Vi! I appreciate that!

Bob Martin
Guest

Thank you, Vi.

Denzil Browne
Guest

Good article Bob. About the garbage, I suppose the use of plastic plays a major role – the type of soft plastic used for ice, icewater, candies, etc should be cut down as it tends to end up in drains and canals and blocks them, as I’ve seen in Cebu…

MindanaoBob
Guest

Yeah, I also see a lot of that type of plastic in places where it should not be.

Bob New York
Guest
Bob New York

I have seen isolated spots of not only litter but piles of garbage bags in vacant lot type of places in an urban area. On the opposite side of the coin though, In the hundreds of pictures I have seen of Iligan City before I went there for my first of many visits, I could not see any litter in the streets and the gutter areas on the side of the streets. On my first visit I noticed businesses and others early in the morning with a kind of broom I never saw before, cleaning up the sidewalk and gutter… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi Bob – You are right, I see those piles of litter in vacant lots as well. But, it is not so common, at least where I live.

I know for sure that you have made a difference in Iligan. I have seen some of your work, through things you have told me, and you may not know this, but others have told me as well. It is a good feeling to be a positive change, and I know that you have experienced that feeling!

Jay
Guest
Jay

Hi Bob, Great article! The reader who e-mailed you seem to be a kind-hearted compassionate person, but ill-informed. You are completely spot on on education. My wife’s family is poor, but many of them have college degrees. My wife had two associate degrees and was working on a 3rd when I met her. “Everyone” knows that average (poor) Filipinos are dirty, desperate, depressed, devious and above all dangerous people. The problem is what “everyone” knows to be true about average (poor) Filipinos is not true. To be fair to the reader who e-mailed he did not say all the things… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jay. I especially liked reading your thinking about education.

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