Sunday, June 22, 2008


It seems altruism is not something we Filipinos are big on. While billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are giving away virtually all their wealth to ease poverty in the Third World, we can't even spare a peso to a street urchin begging for alms. In a recent survey, the Ateneo-based Social Weather Stations (SWS), a normally accurate and correct surveyor of the public pulse, found out that when it comes to charity, we seem to be paying nothing more than lip service. The survey - covering 1,200 respondents aged 17 to 69 across four economic classes - revealed that the average Filipino gives to charity only 12 times a year, at most.
In Metro Manila, where awareness of charitable organizations are supposed to be the highest, only 3 out of 5 are aware that there are organizations advocating care for orphans and street children. Are we really stone-cold tightwads when it comes to charity? Not really. Our hearts still bleed when we see a rain-soaked three-year old girl barely able to carry her eight-month old brother begging at a corner of a busy intersection. We do, however, often ask ourselves if by giving alms, are we really helping them or making their situation worse? We are bothered sometimes because we know that the same girl and the same baby are going to be at that same corner when we pass by it again tomorrow. We wonder whether the boy with the amputated leg would use the loose change we give him to a cara y cruz match or buy a vial of mind-altering adhesive - rugby. We also cannot shake away the thought that all those loose change we dole out may end up in the hands of a syndicate running all those begging children, amputees and beaten-down senior citizens. But we give, anyway, thinking that it's not our problem how they use the money. The important thing is that we give away something, anything to help them get through the day. But sometimes, even that is not the wise thing to do. For we often wish though that we can do more for them, and remember that mantra that we think is a much better recourse: "Do not give them fish, but teach them to fish." The problem as the SWS has correctly diagnosed, is that we often don't have a clue how to help them help themselves. The closest and the most immediate thing we can think of at that very moment is to drop a few coins in those cans sitting beside the cash register of a shopping mall or a restaurant advocating a noble cause: caring for orphans, getting street-children off the streets, helping battered women and protecting the environment. Sometimes, we come across charitable causes in our own workplaces that ask us to donate a portion of our salaries, or just our own time to an unselfish undertaking, like building homes for the homeless, visiting an orphanage or a medical mission, but these are few and are often seasonal. The SWS is correct in advising charitable organizations to get their act together so they can make the public more aware of their existence and the causes they espouse. Otherwise, they simply seem to us as nothing but vaporware, and we just do the best we can, in our own small way to help out. We do have a bleeding heart for the downtrodden. The problem is: How can we really stop the bleeding?

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1 comment:

DJB Rizalist said...

Great post Les! But make sure you link to the SWS article that inspired it. It's really easy and if people click on it to go to SWS, then SWS will see that this blog is sending them traffic. They'll appreciate it and of course it increases your credibility with readers. we finally got electricity back just now.