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  • Writer's pictureKirk

My encounter With the street sweepers of Dumaguette, Philippines

I love chance encounters when I travel. Especially if it is with locals doing local stuff. That’s what happened on this day.

I was taking a motorbike ride into the mountains of Valencia near in the Philippines. I traveled to Pulangbato Falls, a place I had visited earlier and had posted about previously. It was at the end of a dead end road. Not wanting to visit it again. I simply turned around and headed back down the hill. But at the place where I was turning around, I noticed these local ladies just sitting there in the shade. Curious as to why they were there in this remote area just sitting, I pulled over to inquire, curious as I was.

The ladies informed me that they were street sweepers. Now I had already heard of this occupation in the Philippines. This is actually done manually by these homemade brooms that you can see in the picture. People are employed there to clean the streets with these brooms. It is a very hot job in the Philippines, and very menial.

The lady closest to me was the spokesman for the group because she was the only one who spoke decent English of the six ladies. The others were very timid and shy, and said nothing during my encounter.

She informed me they work 8 hours each day to earn only 200 pesos (less than $5 USD). With that money, she had to support her two children as a single mother. I expect all the women there had similar stories.

Now it may seem incredible to many of us that anybody could survive on five dollars per day, but with the cost of living as low as it is in the Philippines, they do manage to do it. As you can see from the ladies weight, she certainly isn’t starving. But neither is she probably eating well.

However, five dollars per day is a very, very meager living even in the Philippines. There is absolutely no money for any type of emergency situations. Every peso must be accounted for.

This is probably at the bottom of the pay scale in the Philippines as these people have no education or skills. So, they are stuck in these low paying, yet difficult physically to perform jobs, in the oppressive heat and sun.

It’s sad for me to see this when I know I can’t even find a teenager to work for more than three times that amount for only one hour! I wish I could hire them all to work at my house.

I don’t mean to post this to toot my horn in helping them. I gave this lady 300 pesos ($6) to buy their food that day. That’s easily enough to feed all of them and their children today. But their is no horn to toot for me as this $6 represents a half a Burger King meal.

After this last video I asked her if it was enough money for them to buy lunch today. I already knew the answer as I know that they live on much less than that in a day for food. But she responded as I expected she would, and said to me, “Not enough!”

I simply laughed and pulled out another hundred pesos and gave it to her. I know that many people look at the Filipinos and see them as people who take advantage whenever they can. It is true that many try to solicit as much money as they can from foreigners. I don’t see that as taking advantage, they are just simply doing what they have to do to ease the burden of their lives. I try to oblige them as much as possible.

Anyway, the spokesman for the group left happy and I know that I gave them something to talk about for several days. And also a memory for all of us to last a lifetime.

Giving money in the Philippines, or any poor area, is a bit of a tricky thing for me anyway. I really like to help them out as much as I can without causing any issues. I know I posted in the past on how you can cause problems in these countries by doing things like over tipping, so I’ve honed my skills over the years to give in a controlled manner.

I have rules when it comes to giving. I never give to children who are alone. If a child comes up to me and asks for money, I always tell them no, or more recently. I ask them to go get a parent and bring them to me. They have yet to bring a parent to me, but if they did, I would scold that parent for teaching the child to be a beggar rather than trying to teach him to be self-sufficient. I will not reward a parent for sending the child out on the streets to be a beggar. Let the parent do it.

On this particular trip, in the evenings, I would sit down in the boulevard where many of the locals would gather. I would wait for them to approach me, or if they looked indigent I would approach them, and then I would assess the situation. The people that I tried to help the most were the adults who were trying to sell things, even though I didn’t want to buy them. I know they barely were eking out a living, so I would usually buy some fruit or chips or whatever they were selling, but I would never take the goods. I would just give them the money and tell them to keep the goods to sell to somebody else. People who are working hard to try to earn a living. I think that they should be rewarded more than the people that just simply beg and do nothing.

But certainly some of the beggars I know cannot do anything. If I see that they are crippled or if I see that they are a mother with a child then I will help them as well. But I try to spread it out as much as I can. I mean if you’re trying to help out as many as 50 to 100 people on a trip I very well can’t be giving out $20 in each event. I just don’t bring that extra $1,000 - $2,000 with me. But I try to keep my charity at around $500 per trip. I actually designate that before I leave if I’m going to a poverty area.

But charity is a very personal thing (even though I’m being public about it here). What I give is a small burden, but not enough to change my lifestyle. There are many who give much less than I do, yet it does cause them a burden. And there are many who give much more without any burden at all. I think the real measure of a charitable heart is the burden the charitable event can cause the giver. There is room for improvement there for me.

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Mike Wells
Mike Wells
Jun 04
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I think it's wonderful that you regulate what you give. Ithink you could go broke in a fast hurry if you gave to everyone. It's great that you interact with the locals. Any money that you give helps out. I dont think you should judge yourself so harshly.

Jun 04
Replying to

Thanks Mike, the Philippines is one of the poorer countries in a poor area of the world. Life is very hard there because of the weather (typhoons, heat, earthquakes, black outs) to compound the misery of poverty.

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