This past week I took Stella to a toddler mommy type class. The class was held at a local church in the area. As we walked out of the class the people came, and they came like zombies. "MAAAAAAAM" this one women (I think but not quite sure) who was emaciated wearing tattered clothes, carrying her glass bottle covered by a bag with glue for sniffing inside, came towards me begging for money. I had my two-year old daughter and she looked too high to realize that I was in mother lion mode, not feeling charitable when my daughter's safety was in danger. "MAAAAAAAAAM" she said again (ironically she was wearing a Dolce and Gabana pirated hat), and then more glue kids came-all with bottles covered in paper bags. The little ones were coming near my legs and I started to get really nervous. I picked my daughter up to protect her and made the sign for, no money. They ignored my sign and the got aggressive. With Stella in tow I started to make a scene. In that second my driver showed up and dispersed the crowd. We rushed into our car and left.
Poverty is not something new to this country but in the last month we have been hit with four typhoons. The people living in the shanty towns have had their homes destroyed four times in a month. Begging has always been here but this last week it was scary. The social cues were ignored, there is a desperation in the air.
Growing up in Florida, I am not a stranger to hurricanes. However, the preparations for hurricanes are not done here. At home with the oncoming of a category 2 hurricane we would tape windows and doors, fill bathtubs with water and hunker down. Here we just try to sleep through the wind and hope your windows don't explode.
Living here is so familiar and similar to home in so many ways. Our friends here are like family and help me feel like I am not so far from home. Yet, the extremes are so extreme. The people who are wealthy here are so incredibly wealthy, yet the poor are so poor there is a panic in their eyes. Although the Philippines is so familiar in many ways, it is still very foreign.