A culture of poverty?

By Cielito F. Habito

While doing field research in the country’s poorest areas, my team came across a community where some residents, when asked why there were so many poor people in their area, matter-of-factly said it’s because many of their neighbors are lazy. We also interviewed the project staff of a national government poverty reduction program; when asked why there were so many poor people in their province, their response was, again, because many of them are lazy. Regional heads of national government agencies that we gathered in a focus group discussion chorused that the reason there are many poor people in their region is that most of them are—you guessed it—lazy.

Read on…


  1. itong culture of poverty. . . or tamad ang pilipino. . .
    i used to think that. . . seeing all the istambays by the roadside.
    whiling the day away.
    but living so close to the poor, iyong really marginalized,
    watching them, talking to them, listening to them,
    hindi tamad ang pinoy.
    sure we have istambays and juan tamads.
    so does america, with people surviving on medicaid,
    many waiting for monthly checks and food stamps, rather than work,
    people who’d rather deal drugs to earn in a day
    what they would earn in a month toiling away in an 8 to 5 job.
    how can we say tamad ang pilipino.
    there’s fluggin’, what, 12 million OFWs, suffering separation and, often, abuse.
    sa probinsiya, iyong hindi makaalis, they suffer working for pittances.
    fifty to seventy pesos a day, wiping chicken shit off eggs or sewing bra straps.
    young girls filling plastic bags with local snacks, a peso for 20 or 30 bags.
    2000 a month, working sa palengke, 6 am to 7 pm or more.
    this woman next door sa old house, cleaning the church, past 20 years,
    so proud she has been able to put her kids through school, making less
    than 150 a day.
    ang daming padyak men collecting recyclable trash,
    young kids, nagkakalkal nag basura, for plastic bottles,
    bakal at bote, pang baon kinabukasan.
    ikea on foot, men walking up and down the shoulders of the national highway,
    bent over, with furniture on their back, book shelves, tukador. . .
    ang dami dito sa tiaong.
    vendors on red lights and bus stops.
    countless utusans, suffering daily indignities—iba pang istorya iyan.
    maiiyak ka sa stories.
    and the fucking women, ang sisipag.
    sure, pag naghanap ka nang tamad, may makikita ka.
    pero napakaraming masipag, off the fucking radar.
    isang kahig isang tuka.
    uneducated marginalized poor filipinos na nagmamalaki,
    and who’ll tell you: marangal naman ito, kaysi magnakaw.
    they have invented incredible ways on how to survive.

    so, blame the failures of government, education, colonialism,
    and the imagined juan tamed embedded in our DNA.

    but . . . to say na tamed ang pilipino is an insult to the masa.
    but. . . they don’t really care, they’re too busy trying to survive.

  2. brod Godoy, perfectly well said. The culture of poverty is not only in our mindset. Our tropical climate, the exploitation of our natural and human resources by foreign- powers and local elites contribute to the dysfunctionality of our political, social and economic system. The final result, alienation of the marginalized majority to what constitutes normal progress and development.