01246jfTondo Abad Santos Santa Cruz Manila Roads Landmarksfvf 13is what the Philippines obviously is now – especially in the big cities and strongest in Metro Manila. How long the drug problem has been festering is unclear, but its root cause, urban poverty, has been festering and growing for a longer time, like something growing on fruits and vegetables inside a neglected refrigerator or cupboard. Seems that the strong segregation of Philippine society via gated communities and slums has contributed to things not being seen quickly enough, except by those classes that use public transport and are easily subject to street crime. Now I am no longer surprised about so many cars on EDSA – public transport is obviously a risk many people want to avoid. Forbes Park was the first gated community in the Philippines, built in the late 1940s for the rich. Slums allegedly also started just after the Second World War, in the ruins of Manila. Around 1910, most Filipinos lived in bahay kubos, except for a few affluent people who lived in homes similar to Rizal’s home in Calamba. I have read that during that time, even most educated Filipinos ate with their hands. Traditional kamayan has its very own forms of etiquette.

The 1920s brought the first major wave of Christian migration to Mindanao. The aftermath of World War 2, with the attendant Huk rebellion in Central Luzon, brought further migration also as a solution to help defuse the conflict. The backlash came with the conflict with Muslim Filipinos that began in the late 1960s and never really stopped until now. While slums in Manila began nearly like copies of the barrios people came from, they seem more like Brazilian favelas or South African townships in size and subculture now. When the middle class started to move into gated communities of their own, some of which form part of the urban sprawl around Metro Manila, I don’t really know, but I suspect it was starting with the 1970s – parts of the puzzle I do know. Finally, the lifestyles and situations of different types of Filipinos diverge very strongly today, as opposed to a hundred years ago where the gap was not yet as huge.

There are studies that people always feel poor relative to others. Those who are considered poor in Europe have a standard of living most Filipino poor would envy. But the rich in the Philippines have a lifestyle at a par with progressive Western and Eastern (Tokyo, Singapore, etc.) counterparts, and the skyscrapers of Manila stand around slums that look very decrepit. Desperation among some and lack of opportunity for others may lead to drug users and pushers – while in societies with more legitimate diversions and opportunities, it may be more the weak and those too lazy or short-term in orientation who take part in that illegal sector of the economy. Drug use among the rich will probably be more among the young neglected by too materialistic or greedy parents. Anecdotes of drug use exist in middle class families that are broken apart by parts of the family being abroad to work as OFWs. A further strain on a formerly traditional, harmonious culture.

So there is urbanization and class segregation in major urban areas, migration to Mindanao where a previously non-existent Christian Filipino society was created since the 1920s, and of course the OFW phenomenon which started in 1975 and has kept growing since then. Add to that the BPO phenomenon, good work but also at first a stressful exposure to the service side of modernity.

The Philippines had a lot of change to handle – even if no country ever stays the same. In Lapu-Lapu’s time, with just over half a million people, things were simple but resources were aplenty for all. The Philippines of 1916, when the Senate was founded, had around 1/10 of the population of today’s Philippines and was still relatively simple and traditional. Movements in the country, up and down, plus in and out, changed so much since then. That orientation is missing is not surprising. An accelerating world makes it even harder. What is happening today are symptoms.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 31 July 2016