They Have No Rice

Regarding my previous Davao Diary post, I will say, it’s not 100% true that if they say they have no money they have no rice.  Culture is culture, but people are people after all.  
I do see more abject poverty here than I have ever seen in the U.S.  That is not all I see.  There is a thriving middle and upper class.  There are plenty of people who live well. There is just a different quality to the poverty here than in the U.S. The safety net is not the same.  I see more evidence of bad dental care- lots more people missing teeth here, including people in professions where you would not really see that in the state.   And people who seem to be living well, it’s hard to explain. They are, but there is a different set of expectations about what that means.  We ended up with movie tickets we could not use and we gave them to somebody else from church, and later we learned this was the first movie they had seen in ten years.  There is a man who lives at the church building with his school aged daughter because he has no money and his home collapsed in a storm. The home was basically four bamboo walls and a roof. She doesn’t seem to go to school. 
But sometimes there is some exaggeration of conditions.  We were at the beach once and a guy came up with a sad story about having run out of gas in his boat (he was a shell diver- they free-dive and bring up stuff to sell to tourists), and he had no money for gas and could not go home. We only had enough cash with us to pay a cab to take us home, so we really could not help. He started up his motor and left.
On another occasion as I walked down the steps to go to church, there was an adolescent sitting at the bottom steps- before he saw me he just looked like any young teen lolling around of an evening. When he saw me, he slumped, looked pathetic, and held out his hand and said “Money?” in a weak voice. I had none with me- my husband had taken my backpack and gone ahead of me a couple minutes before. I said, “Dili quarta,” which is bascially ‘no money,’ although it may be ungrammatical. I pulled my pockets out to show him, to be sure I was clear.  
In a heartbeat he unslumped, straighted up, grinned cheekily and went back to being an adolescent.
There is a custom here that in the Christmas season, people will come to the door to sing, and you are supposed to pay them something.  Our language teacher told us she saves pesos (about .02 each in USD) and other small coins (centavos which are worth much less, but we haven’t figured them out) all year long for passing out, and early in the Christmas season she will buy large containers of snacks, lollipops, gum, jellies (a tiny individually packed container of something like jello, but it does not need refrigeration, one container is about a spoonful) to pass to the children.  After I told her about the man on the boat who said he had no money for gas, but then he did, she nodded and explained the Christmas practice. The children, she said, may or may not have money, this is part of the custom, so you give a small something because it’s Christmas.  But the mothers, she assured us, “if the mothers come to your door to sing for money, it is because they have no rice.”
The Christmas season here begins in September.
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  1. Frances
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    “Christmas practice”

    A very long wassail season!

    • Headmistress
      Posted May 10, 2017 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

      They claim to have the longest Christmas season in the world. I think this is probably true.

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