Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Filling the gap to survive.

One of the more interesting facets of living in my country where the majority of the people are poor, is finding out just how people manage to survive in a day to day basis. You will be surprise at the amazingly creative things my countrymen do in order to put a little rice and fish in their bellies.

For instance, there is a whole genre of people who have created a work for themselves where technically none exist! We call them gap fillers. Like flowing waters that naturally finds its own way, seeping in wherever there are cracks, they fill gaps that society leaves open and make something out of it for themselves.

In essence many are middlemen or brokers. Sometimes they perform a much needed service like preventing you from having to worry where you are going to park your car. They will carry your bags and save you from ruining your back. They can find things you otherwise may never find.

Of course, since this level of society works without any specific rule book, there’s that chance of getting fleeced. Good or bad though, these people fill a need, or simply make one up. They put themselves into position to get in the middle of some transaction, in hope of lifting cash from whatever deal is about to go down.

A perfect example is the people you meet every time you stop somewhere to park your car. As you drive up looking for a place to park, they always appear out of nowhere and flag you down, waving you into space. The more entrepreneurial of them will open the door for you and ask if you want the car washed. Either way, watching your car is a given.

The weather often creates various gaps which never stay open for long. There are window washers who appear at busy intersections as soon as it starts to rain. Or a plank where pedestrian can cross to avoid their feet getting wet by dropping a coin in an empty tin can readily available. Or an umbrella man ever ready to assist people to get to their rides without being drenched by the rain. There are literally hundreds of other examples of people filling gaps. But why, you may ask. The answer is simple: pure unadulterated survival.

In my country competition for survival is intense. In fact there’s not just competition from other humans, but from everything else including the dogs, cats, rats, ants, and cockroaches. Every hour of everyday, everyone and everything is competing for survival.

There are no welfare handouts in the Philippines. No social safety net. No free meal kitchens. In my country people often have to do some seriously creative things just to get a meal.

See the contrast?


Sid Brechin said...

Reminds me of the story of Sir Walter Raliegh and placing his cloak over a puddle so Queen Elizabeth I wouldn't have to step in it.


I love hearing your stories of home. I am so fortunate that I do have what I have, and appreciate that I am alive.
When I left my husband, I had nothing but two suitcases, I didn't care for me internal peace mean far more than living daily with mental and physical suffering. To me surviving was all I could do. For these people it is the same, survival on their minds daily, at least I could eat though.


Tracey said...

At least they do something to help themselves, here some, not all, (especially in the currant economic climate) just sponge all they can from the government, it's so easy here that they don't bother to do any work.
Love to you Odette.

Odette said...

Sid, Tracey, Kirst,
at least now you see the contrast of what is life in the third world. in rich countries like yours,they actually made laws prohibiting the practice. its called peddling and anyone engage in peddling can end up in jail. its because your country require strict rules and people should pay up insurance and taxes. otherwise one has to go out and get real jobs.
here working on one parking spot can bring a meal in a matter of hours. guaranteed. with just a few well placed coins and notes.

amna said...

dette, when i was there, everyday in my life i wished to get out. but now i realized that life down there is less complicated than life abroad though we are materially abundant here.
Excellent post, brings back old memories..I missed home!

living_with_ba said...

This made me feel humble about my search for a house...we may live in a one bedroom flat with three people in it, two sharing a room and one sleeping in the living room, but we get government assistance, we have a roof over our heads that won't be taken away, we have food on the table..thank you, Odette, for making me realise just how lucky I am.

Odette said...

life here hasn't change much since you left. it's still the survival of the fittest!
but filipinos always find fine means to cope.

Odette said...

yes your life is a lot easier coz your government make it so. mine is corrupt, and their only concern is fattening their own wallet!
with love,

rattles said...

wow odette you reminded me of when i did some work in romania. I came back humbled and very appreciative of everything-its funny how time numbs the emotions and that experience tho very real and very life altering (at the time) stayed with me but didnt if you know what i mean. Thankyou so much for reminding me of that experience and reminding me to never take things for granted. We're very lucky.
Take care and speak soon lotsa lv Rattles Xxxx

Mimi said...

God bless those who scramble to survive. We get so caught up in our own tiny problems that we forget how rich and lucky we are. Thanks Odette!

jen said...

Lots of sponges here in the states to Tracey!! The government so freely hands out money that we DONT HAVE!! It seems many people have simply stopped helping themselves!!

Great post Odette. Thank you for reminding me to count my many blessings!!

Sid Brechin said...

You may not look at it Odette but in some ways your government is doing something positive ours our not. You are the only country I know of that has a government department dedicated to rooting out corruption. I don't know how effective they are but it is a start and over time they may end up a shining light. I can't see it happening overnight but I can see it happening. Also you may have a different view of the anti pandering laws than what is the reality. here I may need some help from our fellow bloggers. If is not pandering if they are offering services. The one exception I know of is the window washers at intersections because the lights are only green for perhaps 20 seconds and they can seriously tie up traffic. When you have a city of 5 million that can become a major problem. It is usually agressive panhandly that the police are needed to deal with. Many of the things you describe may just be appreciated and would also fill gaps here.


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