We have to break the dugyot mentality if we are to break the cycle of poverty. But first we must agree with the proposition that one has to care more in order to understand more.

Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on November 19, 2019.  

Dugyot is an Ilocano word that means a “state of being untidy, dirty, not neat or orderly in habits or procedures.” Baguio City Mayor Benjie Magalong wants an anti-dugyot measure to impose outright penalties on business owners who neglect the upkeep of their premises. In Manila, there are dugyot, who do not care about their communities and will just throw rubbish anywhere or urinate and defecate freely. Then there are those pasaway (hard-headed) who would do their thing (wash plates, pots, clothes on the street and throw garbage into esteros and creeks) on the streets, alleys and corners, invoking their poverty as a justification for it. 

What does it mean to be poor in this country? It means not having a home, not being able to eat three meals a day, not having a decent job where one earns a minimum wage and not being able to complete an undergraduate degree. To be poor means not to be clean, and health is not a concern. Without education, opportunities become too few and taking oneself out of the rut becomes a lifetime goal. To be poor means to also put blame on the very system that created one’s circumstance. Hence, the poor blames anyone who is better than them. They think they need more from the system that has not given them the chance to be better, they take more if government is giving out things and services. They make their lot dependent on the largesse of government.

Per capita poverty threshold as of the first semester 2018 stood at P12,577, up from P11,344 of the first semester 2015. Poverty incidence was at 16.1 percent in the first semester of 2018, from 22.2 percent from the first semester of 2015. These data from the Philippine Statistics Authority tells you the story of the 12.5 million Filipinos living in extreme poverty. Most of those living in extreme poverty reside in rural areas. Around 10 percent of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day. As a leader once said, being poor can be inherited, but it has to be a conscious effort to end it in one’s generation so as not to pass it down to the next.

To be poor is to live in squalor. One is packed like sardines in a dingy house where there is no comfort room, and taking a bath may or may not be part of one’s daily routine because hygiene is not important to a person who needs to eke out a living from chance. Because of one’s status in life, the poor brings his belief system to school, work, community and how they deal with government. They blame government for their situation and they exact much from the community because they blame their situation on others. Hence, they urinate anywhere, defecate on a piece of paper, burn or throw them anywhere, while others would just do their thing anywhere. They wash things outside their house and dry their clothes on plants, islands, hang them on makeshift clotheslines. When you look at the family, the kids are many and they resemble a staircase when lined up.

The poor grows exponentially because of so many factors. “The hierarchical nature of Filipino society attributes to the stark inequality. Similar to many Latin American societies, Filipino society under Spain divided into different socioeconomic classes. Because the remnants of these social institutions persist today, the Philippines aggregate wealth accumulation does not actually lift many of the poor out of poverty. Instead, the Philippines’ economic growth overwhelmingly favors the same elite families who have been in power since the Spanish rule. Income inequality remains a significant barrier for holistic development of Filipino society and quality of life, keeping the Philippines poor. The island nation has the highest level of income inequality between the richest 20 percent and poorest 20 percent of the population out of all of the Asean states.” In 2006, the richest 10 percent of families boasted 19 times the income of the poorest 10 percent. Today, 40 families control the Philippine economy.

“In addition to income inequality, the perpetuation of archaic colonial-era socioeconomic institutions negatively affects the government. Corruption and incompetence plague the Philippines’ government, commonplace problems in countries with genuine inexperience with self-determination and democratic governance. Because of corruption and inadequate legislation, the government does relatively little to meaningfully reduce poverty, deal with rapid population growth and raise standards of living. Poorly planned and implemented public goods, infrastructure and property rights inhibit economic growth in all sectors. The Philippines also struggles to mitigate poverty because of frequent violent conflicts, primarily in Mindanao, the Philippines’ large southern island.”

A great man once said “if you take all the money in the world and distribute them equally among people, after a while all the money will go back to their original owners.” Why? Because the poor are mainly consumers and the rich are mainly investors. The poor passes over opportunities repeatedly. The poor sees challenges in every opportunity instead of seeing opportunity in every challenge. Take the case of an academic institution for the poor, where education is paid by taxpayers of the city, hence free. The poor take their ways to the institution: they throw garbage anywhere; they write graffiti on doors of rest rooms; they destroy plants and all; they steal the faucets, bidets and sinks. As you try to build a second home, they insist on their ways. Clearly, the second home should be different from their abject squalor, but try as you can, they insist on their ways. Try as you must, others who think they are better than the dugyot, continue the unequal relationships: “Mahirap naman sila, sanay sila sa madumi, sanay sila sa mapanghi, sila ang maglinis ng classrooms, bakit kami eh dugyot nga sila?”

Free education funded by the city does not escape from enterprising individuals who game the system with uniforms and supplies that are more expensive inside the campus; and when the students do on-the-job trainings, ties and vests are required, again another expensive mandate peddled by an enterprising dean; then there are college shirts and PE shirts that suddenly become mandatory, so the faculty co-op milks the process; or general education at 46 units instead of the 36 units required by the Commission on Higher Education because books and workbooks of teaching personnel are required materials (although allegedly plagiarized). It has often been said the poor has been used so often by politicians. Some would point out that their rationale for being is to defend and fight for the interests of the poor when in fact, helping the poor is an expediency milked for politics.

We have to break the dugyot mentality if we are to break the cycle of poverty. But first we must agree with the proposition that one has to care more in order to understand more. And those who think they are better than the poor because they have lifted themselves from abject poverty need to stop and ask themselves, am I better because I care more or am I better because I have more power than before? As has been stressed time and time again, “You don’t look at the poor less, we look at them as equals.” 

About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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