22 January 2009

Poor Ala Paredes

Dear Readers,

Please read this fascinating article from Ala Paredes.
She's a twenty five year old blogger with a HUGE chip on her Gucci clad shoulder. She was born in Manila (now lives in Australia) of a famous father and I found her article most incredible to read.
I had to read it twice, to at least try to get my head around her point of view.
I wonder if her father could.
I failed.

This poor little rich thing.
So skewered.
So twisted.
No logic.
No real guilt.
Not even a sense of collective conscience guilt.
Ice in her veins it seems.

I guess Ala Paredes is a part of Tim Yap's "guiltless generation."
This poor Ala girl is very conflicted.
Please read her words and give me your thoughts.
Where was she educated again?
It doesn't seem as though she has been.
How do the rich ALWAYS end up becoming the victim?
How come?


In Manila, the divide between the rich and the poor is an ever-lingering presence. It permeates our daily lives, like the brown blanket of smog that hovers over Metro Manila. And like smog, it is an ugly reality which we don't like but don't know what to do about. Some choose to do nothing. And who can blame them? It was the previous generations who stuffed up this planet and handed it over to us to fix when we were born.

Now, now, that was an apathetic thing to say. Such a far cry from the bright-eyes compassionate idealist I used to be in my younger years. I donated to charities, participated in immersion and outreach of my own free will, and always gave to beggars on the street.
Amazing what guilt can make you do.
I was guilty because I was supposedly born into a comfortable amount of wealth and status owing to my famous father(
Paredes). I was guilty because I was chauffeured to school every morning while the poor kids played on the street without shoes because duh, they didn't go to school.

Maybe because they're too busy digging through garbage Ala.

And because I was so privileged, people around me made sure to pound in a social conscience in me so that I wouldn't grow up to be a
bad rich person, you know, those spoiled brats who grew up with their yayas, and went to Ateneo, and are like so conyo.
I don't know if I was spoiled, but I had lots of stuff (which doesn't necessarily turn you into a brat, because I share all my stuff), I had a yaya growing up, and went to Ateneo, and tried as hard as I could not to be conyo because I've learned that Philippines society considers that the biggest sin for a girl who was born privileged. If you don't want people to hate you and write nasty comments about you on forums, you have to pretend you don't like being rich.

At this point, I hope you've been following my sarcasm. I find it funny how people love to hate the rich. The ones who shod their heels in designer labels while the poor can't even afford shoes. The ones who were born with silver spoons in their mouths and whose only duty in life is to marry rich so that that won't ever have to work a day in their lives. When I read about people attacking them on blogs and Internet forums, the collective chant seems to be "let's hate them. it's their fault the country is fucked up. They don't know what real life is."

Bullshit, is what I say to that. Just because someone is rich, doesn't mean they're evil, and just because someone is poor, it doesn't mean they're nice. I've met some pretty abusive poor people, who prey on precisely the sort of guilty person I was. I don't even know what I was guilty about. Because I had shoes?

I mean, sure, it is messed up that some people have shoes, and some people can't afford them. I am not minimizing the problem. But what I didn't understand then was that it
wasn't my fault.
I thought it was my job to save the world, and that I could be a catalyst for change by being a compassionate and selfless person. After all, it was my responsibility to be this way, to pay for the sin of being able to afford good things in life. I had to have a social conscience. So I gave indiscriminately to street kids and beggars on the street. I always made sure I had change in my pocket to give, and occasionally I would give a 50 to whoever lucky kid happened to cross my path. I sometimes carried food in my bag for them. I would even buy banana-Q from this one kid just to help him out, even though i never eat it. What happened then was that I became like a piece of hard, crusty bread discarded in the center of a public park for the pigeons to feast on.

And these poor, suffering street waifs, well, they got mean and rude. I was nice to them, and they thought "hell yeah, you better be nice to me because I'm poor. Where's my money?!"
It got to the point where they would wait for me. They waited for me in packs on street corners in Katipunan.
They waited outside restaurants and cafes like predators, waiting for me to finish my lunch and walk outside where they would ambush me. They would follow me down for blocks holding out their palms, and saying "
Teh, sige naaaa...". Of course, they had the "kawawa expression" on their faces, but through time the kawawa expression because a threatening, bullying expression.
I don't blame them for being angry kids. They probably hate how they have to beg, and don't understand why people with shoes shouldn't have to give them money.

And I understand why people with shoes shouldn't have to give them money. And I understand that if manipulating other people if they need to do to survive, then so be it.
But i grew up terrified of these kids. They seemed to be getting meaner by the day, more and more they felt entitled. it got to the point where I was afraid of walking down the street alone for fear of being harassed. During this time, I arrived home on my doorstep sobbing more than once, crying because I was afraid of them, and hated, hated, hated them. Hated them for their accusing stares that said "It's your fault I'm poor, your fault, your fault, your fault!". And that made me feel like a mean, old rich person who didn't want to help the poor. Boo hoo hoo.

Yes, boo hoo indeed Ala.
Great attitude you have.
How old are you?

What I hated most was that I knew they weren't all miserable as they made themselves out to be. I'd see them laughing and playing joyfully on the sidewalks like any normal kid, and would only put on the
kawawa expression as soon as they caught sight of me. And all this time I kept thinking why me, why me, why have these kids singled me out? And now know why, because I'm an idiot. Because I'm a push-over. Because I had a guilty conscience. I was a piece of bread in a park of hungry pigeons and they knew it. of course they singled me out. I realized only years later that the reason why I hated them was because I felt manipulated.

This realization dawned one me last weekend when I went to
Malate for the first time as a balikbayan. It had been years since I went there, and I found myself seeing the place with fresh eyes. With all the chaos and madness there, so completely opposite from everything Sydney is, I surprised myself by getting cultured shock.

It sounded ridiculous even to myself, I has been to
Malate numerous times. And yet, I felt like I was in a completely foreign country and began to feel that mild sense of danger I feel when I'm in a new place, I felt dazed, overwhelmed.
We waited in line outside the club, and there was a scrawny little girl, stringy hair, no shoes, heckling the people in the line, getting a bit invasive yet getting away with it because she was supposedly a "harmless" little girl.
And she was a poor kid and you know how it is, we must be kind to the poor kids because they haven't got much in life. I suspect this kid got her way
a lot, and probably earned some change each night from club goer standing in line. Everyone was nice to her, and get her get away with things that were a bit over the top, but I didn't but into it. She seems to be coming on a little too strong and kept getting inappropriately close to people.
Finally she came to me. She pointed to the sparkly, sequined eye-mask I was wearing (I wore a mask to go with the "Moulin Rouge" theme for night), and shouted,

"Teh, akin nalang yan!"
"Teh, akin nalang yang maskara mo!"

I looked down at her and said, "huh?"

"Teh, akin nalang yang maskara mo!"

It wasn't a question, it was a declaration. And before I had even answered, the little girl was jumping up and down against me snatching at my face trying to tear the mask off.

That was the last straw.
I have a four year old niece who gets bratty in the same way sometimes, and I don't give in because I don't want to nurture a bad attitude. Why would I tolerate a bratty kid, just because the bratty kid happens to be poor?! Furthermore, she's not even asking for money of food, she's asking for a sparkly, sequined eye mask for heavens sake. She's certainly not the walking wounded.
I looked her square in the eye and with my expression unchanging, I say,

Ba't ko toh ibibigay sa iyo?"

She seems at a loss for words for a few seconds. I don't think anyone has ever asked her that. Then she starts jumping trying to snatch the mask off my face again,

na yung maskara mo!!!"

I lean back. I stay calm.

Ayoko. Maskara ko toh. Bakit ko ibibigay sa iyo?"

They widened as she ran off did they Ala?
Soooo tough you are darling.

The kids eyes widened and she ran off. I don't know where she disappeared to, but I didn't see her again the rest of the night.
And oh, how I smiled to myself. Because that was the moment that I knew that it was not my fault. And if I'm going to give to the poor it's going to be because I want to and not because some little brat is trying to guilt me out of my money, and not because I feel I have to apologize to society for being born into status.

Guilt is not the way to go. You'll be bled dry.

Maybe in the eyes of others I was mean, old (rich) bitch who scared off a poor little street kid. it would have cost me nothing to give it away. You can get those things at two dollar store in Sydney. The mask really meant nothing to me. I probably would've given it to her if she didn't feel so entitled to have it. Shame on me for waging war with a four year old.

But maybe what I was really waging war against was the idiotically, ridiculously guilty person I used to be. JUST because you don't have money, that doesn't give you the right to be a bully.

And just because you have LOTS of money, it doesn't mean you have to be the sacrificial lamb (or sacrificial bread).

Ala Paredes Blog
click link

Dear Ala,
I have one question for you.
WHAT are you doing to make things better?

and this from a reader-


Don't you think it's funny how months ago these people were on your side, empathizing with the poor, fighting for the poor against people like Tim, everything about the poor and the extreme poverty in the Philippines... yet when one blogger with a very famous father comes and makes one comment on how she was attacked and manipulated by one poor girl everybody jumps ship and are now complaining about how manipulative, greedy, and uneducated they are?

HAHAHA, very funny isn't it?

I agree with one of the comments above: you do have the biggest balls-blogger I've ever known! Props to you.


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