Felipe Natanio, better known to Pinoys as Mang Pandoy, was for a few months (I think) in the presidency of Fidel Ramos, the living icon of urban poverty in the Philippines. He passed away last Sunday due to the quintessential disease of the poor, tuberculosis. He is survived by his eight children.
He was earning just 50 PhP a day before he was catapulted into the limelight. After his poverty became a cause celebre, he was offered capital to start a business, had his own TV show in the government network, and became a consultant to Congress. It seemed that he would be lifted out of poverty. Alas that was not to be.
When Ramos was succedeed by Joseph Estrada, Mang Pandoy was forgotten despite Estrada's "para sa mahirap" mantra. It was this time that Pandoy wasn't able to sustain his business, lost his Congress job, sold his house and zoomed back to poverty.
Pandoy's tale is the icon of how Philippine society deals with poverty and is a damning indictment and damnation of all of us, the elite and its perverted noblesse oblige, the politics addicted Philippine Catholic Church, the education sector, show business, big business, in short all of us,including Mang Pandoy's co-poor. Many better off Pinoys feel good when alms are given to the poor and believe they have earned brownie points up there. But that is simply what is wrong. The giving of alms degrades human dignity.
What Mang Pandoy received in his moment of fame is one big dole that failed to lift him out of poverty. The poor don't need doles. Gloria Arroyo in her Catholic piety has fallen into the trap of giving out doles. Of course it is good politics, But Arroyo fails to read the writing on the wall. The poor are not fooled!
Perhaps Pandoy's daughter said it best. "My father should have been given a way out of poverty that was within his capabilities. He never got an education" These are potent words. The only way out of poverty is education not only because it empowers,but because it builds and preserves human dignity.
Education has become an expensive and low quality commodity.This state of affairs will send more people into poverty.
The Catholic Church is damned too. If Mang Pandoy had been empowered by education to determine the size of his family, would his poverty be lessened? The Church cannot find the answers save for threats of damnation and hysterics while it claims it has the truth.
Well for Mang Pandoy, the journey is done. May you rest in peace and like Lazarus who was once poor, show us the way to the Father's house. Amen.