Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beggars & Charitible Culture

I once visited Manila in the Philippines with Mia. It wasn't really our first choice of the places to visit. But because we had limited resources as well as very short holidays, we ended up choosing Manila. We thought it would be interesting to see the way of life and culture of the Filipinos.

Manila is a huge city—millions of people, and it would probably take quite a while to visit all the places of interest within Metro Manila alone. But we were not really keen to see all those shops and malls. Rather, we actually walked the streets to see the people there.

Amongst others, we quickly noticed that there were many, many beggars in the streets. You could see them all over the place—at the front door of the hotel, at the shops, at the malls, at the money changers, at the traffic lights. From very young children to very old people; they knocked on the windows of vehicles at the traffic lights begging for money. And when one walked the street, a bunch of them would come begging. They're very persistent people. They wouldn't let up until they got something, however little.

That was some years ago. Maybe things have changed since then, I don't know. However, from my conversations with friends who've been to Manila in recent times, things haven't really changed a lot since many years ago. Begging for money is almost a culture and way of life for many people in Metro Manila.

It's very saddening to see so many young children begging in the streets. But there isn't much they can do to improve their situation, really.

Yesterday, Mia and I were having lunch in a coffee shop in Lintas. And then suddenly 2 Filipinas walked in. One was carrying a guitar and the other had some leaflets in her hands. They went from table to table playing the guitar and singing songs. When they reached our table, I had a glimpse of the leaflets—apparently some sort of donations to be channeled to the Philippines. I waved them off with a gesture of my hand.

As a matter of habit, I usually make it a point to donate a couple of bucks to the many orphanages in Sabah and other charity organisations. There're quite a number of these donation boxes at the cashier's counters in fastfood outlets and supermarket etc all over KK. A few bucks every now and then won't really hurt my lifestyle, but may mean a lot to those desperately in need.

But I rarely would give to beggars in the streets. In fact, I am against the culture of street beggars, especially since I'm aware that some of them are richer than many people! And you just mark my word, if they are unchecked, they will quickly multiply in number. This thing about Filipino people soliciting donations in our streets shouldn't be encouraged. The relevant authorities should quickly act to stop this nonsense before it is too late.

Firstly, we're not even sure if the donations will actually reach the deserving recipients at all. These donations will go through so many hands before finally reaching, if any, the intended recipients. A lot of things can happen in "transit".

Secondly, if we are generous, why shouldn't we help our own people first. There are just too many poor people in Sabah itself. If I'm not mistaken, some families in Kota Marudu have been identified as among the poorest in the whole of Malaysia. I'm sure they need our help too. Not to mention the many orphanages and other non-governmental organisations like the Palliative Care Association etc, which are very costly to remain in existence, but yet absolutely necessary to keep going.

Finally, I don't think we should encourage the Filipinos to come to Sabah to beg from us. We can welcome them if they have something to contribute, such as skills and labour. Most developed nations have these conditions for foreigners, and it makes a lot of sense too. Let's all say no to street beggars.


Socrates29 said...

Like you I also have my share of beggars or con men in beggars clothes to put it mildly.It is true we Malaysians are generous and caring people and this trait have always been taken advantage of by people with dishonest intentions.

First and even till now is the woman who after so many years,is still going around asking for bus fare to be able to go back to Tuaran.She now has 2 kids tagging along and I noticed they always have CoCo Cola or Pepsi at some time of the day.

Next is the man who has been going around for the past 3 years asking for donations for independent Chinese schools in West Malaysia.He is still handing out "official" receipts to those who gave.Business must be good because another young man is now doing the rounds using the same method.

Of course we also have the young China dolls with their sad stories of being robbed of all their money by the pelarians in our midst and because there is no Chinese Embassy in Sabah they can't make arrangements to go back home so a little bit of donation from us kind Sabahans will help a lot to enable them to do.

Thanks Cornelius,for the timely warning about the singing filipino and guitarist. Will know what to do to refuse them if I chanced to be seranaded by them.

Cornelius said...


KK is quite a small city, you know. Yesterday, I was having lunch with a client near my office. And then the same girls walked into the restaurant doing the same thing - playing the guitar and singing songs. What a coincidence... hehehe