Saturday, March 29, 2008


Eating outdoors can certainly be fun, especially when it's nice and warm outside. You can enjoy a tasty meal and people-watch at the same time.

However, its downside, which I've noticed to be prevalent in some parts of Quiapo and Binondo are the street beggars who would ask for some loose change as you enjoy your meal. There is a guilt factor involved here, of course: you're eating and they're not; and the usual reaction then is to dig into the pocket for some coins. Unfortunately, most beggars take advantage of such.

Once while eating in a restaurant in La Loma, two street children walked over to our table with hands open begging for some change. When asked where they were from, one told me that they live inside the North Cemetery with their family. But instead of giving them money, I asked the waitress to give them a couple of vegetable dishes and plenty of rice to take home. They raced back home right after thanking me repeatedly.

On another occasion, while eating a late lunch in Chinatown's estero food court, I noticed two street children approached two finely dressed Chinese women who were enjoying their merienda. The boys asked them for some change. But instead of reaching for her purse, one of the women invited them to sit at a nearby vacant table and then asked the waitress to serve them a big plate of pancit canton. You can imagine the surprised delight revealed by these children's wide smiles. More poignant was their pleasant behavior as they enjoyed their meal. Apparently, despite their impoverished background, they were, nonetheless, brought up to be mindful of their table manners.

Overall, my observation tells me that for the most part, the locals have a soft heart for these indigent folks reduced to begging for a meal. However, there's a common awareness as well that in some cases, nefarious adults would use these children to beg from strangers -- not to use the money for communal food but to fund their vices.

Related link:

Children in Need of Special Protection - Council for the Welfare of Children


posted by Señor Enrique at 7:39 AM


Blogger Photo Cache said...

that's a good way to deal with street beggars. i'd rather get them something to eat myself.

March 29, 2008 8:05 AM  

Anonymous Mandaragat said...

Senor, I'll check some of the places you featured here when I go vacation...soon!

Keep on blogging!

March 29, 2008 8:28 AM  

Blogger nutart said...

nice and heartwarming stories you got there, Eric! A friend of mine would have cookies and even little toys by his car seat to give to little children begging by the streets corners. Once, he gave a beggar little boy a little toy car with this biscuits and the little boy's face beamed when he saw the toy car! It was so unforgettable for me. Of course, on the other hand, I really find children begging or beggars in general for that matter on main thoroughfares pleasant to look at merely because of the lack of safety.

I also notice that here in the province, there are really no "professional" beggars. There is land to till veggies or food on. The market vendors here give out unsaleable veggies (but still good to eat) at the end of the day to the poorer locals. It is only during Christmas when you see the Mangyans come down from the boondocks to "beg" for their "noche buena." The only professional beggar here is a blind man (named Ambo) with a history that can parallel Robin Padilla's movie characters.

March 29, 2008 8:50 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice tale eric, great idea just to offer them food or something i'd usually give them coins but i don't like it when they make "kalabit". heard there's also beggars in NYC.

ms. smith

March 29, 2008 9:40 AM  

Anonymous kyels said...

That's the way how my father deals w/street beggars which I think is a good way.


Anyway, we can't omit street beggars b/c they are everywhere and can only take pity upon their impoverished life. I remember significantly when I was in the Philippines, I met quite a few beggars; kids especially. I didn't offer them food though --- only loose changes b/c I was walking that time. But I've to agree, they do have manners somehow or other.

March 29, 2008 10:05 AM  

Anonymous bw said...

Sometimes giving these kids money doesn't really give them much especially of people give them loose change which couldn't buy them anything decent.

One time an aboriginal homeless man came to my table at a coffee shop as I was reading the daily paper and asked if he could have my coffee as he felt like I was done with breakfast. Man, it was the ultimate humilitation, even downright deprecating I thought. I mean you could beg for money but left over coffee??

I took to the counter and bought him a medium coffee - he didn't want anything else. I felt really bad for him.

March 29, 2008 10:54 AM  

Anonymous bertN said...

If you go for a meal outdoor in the less affluent areas of Long Beach or Wilmington, sometimes homeless or down-on-their luck shabby looking adults or teens will approach you for whatever change you can spare them. However, if you offer to buy them a meal instead, they will often turn it down or resent it outright. They welcome the money, more than the offer of free food, so they can buy cheap booze or drugs.

All these years I can't figure out why undocumented non-English speaking foreigners can find jobs and these native born losers can't or don't want to. I am not angry with them, I just don't understand why they prefer to live the life they do when there is so much opportunities for them to turn their lives around.

March 29, 2008 12:13 PM  

Anonymous cheryl said...

After eating a meal at Chinatown, where food is exponentially blown out of proportion, we grab our doggie bag and walk the streets of San Francisco. There you will find some homeless dudes, who will delightfully thank a warm, delicious meal. A little bit drunk or high though... he he he

Nice insight Eric. Next time, I will invite Manila street kids to join a meal with me. You have inspired a bunch of us =)

March 30, 2008 1:57 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Photo Cache!

Yes, sometimes it's better to just buy them some food. The other day I bought some ponkans and the "dagdag" the vendor gave me I gave to a street kid.

March 30, 2008 6:10 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That'd be wonderful, Mandaragat. Wishing you a safe and joyful balikbayan vacation :)

March 30, 2008 6:12 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thta's an interesting piece of information about the Mangyans -- namamasko sila :)

Manila has its share of pro beggars. From what I heard, some even borrow other people's babies so as to generate extra "awa" from people.

March 30, 2008 6:15 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

They do have them in NYC all right, Ms. Smith -- homeless folks. However, several churches and other charitable institutions, including the Salvation Army, provide bread and soup to assuage their hunger.

March 30, 2008 6:19 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

You're right, Kyels, for the most part, the local street kids would usually walk away once you tell them you haven't any more coins left. Must be because they don't enjoy bothering people and begging for some money. But nonetheless, there'd be some who will follow you until you give them something ... hehehe.

March 30, 2008 6:24 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

But know what, BW? In San Juan, Puerto Rico, the beggars would wait outside coffee shops or fast food places. As soon as people leave, they'd rush in to check out for any leftover and would eat them right there. I was wondering why the manager didn't ask them to leave or prevent them from entering. I guess, eatery management over there are more lenient and tolerable with beggars. However, their presence inside the restaurants can be startling at times.

March 30, 2008 6:28 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Those are derelicts whose lives were ruined with alcoholism or drug addiction, bertN, which they have plenty of in New York City. The Bowery was once famous for having shelters for such down and out folks.

But I've heard many stories of some who eventually cleaned up their acts and managed to lead normal lives once again.

Incidentally, have you seen the movie "Leaving Las Vegas?"

March 30, 2008 6:32 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Cheryl!

Check out this bit of irony: Many restaurants and catering service firms in New York City do not pack their leftovers to give to the shelters for homeless people. I was told that if someone get sick from which, they can sue the restaurant or catering company.

So what happens is that tons of good food just get thrown out each night.

March 30, 2008 6:35 AM  

Blogger Panaderos said...

I remember this security guard over at the McDonald's on UN Avenue back in the early 1990s. This was during the time when McDonald's still cooked burgers and put them on those aluminum heating plates before anybody had ordered them. The procedure then was that the burgers would stay on those plates for about X number of minutes. Once those X number of minutes were up, those burgers were tossed to the trash bin because they were no longer of "high" quality.

Well, what this kindhearted security guard did was to grab those burgers that were to be tossed and hand them out to the street children who were out in the sidewalks begging or selling cigarettes or sampaguitas. The food wasn't bad or spoiled anyway so why toss them? That guard (God bless him) saw that those burgers could be put into much better use by feeding very hungry kids. I hope wherever that guard is today, that God continues to take good care of him and his family.

March 30, 2008 7:39 AM  

Blogger João Paulo Esperança said...

I lived in East Timor for six years and married an East Timorese. In Timor all the infrastructure and most of the houses were burned to the ground by the Indonesian military and military sponsored militias in 1999, after the overwhelming victory of independence in the referendum. When the first foreigners (international military, aid workers, reporters, …) started getting into the country after that, they were amazed because there wasn’t a begging culture there. People would take aid food or gifts if offered but they weren’t walking around foreigners begging. In almost a decade of expats presence there, that has changed a lot. In most restaurants with expat clientele there are lots of kids begging and yelling “security, security” outside. They don’t really provide any kind of security for the vehicles (though unlike Portugal here, they usually don’t scratch the cars if they’re not given any money), but they got used to foreigners giving them money and asking them to take care of their car. The problem is that now some parents even quit their jobs and send all their children to beg for money, and some of the kids don’t go to school anymore, they’re just begging all day long.

March 30, 2008 10:06 AM  

Blogger gizelle said...

It doesn't look so hot in these areas...sometimes the small passageway could be a good hiding place from the sun!

March 30, 2008 4:18 PM  

Blogger luna miranda said...

thanks for sharing this heart-warming post, Eric. i always take home a doggie bag when i dine out...the stretch of julia vargas from meralco avenue is littered with beggars, and they're always thankful for a bag of food. but there are street children in makati who wouldn't accept a bag of food...they prefer cash. when i give cash to beggars, its always to those who are handicapped.

March 31, 2008 1:45 PM  

Blogger Toe said...

You and the two Chinese women are very admirable. It shows that you really care. Very touching stories Eric.

March 31, 2008 9:46 PM  

Anonymous dave said...

That's the right approach, give them food. It's a good way to weed out those in begging syndicates. I remember my "Effective Begging" entry, hehe.

April 02, 2008 7:52 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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