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Sunday, January 19, 2014

First World Problems In A Third World Nation

My apostolate -- the Home for the Aged in Marikina, with Therese - 2006
First World Problems, also known as "White Whine", according to are:  "frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries. It is typically used as a tongue-in-cheek comedic device to make light of trivial inconveniences."

The first Urban Dictionary[1] entry for the term was submitted on August 10th, 2005:
First World Problems: Problems from living in a wealthy, industrialized nation that third worlders would probably roll their eyes at.
In contrast,  a Third World country  is " a term coined in 1952 by French anthropologist Alfred Sauvy to define countries that did not take part in either capitalism (the First World) or communism (the Second World). Over the years, it gradually gained a negative connotation, being associated with poverty and a country being underdeveloped.[25]"
The average income of a poor Filipino family is only Php16,841 pesos or $374.156 dollars per year.

I am a Filipina living in the Philippines, a third world country. Our population is close to 100 million, majority of whom are poor. Poverty is one of the main problems in our nation, alongside unemployment, malnutrition and a rapid increase in population. According to Wikipedia "The Philippines 'poverty rate is roughly the same level as Haiti.[4]" :(

With honors, Batch '96

I am one of the lucky ones for I do not belong to those living below the poverty line. In fact, I was really blessed to have been schooled in one of the country's premiere universities, the Ateneo de Manila University, thanks to my hardworking parents (now both deceased). To them, education was wealth. Papa always used to say that our education was his inheritance to us. We were not very rich, but we were also not wretchedly poor. We belonged to the middle to upper middle class of the society. We lived comfortably with some luxuries. I thank God for His Grace and Mercy when... 

                                 This could very well have been me. :(     

Many out-of-school children as young as 5 years old sell sampaguita garlands for a living. 
This post is getting too heartbreaking for me. :( The discrepancy between the rich and the poor here in the Philippines is so garish, it is unsettling. :(

On one hand there is stark poverty.

On the other hand, sickening affluence.

Jeane Napoles in her limo, daughter of Pork Barrel Scam Mastermind, Janet Lim-Napoles
And every now and then, there are people like world class boxer/businessman/politician/TV host/Christian preacher Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao who were able to transform their lives:                              

                           from rags...

                                                                                          ...   to riches.

Pacquiao never fails to pray before, during and after every fight

In our country, there is ZERO CRIME RATE when Pacquiao fights his boxing matches. :)
Knocked Out- Ricky Hatton -- May 2009
That is how popular he is.  He is known as " The People's Champ".
Typhoon Haiyan victims cheering for Pacquiao - 2013
 He also is the current Congressman of Saranggani Province in Mindanao, among other things.
Congressman Manny Pacquiao
Enough of Pacman. :) 

I singled him out to put the Philippines on the map, for the benefit of those who are not familiar with our country. :)

You'd be surprised that in a poor Third World country such as ours, many people live with First World problems.

One might think that with all the misery, hunger and poverty being experienced here, people would be more profound. Well, you are in for a surprise.
Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda victimes crying for help - Oct 2013

People in Third World countries are not immune from selfishness and self-absorption, this writer included. :(

Drinking Starbucks, a former expensive and addictive habit - 2007

You need not be from a rich country to be "shallow" or to complain about seemingly "trivial inconveniences."

Selfishness happens to the best and the worst of us.

In that sense, regardless of race, color or creed, we are all daughters of Eve. We are all sinful. We are all prone to discontentment and ingratitude. We all have our own versions of "First World Problems", third world citizens included.

Some examples of First World Problems that moderately rich or well-off Third World Filipino citizens may complain about, contrasted to the current reality are:

  • "I hate my job! I have no social life anymore!!!" (Unemployment and underemployment is prevalent in the Philippines due to a lack of job opportunities in the country, thus the OFW or Overseas Filipino Workers or migrant workers phenomenon.)

  • "I gained 5 lbs! Ugh!" (Some people in the Philippines only eat once a day not due to dieting but due to the lack of money to buy food.)
  • Photo Credit: Philippine Star
  • "Our house needs a serious paint job. It is not pleasing to the eyes and would be an embarrassment to visitors!" (Poor Filipinos do not even have decent housing. Most poor families are "squatters" or illegal settlers.)

  • "Sigh! We need a budget of half a million otherwise I don't want our wedding to push through. I deserve it. It's once in a lifetime!" (More and more Filipino couples are now opting to just 'live in' than get married for practical reasons. They would rather buy infant formula than spend for a wedding,even a simple one. Weddings are now just "optional".) 

Some couples still get wed via mass weddings. (Photo Credit:

The point of this post is just to show everyone that even in a country as destitute as ours, it is not uncommon to be caught up in one's world and forget or not care about the less fortunate. Seeing poverty daily sort of dulls the senses and makes this situation "too normal" to still tug at one's heart.

"The Face of Poverty"      Photo Credits: streetkidspm

But how can anyone not feel compassionate towards one's neighbor in such a sorry state? :(

Especially when the Lord said that:
Matthew 25:40

Jimmy, my hobo friend holding my album gift :)
By God's Grace, even if I was blind to my sins of control and disrespect towards my husband in most of the years in our marriage, the Lord had always allowed me to "see" and empathize with the least of our brethren. My husband and I were one in our desire to help those who had much less in life than us.

Visiting him in the QC Circle -2012
At the back of my mind, even if I was busy complaining praying to God about Dong, I was always grateful for the roof over our heads, the food on our table and our beautiful family. I think this act of gratefulness was enough for the Lord to enter my heart and to further deepen my relationship with Him by giving me this new submissive spirit that He had instilled in me.

Don't you just LOVE tight embraces? Therese - 2007
There are SO MANY things to be grateful for:  first and foremost, our lives; our health; our livelihood; our families. So many people have it so much worse. In my case, I only need to look around me to see how blessed I am.

Dec 31, 2013 - New Year's Eve

In this season of my life, I choose to be grateful even more. Not only for the basic necessities but for the gifts that are my husband and our children. And most importantly, the gift of learning to let go and let Him rule in every single area of my life. He called my name patiently and softly again and again and again, and this time, I answered Him: "Yes. Here I am Lord. What do you want me to do for You?"

The next time we are tempted to complain over mere inconveniences, may we remember that there are still many things to be thankful about and far more people who have it so much worse than us. It doesn't matter what "world" we live in, whether first, second or third. What matters is that we do not conform to the pattern of this world  and become and remain not materially, but spiritually poor.


 A humble and contrite heart is the GREATEST TREASURE. :)
Matthew 5:3

May we all be richly blessed! :)

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