MANILA - Driving around Manila, you can see a vast difference in life and socio-economic status. The Philippines is like a lot of third world countries where the rich are very rich and the poor are very poor with a middle class that is basically non-existent. But, that is where my mother's family comes from.
Emerging from a place that's hard to find in the Philippines, Charlie Garcia details life growing up middle class next door to my mom on a nearby island called Mindoro.
"Her father is the brother of my mother. That's why we're first cousins," Charlie said. "Ate Bella (my mother) is a very nice person, very kind to us."
As we cruise through Manila, we are reminded about the realities of being in a third-world country.
"I would still say that there's some middle income families around," Charlie said.
If the middle class exists, it doesn't exist in the sprawling slums of Manila..
"Poverty is a big issue in the Philippines, not all of us can be rich. When you're poor, aside from luck, you really have to work hard to make it big," Charile said.
In one world, high-rise condominiums and hotels fill the skyline with blocks and blocks of restaurants, shops, and cafes. In another world, families with young kids sleep on cardboard in the street. In one world, armed guards line every street projecting security and stability. In another world, a young child, maybe 3, can be seen just wandering alone in the median of a crowded roadway.
One world -- pools and playtime. Another world, some believe are being targeted by police.
Amnesty International pubished this report called "If you are poor, you are killed." In 2016, Rodrigo Duterte was elected President. During a controversial election not so different from ours... the former prosecutor declared war on drug dealers.If you click through the internet, you can find image after image of police killings in the Philippines by what some describe as roving death squads. In less than a year, the Philippine government estimates more than 7,000 people were killed.
Amnesty Interational investigated 59 of those deaths and say that corruption, misinformation, and evidence-planting led to the murders of innocent people. They call the war on drugs a violation of human rights.
The Duterte administration denies wrongdoing saying the country is now safer. But, the President says he will punish any police officers who abuse their power and position.
No matter what you believe, the world of the poor is one that so many are trying to escape and often times it comes down to going overseas to find work, Uncle Charlie says, because there's no work here.
"It's always a dream of every Filipino to work abroad and if there's an opportunity to do it, then we'll be happy for each person that is able to go there, for sure, generally speaking, they will have a better life," Charlie said.
That's why my mom and Uncle Charile's sister came to the United States for a better life and to help everyone else.
"Sooner or later, true to our wishes, we received a lot of stuff from them. We were happy receiving stuff from them," Charlie said.
Driving around Manila, you can see the slums. Many of these people are squatters building makeshift tin homes on property belonging to someone else. Escaping this means survival for the ones lucky enough to leave the country.
CONTINUING COVERAGE: Through Friday this week, Nelson will share parts of his experience in the Philippines. At 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nelson will run a 30-minute special called "Storytellers: Lost Heritage". It will run on Channel 20.
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