To beggar a beggar

To give or ignore is a moral dilemma often faced when asked for alms. And with laws prohibiting giving, the lack of projects to support mendicants is inhumane.

A few nights ago, I saw a girl in her school uniform roaming around the busy street of Taft with a handful of Sampaguita garlands. As sad as this is, this is a common sight in the metro, and when we meet these helpless people begging for alms, it always raises a moral quandary: to give or to ignore?

To give is the option I’d usually take whenever I have extra funds. I live in Pque and commute—not Grab, as if it counts—to school. I had this one memorable ride where an elderly man, with a laminated ID and 4A-sized photos of his supposedly hospitalized son, asked for money. “Hindi naman po ako masamang tao, pangpagamot lang po ng anak ko,” he pleaded. Even with hints of hesitation, I would’ve been a nitwit if I had extra money and refused to give what I could.

(I am not a bad man. I just need money for my son’s medications.)

The next day, the same route, lo and behold, a different man asked for money with the same sob story and documents. I felt betrayed but mostly gullible. Deep within me, I knew it must have just been a spiel, but at the same time, what if it was real? The guilt of ignoring a genuine plea would’ve been harder to bear than the sting of being conned.

Lasallians, as elitists as Twitter-verse would want them to be portrayed, are givers, actually. After all, zeal for service is one of our core values. But who could forget the infamous Razon kids’ biting incident? Believe it or not, they were once those whom we were more than willing to care for until reports of groping, physical aggression, and verbal abuse arose. While some may joke about getting anti-rabies shots, we should prioritize the call for the attention of authorities to summon the relatives of these children. We must be reminded that while the kids may have been deciding on their own, their mendicating will always be a problem rooted in the lack of supervision from their families.

Now, there are those who have already built strong walls, hearts hardened, and would choose to ignore. They would always cite their sanctimonious mantra—former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s Presidential Decree 1574, also known as the Anti-Mendicancy Law—to make them feel good about themselves after rejecting the beggars. One of my professors would often emphasize that although it might appear callous to ignore the young destitute, providing them with money would only exacerbate the underlying issue. This is a statement that might have been proven true by the issue involving the kids in Razon, but help doesn’t usually come in express—often even inadequate—especially in this country. If you see a woman holding a dying baby, would you be able to refuse and convince yourself that help is coming their way regardless?

Not that we expect much of them, but the government is actually doing the bare minimum: having a plan. The Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) “Pag-abot Program,” a project that should supposedly extend support to vulnerable individuals, children, and families. It was recently institutionalized through Executive Order 52, extending its reach to the street dwellers and vagabonds and offering options such as returning to their hometown, family support, or placement in residential centers. 

All of these too-good-to-be-true promises and yet, I gaze upon the same familiar faces of street children selling Sampaguita or shivering in the cold night air, and it becomes painfully clear that government grandeur often breaks down under reality’s harsh spotlight. 

The Philippines is currently unable to provide reliable statistics on how Filipinos are without homes given the nature of their situation, though in 2018, the Philippine Statistics Authority estimated that about 4.5 million are homeless in the country, two-thirds of which are in Metro Manila. World Population Review says this makes the Philippines ninth globally with the most homeless people. This only signifies that there is still a lot of work to be done, but the questions of how and when still remain unclear.

The truth is, DSWD can only do some convincing, because their program only makes leaving the street life voluntary. Clearly, it doesn’t solve the problem as many years of the dwellers’ lives were already on the street, and more often than not, change is difficult to persuade.

While the perpetual conundrum of whether to extend a helping hand or turn a blind eye continues to baffle us, one truth remains immutable: we possess the power to raise our voices and demand a better solution. To politicians who brand themselves as “for the poor,” to the office of DSWD which should be doing more, to the people in the media who have the power to amplify voices, and to mere passersby who see these helpless people in their daily lives: compassion should never be voluntary, for it is a basic human cognition. I beg you, be human.

This article was published in The LaSallian‘s Spoof 2024 issue. To read more, visit

Michael Hamza Mustapha

By Michael Hamza Mustapha

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