Cartoon by Roni Santiago
Cartoon by Roni Santiago

The gap separating the poor from the rich is getting wider. Figuratively speaking, while in the past the gap was a creek, now it is a gulf.

The stark contrast in the living standards of the rich and the poor is illustrated by a comparison of the results of a survey conducted recently by the Social Weather Station (SWS) in the Philippines with a recent Forbes Lifestyle article on the latest fashion trends.

The SWS findings show that some 12.1 million Filipino families feel they are poor. In the survey conducted on Sept. 26-29, 2014, 1,200 respondents were asked: “Saan po ninyo ilalagay ang inyong pamilya sa kard na ito? (Where would you place your family in this card)?” A show card with the choices “hindi mahirap” (not poor), “sa linya” (on the line), and “mahirap” (poor) was shown.

The results show that self-rated poverty in Metro Manila increased by six points to 43 percent, and by seven points to 52 percent in the rest of Luzon. The same survey found that 43 percent of Filipino families or about 9.3 million households claimed they are “food poor.”

The question on food poverty was, “Tungkol naman sa klase ng pagkain ng pamilya ninyo, saan po ninyo ilalagay ang inyong pamilya sa kard na ito (Based on the type of food eaten by your family, where would you place your family in this card)?” A similar show card with the choices “hindi mahirap” (not poor), “sa linya” (on the line), and “mahirap” (poor) was shown to the respondents.

The results show that self-rated food poverty increased by three points in Metro Manila (30 percent) and by five points in the rest of Luzon (37 percent).

The poverty thresholds, defined by SWS as the monthly home expense budget in order for families not to consider themselves poor, increased to P15,000 (about $350) from P12,000 (about $300) in Metro Manila. It was P10,000 ($250) in the rest Luzon and Mindanao, and P8,000 (about $190) in the Visayas.

These amounts are mere crumbs compared to the cost of the wardrobes of the rich. In the Forbes Lifestyle article, actor Mark Harmon (the lead actor in TV series NCIS) is shown in photos wearing expensive coats, shirts and shoes.

In one pose, he is shown wrapped in a Vicuna and cashmere coat worth $5,150, a merino waistcoat with lambskin gilet costing $4,580 and a $630 cotton-cashmere shirt by Berluti. The total cost of just this outfit is more than $10,000. In Philippine pesos, that is P442,000.

The Philippine poverty situation, though, is not as bad as those of some African countries where children numbering hundreds are dying of hunger every day.

One goal of the United Nations is to eradicate poverty. UN has a herculean job to do.

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