How the Poor Squander their ‘Wealth’ (#10)

“True Tales” Series – volume 10

This is a true story of how a family spent the money given to them by the government to relocate to a better place, as their shanty home was to be demolished. You will be amazed how creative they were in their spending habits.

eastwind journals, March 13, 2023 (archive tr135v2)

By Bernie V. Lopez,

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The shanties of squatters in a ghetto area somewhere in Quezon City, Philippines, were going to be demolished to make way for a shopping mall. According to law, developers must have a resettlement plan, a place where to relocate the displaced. To encourage the poor to relocate, the developer gave P30,000 per household for moving expenses. The squatters were delighted by the sudden windfall.

There was this one family where the father gave permission for his spoiled daughter to buy an Ipad, circa P20,000, as long as she let her other 4 siblings use it once in a while. Imagine, a portable touch-screen giving you access to games instantly, faster than a laptop. It was a ‘family toy’. They started quarreling over the ‘toy’, the youngest complaining she had very little access.

With the balance of P10,000, they bought other ridiculous items but allotted a small portion for moving expenses. This news circulated among the other squatters, and there was a band-wagon effect. Others also started buying ridiculous items such as expensive rubber shoes and android phones. Here we see how the poor can also be just as or even more materialistic than the rich, being creative spenders.

The story is not over. The squatters did not like their new homes. It was far from their jobs and livelihood, and other amenities they were used to. They were simply blinded by the cash. So, one family started sneaking back to their old home. The developer was not quick enough to bulldoze the shanties, waiting for the place to be completely vacated, and never imagined any of one family would dare go back quietly in the middle of the night, after getting the P30,000 each.

Again, the band wagon effect took over. Other families started returning to their old homes quickly before the bulldozers arrive. It was a daring feat, a combination of unsatisfied needs and being plain ‘pasaway’ (‘rebellious’ is a poor English translation). Let’s end the story here about the ensuing ‘war’ between squatters and the government, too long and complicated for this article.

The Fishball Vendor. Here is another story of a boy that I met in Singalong, a district in Manila. He was selling fishballs (poor man’s quick snack of flour laced in fish leftovers) on a small improvised wheeled cart. He was caught gyrating and singing aloud in public, not hearing his own voice drowned by the loud music, with no care about the world outside his music brain. People gathered around him, and thought he was crazy. He had an expensive blue-tooth earphone (wireless) connected to his cellphone without a sim. It was just for music. He imagined he was in a Michael Jackson concert, mimicking his body-language with precision. He even had a straw hat for the act. When he noticed the crowd, he stopped. The crowd applauded wildly.

POLICEMAN – (Examining his earphones.) This is very expensive. Where did you steal it?

BOY – I saved one year of hard money from my fish ball income.

When the crowed jeered, the policeman left. Nothing mattered to him except his music. It was an escape from the world of hunger and poverty, a spiritual wealth. He preferred spiritual over physical survival. He would rather eat less and dance and sing more. As Ernest Hemingway wrote in his book Fiesta, it was good to be “poor and happy”.

p496 – the Lord sculptures our spirit.

The Drifter’s Gear. I (the author) was just as guilty. During my adventures in Europe as a young man, I stretched my money for the road for three years with an ingenious plan. I never took the train or bus. I hitch-hiked. The cheap Eurail Pass (cheap train trips to anywhere for a month) was expensive for me. I never ate in restaurants and just bought grocery stuff. I had a portable cooking gear for hot soup with vegetables. I never stayed in hotels, only camping grounds or under bridges if I was on the road.

I was spending a ridiculous $2 a day then, when I saw this book “Europe for $5 a day”. Yet my ‘secret formula’ was very simple, very eastern. Frugality made my spirit free. I was ‘poor but happy’ as Ernest Hemingway wrote in his book Fiesta.

I bought a ridiculously expensive nylon Spanish guitar which I ridiculously dragged along as I hitch-hiked. It was my magic wand. I met beautiful people, had fantastic experiences, and augmented my income singing in a Munich plaza, a Copenhagen bar, and in an Athens subway.

The lesson of simplicity is denying the body with frugality to free the spirit, as monks and contemplatives do. Read the book Wings and Wanderlust (guide below).

p532 – the way of the albatross

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FOR THOSE WHO NEED HEALING, spiritual or physical (depression, anxiety, loneliness, terminal cancer, covid, diabetes, etc.) – say an online healing prayer with one or both healers below. Terminal patients have been healed in cyberspace. All you need is to have faith –

1) Father Fernando

2) Sr. Raquel Reodica, RVM –

Download free e-book ‘Healing Stories of Sr. Raquel’ at

Author’s book. At age 26, the author (eastwind) drifted through Europe, hitchhiking 25,000 kilometers for three straight years. He wrote a book on his adventures, Wings and Wanderlust. He learned deep insights that radically changed his view of life, which he wants to share with readers looking for themselves or wanting to catch the wind. More about the book =

Author’s Credentials. Blogger – ex-Columnist (Inquirer) – Healing Ministry – ex-Professor (Ateneo University) – Documentary Producer-Director (freelance, ex-ABS-CBN, ex-TVS Tokyo) – ex-Broadcaster (Radio Veritas) – Facebook “Bernie V. Lopez Eastwind” / Pages “Eastwind Journeys and Journals” and “Mary Queen of Peace”.


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