Friday, November 9, 2007

Extreme Poverty drives Mariannet Amper to commit suicide

In death, Mariannet Amper has succeeded in getting the attention of the whole nation to their plight and those of the poor. Ironically, the news came at the time that the President was announcing the allocation of a billion pesos for hunger mitigation programs.

I was truly disturbed and had to hold back the tears as I read the account of Mariannet’s suicide, especially when I read portions of the little girl’s letter to Vicky Morales of GMA-7’s Wish Ko Lang, but which she was not able to send. I was really touched when she wrote ….. that after long absence from class, she said “hindi ko namalayan malapit na pala ang Pasko”.

Some people blame the poor for their condition. They say it’s because they are lazy or they just don’t exert as much effort. This is not always so. I know of some people who, no matter what they seem to do can not get out of the poverty trap. Precisely because they are poor, they lack the opportunity which is available to others. They are unable to invest in the education of their children, they have limited or no access to credit which can provide them some capital for livelihood projects. Labor is the only available asset that they have but they lack the productive skills needed in the market.

I hope we can consider these things when we discuss the Scholarship Project proposed by some of us.

Girl who killed self lamented family’s poverty in diary

By Nico Alconaba
Last updated 10:00pm (Mla time) 11/07/2007
DAVAO CITY, Philippines --

A 12-year-old girl, who became despondent over her family’s poverty, hanged herself inside their makeshift house a day after her father told her he could not give her the P100 she needed for a school project.

Using a thin nylon rope, 12-year-old Mariannet Amper hanged herself in the afternoon of November 2. She was a sixth grader at the Maa Central Elementary School.

Her father, Isabelo, 49, who was out of job as a construction worker, said Mariannet asked him for P100 which she needed for school projects, on the night of November 1. He told his daughter that he did not have the money yet but he would ask his wife if she could get some money for her. The morning after, however, he was able to get a P1,000 cash advance for a construction work on a downtown chapel.

By the time he got home, Mariannet already lay dead.

"Duda nako nga tungod ni sa kalisod namo (I suspect that she did it because of our situation)," Isabelo said.

Going through Mariannet's things, her parents saw her school "talaarawan" or diary.

In her October 5 entry, Mariannet wrote: "Parang isang buwan na kaming absent. Hindi na kasi nakin (sic) binibilang ang absent ko. Hindi ko namalayan na malapit na pala ang Pasko." [It feels as if we’ve been absent for a month. They’re not counting my absences anymore. I just realized that Christmas is just around the corner.]

Isabelo recalled that in that week, Mariannet skipped school as they did not have money for her food and transportation allowance.

"We did not have any money and I didn't want Mariannet and her younger brother (Reynald) to walk to school," he said in Bisaya.

But Isabelo clarified that Mariannet was absent for only three days. "For her, three days was like one month," he said.

On October 14, Mariannet wrote in her diary: "Hindi kami nakapagsimba dahil wala kaming pamasahe at nilalagnat pa ang aking tatay kaya nanglaba na lang kami ng aking nanay." [We were not able to hear mass because we did not have fare money and my dad was sick with fever. So, my mom and I just washed clothes.]

Along with her diary, the Ampers also discovered a letter Mariannet wrote for the GMA 7 television program "Wish Ko Lang [I just Wish]."

"Gusto ko po sana magkaroon ng bagong sapatos at bag at hanapbuhay para sa nanay at tatay ko. Wala kasing hanapbuhay ang tatay at nagpa-extra extra lamang ang aking nanay sa paglalaba," she said in her "Wish Ko Lang" letter. [I wish for new shoes, a bag and jobs for my mother and father. My dad does not have a job and my mom just gets laundry jobs.]

"Gusto ko na makatapos ako sa pag-aaral at gustong-gusto ko na makabili ng bagong bike," she added. [I would like to finish my schooling and I would like very much to buy a new bike.]
That letter, apparently written while Mariannet was still 11 years old, was never sent to "Wish Ko Lang."

"We never knew that our daughter had dreams for us," Isabelo said.
Isabelo's wife, Magdalena, works part-time "repacking" odong and misua in a nearby factory, earning at least P50 a day. She also does laundry jobs on the side, receiving P100 to P150.
Isabelo, on the other hand, is in and out of work.

"I'm already old, no one would want to hire me," he said.

The Ampers live in a hillside community at the back of the YƱiguez Subdivision in Maa District. They do not have electricity and water supply.

Of the seven children, only Mariannet and Reynald are left with their parents as most are grown up and have families of their own.

Even with only two children left to feed, the Ampers still have a hard time surviving.

A neighbor said that even in this "mostly poor" neighborhood, the Ampers were being discriminated against.

"Ayaw makipaglaro ng ibang bata sa kanila dahil madudungis daw sila," the neighbor said. [The other kids do not want to play with them because they’re dirty.]"Mahirap na nga sila, ni-reject pa ng ibang kapitbahay," she added. [They’re poor and they’re rejected by their neighbors.]

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