SQUARE POINT: Tourism and the mendicants PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 November 2011 13:56

BY Jack Edward Enriquez

With the Yuletide Season seemingly just around the corner, about three weeks more to go before Christmas Day, we can observe downtown the proliferation of mendicants and beggars roaming the streets with open hands begging for some loose change to buy food. Some of them squatted along the sidewalks with an undernourished child craddled in the arms and holding out a tin can for the coins while others go inside eateries to ask for money or leftovers from customers unminding of the angry servers yelling at them.

Outside the city proper, there are also some bums going from house to house knocking at gates begging for some amount or any food for their hungry children. It was learned that some of those beggars came from other parts of Zamboanga Peninsula to do their trade here in this city especially during the Christmas holidays.

Drivers and motorists observe that many of them belong to the indigenous tribe Lumads or Badjaos. They block vehicles at intersections, junctions and traffic light crossings begging for money.

Some young Badjaos simulate the traditional caroling by playing their improvised drums and dancing the Muslim way.

These Badjaos, majority adult women, no longer stray the seas in their vintas to fish or gather shells and other edible marine life as a means of living. They’re now the gypsies of the city streets, not only here in Zamboanga, even as far as Manila and Luzon. Many times they have been rounded up by Manila authorities and sent back here, but they keep going back to the city which they believe an oasis in the north.

The problem of mendicants has been giving a headache to the city government ever since. Especially now that the city is gearing up toward attaining momentous development in the tourism industry— the only Latin City of Asia as a major tourist destination. There we have the majestic landmark Fort Filar Shrine, the breezy Paseo Del Mar with the beautiful fountain, the romantic RT Lim Boulevard for nocturnal promenaders, the enchanting beauty of the Jardin de Maria Clara and many more.

And when you stroll the downtown area, what comes to your sight-haggard looking paupers and beggars, disabled mendicants, undernourished street children in tattered dirty clothes and the unsightly gypsy carrying a drowsy baby crossing the street to beg some money from the passing motorists. Definitely an eyesore for our tourists and visitors.

There’s an ordinance penalizing anyone if caught giving a few coins to a beggar. But I have not heard yet of anyone thrown in jail for such offense as of this writing. The CSD Officer is doing his best to get rid this city of mendicants, but after turned over to the Social Center, they’re back in the streets. The same process is repeated over and over again, but the streets are still littered with stray souls, increasing in number even.

Distribute your wealth to the poor and hungry if you want to enter Paradise, according to the teachings of Christ. When you help the least of your brothers, you’re doing it to me, too.

Those with compassionate hearts can never last a day without sharing what they have to the unfortunate ones.

A point to ponder — if prostitution is the oldest profession in this world, begging Is also the oldest means of livelihood. Nevertheless, we don’t mean to offend those who are IBB as in Indolent By Birth.