Two stories off the back of that.
SWMBO and I went to a wedding at Tagaytay a few years back. We then spent a week at a remote resort on Palawan. Basically, it was half a dozen huts and an eating area.
Whilst there, I took a walk to the local fishing village with one of the guys who worked at the hotel. The huts were dirt floor, everyone bare feet. There was a toddler, the bloke I was with's niece. Cute as a button and shy as little 'uns are, she eventually came out of her shell and was intent on showing me a kitten from a litter that they had. I had a few coins in my pocket and gave them to her as I left. She absolutely beamed and went charging away through the hut to show her parents.
It was only as I walked away that I realised I'd probably given her a sizeable portion of her father's daily or weekly wage.
Two things struck me about the dwelling, though: mobile phones on wooden beams up off the floor, being charged using car batteries; and the pictures on the walls of two family members who'd graduated. As you say, education is seen as the enabler, the way to betterment, and is a source of real pride as well as an economic necessity for all. The pressure from the family to do well once you make it to university must be immense.
A few years previous to that, I was at a conference in Hong Kong. My boss, in his wisdom, had put us up in Wanchai. Okay, no big deal. Joe Bananas when it was still there did the best Bloody Mary I've ever drunk, if you could put up with the hookers - Filipinos - who were circling like sharks.
In the end, to get some respite, I rang a girl I knew from the Australian delegation and asked her to come down to the bar and plonk herself on my knee.
She brought with her some of her delegation and several of them had the bright idea that they wanted to go to a girlie bar. So, off we trudged up the strip to a place where there was the obligatory pole in the corner and the girls all took a turn dancing with various levels of unenthusiasm.
(Brief note: all Filipino women appear to have exactly the same breasts.)
The madame sat in the corner watching everything like a hawk. One of the girls came and sat next to me. I made it very clear that I wasn't interested in going in the back room but if it kept the madame off her back I'd buy as many drinks as would keep everyone happy.
The girl and I got talking. Basically, she was 'working' to get the money together to go home and do a degree in hotel management. We had quite a searching conversation about how she felt about selling herself to better her later life. We got to a point where she said that she found it upsetting but, really, she had little choice. We moved the conversation on.
It was very poignant. She was a genuinely lovely girl and that was her only way out. I couldn't judge her; I actually felt very empathetic. That would be about 15 years ago now and I hope she got where she wanted to be and is content.
It is a different world for so many people. We don't know how lucky we are here. I think that what makes me most angry about the race-baiters and identity politics merchants - they really are scrabbling to make a fight out of nothing. It must be exhausting being that nasty and bitter.
Joe Bananas – one of the few bars I have queued up to get into.
Once inside (this was more than 25 years ago) it was wonderful mayhem, a couple of nights running.
I was so naive back then, I don’t even remember the commercially minded young ladies from the Philippines…