< pardon me while i rant >
As a passing "social anthropologist," I would call the death of 12-year-old Mariannet Amper a suicide of the acute economic anomic form. But why she killed herself baffles - and at the same time depresses - my usually incompassionate self: she hanged herself inside her family's barong-barong after her father said that he can't give her the P100 she needs for her school project.
One hundred pesos is the sum of my daily allowance: I have a hard time budgeting it for the necessities of fare, photocopied readings, lunch, and my own excesses. Mariannet killed herself for what I already have: a cost that her jobless father would find beyond belief for a school project. What that school project is, I do not know: maybe it's a diorama, or to pay for the tocino some incompetent teacher hawks to her students. I do not know, and I don't want to know: to think that what's in my pocket is what Mariannet's life cost is something that burns a hole in my conscience.
I can only imagine the kind of poverty that Mariannet has to go through before she hanged herself, and I piece the stories of so many other children who have gone through the sheer, utter indecency of poverty and hunger. They are indecencies that go beyond pornography and sexuality. I've heard stories of children's lunches being nothing more than a two-peso pack of fish crackers and a box of cold rice brought from home. I've heard stories of children preserving old, battered shoes by walking to school barefoot, negotiating kilometers of muddy roads and forest trails. I've heard stories of children forced to cut school to sell newspapers in the afternoon.
Mariannet adds to that story: because of a P100 sum that she needs for her school project but her father cannot give, she hanged herself. I can only imagine how: maybe she tied together some blankets, maybe she fashioned a noose out of an old yoke. Maybe she found a length of rope somewhere. We can only speculate what went on in Mariannet's mind that All Souls' Day when she found herself in that room with her hand clutching a makeshift noose. Maybe the poverty was too much to bear that she decided to end her misery once and for all. Maybe she couldn't take it anymore. Maybe she cannot have any more than what she already has, so the grim future was to be found at the loop of that noose.
Like I said before, poverty is something made more poignant when seen through the eyes of children. We try to protect children from the grim and harsh realities of life that would strip them of their innocence. Poverty is one of them: I'm reminded of that sandwich spread commercial where the line says something about imagining a ham sandwich, or how many poor children have to imagine that the lowly plate of pancit bihon has more toppings than the small bits of meat that it already has. Or that old Vic Sotto movie where he and Rene Requiestas sniffed a piece of dried fish suspended above their rickety dining table. Seeing poverty is one thing, but experiencing that poverty first-hand is different. There's nothing funny about it. It's enough to drive you to the very edge. That's what happened to Mariannet.
Blame is a luxury of those who feel like pointing fingers: I'm not in the mood to do so. I can't blame the government, if only because they have already accepted the blame for Mariannet's death. I can't blame society at large, because I don't have enough fingers. I sure as hell can't blame myself, because that's a burden will drive me to commit suicide. It's a vicious cycle, and we're all caught up in it.
This blog entry cost me a hundred pesos to write. It's the least I can do, to immortalize the memory of 12-year-old Mariannet Amper, who killed herself because of a hundred-peso school project. I write this with a kind of shame I hope I will never feel again for so long as I hypothesize, test, and conclude.
Posted at Saturday, November 10, 2007 by marocharim