Global Hunger Fast Day 4: the True Price of Hospitality

Posted: April 20, 2011 in Life in the Philippines
Tags: , , , , , , ,

We cheated today.  Sort of.

Samaritana, like everyone in the Philippines, is off work for Holy Week.  While this means vacations or trips back to the provinces for some, it means no income for the Samaritana women.  So when two of them asked us with all of the hope of little kids begging for ice cream if they could clean our apartment, we decided it was worth bending the rules a bit and paying them a fair wage, even though it meant going way over our daily P180 ($2 apiece).

When they showed up at 8:30 a.m. this morning, a half hour early, we were just about to eat our breakfast of 3 eggs and two small rolls.  When we discovered that neither one of them had eaten, there was nothing else to do but split the meal meant for two into four, and sit down with them and enjoy sharing.

Lunch was a similar math problem–division, really–and I walked to half a dozen street vendors, a grocery store, and the palengke to solve the equation.  After about an hour, I came back with 4 small fried rolls (lumpia, a popular street food that is like an egg-free egg roll), a half-deck-of-cards-sized portion of pork, some green beans, 3 more eggs, peanuts, a head of garlic, one onion, and a single potato.  We still had rice leftover from Sunday, and a small portion of oil from breakfast.  Nate and one of the women spotted some common leafy greens on the neighbor’s tree, and were rewarded when they politely asked for some.  I felt pretty great about what looked like an abundance of food to my hungry eyes . . . until I realized that it would not just be lunch for four, but also dinner for two.

It hurt to know that we’d spend the day mostly hungry again–but what hurt more was not being able to be as fully hospitable to our friends as we wanted to.  We were amazed by their willingness–no, excitement–to clean for us, and wanted to bless them in whatever way we could.  We wanted to give them a great meal, to send them home full, but instead we worried that the meal of mostly vegetables and a too-small portion of rice might’ve left them as hungry as it did us.  It occurred to us that this is the twofold pain that millions of Filipinos experience all the time.  Filipinos are famous for their hospitality, and we’ve experienced this first-hand whenever we’ve dined in any Filipino home.  The pain of hunger is compounded by that of not being sure that your guests will walk away satisfied.

Hospitality has always been important to Nate and me; we’ve always taken great joy in sharing home, food, and drink with family and friends. But now, once again, this Global Hunger fast is teaching us a hard lesson: how much hospitality can really cost.


  1. jen says:

    Good lord. These posts are hard to read, Laura. Normally when I think of hunger, I think of bloated bellies in Africa; I honestly didn’t realize hunger is the daily reality of millions of other, “normal”-looking people.

  2. says:

    Makes me think of Philippians 2 and how much Jesus must have wanted to share with us more than he was, in a sense, “allowed” to, given his adopted human limitations. The generosity of God flows through your voluntary poverty.

    For the flip side to this hard lesson, some day read Heidi Baker’s book Always Enough, on loaves&fishes type miracles among Mozambique’s poor.

  3. freeisaverb says:

    Forgot to add our daily tab:

    Breakfast (32 pesos)
    3 large eggs
    2 small rolls
    1 small bag of oil

    Lunch & dinner (120 pesos)
    1 head of garlic
    1 onion
    1 small piece of pork
    green beans
    3 large eggs
    4 lumpia rolls
    small bag of peanuts

    20 pesos for internet use

    Daily Total: 172 pesos

  4. Robin Davis says:

    I would love to know which women cleaned for you. Did you tell them about your experiment? I have just told one more person the story of Samaritana and showed her their cards. I hope the card sales will mean that these women can have more to eat in the future . . .

  5. amillah says:

    would it be cheating if you totaled the budget and then bought in bulk?

    • freeisaverb says:

      Good question, Amillah. We talked about this before embarking on this week, and based on what we’ve seen firsthand here in Manila, we decided that it would be. Saving is an almost impossible goal for the poor, and we now understand why. Samaritana teaches its women how to save, and even enforces it by having a percentage of their pay go directly into savings, but even so bigger purchases are tough for them. One of the women told me that thanks to Samaritana, it’s not that it’s terribly difficult for her to earn the money she needs to pay for her graduation certificate (which she should’ve gotten years ago, but didn’t have the money to pay for it); it was just that whenever she got a chunk of money, she felt like she needed to immediately send it to her mother in the province, who is taking care of the woman’s son. This is a common story that we’ve heard again and again. So we decided to live hand to mouth, day to day, just like the women we know do.

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