I have lived through the slums in perhaps most of my life. Eating dried fish or ”buwad” in Bisaya has since been a daily evening menu especially if paired with ”utan bisaya” a vegetable soup derived from the leaves of the locally grown Mallungay plant. Back in the day up to now, the excitement of eating dried fish and vegetable soup continues to allure me and the sumptuous feeling of satisfaction after eating. Even until now, whenever I smell the aroma of dried-fish crackling over boiling edible oil carries with it a tinge sweet and sour smell of heaven.
In those days, eating dried-fish had been a daily affair not because we want to but because it is the least that my father can afford. You see? My father worked as a casual post-man and earns a meager monthly income barely able to cover up with all our needs. Especially the fact that my mother had been diagnosed with a rheumatic heart disease which further added a strain to our financial situation since my father had to buy her medicines and in some emergency cases brings her to the hospital whenever she complained about having difficulty breathing.
Growing up on ”buwad” has always been one of my treasured memories of my childhood. I remember how my mother would give me 3.00 pesos to buy ”buwad” particularly ”tekab” from a nearby sari-sari store. And then later, asked me to pluck leaves from our neighbors mallungay plant for the vegetable soup.
All of these actually helped sustain us financially and feeds the entire family while the rest of our extra savings enabled us to buy my mother, her very own oxygen tank so she doesn’t have to be rushed to the hospital every time she had breathing problems. Also, all the extras that my father earns can help me with my daily school allowance.
But right now, Under the false-pretext of preserving the people’s health – Duterte administration wants to punish the poor because they can’t afford better food than ”dried salted fish” and just simply slap them with more taxes essentially making the cheap staple food for the poorest of the poor more expensive.
When it’s true, it wasn’t always about preserving people’s health. It was about ”money” and an extra avenue to earn more ”cash” to bribe and be plundered by Duterte’s greedy allies in the Congress and his filthy Cabinet and cronies. The more taxes, the more funds trickling down their pockets and fill their greedy tummies to the brim.
Why is this? Because Masbate Rep. Scott Davis Lanete filed House Bill 3719 that seeks to impose a P1 tax per milligram of salt – in junk food, canned goods and processed food – in excess of one-third of the allowable daily intake as prescribed by the health department.
And while science has already proven that there could some negative health impacts of eating too much salty food. However, I could’ve already been one of its latest casualties. Lucky me! I am 30 and in perfect good health despite eating horrendous amounts of buwad back in the day. Seriously, I literally grew up with it.
So in conclusion, as much as I appreciate the government’s efforts to control the consumption of salty food. They should first try and address the issue of widespread poverty which continues to plague the country. The increasingly worrying cases of starvation of the many disadvantaged citizens of this country. It saddens me that until now, the surge of poverty and income inequality continues to go to an uptick.
My father worked for decades as casual postman. He dedicated almost his entire life to the job. But he just couldn’t make the cut or at least go up the bureaucratic ladder as only the one’s who barely worked a finger gets promoted to higher positions simply because they have been favored by some powerful political patrons.
In this regard, I myself, vehemently disagrees with this measure, as it would only do harm than good. Bear in mind that the Duterte administration has already done so much economic damage which cost people millions of their daily income — eroded by higher taxes and surging inflation.
According to data. The inflation may have dropped, but the prices of goods were in fact more expensive than in 2016 – which suggests that under Duterte. The prices of goods have never been as cheap as he promised during the campaign period.
More people die from hunger, lack of medical care and of course crimes borne out of desperation to feed their young than salty foods. I don’t see why is the Duterte government focusing their policy on cracking down the consumption of salted dried fish, but I’m pretty sure it is one of the most traded commodities where millions of Filipinos, especially those living below the poverty threshold relies on to fill their stomachs.