There are few beggars on Boracay island, but almost all of them are Ati – wives and children (I don’t think I’ve ever see grown Ati men) who sit out on cardboard asking for alms from the tourists in flimsy paper cups. They sleep out on the sand or on the side of the street, and an industrious soul might try to hawk cheap bracelets. This island once belonged to them.
I passed these kids on the sand path paralleling White Sand beach tonight, on my way back from a steak dinner with German friends. I stopped and bought them ice cream cones. They were not impressed. They did not show appreciation or say thank you or express interest in any interaction at all. Only one would reveal his name, Marco, and they were reluctant to even look me in the eye.
There are no jobs for them. Few can integrate into modern society. There is no education and little health care, and the only social safety net comes from Ati relief and charitable organizations, like the Assisi Foundation and the Daughters of Charity. Even though there has been renewed government and civic interest in reviving the Ati culture, it is not enough. Only about 25% of Ati are even literate. Their plight is similar to Native Americans in the United States and Aboriginal tribes in Australia, who are considered the most ancient culture on earth. When we turn a blind eye to their plight, we discard some of the most revered and anthropologically rich human beings on the planet.
Or please email me if you'd like me to make a direct donation to these Ati women and children I pass by every day, but who don't go without my notice and respect.