Arroyo’s US ‘Food Trip’ Reflects Poor Policies, Arrogance


MANILA — Fish paste, vegetable leaves, instant noodles. These are the usual food that one would find on the dining table of the Monicario family of Sitio San Isidro, an urban poor community along Quezon Avenue, Quezon City.

These are almost nothing compared to the dinner that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her entourage had at New York City’s Le Cirque Restaurant and Washington DC’s Bobby Van’s Steakhouse, where the dinner tabs amounted to $20,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Malacañang officials claimed they merely had “a simple dinner,” but Nanay Evelyn Monicario cannot imagine what a lavish dinner for Arroyo and her cohorts would be, considering that she herself considers sardines a lavish meal these days.

46-year-old Nanay Evelyn was diagnosed with myoma early last year. (Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao /

Nanay Evelyn used to work for a local employment agency. But since she had continuous bleeding caused by a myoma, she had to stop working. Her husband, who earns only the basic pay as a company driver, is now the only one in the family with a regular source of income.

“I remember when I was still in my prime, my family and I would always eat out to celebrate special occasions. But it is very hard to imagine what Arroyo is celebrating if they spent that amount of money,” she said, “Even if I celebrate everyday, bring home roasted pig in my our dining table for everyone to eat, I do not think that we would be able to reach that amount.”

Nanay Evelyn’s version of a Le Cirque meal. (Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao /

Ian, the eldest of Nanay Evelyn’s eight children and one of the five who still stay with her and her husband, said that he does not care if the money spent on the dinners in New York and Washington DC was from public funds or from the personal accounts of Arroyo and the other people in her group. “It is disappointing that they can stomach spending that amount of money for fine dining when so many Filipinos are hungry and with no home to call their own,” he said.

Poverty and hunger are two of the biggest problems that developing countries like the Philippines are facing. Using an unrealistically low poverty threshold of P41.25 ($0.86) a day for every individual Filipino, or P206.25 ($4.30) a day for a family of five, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) placed the number of poor Filipinos at 32.9 percent of the population. According to the socio-economic think tank Ibon Foundation, the figure could actually be higher.

This means that with the basic salary Nanay Evelyn’s husband is receiving, they are way above the poverty threshold. But their everyday experience would tell otherwise.

Sometimes called poverty line, poverty threshold is the minimum level of income deemed necessary to achieve an adequate standard of living based on a Family Income and Expenditure Survey held every three years.

“For a family to really live decently,” he said, “they need roughly P500-700 ($10.43 to $14.60) a day.”

The results of a recent Social Weather Station (SWS) survey show that two out of every five respondents consider themselves as “food poor”.

The Monicario family definitely considers itself among the country’s “food-poor” families.

“We can no longer afford to buy sardines because its price increased over the years,” Ian said. “Most of the time, we eat instant noodles or instant pancit canton.”

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    nakakatakot na nakakaya nila arroyo na kumain ng ganun kamahal, samantalang ang mga kabataan ay hindi makapag- aral…ang mga pamilya ay walang maihain sa hapag…ang mga manggagawa ay kulang ang sahod…

    nakakahiya siya…

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