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The Grief of The Invisible Class

A paragraph in Manolo ‘s entry on The Long View Insecurity and The Invisible Class caught my eye:

And meanwhile, there continue the biting criticisms. Blogger Caffeinesparks puts it this way, reacting to the outpouring of sympathy and shock over the death of Amiel Alcantara, the child accidentally run over in Ateneo de Manila: ““in the shanties along Pasig river, a kid playing falls into the water—drowned. Dead; a street urchin playing on the island along the road, runs after a kitten, gets run over—dead; babies die because their mothers live too far from health care centers or can only afford a manghihilot; 10 mothers dead a day—due to childbirth.” These are the grim and unnoticed statistics—so plentiful as to be unfelt—of what she calls the Invisible Class.

Why is it a biting criticism? If the blogger had access to the mortality statistics, why not write about it instead of criticizing the sympathy showered over Amiel Alcantara’s death? And perhaps, take it from there?

Just because they are seemingly the Invisible Class does not mean I do not get shocked over their deaths. The list of senseless deaths of children which I compiled two months ago is but a mere fraction of children mortality statistics. It does not mean I don’t reach out to them. Rich or poor, the pain is universal. Newly-bereaved parent experience the most devastating life-changing event. The pain is unbearable that from the start, one cannot even think of surviving the unthinkable. We reach out to them through interviews via radio station because radio has coverage all over the Philippines. Never mind the fact that I speak broken Tagalog and I falter as I explain the grief process. Bereaved parents understand the language of grief all too well.

Other silent organizations and individuals like Gina de Venecia’s INA Foundation, Cathy Babao-Guballa’s Grief Share and Agnes Prieto’s grief advocacy offer comfort to those that need it. True, not all deaths get the same media mileage as Amiel Alcantara but it does not mean we do not get shocked over other people’s loss.

I encounter all sorts of death from all walks of life in the course of my grief support advocacy. Why don’t I write about it? First, I do not keep or have access to the database of children’s mortality in the Philippines. Secondly, I am not a reporter. I blog to provide grief education. Third, even if I have database access, I need to respect the privacy of the bereaved. In the case of Amiel Alcantara’s death, the father himself wanted to keep his grief as private as possible but soon realized that there is a message. He agreed to the media coverage because “That very day when that sandwich was not finished, it became and symbolized a sense of concern. There is more to that.” It also helped that Pepe is also an old friend of my husband and we felt a connection with his loss enough to write about it in my blog.

More than the sympathy and the support to the so-called Invisible Class is facing the root cause of the deaths. I realized long ago that my advocacy does not end with grief support alone. The Compassionate Friends is one organization that is sad to welcome new members but are willing to help when bereaved parents seek us for comfort.

Come to think of it, some of these children’s deaths are preventable.

Hand in hand with my grief advocacy are three areas that I work with:

1. Child survival. More than the sheer number of children’s lives wasted, the one thing more alarming is the fact that they could have actually been prevented. One of the most pressing interventions is vaccination and in particular, against the number killer of under-5 children worldwide, Invasive Pneumococcal Diseases (IPD).

2. Promote Breastfeeding. I want to be part in saving the lives of 16,000 Filipino every year and 1.5 million babies dying every year throughout the world, because they were not breastfed.

3. Suicide Prevention is everybody’s business. Remember Mariannet Amper where media blamed a lot on poverty as the cause of her death? Let’s save more lives by educating ourselves not only on anti-poverty measures but on suicide prevention. Suicide should no longer be considered a hidden or taboo topic, and that through raising awareness and educating the public, we can SAVE lives.

The grief of the invisible class may seem invisible to most of you. Their plight may not be written by bloggers or even traditional media but there are people and organizations who try to alleviate their pain and poverty in their own little way. They can only do so much because in the end, our government also needs to address the root cause of their poverty.

You and I are doing whatever we can, and that is nothing to sneeze at.

16 thoughts on “The Grief of The Invisible Class”

  1. hello. perhaps the bigger problem is settling which particular issues would be treated in a more comprehensive, transformative manner by bloggers, journalists, newsmen, etc. the problem is of course, perspective, in many cases. and then you have the “flies upon poop” symptom that can be seen in many reports on the broadsheets, tabloids and on the evening news.

    I guess to an extent, the problem is ethics; the lack, or the utter distortion of it. So we can always ask ourselves as writers, which particular issues would be received by the reading public in what manner? it’s hard to control public reception, but at the same time, we writers hold the ethic responsibility to “tell”, in the truest sense of the word, how something can be handled more ethically, more gently, in more proper way. I’m trying to be as gentle as possible so as not to hit many people; but there really is a certain lack in the way writing in popular media (such as the internet) has developed throughout the years.

    mariuss last blog post..Rekomended: Rizal- Contrary Essays

    1. Not all media coverage of deaths are bad. Some parents even welcome it because they want to seek justice in their childs’ death. They would want to believe that their children did not die in vain. I think the imbalance is when not much is written on the “invisible class”. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to death reports so I can only write what I know.

    1. I am disappointed when death becomes a “class war”. When I speak of grief, I speak about grief of everyone… the middle class and the invisible class. I espouse grief education and try to put some sense into the meaning of their deaths.

  2. Pingback: The Marocharim Experiment » As He Lay There Dying

  3. Well since the word “class” has been invoked once more, it cannot be helped that Amiel’s death has received a great deal of coverage from both traditional and new media. Mainly because Amiel’s family belongs to a class that has very good access, influence and even control of media it self.

    Sure there are many street children who die on our streets, drown in our polluted rivers and waterways but they hardly get the coverage because mainstream media tend to be picky on which cases to cover while their class has little to no access to new media like blogs, forums and social networking sites.

    It’s a sad reality of life that we must first accept but later on face and address.

    I say, let’s not just extend the reach of media coverage to the deaths of those in poverty, let’s cover their lives so that more and more of us would be awakened to the reality that the majority of our countrymen are suffering, and hope that they do something about before it’s too late. Because, and to be quite frank, when a person dies, all we could do is grieve and offer support to the family, but we could never bring that life back. However, we failed to realize that there was so much that we can do while that person was still alive, like improving his/her quality of life, because again, death to all us, is inevitable.

    Sabi nga sa isang kasabihan, “Aanhin pa ang damo, kung patay na ang kabayo.”

    jhays last blog post..Movie Trailer: Terminator Salvation

  4. I actually don’t (or maybe refuse to?) see the connection between this tragedy and the tragedy of “the invisible” class. The only fact I acknowledge is that this kid died in a tragic way, and his family and friends, as well as strangers touched by this news, are grieving.

    Fueling notions of a class war is pointless to those who feel this pain–as pointless as, say, people saying, “There’s a reason why this happened.” And bringing this notion to that “invisible” class is giving them yet another crutch to use.

    Altheas last blog post..I told you it’s a little late, but thanks…

  5. Noemi, this is so NOT like the Valley Golf issue. I wonder if Sparks was traumatized over being wrong about being wrong regarding VG. Besides the problem is death on four wheels, not rich and poor. Even billionaires have to walk on the gutter in some parts of Metro Manila.

    If people don’t like to see poor street kids anymore, the best and easiest way is political change, then everyone may have to pay higher taxes.

    BrianBs last blog post..First-Gen iPod Nano Owners on $25 Settlement

    1. I don’t know what made her think that way. True, the statistics are unfelt and so many that every now and then I reach out to them in a collective manner. It is also impossible to me to write about each death too. I know that I usually pick one that is written a lot in traditional media because I have an advocacy to share. Grief does not differentiate one’s class. Death is a great equalizer.

  6. It’s inevitable that someone will bring up and issue like this given how the media sensationalized Amiel’s tragic accident.

    What I admire about you Noemi is that you’ve actually done something about what you wrote about. It’s part of your advocacy and it’s nice to see you in action. At least you’re doing your part, and I give you two thumbs up for walking the walk and not just “blogging” about it.

    People who just blog, blog, blog, talk, talk, talk, and do nothing whatsoever are just full of themselves. Sitting on top of their ivory towers casting judgement like there’s no tomorrow ><;

    Just my two cents.

    Carlo Oples last blog post..Mister Kebab

    1. Thanks Carlo. Even if media somehow sensationalized Amiel’s death, at least GMA 7 took the initiative to show The Compassionate Friends to the public. I got a lot of feedback from viewers because of that interview.Somehow, I also reach out to the Invisible Class if they had access to TV.

  7. I have to say that I see where Manolo is coming from. But you’re right, don’t take it out on the people who show sympathy for Amiel.

    There are many senseless deaths that happen everyday – just as he’s stated in his examples. But these are situations where, if we educated the parents a little or brought more health programs to their areas, we can resolve. Discipline, more care and more attention can go a long way here.

    However, in the case of Amiel, the parents have already taken so many precautions – he was in a good school, his nanny was with him, he stayed within a ‘safe’ area where children normally walk everyday – and yet it still happened. It brings about a different kind of shock to know that as a parent you have done all these things to ensure his safety and still… something like this happens to their child. Although rationally you can tell yourself that it was a freak accident, an unfortunate one in a million chance… Still, an overwhelming fear still comes over you because if you’ve done all these things already and they were still not enough to protect your child, and so how can we ever be sure that our children are safe??

    emss last blog post..YTRiP Wine and Cheese Party

    1. actually it was not Manolo who wrote that. He quoted another blogger. Much as there are so many senseless deaths, it isn’t possible to cite each one of them. There are times, I just collectively write about the deaths.

  8. I attended the mass tonight at Ateneo Grade school chapel for Amiels 40th day of passing. Prior to the mass a marker (where Amiel was run over by the van) was blessed.. I was able to talk to Pepe and Mianne Alcantara.

    The mass was solemn and I could feel Amiels presence. After the mass Amiels siblings (3) thank all people who condoled the family
    and offered prayers for the soul of Amiel and for continued strenght for the family to cope with Amiels loss.

    Then it was followed by the powerpoint presentation of Amiel pic from birth until the last days of his life as an Atenean.

    I hope Amiels death wont be in vain and school administrators have to be more conerned for the safety of the students.

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