A fisher folk’s tale – Day 3 Episode 5

In the afternoon we visited a fishing community to find out what their health needs are. The fisher folk are among the most marginalized in the Philippines and are very poor. Fishing is their main source of income but during the typhoon season, it is too dangerous to fish.








This community is a smaller section of a Barangay called a Purok – which usually consists of small clusters of households. We wanted to talk to the Purok leader to find out more about the main health problems here, as part of the Situational Analysis for the new Maternal and Child Health program.


Walking the plank


We located the Purok leader who agreed to talk to us in her home. She was voted in by the community of around 90 households, each with up to 7-8 children per household. There is 1 Barangay Health Worker for this community but she does not cover all the households.


The main health problem for children here is diarrhoea and malnourishment. Although there is a water pump, there is no space for a toilet, so they use the sea.


When there is no income from fishing, money is borrowed from the Barangay for rice rations. It costs 10 pesos each way to send children to school, not including lunch money. If there are many children in a family, it becomes impossible to afford to send them. When girls as young as 15 become pregnant, they stop their schooling. Adolescent boys are also pressured to leave school to help support their parents earn some income for their families. This is very common in the country especially in rural areas among farmers, as well as fishing communities.

The 4P’s is a conditional cash transfer program of the Philippine government under the Department of Social Welfare and Development. It stands for Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (English: Bridging Program for the Filipino Family) and aims to eradicate extreme poverty in the Philippines by investing in health and education particularly in ages 0–14.

There is a controversy on how the 4ps beneficiaries are being selected. The DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) uses a household tracking system which is not reliable. There is also a need to update the list since some families may have improved their status while other families may suffer financial difficulties at certain times of the year depending on their type of vocation. The social protection program of the government needs to be evaluated thoroughly depending on the local contexts. There is also a need for rigid monitoring on how the funds are being disbursed and how families really comply with the conditionalities of the conditional cash transfer.

077 079 082


The fisher folk are not considered the poorest of the poor therefore remain marginalized, and their children continue to suffer.



(Many thanks to Dr Parawan and Dr DeGregorio for their translations and clarifications for this post)

Next stop…Lake Sebu. Speak soon, Alli 🙂



    1. Thanks Natalia….it’s such a beautiful country but the challenges are very complex as I’m beginning to learn.

  1. It’s incredible to hear the stories firsthand from you, Alli. I’m reading a book and taking an online class that both have outlined the issues you’ve described, particularly as issues that contribute to the cycle of poverty. The solutions seem reasonable of course, but it’s good to hear how specific interventions play out in real life. What an incredible experience and thanks for continuing to share it with us.

    1. Thanks for your great comment Jason and I’d be interested to know what book you’re reading. It’s an incredible experience to see how things are first hand and how many other factors, such as religion, culture, politics have such an impact…incredible patience and persistence in needed for lasting change to occur – my eyes are well and truly opened to that!

  2. Hi Alli, very interesting description of real poverty in the fishing community….makes you think about the problems maybe we don’t really have, if you get my drift.

  3. Thanks for sharing this Alli. This reminds me of my visit to the Philippines nearly 20 years ago, and some remote communities we visited – looks like things haven’t changed much in that time. The cycle of poverty is so difficult to break. I’m so pleased you are getting to see this first hand and sharing your experience with others in GSK so that we can continue to look at what we can do help improve heathcare provision for these communities.

  4. Great post Ali – really interesting . Sounds like you are learning loads . GSK treated me to lunch today which is always a bonus when you work for the NHS so thought of you whilst munching my sandwich ! Keep well darling xx

  5. Dear Alli, your blog and your correspondence shows you reflect on what you are seeing. Each country has their own factors – and that’s why the “mega-GEMBA” you are doing is so useful for you to experience local conditions yourself – eventhough it’s “only” for a day or a 6-month assignment. And of course, the world politics add to local factors. I agree with comments above about the complexity to break the cycle of poverty, about the problems that are reported in our rich countries. Remember also to reflect on how you will integrate all these emotions and learnings when you come back to the UK – as our conditions are so different and so much more privileged (but that’s the part of the world we live in, so how to adapt yourself back to it).
    I am looking forward to your next blogs – there has been a lapse and I expect you are busy and have no internet access?
    Take care, and (same words each time nearly!) continue the good work!

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