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When kids kill themselves, part 1

I’ve been wanting to write something “Papal” but it keeps on getting bumped off by what-I-think-as more pressing matters. I will be writing something about Kristel Tejada but first I am re-posting something from my previous blog. On November 2007, 12 year-old Marianette Amper hung herself because she couldn’t cope anymore with her family’s abject poverty, which has affected all aspects of her life.

Six years separate the two suicides, but I can’t help but feel they’re one and the same. Here’s my old post:

On the afternoon of November 2, a 12 year-old girl from Davao City, Philippines named Manette Amper used a thin nylon rope to hang herself in their home. As her distraught family went through her things, they found her diary, which revealed that Manette had been miserable because of the poverty that her family had been living under (probably) most of her life. I found it hard to breathe as I saw the television broadcast. I was thankful that the report was sensitive in handling the story and the news was presented without resorting to sensationalism.

It was excruciating to see/hear the contents of Manette’s diary. She wrote feeling like she has missed a month of school because she didn’t have the money to bring herself to school. Unlike most children who look forward to Christmas with unalloyed joy, Manette sounded sad when she wrote (realized) that Christmas is just around the corner. Judging from the snippets of Manette’s diary that were broadcast, she struck me as a clever, eloquent girl. I feel that she would’ve done much better in school (and later, in life) if she had adequate support from the people around her. Sayang talaga (what a waste).

Manette’s story on TV Patrol was immediately followed up by a bit saying that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has taken personal responsibility of Manette’s bereaved family. How thoughtful. How compassionate and brave. How totally late for Manette. After the president, Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz (Lingayen-Dagupan) said that we are all to blame for Marianette’s fate. Manette has unwittingly become the poster girl for the state of desperation that is plaguing Filipinos. Her words reminded me of another girl who poured her thoughts into a diary before her young life was also extinguished. However, unlike Anne Frank, Manette did not live in a time of war. If anything, Manette’s war was largely ignored by most people. It has been repeatedly reduced to a talking point for the government, an advocacy cause for activists, a charity for religious institutions. I am choked with guilt that I am part of the collective that had given Manette no hope or recourse other than to take her own life.

All Manette needed was a hundred pesos (about US$2.30) for her school project. This was infinitely smaller than the amount of money that has been offered to or shared between politicians, government officials, and businessmen as part of deals and machinations that only serve to bring the country further down on its knees. But more than this measly sum of money, Manette would have fared better if she had the support of her community. I read that in their mostly-poor neighbourhood, Manette’s family have been discriminated against for the state of their clothes and appearance. Such un-Christian behaviour coming from a people who is proud of its Catholic ways. Has the church, in its preoccupation to meddle in government affairs (blocking legislation protecting the health of women, legislating morality), forgotten to remind its flock to treat each other as good little Christians?

In Manette’s death, no one among us is blameless.


Filipinos are proud to admit that we are a resilient people. We survive natural (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and super-typhoons) and man-made (sinking ships, fires, and landslides) calamities, dictatorships and military upheavals. Heck, even the death of Fernando Poe, Jr. If we can survive these, why can’t we survive poverty? The Philippines ranks #83 (out of 100) in terms of suicide rate, according to the World Health Organization. We have even yet to consider suicide as a public health problem (as WHO recommends) probably because the figures are not high (2.1 per 100,000 people). Worldwide, 100,000 adolescents die from suicide each year.

Whenever something disastrous happens, we all like to say, ‘Kaya natin to’ (We can take this). This is not machismo. This is Pinoy Bravado. This might have held water years ago but now, it took one girl to shatter this myth of resilience like a ball of glass thrown to the floor. I can feel the shards sticking into my skin, drawing blood painfully. I feel miserable and guilty. I am indignant. I wish the same happens to the people and communities and institutions responsible for Manette’s death.