I mentioned in my pitch in passing about the extremes of wealth and poverty in the Philippines, and as sad as it sounds it’s pretty real. The further I plan this campaign, the more I realize how little there is for me to change, and that bothers me. In some ways I’m reminded of my argument of why we’re already living in a cyberpunk world here in the Philippines, with all the dystopia that comes with it.
Most of the major metropolitan areas in the Philippines are home to exclusive, gated subdivisions with their own security forces. These are where you find sprawling mansions, manicured lawns, and garages stuffed with luxury cars. The funny thing is that majority of these homes are often uninhabited, with only a caretaker, and a few maids and maybe a driver staying there to take care of the place, while the family lives in another mansion elsewhere. It’s only in Christmas or other holidays where you see these places come to life as they are dolled up to serve as a party venue for the rich and famous.
Entire malls exist to cater to the spending habits of the elite, filled with the hottest luxury brands. Sports cars and luxury vehicles have sprawling showrooms not far from their subdivisions. Everything is squeaky clean and high quality and most of all… underpopulated.
If you want to see where majority of the population lives, then you won’t have to look far. Large chunks of Metro Manila are a mess of shantytowns crammed together, with large families stuff themselves into tiny spaces no bigger than a single room. Food is expensive, and feeding a family of that size often means that the entire family has to do something to scrape up cash, and that’s no guarantee of three square meals a day. Their lives are hard, and it’s difficult for them to aspire for anything greater than just being able to survive another day. Needless to say, the terrifying conditions are a breeding ground for diseases and the crushing poverty is a guarantee of malnutrition and the lack of healthcare.
It’s this sort of social situation that makes Manila interesting from a gaming standpoint. The player characters must navigate both worlds. From the incredibly glitzy spires of chrome and glass corporate buildings, to the squalor and filth of the slums, the Supernatural threats that they face can come from anywhere.
For a glimpse of just how bad poverty can get here, I can’t recommend the BBC Documentary “Toughest Place to be a Bus Driver” to give you a first-hand look of what kind of life people in the slums experience: