Like any other person in the dance group, Rosa Aguirre (not her real name) is paid PHP 1,000 per dance. The amount is equivalent to roughly AUD 25.00 depending on the exchange rate. If the reason for the dance invitation is a small function, payment is reduced to only PHP 500. Sometimes, dance events happen only once a month. All she gets for an entire month is only PHP1,000, definitely not enough to buy her food for 30 days.

The pretty dancer who asked not to be identified, said that what she earns is hardly sufficient to pay the bills ? her monthly space rental, electricity and water bills.

Most of the time, she buys cheap food from a “carinderia,” barely a small cup of rice and one recycled dish, the actual cost of which she did not fully disclose. Sometimes, Rosa eats only one egg, hardly enough to appease her hunger. She does not take breakfast. If ever she does, a cup of coffee (without milk)  which she buys from the carinderia is all she takes. Oftentimes, she goes to bed without having dinner or any kind of meal during the entire day. For lack of food, she has managed to remain slim, which she says is preferred by Melissa Cheng, the manager and owner of the dance troupe where she works.

Sleeps on flattened cardboard boxes

Because of the distance between her rented quarters and usual place of dance practice, Rosa, like the other dancers, stay overnight in an open covered court. They do that to save on transportation cost. She usually rides in a tricycle to commute. Sometimes, she just walks home when she has no money. She said: “Ganun talaga ang buhay ng dancer. Kung saan abutan ng antok, doon natutulog.” (A dancer’s life is really like that. Whenever they feel sleepy, they sleep anywhere.)

Abandoned by her mother at 10yo

She was only 10 years old when she was abandoned by her mother who left her father to live with another man. At that tender age, she looked after her sick “papa” who was afflicted with lung cancer. They had to sell their house and a lot of their belongings, furniture, white goods and electronic stuff, including some of her decent clothes, just to survive until everything was gone. All she had left was a mattress and a lap top computer with which she is able to access facebook and some of her friends. But even that lap top gadget, she sold for only P2PHP2000, she said, just to make both ends meet.

Her father died when she was 18. From then on, she lived alone until she had a boyfriend who left her after their three years relationship. And she was alone again fending for herself. She confided to her facebook friends that her boyfriend was a drug addict. At one time, her boyfriend brought to their rented quarters 5 drunk males. She was gang-raped by all six. Her dance troupe manager once instructed her to go to a private room in a hotel. It turned out that she was ‘sold’ to a man, just so the dance group would be hired to perform in a theatre. Thus, she would get paid as a dancer. She accepted the job because she needed the money. During last All Souls Day, she felt very sad because she was unable to visit her father’s grave, which was at least two hours away from where she lives. She had no money for transportation, not even for a tricycle ride. © (Exclusive to Philippine Sentinel)

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