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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – In a region where some 1.72 million are living below the poverty line, the case of a construction worker who died after taking the challenge of drinking a fifth of a gallon of rum in exchange for a cash prize showed what the impoverished were willing to do just to make both ends meet.
Police said 29-year-old Richie Dumalaon of Purok 4, Looc in Villanueva town, Misamis Oriental, died on Monday night, October 3, in a Cagayan de Oro hospital where he was rushed after he fell ill, a condition he suffered after he drank 750 milliliters of Philippine-made rum straight in exchange for a prize of P20,000.
Dumalaon, a father of three, was desperately in need of cash because he wanted to buy medication for his ailing father.
His relatives said he was also trying to raise money because he had planned to marry his partner this December.
Given his off-and-on work, the challenge offered money that he could not have earned in a month.
The poverty problem worsened last year in Northern Mindanao, a region where families like the Dumalaons – those who earn less than P11,920 each month for a family of five – accounted for 33.8% of the region’s population of more than 5 million.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said roughly 1.72 million people in Northern Mindanao had incomes insufficient to meet their needs.
Jhinny Demata said Dumalaon, his cousin, was a poor man who had always thought about his family’s welfare.
“He would do anything to take care of his family. I just wished that he did not risk his life and played that dangerous game. That cost Richie’s life. May this serve as a lesson,” Demata said.
Major Renz Marrion Serrano, the Villanueva town police chief, said Dumalaon was promised money by a friend during a gathering on the condition that he emptied a full bottle of Tanduay Rhum in 20 seconds.
Dumalaon accepted the dare and bagged the P20,000 prize, but soon felt discomfort and suffered facial paralysis, prompting his relatives and friends to rush him to the hospital.
Doctors said it was a case of metabolic encephalopathy secondary to alcoholic intoxication, a condition when body organs, including brain functions, are damaged by toxic substances.
Misamis Oriental provincial board member Rey Buhisan said it was saddening that people like Dumalaon were willing to accept a “degrading challenge” just to make money.
“We should counter poverty by working harder,” he said.
Northern Mindanao accounts for some 6.6% of the 4.74 million Filipino families living below the poverty line.
The number of impoverished families in the region grew from 288,000 in 2018 to 312,000 in early 2021, showed the PSA’s poverty statistics in Northern Mindanao.
The region’s poverty incidence among families in early 2021 also registered at 33.8%, way above the national poverty threshold of 23.7%.
It simply means that out of 100 families, about 34 are like the Dumalaon family who cannot afford to buy enough food and other basic commodities in the region. – Rappler.com