One could also ask, why are so many Filipinos rich?
I have come here to escape European winters now for around 40 years.
The middle class has expanded by 10 or 20 times in that period. Good new cars create the world’s greatest traffic jams. Dealers in Porsche, Aston Marin, Rolls, Lamborghini, BMW, Audi, Lexus & and Mercedes have record breaking sales every year.
Classy high rise buildings in the cities are now housing millions of middle class people. The area known as Bonifacio Global City might as well be Singapore. It is ultra-modern and the Ayala Serendra apartments & local malls are world class.
The other answers here are all good at explaining why “some” people are poor and their families stay poor. The mentality for many is to live off of overseas remittances from Saudi, Hong King, Singapore, etc. They spend it all on consumer goods and save little or nothing.
Most of them are not entrepreneurs. I have been teaching some of my relatives (my girlfriend’s cousins, etc.) to start their own businesses, but once again, the general mentality reminds me of the poorer class of Mexicans I knew when I lived there. They work to get by, and quit when the feel they have enough for a week or two in the future. The Chinese here, on the other hand, work and save. They think long term are are almost all middle class.
The Catholic Church by encouraging women to have 10–15 kids and forbidding family planning has caused drastic overpopulation. The government used to be 100% corrupt. With the new un-corruptible new President Duterte, this has been partially turned around. Things are getting much better. Crime has dropped by over half! Almost all the poor kids were meth-heads. Now most (millions!) are in rehab. Unrepentant big-time drug dealers are being “liquidated vigilante style.” Not a bad idea in a country that has no capital punishment.
More taxes are being collected from the rich now. Wealth is being redistributed in a responsible, sensible way – for example, college tuition is now FREE for the poor who qualify with good test scores.Infrastructure is being built at 50 times the rate of prior administrations.
What about Foreigners Living There? The Filipino people in general are over-generous, hospitable warm, friendly, and the opposite of snobbish. Even the upper classes loves to party, act silly sometimes and have fun. For a foreigner like me, the place is a near paradise with prices about 20% of my home ports in Monaco and Switzerland. Personal services like massages, haircuts, laundry— are maybe 1% to 10% of my home country or stateside prices.