The past is a reminder. Our knowledge of it allows us to reconstruct the present to survive and live better for tomorrow. Whether it be several hard blows to the head or a few accidents here and there, our past experience is key to help us eventually purge ourselves of the poison that nourishes the inner monster. That is if we only remove the blinders off our eyes and start learning because frankly, it doesn’t really take a “45-fix” to know and understand the beginning of an endless cycle of struggle.
Unfortunately, where I live, it seems that we need more than a couch and a bottle of Zyprexa.
The Philippines: where the wheel of misfortune continues to turn
The moment I exited the immigration line of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila after being in Canada for 4 months, I already felt emaciated. It’s not the weather or the lack of poutine, but everything that Canada stands for is practically ignored and given a big middle finger here in good ‘ol Pinas.
First world discipline that encompasses perseverance, courtesy, respect, and kindness is valued in the North. Whereas in my country, people are too desperate to even think of opening the door for someone. Amid the buildings, five-star shacks and swanky establishments is a cesspool of toxic filth that’s slowly consuming this already decaying island. We are all aware of it, but we move on with our lives because it’s too big to handle. And who can blame us for our indifference when those that should exemplify goodness have proven themselves to be a “buncha turds” anyway?
This pure, unadulterated 3rd world disaster is the reason why Filipinos living in first world countries are doing everything they can to keep themselves away from their motherland. We all need comfort and security one way or another and as long as you live in the Philippines, it’s not guaranteed, especially if you don’t have enough money.
So when I finally had my passport stamped, I knew that I had to say goodbye to first world convenience. When sweat started to drip on my forehead, I knew that I had to deal with the noise, the chaos, the merciless pickpockets, the gun-wielding pigs, the reckless bus drivers, and of course the biggest mess that has been dismantling the pillars of my country for decades = PHILIPPINE POLITICS.
Aware of the reality and with a desire to bring about change, I decided to immerse myself in the volunteer program of the Associate Missionaries of the Assumption 3 weeks after my arrival. I was stationed in San Jose, Antique for a week with a mission to observe and help the current volunteers complete their specific tasks.
One of my jobs involved assisting a volunteer teacher in a daycare center for poor children. I had to observe two different classes catering to two different groups of students each day and participate actively in disseminating information that revolved around the letters of the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, parts of a plant and other simple lessons that children ages 3-6 should be familiar with before they head on to a more formal education.
The program is free but there were a few things that caught my attention:
1. I was told that parents have to pay a certain amount to cover for the monthly electricity
2. Recess food is not free and children would have to shell out at least 10 pesos for a drink and a pack of cookies
3. There is a big need for school materials and visual aids
4. There was a donation from a politician but the act, albeit kind, is somehow stirred with a debatable intention
I also dealt with a group that helps local NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) uphold their mission. One of the meetings I attended focused on budget allotment for certain government projects in San Jose. Problems and questions were raised but there was money. In fact, there was enough.
In one of my conversations with a government officer, the phrase “Kapos sa Budget” (lack of budget / funds) was mentioned. But the officer ruefully remarked that money is never the problem; “it’s the attitude of the people.”
As we walked back to her office, we passed by an unfinished construction site that apparently needed more than its proposed budget to be completed. The price of labor and materials was more than expected, unfortunately, there were no receipts and paperwork to prove anything. And so it remains a futile attempt for progress:
It sometimes takes a tragedy or even death to alter the course of life. In my personal journey, it took a lot of broken beer bottles and emotional stitches to be where I am today. But as a nation, we have a bigger history, a bigger story where we can pull some of the most valuable lessons that may just stop the wheels of misfortune from turning and creating a destructive path. In other words, armed with what has already been written, we might just turn things around.
The question now is, can we?