I live in a country made up of 7,107 islands. Although we have been hailed a 'tropical paradise', or named the 'pearl of the orient' many of you may not be aware that here, it rains almost the entire year save for the 3 summer months (March to May). We are hit by typhoons at an average rate of 19 times per year, recently it increased to 25 a year. Because the Philippines is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire - earthquakes occur almost every hour, some say every minute, but only the strongest can be felt.
We have 141 native languages. A third of our population falls below the poverty line which means living off on about one dollar (or less) a day, enough to feed the whole family no matter how large. It also means that a huge portion of the population do not have healthcare or insurance, do not use credit cards, do not eat in restaurants, do not use disposable diapers for their babies, paper towels, cleaning aids, toiletries, air conditioning, and other creature comforts that the middle and upper class would enjoy. I say upper and middle class because we are a third world country and in every third world country there is always a huge gap between the haves and the have nots. The average minimum wage for every worker in highly developed cities falls at $200 USD per month less government taxes which gives you an idea of the limited spending there is for those who are not making much.Only about a fourth of the population would afford a car the rest would either ride a bus or jeepney, or walk to their destinations. There is widespread corruption that is being dealt with, every year, it never changes.
This is our reality.
Despite our differences, despite the cultural diversity, despite natural calamities, despite poverty and lack of education... despite all these many wonder how our folks are predominantly warm and friendly, how almost everyone has a joke to tell, how children, who are left to roam the streets and have nothing on their stomachs could smile all day, swim and frolick in the flood waters.
I wonder about it too sometimes.
All I know is this-- We are one when it comes to preserving family ties, family is very important... respect for elders is very important...wildlife and nature is very important...faith is very important.... ancient traditions and hospitality or receiving guests is very important...community work and helping each other is very important, the love for music, singing and dancing, cooking and sharing food... and lastly... LAUGHTER is very important.
I think it is this spirit of togetherness and fun that has kept our nation strong in all these years and with this strength comes the innovation and ingenuity of our people. We have very little, but we make do in many ways. Life is simple, more simple than many other countries, and when life is simple, we live closer to the heart.
Recently, we experienced an economy boost, because of investments from all over the world, lead by the US Europe and the Asia Pacific Region, mostly banking on our customer service skills... Call centers began to build up like mushrooms, and with more business came the rise of malls, and many other establishments that piggyback on the rise of this industry luring many of our young ones from the rural areas to come to the cities for the promise of a better life, to so-called sophistication and consumerism... not really knowing that they are coming to the promise of debt.
I should be happy to see that more people are 'moving up' in their economic life, and are able to feed their families, with supermarket stuff... but it worries me. When all the provinces lush with natural resources are left behind who will be left to tend to the fields and farms? I am not against globalization, I'm actually for it...I'm all for connecting with the world, I'm all for change -- but the healthy change, the change that empowers all people to reach their potentials and uplift their lives while uplifting the lives of others and improving the conditions of the world they live in.
I still wonder what all this change will eventually do to our spirit as a nation....
When life was simpler, the air was cleaner, and less cildren were getting sick. Now almost every child, including mine, has asthma or suffer regularly from respiratory illnesses among many other new illnesses. It didn't use to be like this out here. Many years ago people can go for a swim in Manila Bay, now, people only go there to walk , throw waste , or take waste out when the waters become too toxic.
I can go on with my rant... but I guess my point is... there is so much work to do out here to try to convince people that we were living OK without much 'stuff'. Nature has given us everything we needed, and it always will...but it takes heart to accept it and the courage let go of all preconceived notions of abundance... True abundance lies in the spirit of the earth that lives around us, and within us.
I remember a line by environmentalist John Francis: "We are the environment, and if we are the environment all we need to do is look around us and see how we treat ourselves and how we treat each other "
Right now, this is pretty much what I hope to see happening among us:
For us to realize that above all things, above money, or fame, or status quo, LOVE and COMPASSION, are the beauty and strength and the pillars of our nations... For us to start looking closely at nature and ourselves. For us to understand that being with the family is abundance, freedom is abundance, health is abundance, sharing and togetherness is abundance, living, laughing, and LOVING is true abundance...
So to whoever gets to read this, I hope I made this happen.