Mindanao Mingling

When I read P.’s blog entry a few months ago about the impoverished children she and some friends support, I couldn’t really get how it can be so satisfying for her. I just couldn’t relate. I mean, I knew it’s good for the soul to be able to help the needy and in the past, I’ve given a token or two, a few coins, the usual – but I could not make the feeling last. And that scared the living hell out of me because my one goal in life is to work for an NGO with the cause being the needy (or women’s rights).

Last July 14, I took my much needed leave. I didn’t get to physically rest right away though, because the next few days were a series of late nights, early mornings and toxic days. My first weekend on leave was reserved for Victory Weekend, a rather spiritually enlightening experience. The past week and a half was filled with so much firsts and fulfilling experiences (including travelling alone to an place I’ve never been to and facing my fear of the unknown). At VW, one of my biggest wishes was delivered. I was finally able to receive the Holy Spirit. It was such an amazing experience, especially since the first time I tried to receive it, I was forced into it by well-meaning family members. Back then I just came home from the U.S., completely unaware of my religion and barely practicing Catholicism. I went to this clique-ish seminar where everyone knew everybody and sort of had to fake my way into receiving the Spirit. By the time R. convinced me to go to VW, my one wish was to authentically receive the Holy Spirit. And when I did, boy was it an experience. It was unbelievable! And because it was such a personal and private matter between me and God, I don’t feel right sharing it in detail online for the world to see. The Lord must’ve been really serious about making an impact on me because it turned out that this was just an introduction for the week to come.

The week of the 17th, I flew to Mindanao for an immersion. I wanted to know more about the plight of the needy so when opportunity knocked, I practically broke down the door to welcome it. There were a lot of bible reflections which really helped me realize things. One of the facilitators even wondered why I was so reserved during my weeklong stay there when I was so bubbly when we first met. I was just taking everything in. The realizations came so hard and fast that I was literally dumbfounded. I was struggling to cope with it all on top of the exhaustion I was feeling. I was also feeling quite anxious about the host family I was to stay with. I did not know how bad the conditions were going to be and the anticipation was wearing me out further. Finally, doomsday came, and the day I dreaded turned into the start of a lifetime relationship with a family I fell in love with. Until this day (okay, OA, dalawang araw pa lang naman ang nakalipas since I last saw them, but still) I still remain so moved by that family’s generosity. They opened their home to me and accepted me like a real family member. What I treasured the most was their ability to appreciate what they had, however little. I look at my life and see how much I have materially, put it against the contentment they have simply from loving what they have and not hating what they don’t have, and I immediately feel ashamed. I am so used to being in an environment filled with so much hate, tension and conflict that it was really detoxifying to be in their world. No screaming, no finger-pointing on whose turn it is to do the chores, no grumpiness whatsoever. They were not in material abundance but spiritually, they were overflowing with blessings. Nanay was so jolly, palatawa or palangiti, taking on her ilaw ng tahanan role to a tee. Luckily, both Tatay and Nanay were bringing home the bacon. Tatay with their ancestral fishpond and Nanay with her food catering business. Well, actually, it was more of iniihaw na bananacue (I forget what it’s called in bisaya), isaw and hotdog and selling chichiriya and bananas (would you believe a grocery bag of bananas cost only Php 15?!) but it helped them pay for everyday expenses. They had four grown sons and not once did I hear any squabbling – a huge adjustment to the bickering we do at home. Someone asked me the next day who was richer economically, and it took me such a long time to answer because the first thing that came into mind was that first, they probably had less debts. Second, they had a home to call their own while my siblings and I just live with my uncle. Third, they had more food to eat than we ever did here at home. We usually don’t have enough to eat at home, which is why my siblings are so heavily dependent on the preserved food I buy from the grocery, but with my foster family, there was always abundant food. I ended up answering that we were richer economically, but it was such a hard question to answer because parang hindi sila nauubusan ng blessings. I think it’s the way they live life. They were so content with what they have.

Yesterday, I was in Greenhills with a friend and I found myself uttering the few words of Bisaya I learned, like “pila” which means how much, “dine”, “dile” and “naa”. It was so funny because some of the tinderas weren’t even Bisaya. I was still getting used to being in Manila. Then it hit me that I was being unusually nice to the tinderas. See, I’m very unforgiving when it comes to these people since I expect them to know their business (and they usually don’t). To know if they have a certain piece of clothing in a medium, or to be masipag in assisting a customer. But then yesterday, I found myself treating them like friends. Turned out my friend noticed the same thing, but didn’t want to say anything for fear of embarrassing me. It occurred to me that these were the same people I could’ve lived with in Mindanao. Nanay, Tatay or any of their sons could’ve been the recipient of the wrath of customers like me, and all of a sudden, I was compelled to become more patient with them, just like you’d be extra patient with your friends or relatives. I suddenly saw the world from their eyes. In the two days I spent with my foster family, I was literally immersed in their world, seeing things the way they saw it and living life the way they did. I adapted my life so that it would be more like theirs. Except taking a shower by the water pump in the middle of the purok. I really couldn’t bring myself to do that. I was already getting a lot of attention as a visitor from Manila. I don’t think I could stand having the purok’s residents watch as I take a shower (even if I had clothes on) in the middle of the square. Lalo na, I take such long showers nowadays. So I kinda had to ask for special treatment and took a shower in their bathroom.

But boy, did I take home a truckload of joy. Who would’ve thought that in those five days, I would gain eight wonderful friends? I am not a person who easily opens my life to new friendships. I’m rather quite wary of the people I meet. And there’s usually conflict when I have to live with people for more than a couple of days. But with this group of people, there was no malice, no irritability, no issues, no rumors, most importantly, no bashing. No one openly complained about someone else’s quirky or not-so-quirky traits. Things were just handled differently. So peacefully. Parang walang nagtanim ng sama ng loob, ng galit, ng inis or impatience or anything like that. If ever a person offended somebody, the recipient of the offense just took it in stride. These people are so amazing. I would gladly hie off and take a month-long trip to the beach (or somewhere) with them and not worry about whether or not we would get along for such a lengthy time.

And because I have to leave a few lasting words, all I can say is that the world is suddenly so much bigger now. I have so much compassion about my foster family (and the other foster families I met during the thank you program) and the residents of the purok I lived in. I work in an industry and for a company peppered with so many intelligent people. But during those five days, I witnessed a different kind of intelligence and that just took my breath away.

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2 thoughts on “Mindanao Mingling

  1. wow, kris.. loved this entry. I passed by your office kanina.. wala lang, it was only last week that I found out you took a leave! well, good for you. (: hope you have more experiences like this.

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