Street Level Living Philippines

Posted on June 21, 2010. Filed under: Stories from the Philippines! | Tags: , , , |

Street Level Living

Reality is something we Westerners dodge.

We fight reality for the illusion that is comfort, that is distraction. We are addicted to comfort and distraction to the point that we are shocked when reality comes up to rear it’s “ugly” head.

You may wonder what I am talking about when I mention illusion and distraction but we are sorrounded by it and have been so accustomed to it that we don’t even realize we are blind to the reality of life.

I go back into the magic screen in my mind and re-live some memories of “street level” living in the Philippines.

I find myself on the side of a crowded highway having just stepped off the Jeepney. Waiting with countless poor and yet smiling faces that I have bonded with in this short stream of consciousness that is, and will ever be a part of my life. I travel with the locals on their most popular mode of transportation. The Jeepney is a Filipino Icon in that it efficiently transports people day in and day out to their desired destinations for such a small amount of Pesos. You see in most parts of the Philippines it is unnecessary to even have a car. To the American it is a forein concept indeed to be without one!

The excitement of being on literally the “other side of the world” in a strange land riding in this tin can on wheels with people you don’t know is a thrill and gritty slice of realness that can only be experienced first hand. We waited on the dirty shoulder of the road near a clumsily put together Jeepney stand. Small thin brown skinned people will stare at you, when you catch their glance they will smile sweetly and acknowledge you as if you were “somebody” just because you are a westerner. The Filipino people are so accepting and accommodating that you never feel like you are away from home. You might actually, like me, feel like you are truly home for the very first time.

It is a beautiful contrast (the Philippine experience). Waiting at the side of the road amidst a sea of traffic that is seemingly reckless but somehow perfectly in harmony at the same time. The smell of diesel smoke and the noise of the street will assault you while the grace and peacefulness of the Filipino people make you feel totally at ease.

We waited for a little while for another Jeepney to safely take us to the other side of the six lanes of traffic so we could do some shopping in one of the most modern malls that you will ever see!
We finally boarded hunched over entering through the back, ever clinging to the small handrail that is firmly bolted to the roof of the vehicle. Walking gently so as to not step on the feet of fellow travellers as we endeavor to find a seat on the narrow benches on either side. When seated it is a nice visual to behold. Mothers and daughters going to the store. Young women donning immaculately kept nurses’s uniforms going home from training for the day. Smiling children on their Father’s laps and those who can sleep sitting up are all along for the ride. Happy teenagers riding with their friends having an innocent good time.

When we arrive at the Mall (SM) as they call it. We get off the Jeepney and hurry to the comfort of the Mall.

I don’t know why I wrote this. Sometimes I just sit down at my laptop and want to translate memory to page. I want to convey the experience, the color, sites sounds and smells that are all a part of the experience.
I love the Philippines and miss it so much. There are so many stories, so many experiences and memories that always make me drift back. They always make me homesick for the Philippines.
I go back into the magic screen in my mind and re-live some memories of “street level” living in the Philippines.

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To Breath and to Smile

Posted on December 14, 2009. Filed under: Philosophy | Tags: , |

To breathe and to smile? Why would I make such a ridiculous title for a post?

Look at the children. Examine their faces. My favorite smile is of course in the middle! I actually know these small children. I wish you could have could experienced meeting them like I did. These little expressions of joy I met while on my first trip to San Matias, a little Barangay (village) that was devastated by the Mt. Pinatubo volcanic eruption years before in the Philippines. Despite their circumstances these children and their community have grace and hospitality, I have only observed first hand once in my life!

My wife and I walked the dirty street that led to her Grandmother’s small concrete home. We approached the gateway to the little dwelling when it seemed like 10 – 15 beautiful tiny figures gathered around in front of us. I did not know it but my wife was related to all of them and was greeting them for the first time! She had been away from her native country for 10 years so she had not seen these children. There is a custom in her country that the young are to always show respect to their elders. I had heard of this ritual but never participated first hand. The children formed a line in front of us. The first one grabbed my hand gently, bowed, placed the back of my and to his forehead. Each child repeated the same until they were done. I cannot accurately describe the feeling that came over me!

These children one by one paid respect to me and my wife as was their custom. You could see the fact that they were in poverty, a way of life that they were quite accustomed to.

I guess what I am trying to convey is when you strip life down to the very basics, all you really need in life is to breathe and to smile! You cannot tell me that these children are not living happy lives! I know they live on much less than we do, however they are happy in whatever circumstance they find themselves in!

We in the Western world are governed by our appetites, our addictions and to pop culture. We live our lives to varying degrees according to what our world view tells us is right. We are marketed to at every turn, overwhelmed with ads in print, television and on our smart phones! We are so engrossed in the virtual world that we miss out on reality!

I want you to try an exercise that I learned from a book by Thich Nhat Hanh. He is a Buddhist and Zen Master from Vietnam. He has published many books and is known the world over for his wisdom. This particular book is entitled “The Miracle of Mindfulness“.

This simple exercise will help bring you back into focus so you can, like the little children, once again learn to smile and enjoy the little things. This is a breathing exercise, so find a quiet place the first time you do this. Soon you will be able to practice this wherever you are.
  • As you breathe in, say to yourself in your thoughts “I am breathing in a calming breath“.
  • As you breathe out, say to yourself in your thoughts “ I am breathing out a smile“. Put a smile on your face! It will amaze you how much better you will feel with a smile rather than a frown. The physical act of smiling will bring a happier emotion to you shortly if you will keep it up!
  • Next, as you breathe in again, say to yourself “ I am breathing in this present moment“. Take take time to be in that moment you are currently in and experience it.
  • Next, as you breathe out, say to yourself “ Wonderful moment“. We should be thankful for every moment we live.

By repeating this process you can achieve much comfort and stress relief! By counting our breath and making the most of each moment we can live a much richer and more fulfilling life!

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