Welcome to my words and travels

Please be aware that my spelling and grammar suck!  If it bothers you please don't let it, just go away...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

When A Light Shines Bright

I have to admit how fortunate I feel for the life I have led the last couple of months.  Buy the time I leave the Philippines it will be around 4 months since I arrived.  I could save this blog for the end of my journey, but for my own self and for my thoughts, I thought no better time than the present. 
I have been assisting a few people with a few necessities. Mostly rice, milk for babies, diapers, couple visits to the doctor.  When I came here I thought I would get involved with a school, or an orphanage but before I ever got my feet wet with any of that, I was quickly engaged with a group of people, that were, still are and will continue to be poor.  I say this with almost 99% certainty.
I do not wish it upon these wonderful people, and in my thoughts, and conversations I am constantly thinking and advising my friends to think to the future. 
All of the things that I have provided, or given I feel have had a deep impact on the daily lives of these people.  But "daily" being the buzz word.  Whether I have been put upon by any of these   people, I don't really care.
When I leave, all will go back to pretty much the way it was before. Denying the mothers of any of the necessities that I have provided, to teach a lesson to make yourself a better person, was not in my vocabulary on this trip.  Whether they saw a "true fool" willing to give, or willing to part with his money, I will never ponder or care.   
My giving did extend to one young girl, who on my behalf is receiving tutoring for school that will hopefully makes a difference for her to continue.  She is nine, and when she went to school the 1st day of the 4th quarter her teacher told her to go home.  She was going to fail, so no use in continuing this year.  She went home and told her mother, "don't worry mom I can be a maid".  Sad as it sounds, this is just a crumb of reality! 
Another young girl I have hopefully empowered to pursue college in her future.  She has always talked of going to college, but the distractions of following your dreams for this or any other dream are great.  No one would raise an eyebrow if she just never went anywhere.   Showing her the history of indifference and how it would carry on in her family without her attending college, and how she could break the cycle of literally generations of indifference by succeeding and following her dreams to attend college.  When I told her mother that your daughter is going to go to college, she  looked at me and laughed.  I asked her why she laughed, and she just said "no one in our family has ever gone."  I quickly told her, "that's exactly why your daughter has to go!"
School here in the Philippines is not a mandatory requirement.  There are no laws that children have to attend school until a certain age.  The idea of school for the poor, is an idea that is sometimes hard to understand, especially amongst the poorer people of this land.  The politicians tell you that public school here is free.  But it is very misleading.  Children are constantly asked to donate a few peso's hear and there for things such as a fan for the class, a mop and wax for the floors, uniforms, the school guard, and many other things.  So public school is far from free, Mr. Politician.  I keep reading how public school is perceived as free here.  Those few peso's that are asked from students for the thing's I listed above are sometimes the nail in the coffin for many students.  A teacher told me that she has no choice to ask for these things, she is paid a mere pittance as a teacher, she surely can't afford to buy the extra's.  "The school will not provide these general necessities for whatever reason" she said. She told me that many children don't come back to school, after she has asked for "donations". The family is either embarrassed that they cannot provide the money, or the little that they do have is needed for mere survival.
What continuing in school and attending college does for a person is not understood.  Even until this generation many of the poor never attended even grade school.  For the ones that did, basic reading, writing, and arithmetic seem to be what most accomplished.  The attitude of why, what, and how school going to help me seems to be very prevalent.  Without any money or dreams, college seems a distant idea reserved for the rich.
I have found that there are some government sponsored programs that allow children from the poorest families to attend college.  I was shocked when I found out about this.  But even with this available, it takes a lot of desire to find or get that far.  
I guess my point being is that unless the student is pushed, prodded, or who knows what, the desire and the want to attend college have long been extinguished.  At this point the cycle continues for another generation.  
Somewhere along the line, someone has to step in and start teaching the value of education. The sooner it starts to resonate amongst people the better.  It sickens me to think of all these children who's future never starts. Generation after generation with no future.  
The unwillingness to support and provide education, I believe is a huge part of the disgrace that this country hides itself behind.  I thought to myself of every person, be it artist, author, chef, doctor, garbageman, fireman, teacher, scientist, or any other field that lends itself to improving society, and all the children with potential to become anything more than uneducated, and the lives that are simply unchallenged, unrecognized, and basically wasted.  The thought of how big a crime is being perpetuated on the people of this country is something that is  inexcusable. Inexcusable to people that I walk next to everyday,  people that smile to me, people that walk past me, people that eat, and people that are down right deserving of a hell of a lot more!
Again I re-direct myself to the importance of education.  In a country such as the Philippines that has allowed and continues to allow a class of poverty to continue to grow is as low as one can go.  I say a simple changing of the way things are, to a simple change of the way things should be is at hand.  The word empowering is defined in one dictionary as "make stronger and more confident, especially in controlling there life and claiming there rights."  To me education is the first step in empowering any person or group of people.  All will not embrace education, but even knowing that education is available, mandating education to a certain age, this is without a doubt the beginning of empowering people to be able to live for something other than poverty, and hopelessness. This is the beginning of turning a poor unaccountable country into one that thrives and stands with other countries of the world. 
For those of you who don't know who Manny
Pacquiao is, he is a legend in the hearts and minds of all Filipino people.  He donates money to the poor, he will at some point run for public office, and if he decided to run for president he probably would win!  When Manny applies his trade on TV around the world this country stops all.  Even the criminals stop.  They say that crime is basically at a stand still when Manny fights. Manny Pacquiao is a boxer.  History will probably say that he is one of the great fighters of all time.  At least that's what there saying in the Philippines.  After Manny pummeled former champion Oscar De de la Hoya, Executive Secretary of the Philippines called Manny's win a "saving grace" for the country, people celebrated like the war had ended.  Manny Pacquiao is a god fearing man, who came up the hard way, he went car to car at stop lights and sold water, or cigarettes as a kid.  Look at this from two ways.  One of course is the obvious, this man gives a whole country hope, his story is simple.  Poor kid becoming what could prove to be one of the most influential men in the history of the Philippines.  But don't forget what Manny Pacquiao really is.  Manny is the the "greatest" in a barbaric sport.  His job on any given night is to pummel, beat into submission, go into his squared ring with the idea that if i don't pound this man in the head as many times as I can, he will certainly do it to me.  
Within the Philippines, the country stops itself in its tracks to worship it's hero. Government officials put this phenom on a pedestal and acknowledge him the saviour of a bleak existence.  What is wrong hear?  Have they just fixed a leak with a little gum.  Is it that simple that this man represents the lives, the hopes of a country so embattled with itself.  
I have been watching and enjoying boxing for many years.  More than seeing blood or any misgivings in a boxing match, I do enjoy the sport.  For what it's worth I was very impressed with Manny as a boxer.  
As a people it's great to have a champion, or a representative that all can be proud of.  Manny Paquio serves the people as such a hero.  When dreams are dashed, and futures reduced to day to day existence, life is hard.  No one said any of this would be easy.  Maybe Manny shows hope for some, maybe he shows a tiny path that needs to be swept and cleared daily.  Manny's light shines bright, and lets hope when that light dims, things just don't return to normal!

I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance.  People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their own happiness or satisfaction.
-His Holinness the Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, Oslo, December 1989

No comments: