Sunday, October 23, 2005

Blue Glass

Reality TV must have doused my mind too much. When I look at the common everyday things, an invisible video camera lodged somewhere in my brain reels on and silently checks if the shots I took were perfectly framed for editing. Then the assuming writer-editor takes on the job, mentally clicking away captions and titles for each new frame as the story unfolds, directed by the master storyteller that is only a piece of my imagination. The process is literally endless and probably inherent, with countless new episodes for a slight mood swing, a major hunger pang or a cursory trip from this world and back. I do not wonder then why I carried this feverish passion when the chance to travel to Bohol jumped at me. With the invisible camera still at the back of my head, I set out on a journey that allowed me to zoom in on the details of what’s really at the other side of my world.
Easy to say, yes. From a hypocritical point of view, the whole immersion thing was an absurdity in that it relied on the overused strategy of “eating what they eat, doing what they do” to feel how they are feeling. But for compliance’s sake, I decided it was favourable for me to just go and do what I was told. No questions. Period. But along the way, as I was struggling with the acrid odour of the ship, lugging my bags despite the weakening condition of my lungs, and enduring the bumpy ride up the sleepy purok, in near madness I almost cried out loud, “Wait a minute! This is not right!” when a far more important question should have been, “What is right?” What is right? I should have asked myself that when we came to live with Manong Boy, Manang Tata, and their eight children in Trinidad.
The sleepy purok in Trinidad didn’t really shock me out of my guts. From hearsays, I even imagined it was worse – no water (uh-oh, no bath?) and no electricity (what about my phone?). It turned out that there was plenty of water but no electricity. I heaved a sigh of relief as I remembered rushing to the department store at the last minute for flashlight and batteries. But that was, I realized later, only the beginning of my troubles.
How could these people lead this kind of life? I cringed at the thought of not having a proper rest room where nobody can peep through. I cried during cooking sessions with the dirty kitchen constantly blowing smoke and ashes on our faces. During the night, the mosquitoes nearly sucked my blood to death. And beware of going barefoot, you might step on something squishy that is either the cat’s or the dog’s poo. (or probably the chicken’s or the pig’s)
On the brighter side, life is fun when you make it. I mean, rather than moping around and grumbling about how things never went your way, why not make the most of it? Personally, I loved our poso baths with touches of mischief and carefree spirits. I thoroughly enjoyed our acoustic concert with the farmers (They were the audience and we were, ehem, the performers.) and I so often fantasized about “candlelit” dinners in their home. And the kids! James, my favourite, was the ever-shy four-year-old kid who peeps out at us from the bedroom when we weren’t looking.
What is right, I now dare ask. Life is fun wherever you are. It’s how you put up with it. But for people, like Manong Boy and Manang Tata, how can they be happy when deep inside they are continuously being haunted with the threat of being evicted out of the land they tilled? And with eight mouths to feed, what could be more depressing than the thought of not being able to provide for their daily sustenance? But all of these anxieties, our hosts never showed. They gave us the best rooms, took out their best plates and utensils for us to use, and helped us prepare the meals. At night, before we went to sleep, they made sure we were all right and cozy with our blankets and mattresses. Sometimes, I think it’s the ingrained Filipino values that make the Pinoys survive in this harsh world. And when it comes to the typical warm Filipino hospitality, our hosts were the perfect examples.
It’s quite sad that when you look a little deeper into things, reality sometimes leaves you with no room for hope. All that idealism is thrown away into the trash in an instant. But if the people, like Manong Boy and Manang Tata, never cease to hope, never cease to dream for a better life, why should we? I am constantly reminded of a particular scene in our hosts’ home. We were desperately looking for extra glasses to use. (Imagine how many we were in that house.) Manang Tata took out a blue glass from her prized collection. It looked queer back then, glinting against the pitch-black night that enveloped the house. But now, I see it as the hope we should cling on to –faint in daylight but when darkness falls, when the worst of the worst casts its ugly doom, it comes, shining its light upon the people who never stopped believing and never stopped dreaming. And I so salute our hosts for that. Until now, they never stop dreaming. They never stop believing and hoping that all the fight is worth it.
So now I’m back in the midst of the city bustle. I may never hold the solution to the great fight the farmers are in right now. Solutions? They come and they go. What must never fade is faith. For faith makes one strong. And when faith makes one strong enough to withstand the fluctuating current of destiny, any action will be stronger.
To sum it all up, just three words: Dream. Believe. Survive. I told you I was struck with the reality show fever. And I’m not even talking about reality shows.

1 comment:

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