07 February 2011

There and back again

It’s been 5 days since we arrived here in New Zealand from our holiday in the Philippines. We spent a month and a half in my hometown of Baguio. Which is just as well because we did not have a difficult time adjusting to the weather. But in the two years that we were gone, I saw a lot of changes both in Baguio and Manila. I guess that being in the midst of it all, you would not notice the change happening around you. But when you leave for an extended time, you will definitely see the difference.

I spent more than my fair share, for example, of regular trips to Glorietta for the cinemas, midnight madness, or just plain malling when I was working in Makati. But last December I unbelievably found myself lost! I was surprised to see Glorietta split into two. I wanted to go to Park Square 1 and found myself going around in circles for 45 minutes. The Landmark was also very different, with its striped flooring and improved layout. And Pasay Road! It’s one construction after another.

Here’s another change I noticed. Many say that the impression of people coming from overseas have pockets bulging with money! I think reality has finality hit home. We were happy for the dinners and the distribution of pasalubong, but we did not have to splurge on anything. It was an eye-opener for me personally. Must be the world becoming smaller due to social networks.

Some things don’t change though. Like the continual rise of violence. It seemed that every other week I saw news of a community or a building burning. My prayers go out to those who perished in the dorm where would-be nurses were lodging. And then there was the carnapping with murder. In January, toll fees rose more than 100%, gas price rose twice in a month, bakery products and cooking oil followed suit. Taxi fare also increased.

In the face of all these challenges, I saw the everyday Filipino endeavour to make the best of what they have, and strive for their family. The smiles and the courtesy I received from the sales clerks, the jeepney driver, the tindera, from my friends and family. Priceless.

As I look back to our short holiday in the Philippines, I have mixed feelings about what I had experienced. I know our government – both local and national – can still do so much more for the people. And the people themselves… I know that there is still a chance for change, if only we can unite and make the effort to turn things around.

(This article also appears in the Definitely Filipino blog)
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