Showing posts with label life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life. Show all posts

Friday, November 6, 2015

Filipino Vendors: Filling the Gap

In a country plagued by ironies -- multi-colored, hardworking, talented, yet long-suffering -- Filipinos sustain themselves by becoming self-styled innovators, in the real sense of the word. In a battlefield where necessity reigns as the mother of invention, they are quick to pick the smithereens up, build their own shelter out of which with a twist, reap some progress through difficult times, and eventually succeed. They are madiskarte (proactive) in their lives, as they can fit in every possible hole, get out of a maze in one piece, just amazingly resilient in the face of adversity.

As innovators, Filipinos have a peculiar means to survive. They invented the jeepney to make up for the shortage or absence of buses, or to provide for a faster yet cheaper fare going to and fro their work, pimping World War II American jeeps; they invented festivals to mirror Filipinos’ bright and light-hearted disposition despite all the odds, negativities, and yearly calamities, to afford a smile once and for all; and most importantly, they invented jobs non-existent in the West, to cling to dear life and to fill the gaps of convenience the society so needs.

Here the focus is on the Filipino who takes his job to the street or wet market. The Filipino is a vendor, a tradesman -- a modern hero in a society that is accustomed to life is hard as a biting reality. Inconvenience is a nightmare ignored by the government, and the Filipino vendor rises to the challenge. The Filipino vendor sees the opportunity and seizes it.

Whenever you need something to eat one hungry afternoon, the Filipino peddling some peanuts, tempura, fish balls, or siomai (pork dumpling) with puso (hanging rice) is just across the street to help fill your gut; or some balut (duck embryo) whenever a nightly appetite gravely tickles your bones. Whenever you can’t afford a well-designed tattoo for on your deltoid, the Filipino sells his dirt cheap, yet top caliber, service along the street. Whenever you need to go to your friend’s home situated far from the highway, the Filipino can take you on a tricycle ride safely to your destination. Whenever branded clothes are too expensive for you, the Filipino at ukay-ukay (thrift shop) is the known connoisseur and provider.

The Filipino vendor knows how to sell his goods and services for him to survive, and to be a convenience to the society.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Lost Children and Their Refuge

They are random strangers plying the streets of (some) highly urbanized Filipino cities. No, they aren’t the archetypal daily commuters. They are young, out-of-school, thick with grime, thin as whisper, starving, sickly-looking, often sporting plus-sized hand-me-down shirts, and sometimes wide-eyed. They work, play, and live in bustling public spaces.

They survive at the mercy of others, begging for money at busy crossroads, scavenging for crumbs or leftovers thrown in a restaurant basket of trash -- or survive at the expense of others, pickpocketing the hapless, unknowing victim inside a jeepney. They choose to forget their gut is empty, lifted by a hallucinatory fantasy after sniffing desperately late afternoon a tad of rugby (contact cement) inside a plastic bag. For the vigilant, it is hard to trust a presumed member of a menacing gang proliferating in the streets.

If they had miraculously eaten, they would play around where iron bars were available, the railings, or with treasured broken toys, even if it meant a faint, blurry, and lost childhood to many seeing them.

While some of these children would just suddenly show up in front of your camera, wanting for a shot, most of them would shun the camera. They are scared of it. A picture of them would mean identification by the police. ‘Don’t! Stop it! Don’t report me to the police,’ pleaded one covering his face with his upturned shirt.

Their rest seems like a farce to those who have their comfortable, private shelters. These children sleep where pedestrians walk by, and where the noise of honking and speeding cars is loudest. Any place -- cold or stiflingly hot, quiet or blaring -- is called their humble abode.

They are the street children spilling out into the main thoroughfares and the nooks and crannies of messy cities. Ironically, they tag along deemed progress, resurfacing anytime. Which is to say developments do not always breed any good. They also show the dark side of it -- massive poverty, ignorance to basic needs, poor services, corruption, and short-sighted urban planning, if there is.

Images: Talisay City, Cebu, Philippines

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Safe Haven

Storm clouds loom over our scarlet cradle
-- the feelings, the dreams, and the roads.
The distressed air knows its own battles;
stubborn and wild, it unleashes its might.

Birds perch on in abandoned, broken attics,
fraught with fear or coldness or hunger.
Never to leave until the tempest dies;
never to fly until the sun comes up.

Heavy, pounded, and loud, earth is soggy,
an incurable wound for hours,
or an infant enduring its complex wailing.
Souls wander not on a lark. 

The night breaks its ribcage;
streaks of light unfold before your eyes,
pacing as a patient soldier.
And warm hands hold you tight.

Image: Aboard Tiger Airways from Singapore bound for Cebu, Philippines

Monday, October 5, 2015

These Fields of Gold

When I was young, I, with my sister and childhood friends, would pluck out some kuhol (snails) pestering the greening rice fields and earn some dough out of it. We were paid one peso per kabo (container) of kuhol. Yes, we were snailmongers. Those kuhol, especially their eggs, were such a headache, as they would proliferate in the fields like wildfire. Mom would always ask us to help every time kuhol were already eating up and laying pink eggs on rice stalks.

Dipping our feet into mud was, to us, just a game, not even close to a sore chore. I had always been with an army of friends -- the same children who after school would stay out on the street -- play all Pinoy games imaginable, and only tire out early when we had to do homework. Much more on weekends did we have to get extremely physical. Sweaty, soiled, burned, hurt. That was a part of our being hyperactive kids. We never really ran out of activity. No wonder I never had any obese friend back then.

If lucky enough, we could then catch halwan (mudfish) in rice fields. They are the kind of fish that hibernate during summer, burrow into mud, and stay there until the land gets soggy. They have an amazing ability to survive out of water for months.

I can recall the plowing and harrowing of rice fields with the use of carabao or tractor. Also, I can remember the incubation of rice grains inside a sack soaked in water. Placed inside an empty water reservoir, our kitchen would reek of urine or rotten fruit or the like because of it. After 24 hours or even longer, when the seeds had finally germinated, farmers would strew them all over a seedbed.

When the fields had finally turned gold, farmers would cut the stalks using a sanggot (sickle), place them on a mat where they would do the manual threshing with their bare feet. The grains would then be sundried for days, which would be spread on a trapal (tarpaulin) with a wooden rake.

I have very fond memories of rice fields.

Narrative: Matalom, Leyte, Philippines
Images: Carcar City, Cebu, Philippines