Life Lessons Outside The Bus
It was our last week in the Philippines. I asked my wife if I can take my son to my hometown in Capiz so he can spend his last weekend with his cousins. He was so happy the last time we were there and I just want him to have as much wonderful memories as he can. My wife said yes but with one condition, that I should watch him closely like a hawk. I was excited. We were both excited. It will be my son’s first official long distance Bus ride.
He chose to sit close to the window. Great choice. I was wondering what was running in his head while watching the life and reality outside the bus. I remember him saying to my wife as she was watching a Filipino drama T.V. series when he saw the houses in the countryside, “Mom, is that the past?” His mom explained to him that it is a present reality in his parents country of birth. He simply said,”Oh!” and went back to playing with his Lego toys.
I want to show him the realities outside the usual, comfortable box that we live in. This was the perfect moment. A priceless life lesson of what’s happening in the world. A world unknown to him until that day.
Life As Raw As It Gets
Road workers brave the heat and injury. No protective gear, no sunblock, no slippers nor shoes. This is how it’s been in a lot of places for as long as I can remember.
Sometimes, there may be no water for days as some of the water pipes are accidentally cut-off during a road construction. People need to manually carry water. It’s not unusual for kids to take a shower using the water of a busted pipe. They do look like they’re having fun though as they splash water to each other.
Delivering 20-40 pound bags of rice to the market needs muscle strength. Workers carry them manually on their shoulders. It looks like a great work out. Younger men would toss 2-4 bags in one trip like their down throw pillows. Impressive!
During rush hours, it’s hard to get a good seat when riding the public jeepney. Sometimes you have to run to beat the crowd. I saw several younger men offering their seats to the elderlies and women with little kids. It’s admirable how respect and courtesy still exist no matter how times have changed.
The equivalent of McDonald’s burger, Big Mak street burger and it’s on a “buy one, take one” promo.
For the health buff, fresh fruits. These are locally grown organic bananas. Fertilizers are more expensive than the fruit itself. So, pretty much, most backyard grown fruits and veggies are “organic.”
Who can resist a free vehicle change oil? A great advertising strategy. I didn’t see any cars but there were a few bicycles lining up in a corner. Perhaps it meant, “free bicycle oil.” I could be wrong.
Earning a living can be hard and any form of honest, decent living is a necessity for survival. Every late afternoon, delicious charcoal grilled food from chicken parts including liver and gizzard to catfish are sold in “kiosk.” These “kiosks” can be found in all the busy areas of every town. My favorite when I was a student were grilled pieces of chicken called “Retaso” and glazed sweet buns. I swear they were delicious!
The counterpart of a mini-grocery is the ever dependable “Sari-sari” store. Sari-sari means a mixture of just about everything and anything from sodas to shampoos to basic medications for fever and cough.
When things get tough and money is scarce, the “pawn shop” is the emergency source of cash. From watches to gold to the recent fad of Louie Vuitton bags, people would exchange them for fast cash when emergency strikes. No credit score check needed. Trust and a salable product are all you need. I remember my mom sold 2 gold coins she inherited when I was around 10 years old. Despite of its nostalgic value and how it meant to her, she gladly let it go so her kids could eat and continue with their education. A love of a mother is selfless, unconditional and limitless. She is willing to sacrifice so her children will have a better life.
When everything fails and nothing else is left to trade or sell, there’s always the power of faith and prayers. I’ve seen little miracles happen during the toughest times in my family’s life. Small churches can be seen in all the towns. Religion is a huge part of the Filipino culture.
Halfway through our destination, the bus overheated and had to stopped. The bus driver’s assistant got some water from a deep well on the side of the road. Few minutes later, we’re back on track.
The Panay Island’s main electricity supply. “Panay” is the main island divided into the provinces of Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan and Antique. Each province is unique and just as beautiful.
The Passi River looks like the “chocolate” river in the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. At its background are the rich green mountains and the sugar cane plantations creating a stunning landscape that made say, “wow!”
The bus stopped for a few minutes at the Passi Terminal. I saw two kids running by the side of the river being chased by two dogs. I made a sigh of relief when they were able to climbed a stairway that gave them a route of escape from the dogs. A lot of these dogs don’t get anti-rabies vaccine.
We now entered the province of Capiz, the province where I was born. An unused bridge built after World War II in the town of Mambusao serves as a fascinating reminder of the beautiful structures built during the Spanish and American occupation.
It rained heavily for 2 days. A part of the road in Sigma, Capiz was covered with water making it difficult to travel. What used to be rice fields turned into a lake. People have to ride a boat to get into their homes. It’s a very sad event. Someone just lost their main source of income.
As we turn on a curb, I saw the mysterious cemetery by the Hill.
I watched the last glimpse of the Sunset as we entered the City of Roxas. So many changes had happen since I left the country 10 years ago. But despite of these changes, the intriguing and colorful drama of life and nature hasn’t change much. Mixed with the breathtaking beauty of the land, sea and the generous heart of the people are the pain and tears brought about by natural disasters and the ever prevailing poverty.
“Dad, are we there yet?” asked my eagerly excited son. I smiled at him and said,”Yes, we’re finally here. Your grandpa and grandma will pick us up together with your cousins.”
While waiting for my parents, I thought about the things me and my son saw outside the bus during our 3 hours of travel. It’s amazing how much you can learn and appreciate when you truly see the life and reality around you. I hoped that my son would remember this trip when he gets older. There are invaluable aspects of life that a book can’t teach and this journey was one of them.