The addiction to kindness

Elaina. That is the name of our closest friend. Her knowledge of small town customs and gossip has been invaluable.

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She does two loads of laundry for us each week, which earns her around 700 pesos (16AUD). We can easily afford to pay her more. We would love to pay her more. But we fear, that already, we are doing more harm than good.
Elaina was diagnosed with type 2 dabetes last month. She is blind in one eye, most likely from this condition. Our laundry money is providing for the bulk of her medication expenses. This gives her strong incentive to stay in our remote precinct.
Work in the Philippines is rare, steady work is rarer still. Unfortunately for Elaina, her work is far from her family. There may come a day when her good eye begins to fade.
Are we helping Elaina, or building her up for a bigger fall?
Does welfare always create dependence?
Who the hell am i to decide? I’m the spoilt, pampered tourist from the west.

Many a time have i sat down with good friends and attampted to find the whirled peas hidden at the bottom of a bottle of wine. Many solutions were found, proposed and forgotten.
Since arriving here, the statistics of poverty have been replaced with faces. My impartiality and reason has given way to empathy and desperation. The faces in world vision brochures are now children that i see each day.

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This boy is 15. his name is steve.

Charity just seems to create dangerous dependency. They are my friends and i cannot help them.
I feel like my situation is akin to a swimming instructor on the deck of a sinking ship. I have the knowledge, but i cannot impart it.
We were so naive.

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The filipino psyche – rat stories

People talk sideways here. If Germany has the most precise and logical culture, i’m pretty sure the Philippines is at the other extreme.
The word ngayon, means both now and today. A nod of the head can indicate: acknowledgement, no or i don’t know.

But it is the hiyah concept that causes me the most confusion. Hiyah loosely translates to loss of face or embarassment. If someone invites you somewhere, you would never directly decline the invitation. An excuse -no matter how flimsy or unbelievable- must be made. The excuse or white lie will be accepted by both parties as gospel truth.

White lies or really unbelievable stories are also used to conceal true motives. When we first moved to the farm, we were told that we should burn down the undeveloped rainforest on our land. We directly declined this request, but the locals persisted.
“There are many rats in the gubat, they eat all our harvest of rice. On a bad year, they ate ALL of our rice.”
Yes, apparently the population of rats in a 70m square plot of jungle managed to eat all the grain from 11ha of rice paddy. We asked for the real reason why they wanted the forest gone. Did they want to plant fruit trees, more rice? Did they need the firewood? No, they stuck to the “rat story.

The truth seems to rarely take a priority in this culture, it is far more important for everyone to get along smoothly and to retain hiyah. I have no trouble admitting that this really gets to me sometimes.

This is serious folks

We’ve got ourselves a galaxy pad which has allowed us to do some musing at a more luxurious pace. Usually, we are sitting in an internet cafe, tin roof, midday, shitty connection, dial up speeds attempting to shrink photos and upload them with 5 curious locals peering over our shoulder. Plus Myles is rarely in a good mood around 1pm (nap time). Basically, we upload photos and bolt.
But what about the story so far? What do we think about the Philippines? The people? The culture? The massive sorry state of affairs that we have seen? The beauty amongst the rubble?
We’ll do our best to address some of these issues, now that we have time.

We are going maad!

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going mad!

Julz plus 3 kids.  Len, their mum is in manila looking for work overseas, kuya is at a funeral of a work friend.

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do i have something in my teeth?

We are babysitting my kuyas kids at the moment.  Lance is the cutie in the middle, his claim to fame is that he can do front flips.  Lenuel is the little one who Julz and I have borrowed for the rest of the school year, he and Myles get on pretty well, or at least as well as an only child and the middle child of 6 CAN get on. 

Julz deals with it best when he turns his hearing aids off and has rum at hand.  I’m handeling it by thanking god i don’t have 3 kids. Not helped by Julz looking at me and saying “can’t we keep both of them” whenever they do something cute.

Wet, Wet, Wet

It is very rainy at the moment. Very, very wet.
We are stuck in the city of Batangas a whole island north of our poor little home. The ferries are not running because of typhoons and storms. In fact, when we arrived at the port a few days ago, the catamaran had capsized overnight at the moorings! My Kuya (brother)  Bong says: “If it is raining, don’t ride the catamaran, if the coconut trees are shaking in the wind, don’t even get on a boat!” Plus we almost got tipped into a river when we tried to cross on a water buffalo cart a week ago. Poor Yen and Josh, our visitors, had all their luggage soaked through!
This weather means we probably won’t come into town very frequently. Lots of bartering with neighbors and everyone just trying to get by on low supplies. Sweet potatoes and lentil curries galore. And eggs, lots of eggs.
After 2 months of very little rain, the land has wasted no time soaking up the water. There is an abundance of  green. We also have so many frogs jumping out of the grass every time we go for a walk. I’ve worked out how to catch them with a torch, won’t be long before we try some frog leg soup I reckon.
The local indigenous kids from the mountain tribe of Mangyans showed us how to catch and grill dragonflies. Myles scoffed them down quick smart! They taste like nutty fried fish. I’ve fashioned a net of of a light mesh bag and a long bamboo pole and we catch them for a snack of just the pure fun of it. I think they should make some excellent live fishing bait too!
I’m kicking around the idea of seeing the smashing pumpkins while I’m stuck close to Manila. We’ll see…