Well, not at all. It actually depends on your beliefs and what you want to do in life. In my case, I honestly do not know why I always have this heavy feeling every time I meet people especially the ones who seem to be doing their best every day making a living through the only way they could yet still aren’t progressing in life. I’m talking about the “trisikad” or tricycle drivers, the vendors on the street, and some other menial job workers that I get to meet and talk sometimes.
Whenever I see “trisikad” (a local contraption which is a bicycle with a sidecar) drivers, I am always reminded of a neighbor who was a doing it for a living when I was like 5-7 years old (but I am not sure though if he is still doing the same until now).
When I was like I don’t know maybe I was 4 years old at that time, I remember hearing the story from my mom of why we had to move three times since I started having memories of things until that time I asked. The first time my parents had to move since we, their children (my older sister and I), came to the picture was from another region in the Philippines where my parents met. It was in Mindanao and they had to move to Cebu because this is where my father is from. They moved into my grandparents’ house and after my mother gave birth to my younger brother (the one next to me), she got so sick and she was bedridden for like a year until they had to move out from there and lived on their own in the next Barangay a bit far from my grandparents’ house. This is the house where I started having memories of things though most of it is just bits and pieces. From here, we moved to another one where we were renting the house and then we had to move again to another one where we rented the land and had to build our house there. My father is the only one earning for the whole family through carpentry. He didn’t have enough money to build a really good one. If memory serves me right, we were in a rush to move out because the owner of that house where we were living was coming home from abroad and the house had to be vacated sooner.
That time, the house my father was building wasn’t finished at all. It was just a simple four-cornered bungalow house (the kind that kids who are just starting to draw would draw). The pillars and the roof were there but my father didn’t have the time nor the money to even finish and put up better walls on all of the four sides. That house was perched on a small rise that had a road run alongside the bottom, the sides facing the road would be exposed to the cars passing by because it didn’t have real walls. They were just covered with an orange and blue striped tarpaulin. Half side of our house was like a tent. The good thing about it was, we could use the light from the passing cars for us to see things inside because the orange from the tarpaulin allowed the light to pass through it. We didn’t have electricity and back then, electricity was such a luxury for us. We were only using gas lamps and in times we ran out of gas, I remember we had to eat dinner earlier. After dinner we would take a half-bath(we call it half-bath because we didn’t have to wet our hair, we just washed our whole body and face except the head and I don’t know why it’s called that). We would just use the light from the passing cars to find where our clothes were. Talk about resourcefulness, huh? But yeah, this was our circumstance.
Now, going back to the neighbor who was the head of his family working as a trisikad driver. He had 3 children and we knew that somehow the earning wasn’t enough. Every day, he had to pedal that tricyle in the heat of the sun and still comes home sometimes with insufficient food at the table. In my household (aweee this was the happiest time of my life I think because back then I didn’t understand and see the world as it is, all we had to worry was run, play, eat and sleep), we could have three meals and two snacks a day. There were times, however, when my father wouldn’t come home for a week or two or three, we would run out of food to eat. Luckily though, our neighbor who owns a small sari-sari store and carenderia allowed us to utang (to “utang” means to get the goods now and pay it later at a certain time) from them.
One time, I don’t remember the reason why my mother and I had to be in their house, but I remember seeing them barely having food. We were poor but I realized that time, they were poorer. We had our basic utensils for eating while they didn’t. The food on the table was laid in plastics and the kids around my age were eating from there. In the following days or weeks after that, I remember my mom packing some rice or corn grain (not sure now but we sometimes had both or either) in a plastic bag and she was heading to lend it to that family. Back then, I knew our food especially the rice or the corn grain was only supposed to last for a certain number of days, but my mother said in our Cebuano language, “We are fortunate enough that we have food now. We must be grateful and share our blessings whenever we can. No matter how small it is, if you have, you can share.” She then talked about the stories in the Bible, usually she shared to us the one when Jesus had to share bread and fish with a lot of people and how sharing is an act of caring and loving and so on. I didn’t care so much about it back then but what I can remember was how my mother would always share no matter how little we had. When we played with the other kids and it was snack time, she would always share with them what we were having.
Growing up, when we were already back to the Barangay where my father is from, which was our second time to move after the last one mentioned, of course, we, my siblings (1 older sister, 1 younger brother and 1 younger sister) and I would always end up inviting all of our friends playing hide and seek in our house. Sometimes my younger brother would end up flying kites with maybe all of our childhood male neighbors and they would fly kites together during school vacation. Those times, my mother would usually prepare snacks like a lot of “shakoy” a kind of twisted fried donuts coated with caramelized sugar. Some Filipinos might also know it as “Lubid –Lubid” since it looks like a rope and we would share it with everyone for snacks.
Our weekly or monthly budget hadn’t change that time though. It was still the same. When my father would fail to come home when he was supposed to, we would still end up having nothing or almost nothing. Luckily, the same good thing, we had a sari-sari store where we utang (to “utang” means to get the goods now and pay it later at a certain time) from. One time, I asked my mom why she would make a lot for the other kids when they can just go home to their houses and get snacks of their own and we ended up consuming our food earlier than the time it’s supposed to be through. My mom just answered me about the importance of sharing when you have something to share and she used one of our neighbors as the example of somebody who might have not tried the food we were having because he belongs to a bigger family.
That time and a lot of times after that, every time I think about how poor we were especially when we ran out of food and my father wasn’t home, I would always be reminded of that scene of the previous neighbor’s family and that moment when we had to share even when what we had weren’t actually so much. We were poor at that time but we managed to share what we had and help others. And then, I would be taken back to those happy times in our lives. We weren’t rich but back in my childhood days, were filled with good happy memories. Reminiscing, all I could hear was our laughter having fun playing and enjoying life as it was with my mother and with my father on weekends (except when he wouldn’t come home).
This is why every time I see these people striving so hard in life (not that I think that people shouldn’t struggle), I am always reminded of those times in our striped orange and blue tarpaulin house and all those significant moments in my life associated to this memory. It is like all of the clips, the episodes in my life related and connected to it are compressed in my head and everything or the summary of it is recalled in seconds and it brings nostalgia.
For me, those are pleasant memories and I want to cherish it by honoring what my mother has always taught me. In times of our family adversities (which was a lot couple of times), we were always helped by other people as well, one way or another. Hence, when I had to introspect and dig deeper into my existence in life, I realized that there was a time in my life when I was taken back to this particular string of memories. At that moment, I promised myself that when I would get out of the situation where people have help us financially, I would always look back grateful to where I came from.
I should never forget how a simple and random one hundred peso or a plastic bag of bread out of the blue handed by a different stranger at a different couple of times had given us so much joy and hope, especially when it was the time when we needed it. Those times, especially when my younger sibling and I were walking from the house of the buyer of bunches of coconut palm sticks under the heat of the sun after we had just sold our freshly cleaned bundled sticks- freshly cleaned because we just had the green leaves removed from it. This was our alternative for earning money spearheaded by my resourceful mother at times my father couldn’t or wouldn’t come home. Those people who just gave us something out of the blue were the blessings we needed at those specific times. Because of these experiences, I also want to give that kind of joyful feeling back to those who are working so hard in life but earning just barely enough.
The joy of receiving something in times you needed it somehow imprints aspirations to a person’s heart.
Note: This feature photo