Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Nurture vs Nature, "What If?"

We came to the Philippines to share our friend Diane’s life for a brief time. Not to be entertained. Nor for the tourism. We traveled here for the pleasure that comes with working in a home and yard with a friend, the effort of building a life and creating memories. We came for the tales she had told us of the remoteness and wildness; the unspoiled beauty of land and sea and the kind gentle people she loves in Tambobo Bay. 

Even if you’re a “rich American” (and I use that term very loosely), living at the end of the earth is not an easy task and part of each day consists of basic survival. Do we have food? Is there enough water?  How do we obtain food and water? Will that mosquito with dengue bite us today? The median age on Negros Oriental is 23 years old, with 34% of the population under 15 years old. An average family makes about 1900.00USD/year and a single adult worker earns about 900.00USD/year. Live is hard here except for the very well off. Those with connections and wealth.
There are very nice, tiled bathrooms in the home Diane rents, yet no running water. She pays a water company for it to be supplied to her home, but during the dry periods it just isn’t provided.  That’s just how it is. Therefore, there is a well and pump next to the kitchen. Luckily, the water is safe to drink here. Most folks here in Tambobo Bay, are not so lucky to have a well of their own. They rely on other’s wells and most evenings one will see motorcycles with several 10 gallon containers strapped to the back or water buffalo harnessed to carts full of tubs because the cost of a motorcycle is out of reach, all on their way to the well. Every morning, water must be pumped and hauled for toilet’s, and showers, gardens, dishes and the washing of clothes. Hot water for a shower? Silly American.

The utilities are private here on Negros Oriental. The last 2 days we have had a brown out. No electricity in the entire state. The rich, the lucky and the resorts have generators. The Yachtie’s have their 12 volt batteries and solar panels. The middle class keeps the refrigerators (and coolers) shut in hopes that what little food they have does not go bad in the heat or that all of the ice keeping the days catch fresh, does not melt. More than not, for the poorest of the poor, there are no worries regarding the brownout, as the fish is smoked and refrigeration is an unobtainable luxury.

Renato, Johnathon and Jamar are local men who work with Mum Diane in her garden, hauling the water, sweeping the floor, repairing the boat, mending the jeep - whatever is needed to keep things running. It is a symbiotic relationship.  She instructs them on the correct use and care of the power tools, how to repair and paint a boat properly, what a garden needs to survive, a million tiny details that are not in the experience of these kind men. She employs them in a place where jobs and opportunity do not exist. They, in turn provide the means and muscle which allow Diane to continue to be a part of the community in Tambobo, delivering the labor that she cannot possibly perform on her own. Johnathon and Jamar earn less than 10.00USD a week, and are glad for the job. Most of their money goes directly to their extended families’ survival.  Renato and Johnathon are unmarried men, in a family of 10. Renato is son number 7 of 8. He is 34 years old.

Renato “is the one,” which is a local saying. To accept responsibility, is to be “the one.” Renato is a very smart man with the rare inclination to better himself in this part of the world. A gentle man who is growing in maturity and skill, obtaining a view of the larger world, Renato works side by side with Diane. With each new skill learned, Renato, Johnathon and Jamar’s ability to support themselves and their extended family increases in a place where initiative and drive to better one’s self is almost unknown. Jamar, shy and smiling, has a 3rd grade education. His parents believed he was old enough to make his own decision when he quit school. Jamar now dreams of education and Diane is there for him, helping pave the way thru the Pilipino educational system, but not forcing the issue.
As Diane introduces us to the residents around Tambobo, she also names their potential within the introduction. Locals are labeled as “talented artist”, “a devoted mother” and “excellent with woodworking”. Diane has lived here long enough to see beyond the abject poverty, lack of education and dire circumstances of her community and envisions prospective teachers, artists, builders, lurking just below the surface.
None of us will change the world. But I believe that you should change the small things you can locally. It’s a hard job seeing beyond the “what is” and changing the vision to “what if?” In the big city of Dumaguete, I witnessed the “what if?” that Diane has created in her community. She has at least 16 years of working with the children of Tambobo. She helped with reading, speaking proper English, computer skills and general life skills. At our hotel, one of her students has a good job because of her experience of speaking in proper English. Her enormous grin as she greets Mum Diane lights up the lobby. They all know her here, and what she has done for her co-worker. Over and over, business to business in Dumaguete, I have the honor of seeing the faces of the children Mum Diane helped, now productive adults with good jobs, light up when they see her, “Mahubay, Mum Diane.” All because of “what if.”

Tomorrow I’ll be back to pictures of cocktails and beaches.

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