Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Overnight Lessons in the Philippines

By Jason Schwartzman,
Director of Program Development

Note: This is Jason’s seventh entry from his recent trip to the Philippines.

Having spent the day talking with different groups in this small community in the Philippines, I met the family that would be hosting me for the night. This was part of the week-long workshop to reflect on CCF’s programs. The mom and her four daughters picked me up at the local school in the late afternoon, and escorted me about a quarter mile to their home where I met the husband.

They live in a concrete, one-story home with a front room that is partitioned so that there are two bedrooms. The back room is the kitchen with room for the family to sit down and eat. The kitchen has running cold water, and the mom cooked using an electric wok. The father pointed to a corner that looked like a large closet. He let me know that's where the "comfort room" is, which he later referred to as the CR. It was a simple bathroom with a non-flushing toilet and a cold water tap.

Since the weather is warm in this part of the Philippines, there were latticed openings in the wall as windows; in the bedrooms these had curtains. A tin roof was overhead, and when there was a late afternoon downpour, it was quite noisy like we were living in a tin drum. Their home is simple and humble, but pleasant. They were extremely gracious and hospitable, and this made me feel very comfortable.

The house is on a small plot of land, well shaded by palm and mango trees. A small structure in the rear housed a few pigs and 11 one-month-old cute white piglets. This is their way of making an income. They also had a walk-in cage where they bring up Love Birds, who were tweeting away and were a bit mesmerizing. On either side are neighbors, and the back is where the dense brush and tall bamboo trees arch toward the sky and provide shelter from the heat of the day.

The father and I sat on their front porch and chatted. He grew up in the area, but in search of work left for Saudi Arabia for five years, eventually returning home when the company he worked for lost its contract to service the airport. Upon his return, his uncle set him up on a date and he took a young lady to a festival, and they eventually married. Two days after the wedding, he left for a year, again for work, in a factory in Taiwan. His wife continued to live with her family. When he returned, they built their house and, as he said, started to build a life together.

We talked about many things – the economic downturn and how it affected him and his prospects and the fact that I feel just like him – that my wife and I got married at an older age, and had a child when most families stop having children. We talked about the terrorist situation in the very southern part of the Philippines, and what happened in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, where I was living at the time.

He talked about the struggle to support the education of his four daughters, and I spoke of what I expected to be a similar struggle as my 4-year-old gets older. This is our commonality. In my next blog entry, I'll share what I think separates us.

No comments: