Tag Archive | philippines

Joy of giving

When was the last time you experienced immense joy from making other people happy?

The last five years, I celebrated Christmas in Bangkok. I still remember spending my first Christmas away from home by working because Thailand does not consider it a holiday. My colleague was kind enough to understand that I must have been missing home so she played Christmas songs from her old portable radio. It just made me burst to tears.

Last December, I decided to go home for the holidays. But I must have been away for way too long that I started to ask myself, how does Christmas feel? Holding my warm cup of coffee and listening to the sound of the wind chimes, I reminisced my childhood Christmas memories; the surprise upon waking up to see bundles of gifts which my mother convincingly said were from Santa Clause; the fun-filled games I played with my cousins; the apples and candies hanged on the Christmas tree; that’s how Christmas was like for a child that was me.

Then my thoughts went to the thousands of children who may not have had the chance to open a gift during Christmas; children who were deprived of the experiences I was blessed with. Then and there it hit me, I knew what I needed to do for Christmas.

I immediately informed my Hilot family about my plan of organizing a kid’s party for Christmas. Blessed with a loving and generous family, my siblings and cousins from across the world responded pledging their support and financial assistance. On Christmas day, we gathered about fifty kids in the chapel. Not all these kids are less privileged but regardless of what they have or don’t have, they deserve to have a childhood where they can play together and enjoy each other’s company.

Christmas in Bohol

And of course Santa Clause is part of the celebration so our cousins dressed up as Santa and went around distributing sweets.

Christmas Philippines

We also gave away two dozens of slippers to kids who need them most. The following day, one of the kid’s mom told us that his son kept his new slippers near the altar because he was scared that it will be stolen outside or the dog will play with it. Awwwwww (sniffs)

Filipino Children

We organized various games. We also let some kids showcase their talents so that they will grow up confident. It is important for children to feel that their abilities are recognized. I was thrilled when my cousin’s daughter who I thought was a shy girl turned out to be proactive, she even sang Elsa’s Let It Go! Before we ended our little party, the kids gathered to sing “Thank You, Ang Babait Ninyo”.

Estaca Pilar Bohol

We managed to give each of the kids a gift. The sight of their happy faces is just priceless. It made me feel guilty that I spend so much on expensive things I don’t really need when happiness is as simple as making other’s happy.

In the evening, I celebrated Christmas with my family. I have so much to be thankful for in life but what I am most thankful for is to have a family who showered me with so much love; a family who taught me that what matters is not money but charity; a family who values truth and fairness over fame and glory.

P.S the chapel is in the process of renovation. Donations will be most welcomed 🙂

Why I like the “20 reasons why I dislike the Philippines” video

A video “20 reasons why I dislike the Philippines” by an expat named Jimmy Sieczka who lives and works in Cebu for three and a half years has gone viral and garnered both positive and negative comments among Filipinos.

My first reaction: facepalm. It’s humiliating because what he said were true. This is something we need to ponder on instead of hating the guy. Although he can’t attribute everything to the whole country and he may have exaggerated some but still he presented issues that we know but failed to address/change. Actually, there are more issues he missed to point out that we, Filipinos, know but we keep a blind eye.

The way he delivered his rants was obnoxious though. But I wanted to look at it in a positive light. Maybe he intentionally did it to spark our rage with hopes that we will DO SOMETHING.

I like it simply because it provokes us. It entices us to look at those problems critically. The awareness it bring opens doors for social change. The shame it inflicts will challenge us to prove that we are better than this.

We should watch this and accept the criticisms with an open mind. This serves as a wake up call for all of us and we should really do something. There is also a video produced by Michael Goodman, “20 reasons why I love the Philippines”.

State of mind

Last night, I watched a BBC produced documentary about the Philippines. With the hype of the new tourism slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”, I had the expectation that the documentary would show the tourist destinations, the culture and rich diversity. On the contrary, it showed the pressing issues in the country instead.

I was particularly disturbed by the last video which featured Mindanao. It reminded me of the State of Mind – Life in North Korea, a documentary also produced by BBC. Both videos showed what teachers impart to their students. It was very disturbing to see how the young minds were fed with resentment instead of teaching them to be more critical on the real situation. It is quite frustrating to see that they are somehow — whether they are aware of it or not — molding future rebels instead of leaders.

At first glance it is easy to say that they were not doing the right thing. But what if we try to put ourselves on their shoes, are we still going to have the same reaction? I think our present state of mind would totally change.

Although I have lived in Mindanao for only a very short time, 3 months to be specific, my chance of volunteering in a Muslim organization allowed me to hear the grievances of our Muslim brothers and sisters and see the face of Marawi City, a known war zone in the region. The unequal distribution of resources and development programmes in the country deprived them of proper infrastructures, security and education among others. Other than that, they have also suffered the painful wound of discrimination and maltreatment. Muslim women were being raped.

If we only experience the life they are having particularly in the hinterlands — no proper infrastructures, walk miles away to go to school or market where there is a trace of civilization, being discriminated for being poor or Muslim, live in dire poverty while the other parts of the country progress and have access to services — I guess we will be willing to shed blood too, not only for ourselves but more for our children and grand children.

It is true that rebellion will not do them any good; war is never good. But if we’ll try to think what else they can do to make their complaints heard and addressed, perhaps we will find ourselves groping in the dark for answers. And this is what is so disturbing about it.