In May 2015 I visited the Philippines and stayed with my loving cousin who took me in all my life from my runaway days. She had no car and no problem teaching me how to get around. After 9 years in the US the streets and public transport rides have changed. For the first time in almost a decade I took taxi, bus, jeep and tricycle rides by myself. Here are the sites I revisited.
I always picked the seat behind the jeep driver. One was skeleton thin. He was drinking Mountain Dew for energy as he drove. He looked like he hasn’t seen a doctor from the day he was born. Collectors for traffic enforcers tried to extort money from him, a daily thing. Still he works the rough roads without protesting about his poverty.
I met a business woman who sold cellphone minutes. She took my 100 pesos and said she will send me the ‘load’ later because of a glitch in the provider’s system. I should just keep checking my phone for it. I took my money back and walked away.
Every unmarked price goes up a notch or two as soon as the seller realized I came from abroad. A taxi ride has a 50/50 chance of a rip off. The driver would either ask for an amount in addition to the meter fare, or declare an outrageous specific amount for the ride. But let that not blind you to the good ones. To them you won’t mind giving a tip simply because they weren’t asking for any.
I met Dialysis nurses swamped with work and ill equipped but happy to help their patients live another day till the next treatment.
I saw a man resting with his baby on a cardboard box spread on the side walk under a tree. His wife sat leaning on him. They were home. The strangest thing was they looked happy. It brought me back to that precious time in my life when I laid on old newspapers spread on hard floor. I, too, at that time slept in bliss in the arms of a man who loved me.
Wealth and comfort one can waste and work to regain. Unfortunately that does not apply to poverty. Once you give it up recapture would be from difficult to impossible. I have spent 44 years looking back and for the life of me can’t find my way home.