Every time I feel like slacking off in school or now at university, memories of my hometown would suddenly pervade my mind and in just a few moments, I gather some courage to keep going. When I was much younger, probably about four or five years old (yes, I can still remember it), my grandpa and I would ride his purple motorbike just around the neighbourhood. We rode for the sake of riding and I felt completely safe with him ready to protect me from any threat. My grandparents, well they’re technically my great aunt and uncle from my father’s side, used to live in a low class neighbourhood in the Philippines. They were not living in the slums but it was a community surrounded by squatter areas.
During these rides, there was rarely a word between grandpa and I. In the silence between us, I knew it was one of those moments that I would always cherish and look back on with utter joy. But at the same time, there is this image that is forever ingrained in my mind – the faces of people in pain, in despair… suffering from poverty and injustice. Those two go hand in hand, they were and are still there everywhere. There’s a distinct smell too, perhaps of sweat, urine, animal manure, pollution and bodies trapped in tiny spaces… with no choice but to live only for each day, without thinking of the future… because it’s far too obscure.
I wondered: How can they live like this? How are they going to survive? Okay, maybe more like… where’s the toilet? Where’s the toys? Why do they looks sooo dirty?
But maybe, they don’t really have a choice but to try to survive in any way they can.
It’s sad and unfortunate that they are living in those conditions and sometimes I wished I could have all the money in the world just enough to elevate their standards of living or maybe even just to ensure that they have the most basic human necessities. Survival is necessary yet the means of their survival is much more complicated. Beggars are staples in the street, it’s a state of normalcy, I guess. From newborns to great-grandmothers, poverty does not discriminate. Every time I see a beggar, I think to myself:
If you can be given food or money, it may suffice maybe for a day or two, depending on the quantity. How about the day after that? A month, a year?
When I was younger, I felt completely and utterly powerless, vulnerable – how am I supposed to give them a comfortable lifestyle in a snap of a finger? In a sense, in some level, I still do. These childhood memories and to an extent, traumatic experiences somehow allowed me to develop a seemingly insatiable desire to make a difference in the lives of others, no matter how small. I’d like to believe it also instilled in me a greater sense of determination to succeed and ultimately, to give back. After all, there’s a lot of bad stuff out there and no one else is there for the human race, but people like you and me.