This is why I feel so jealous of the Filipinos
I can barely feel my legs by now. I just spent nine hours on a low cost flight from Dubai to the Philippines. It took me 4 flights and a countless amount of hours to arrive here.
I literally crossed half of the world, to come to a place I’ve been wanting to visit since 2011. When my Filipino co-worker told me wonders about his country and I managed to save enough money (and found a crazy discount ticket thanks to Sabrina Iovino of Just one way ticket!) I didn’t think twice!
I didn’t do any research about the Philippines. I know the country is comprised of 7.000 islands, has some of the most incredible natural spots on earth, hospitable people and that’s basically it. I like to leave my mind open to let my personal experiences form with as little influence as possible.
I’m incredibly tired. My flight was two hours delayed, but fortunately the guys from my hostel came to pick me up at the airport. It’s monsoon season and the thick hot humid air of Manila, pierces my lungs.
From the car window, I see life happening at some of the poorest areas of the Manila suburbs. “There are so many people on the streets. There’s so much life on the streets” – I think to myself. – “I missed Asia!”.
As I lay down on my bed, convincing myself I was only going to rest my eyes for five minutes, I feel my consciousness slipping away to the sound of the loud karaoke party and the intense smell of smoke coming from outside my bedroom window.
I’m half sleeping, but I can hear the voices coming from the outside. I hear children playing and laughing out loud. I hear motorcycles arriving. I hear men talking. I hear more laughter. That’s when I woke up.
I look outside my window and a huge amount of people gathered outdoors, in the poorest area of the neighborhood. They’re bringing tables, chairs and a barbecue. People greet each other with a smile, while the clouds of smoke, involve this scenario of community and family as if it was still a dream.
I felt a deep sadness. I felt a terrible sadness
The strongest sense of community I got to experience has been among the crowds of other long term travelers who understand why I live the way I live. Those have been incredibly inspiring and rewarding encounters, but as short as a monsoon rain, as I explained on my latest post “this is why I can’t be a nomadic girl forever“.
The party was getting on and I sat down observing how much everybody was having fun, on this warm and humid Sunday evening.
I have seen this type of community and unity in India. And then again in Thailand. I have never experienced it in the West; either in Europe or USA.
How come, a massive city like Manila, that hosts over 12 million people, still gathers such a strong sense of togetherness and intimacy between neighbors? When did we in the West forgot about the importance of deep friendships? Of deep bonds with the person next door? When did we become so individualistic? So career focused? So unavailable to be with one another?
Why do this people who endure poverty, natural disasters like typhoons an torrential rains, still carry a smile on their faces on a daily basis?
Why are people in some of the richest countries of the world, ironically the most unhappy and disconnected with life?
I come from Portugal, the poorest western European country. A place with beautiful landscapes and nature. Gorgeous cities and villages. We don’t have much, we get very low wages and pay very high taxes… But we have food on our table, a roof over our heads, A lot of free services we learned to take for granted, like quality health care and school.
We have reasonably well functioning public transportation. We have access to free public libraries. Our streets are immaculately clean and manicured. The sun shines mostly all year round and our beaches are to die for!
When I think about this, we actually have it all! We have nearly everything to be happy. But we’re not. We’re unsatisfied. Many people dread their miserably lonely lives. Happiness has been so intertwined with the idea of financial success, that when the 2008 financial crises stroke over my country, people couldn’t take it.
The suicide rate went over the roof. The young fled the country to find better opportunities of life somewhere else. Anti-depressive medicines were sold like candy. People were generally miserable. They had no one to rely on. They don’t even know their neighbor’s name, let alone being able to have a support system within the community.
And here I am, an European citizen, sitting by the window, watching the poorest and most unprivileged Filipinos having a blast and feeling deeply jealous (in the good sense of the word) for not having this type of interactions at home.
Here I am, an European citizen having a deep meditation over the value of friendship, family and community once again. Wishing I had, some of the human richness these guys have.
And once more, I feel like crying when I think that I lost my life partner because if this: because of how much I wanted a family with him, but his “freedom” and career seemed to be more important.
Yes I am very jealous of the beauty of a child’s laughter while playing in the street. Yes, I love being greeted by these kids with so much enthusiasm every time I go in and out of the hostel! Yes, I’m jealous of the loud karaoke music and how much the untuned voices of my neighbors make me laugh when they’re singing Lionel Ritchie. I’m jealous of the freedom to just organizing a barbecue outside, a right we basically lost with all our laws and regulations in the west.
And yes, once more i realize that POVERTY IS A STATE OF MIND. A poor person is not only the one who has an extremely unprivileged life financially speaking, but mostly the person who can’t seem to value what money can’t buy, the value of human relationships.
Some of the most content people I’ve ever met in life, were the Indians I met for a short chat while visiting the subcontinent. Their life was hard. They lived with challenges, but when they started talking about their family, their eyes lid up!
Same thing about my experiences in Thailand. Family means everything.
I went downstairs to the chill out area and sat down with my fellow travelers and the owners of the hotel. It was a very humid and hot Sunday night, but I felt so privileged to be here. To once more have the chance to put my life into perspective when comparing it to the lives of others from extremely different cultures.
I feel deeply grateful for the the fact that I had the opportunity to buy a ticket to the Philippines, after basically a year of savings. And I feel eternally grateful for all the people who have been crossing my way and inspired me.
I’m off to Cebu and Bohol. Let the adventure begin!