From my cell phone (written in the wee hours of the morning still dark)
Full days, senses assaulted with sights, sounds and many joyous encounters. A common humanity comes into sharper focus, a noticing of life around me that goes beyond being a visitor or tourist.
Peaceful scenes like this one above contrast where I was a short few hours ago. What I just left was no less beautiful in its own special way.
Crowded streets, people everywhere, living abodes in all kinds of shapes and conditions mixed together, rich and poor, sari sari (mini stores) and shopping malls, the contrasts are strikingly unpredictable.
But what’s predictable at every turn is the genuine kindness of people seeing each other, truly seeing each other.
Engaging eye contacts followed by a smile not just to me but to each other everywhere. A sensitivity in the inquiry whether at a restaurant or whatever business you are conducting that extends to each and every person no matter their dress or status. There is a genuine care to serve, a genuine interest in the other. It is striking.
In this service towards others, there is dignity and respect, not subservience. The joy is in the giving and I have seen so much generous giving here in ways that say for a fleeting butterfly moment or more: “I see you!”
Life is in the little things, the everyday things and here in the Philippines I am living the inspiration of this.
Not to say that everything is perfect. In America, the homes, streets, tidiness, abundance of material things may suggest that life is greater and grander. Yet in the less is more of life here, I cannot help but see the amplified more and more in the everyday life.
Today and in the much anticipated tomorrow and days to come, hence my sleeplessness, I am in this beautiful place with breathtaking vistas called Tagayta, a few hours away from the country capital.
Yesterday’s meal rivals any upscale restaurant that I’ve ever been to. The presentation of each dish is a work of art; unbelievably the taste exceeds its look and then mixed in is the decor, the ambiance, the creativity of the menus, and the anticipation and delight that defines service which never ceases to surprise.
And as I observe the happenings around me, what is most surprising of all is to see my fellow patrons. Not the upscale folks you would normally expect in a place like this but the mix of people of all ages and circumstances including many families enjoying each other’s company.
It is the middle of the afternoon and I can’t help but think of the contrasts. On a typical Saturday afternoon in America, most folks like the people I see here would be in food courts or chain restaurants. They would not be eating these delectable dishes with such gusto and familiarity. Talking, laughing and lingering as if there was no tomorrow.
A peering outside the window, off the open air balcony reveals the best that nature can offer. The tiny Taal volcano standing majestically in the middle of the most gorgeous lake in the midst of a handful of dotted islands with mountainous views rising along the shores everywhere.
If I could freeze time, I would freeze it here and now.
In the scarcity of a first misguided impression, there is such abundance in this country, an abundance of love and life that I would want for my grandchildren, little Luka just over two and the soon to be born sister Maya.
Having lived the neurosis of our presidential elections, now sitting on the edge of my seat, wondering what will become of my new country of citizenship, I can only feel confusion wishing that what is happening here was also happening there.
And to think of how many who feared for my safety, all I can say is that my experience in this beautiful welcoming country of the Philippines, is nothing like what I read in the newspapers.
I can only speak for what I have lived and in these few days here, I feel I have lived a lifetime.
Thank you Manila, thank you World Open Space, and most especially, thank you to my wonderful host Sharon Joy Chao for enticing me here.