Dearest readers and visitors, thank you for letting me share these glimpses of my travel life with you. A way for me to experience our common humanity, the extraordinary that is lurking
inside the ordinary in each of us.
Tomorrow Day 5! Unbelievable all I have
lived in a short 4 days.
Thank you for arm chair traveling with me.
May you enjoy this Sunday blog!
Experiencing slices of life moment by moment in the Philippines, feeling an incredible vibrancy with such joyous intensity.
No deep introspection…just riding the tumultuous wave of being here now.
As life unfolds in front of me, I marvel at the variety of sights and sounds. I cannot deny the dilapidated structures, the broken down sidewalks and potholed roads, the messiness with garbage strewn here and there, the multitude of micro storefronts everywhere pulled together with bits and pieces of materials that could be viewed as an eyesore if we did not go beyond the surface. Then there is the constant traffic with all modes of transportation vying for their space on crowded roads.
How is it that I am so entranced? I think it’s because I feel a togetherness here; in the throngs of people, I sense the simultaneous blend of entrepreneurial individuality and inter-connection as a way of life that makes room for everyone. No judgment, no separation, and no segregation.
Case in point these slices of life that tumbled into my day in no sequential order are leaving a deep mark on me.
As we were leaving Tagaytay, the boxing match between native Filipino Manny Pacquiao and American Jessie Vargas was just getting underway. The entire country was pulled into the virtual boxing ring with people huddled here and there in every imaginable way. Traffic is lighter, micro and macro businesses have come to a halting stop as storekeepers, employers, employees, friends and families have their their eyes glued to their TV or smart phones. Movie theaters have been temporarily repurposed for live viewing of the historical match.
On our drive back to Manila, we are connected through the radio with the sound turned up high. I have the good fortune of being with a colleague host who had recently trained as a boxer. She talked me through the play by play. Her thing is higher education and multi-country collaboration in service to Southeast Asia. In her mid 50’s, passionate and highly accomplish in her work, who would have guessed that this dear friend and colleague of mine was also a recently trained boxer.
In my short time here, I’ve simply come to accept the delicious Open Space mantra of “Be prepared to be surprised”.
Even the winning Filipino boxer is an enigma, a champion in 8 categories, a degreed accountant who is also an ordained Protestant Pastor, an elected Senator, older than his rival yet with the extreme advantage of experience, discipline and unparalleled accomplishment in this sport and so much more. His humble assessment following his unanimous victory was to thank his adversary, credit his fans, family and God — a further testament to his character and sportsmanship of life.
The irony is that this match is happening today, in Las Vegas on the eve of our brass knuckle-down US elections, at a time of newly erupting rivalry between our two countries. What lessons could we learn from the humility and mutual respect between these two boxers and their fans.
A Bag of Beans restaurant is such a breathtaking place. Nothing like hanging out there with soul mate pal, higher education and open space facilitator with boxing on the side, Sharon Joy Chao. Always surrounded by such warm and friendly staff.
The contrasts continued to assault my senses non-stop all day Sunday . I am struck to see the plethora of fruits, vegetables and meats at the market today, rows and rows beautifully displayed. No need to classify them as organic, their size and abundant freshness tell the truth. Were I to judge on clothes, shoes or vehicles, I could easily come to the conclusion that most people there are of lesser means. Yet in the absence of fast food places and stale packaged grocery goods, the contrast of plentiful tasty sampling displays, the smiles and warm welcome, attractive labeling on herbs and specialty produce plus the creative signage above the individual shopping stalls casts no shadow of a doubt. This is a culture who takes pride in the little things and who genuinely puts their customers first. Healthy eating not as an anomaly but as a true way of living. Not to say anything about the children scampering about, a few following me around with nary a parent in sight. It’s the stuff of community built on love and trust. Something that is sorely missing in our fear-ridden society. Individualism over community.
As we approach Manila, feeling satiated and full with lifetime cellular memories of my time in Tagaytay, I am once again confronted with contrasts. This time it’s the urban modernity of newly minted construction in the form of beautifully architectured high rise buildings that assault my senses.
Skyscrapers everywhere. Beautiful shopping concourses, eye-catching storefronts with familiar big franchise names, upscale restaurants, and traffic jams with overflowing parking spots filled with shoppers rushing here and there. Street signage, sidewalks and roads pull me back to what things look like and feel like back home. Beautiful but…! Even the nearby residential areas in this BGC part of town have more manicured landscaping, more privacy with various fenced in walls and little refuse laying about in the ditches or on the side of the roads.
I can only hope that the natural human coexistence that I experienced these past five days will continue to flourish in these new places. The abundance of human spirit as evidenced by the warmth of the Filipino welcome followed by the most amazing, lingering human encounters are healing my soul and restoring my faith in humanity.
Hopefully my photos will show the undeniability of human connection that I am living here. And to think, I still have a blissful week ahead. I can’t even imagine the thrill of a three-day international Open Space gathering with many locals and a wonderful representation of colleagues from across the world. Bring it on!
Thank you Manila and the Philippines for teaching me as you do by being who you are.
P.S. Forgot to tell you that the photo of me sitting in that motorcycle side car was a quirky story. I had longingly look at those flying machines – trust me they fly thinking I want to get in one of those while I’m here. Mistakenly I thought they were taxis. With that in mind, being late to join up with Sharon Joy, I brazenly ventured towards this young man asking if I could have a ride. He didn’t understand English and I couldn’t speak Tagalog. Somehow we muster to understand each other and before I knew it for the cost of 20 pesos, he gunned the engine and there we went. Made me smile thinking of my less than brazen pals imagining their fears for me, thinking I could be kidnapped. Guess those old instincts have served me well until now and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the ride for anything.