The Philippines– a place I used to call home. There was no place like it. But that was fourteen years ago. Fourteen years ago, my parents worked hard to pave our way to go abroad. Our new destination: Canada.
I was nine years old when I left. It would be another fourteen years until I return to the homeland. And now I’m back. Back in this town that has seemingly shrunk over the years. It used to be surrounded by farmland, but now malls are steps away. Walk a little farther and I reach Starbucks. A bit farther and there’s McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. Western businesses mixed in with the local ones; a step towards urbanization.
After a week of my time here, I feel as though I can fill a book with the things that are considered as luxuries here, but are taken for granted in North America.
There’s the suffocating humidity and heat, contrasted with the cold electrifying showers. There’s no fresh milk and most importantly, no tampons?!?! But taking a step back, these things really are luxuries. They’re additional things that we truly can live without. The homeless and beggars aren’t dying for these things, but instead for food, water, and shelter.
This isn’t just an article begging for pity, but awareness. Yes, ignorance is bliss and what you don’t know can’t hurt you. It takes a conscious effort to remember to appreciate what we have. And yes, there are days when we don’t even give a second to think about those that are less fortunate, simply because it is out of sight and out of mind. We indulge in selfishness and spend money as if we are made of it. Well we couldn’t possibly live a normal life if the less fortunate was our constant worry, right? But what if it was our obsession instead of that ridiculously overpriced concert or that new iPhone 6 that you just have to have?
It is so much easier to turn the other cheek and ignore the things that don’t directly affect our lives. But even when it is right in front of us, majority of us still choose to bare through the tiny guilt and move right along.
Having travelled to a handful of resorts, the beachfront environment in the Philippines proves to be unique. Everything is accessible right along the beach; restaurants, lounges, local stores, and yes even Starbucks. The boardwalk fills up with hundreds of people even during the slow season. And yet, a child thin to the bone, curled up around an empty cup to collect spare coins, is left helpless and unnoticed. Or worse, he is noticed but simply ignored. Even with the hundreds of tourists that can clearly afford a luxurious vacation, all have managed to avoid the trouble of helping this child. Myself, included.
Trying to make sense of such a harsh reality, I have trouble settling the guilt of not being able to do anything. For how long would my spare change actually help this kid?
Maybe we don’t want to ignore the less fortunate, maybe we just don’t know how to truly help. How do we provide aid that doesn’t just last through the lunch hour, but a lifetime? In reality it is just easier to accept the Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest. It is much easier to not do anything and just say, “That’s life!”
But, if selfishness and ignorance are traits that represent the fittest then what a horrifying future we have ahead of us. Our spare change probably won’t last a person longer than a few hours, but maybe the compassion it shows will.
Featured image via Levent Simsek on Pexels