“This photo of you, will travel around the world.”
I was in the Philippines then. These were the words, I recalled roughly four decades ago. I was only ten when my mom asked me to buy some bananas from a nearby *Sari-Sari store, right across where we lived. (*A sari-sari store , or neighborhood variety store, is a convenience store found in the Philippines. The word sari-sari is a Tagalog term meaning “variety”. Such stores form an important economic and social location in a Filipino community. It is present in almost all neighborhoods, sometimes even on every street.” Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sari-sari_store )
It was 9:00 o’ clock, one bright sunny Monday morning. I just finished my breakfast, and I was preparing my school bag when my mom said, ” Can you please buy some bananas before you head out for school?”
Without saying any word, I grabbed the money from my mom’s hand and rushed to the door. I was wearing an old slippers and in a hurried pace, with my quick small steps, I ran across the street. I wasn’t paying attention to motorcycles and jeepneys honking, I just crossed without turning my head either left or right. I heard a driver yelling at me but I just continued running. I finally got to the sari sari store, and I got the bananas in my hand.
I was about to cross the street when I heard a deep voice asking me to stop. I turned around, and I saw these two white people. A man and a woman. I think they were couple. The man had a camera and asked me to pose for a picture. I didn’t know what to say, I just looked at them puzzled.
“Don’t be scared, it will be okay. We just want you to pose for us, holding that banana, and I will take a picture of you,” the man said. “This photo of you will travel around the world,” as he went on to tell me. I can’t remember if they spoke to me in English or in my dialect. How come I recalled this dialogue? Anyway.
I tried to ease myself and gave a sweet smile, as I posed for them to capture a photo of me. I heard the snap shot sound of the shutter button. They gave me a hug and said “Thank you, and be careful.” I smiled back at them without saying any word and ran as fast as I could with excitement. I couldn’t wait to tell my mom about what happened. This time, I forgot about school. All I can remember is to tell my mom about the two white couple I met at the sari sari store.
As soon as I entered the doorway, I saw my mom washing dishes in the kitchen sink; and I told my her about my encounter. To her surprise, she immediately told me, “Now, you are travelling around the world, only that your picture goes ahead of you,” then she laughed. I looked at my mom puzzled
I can’t figure out at that time, why my mom laughed. I began to realize as I grew older, she was probably thinking that because we are poor, I can’t have a chance travel. Well, at least, my photo traveled ahead of me… as what my mom said.
Now I realized that, I haven’t really traveled around the world, except that I traveled from the Philippines to the US.
This recollection about my encounter with those two white people, (I can only call them white because I am not sure about their nationality) kept coming back to my memory and I question myself, “What if I will meet them again and they will show me that picture they took of me?”
Right, I want to meet them again. But I don’t know them! Are they still living? I want to see that photo of me holding bananas… I want to meet those couple. Question is… When? How? Where in the world did I travel, by the way?
And oh… one more thing, I kind of see something similar to Sari-sari stores in New York, and they call it, Deli Store 😉
This question, still haunts me… ” Where in the world did I travel?”
“You know I once had a friend. He has a School of Language in Harlem.”
“He was a man who can speak three languages, very smart! He is Black, you know, his name is W.W. Smith.”
I nodded my head while listening to him.
“He asked me one day.” as he continued.
“You speak Spanish?”
“I said, Yes.”
“Why don’t you come to my school and teach Spanish?”
“Then I started teaching in his school and I would come three times a week from 7pm to 9pm from my work. “You know I worked at the American Airlines as a Senior Mechanic.” “I really love to teach and everybody liked me, you know.”
I smiled at him with a nod and, I saw him smiled back with content, yet with a sigh. “I wonder if he is still alive now,” He said.
I suddenly saw a melancholic look on his face, and I interrupted.
“So, you really liked teaching, and everybody likes you. I am sure, you’re an excellent teacher,”I said.
He looked at me with so much confidence and pride, and replied, “Yes, I am.” I taught in that school for almost four years.”How I really liked it, and I made good money.”
“You liked it because you made good money? Is that what it is?” I asked him. He then stared at me like a real teacher with authority and felt of myself as his student. He pointed at me and with his deep voice, he asserts, “You know, it’s not really about the money alone. It’s the LOVE of doing what you do. Money will just follow.”
He looked at me with a smile, reached out his hand on the side table and took a sip of tea, he then leaned back to his chair. He closed his eyes. I quickly made a sketch of him.
I just learned a lesson from the Wise. He is right, and he reminds me of my father. If only he was alive. Sigh.
(It’s Not The Money.Copyright.2017.All rights Reserved)
It is a rush hour and Monday is always manic. A new beginning of each week is always a feeling of uncertainty. Not to mention the usual routine in a days’ job, which is oftentimes predictable.
I see familiar sights on the buses and subway, as I head towards work. Digital ritual comes in along handy, as I see people in all walks of life bowing down amen, to pay homage to their electronic gadget. I find it annoying when people don’t pay attention to where they should stop. One student starts yelling, “Back Door” when the bus is about to move. He almost missed his stop.
Inside the train is a full-house, and I take a habit of observing people around me. My own conventional way of being passive aggressive trying to avoid social media. For some reason, I can’t figure out the kind of algorithm this Twitter, Facebook and other social media platform are using. It is so addictive. I see everyone scrolling over and over in their cellphone device. It’s amazing yet so overwhelming.
My resistance is in an enfeebled state, that I eventually have to view my Twitter and Facebook feed. So, there it is! I am seeing all these trending topics about politics and social issues. People protesting against the present administration fighting for their equal rights, immigration, environmental issues, social justice, women’s rights and so on…
Now, in my own way, I am beginning to think.
Trump’s victory for me, is a blend of Blessings and Adversity.
I have never felt such intensity before, even when my country is under tension of its political upheaval during the time of revolt against the Marcos regime. This time, I am experiencing even greater magnitude of political anxiety. It is a mixture of feelings that I cannot exactly define what it is, and for me, creates an extreme emotional and mental stress.
I said blessings, because in a way, it allows the civil society to be more aware of what should be done to fight for their rights. I now see, people are becoming more vigilant as to why, how, and what the government should do and not do, to portray a role that would benefit its own country and people. A blessing, because it intensifies the whole of humanity to hand-in-hand, come with a force to speak out and empower in order to achieve Change.
I see people mushrooming on the streets with signs, screaming in rage expressing displeasure and distaste against the present political system. I hear programs on radio of democrats and republican supporters debate each other, venting out their point-of-views and siding their favored party. I read news stories on papers about opinions of approval and disagreement of the president’s demeanor and rhetoric. I overhear dialogues from people in the subway, expressing how they feel about the new administration. All these, I seem to appreciate when these people coming from a diverse cultural background, not only start a conversation, but also able to collectively take action.
But this idea of collective action sometimes, in my opinion, is a question of, What if it doesn’t work simply because these politicians, whether we like it or not, are always in Power. What if nothing happens, and these people have sacrificed their time and wasted energy, meanwhile these monsters in politics, shrug off their shoulders, laughing at the back of their mind and sarcastically saying, “You fools will get tired, anyway!” I am hoping that this question of “what if…” will pave way to more of a blessing, than that of adversity.
And adversity? Why this condition of distress? When the present administration releases these so-called, Executive Orders, it hammers out anger, fear, disconnect, hatred and so on… News all over the nation spawn in every front page of the news stand. As I read every headlines, the one that really impacts most, is the EO of banning seven Muslim nations from entering the United States. Then follows the chaos at the airports, domestic and international.
In effect, students who come to the US to study, cannot even go home to visit their families, and students who goes back to their country to visit their families and relatives, are not able to enter back into the US, or at least have to be detained and questioned. Technology experts coming from those countries, and are hired by giant companies, are also experiencing the same.
One of my friends who is already a permanent resident, and has lived in the US for almost twenty years relates to me that when she is about to board the plane bound for Vegas, the officer asks for her passport other than that of her green card. “It’s crazy,” she said. “I was never asked of that before!”
With this immigration policy, I can see that the undocumented immigrants are now living in fear. Not to mention those who commits crime, for they obviously should pay the price in return. I am talking about the undocumented immigrants who are not criminals, who comes to the US to work hard, to support their families back home.
Those some of whom, though undocumented still pay taxes; those children born in the US who study to be able to earn a degree, only to realize that they are being separated from their parents because they are undocumented; those who overstay and work as nannies, caregivers, house cleaners, farm workers in the suburbs, gardeners, drivers; those who are out of status and cannot work for their papers simply because they have to send money back home for their ailing parents, and support their brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces to be able to finish college.
These are the people who toils and struggles so hard for their families. They are in fear, they are the voiceless.
The voiceless of the voiceless are these people who do nothing, but burn their candles at both ends, exhaust themselves yet still thrive to survive for the sake of their love ones. These are the people who render services with cheap labor yet prefer to stay in silence because of fear. They are the mothers, the fathers, daughters and sons who are able to come and stay and work in this country, with a vision of hope that they can provide and satisfy the need of the persons closest to their hearts.
On one occasion, it reminds me of a situation where, one of my friends relates to me that she is unable to travel anywhere in the US even before Trump’s administration, because she is afraid that officers will find out of her status. She works as a nanny and, she says she receives her salary in a month or two. She never complains because of fear. Why do people have to feel this way when this is supposed to be a free country? My friend has the right to complain. But she says, “I’d rather not.”
For me, being voiceless and living in fear is a misfortune, but being able to express and fight for the right is also a blessing.
I am for those people who are immigrants, who Fight for their Right and Fight for what is Right! Those who fear no more, and speak out with voices like thunder, and that the vibrations of their voices will dismantle the wall that divides, the voice that will build bridges and unite together as one. In unison, the voices of these immigrants resurrect themselves from fearlessness and voicelessness, to that blessing of Power and Strength.
I hope that a kind of blessing will also resurrect from the generous heart of the President of the United States, who is also a son from an immigrant parents, will consider these people who are not criminals, but rather just an ordinary working citizens. I am hoping for a blessing that will allow these immigrants to stay and be given a chance to continue to render services, for this great country and their families from their home country, and be able work with dignity.
As I walk, heading towards my workplace, I saw a beautiful sunrise from the East, and it gives me sign of hope. A HOPE that will illuminate not as a sign of adversity, but a sign of a BLESSING.
When silence becomes louder than your written words.. “…and that is not speaking.” When words in action show kindness and compassion.. “…and that is not speaking.” When the voice of the voiceless speaks in peace.. “…and that is not speaking.” When discreet smile reveals lovely charm.. “…and that is not speaking.” When patience is even more patient to rest in its quiet space.. “…and that is not speaking.” When kind words speaks the universal language of love.. “…and that is not speaking.” When silence desires to be no longer silent.. “…and that is not speaking.” When speaking in thoughts, words and deeds is still unspoken in its soundlessness, it is muted “…and that is not speaking.” When will, “not speaking” be speaking? It is still in silence.. “…and that is not speaking.”