should be nothing special about the Philippines, abang Tony
George (or TG, for short) said matter-of-factly. EDSA 1?
His people take pride in Mahathirs iron-fisted reforms.
Makati? Hi-tech Kuala Lumpur towers over it. Boracay? They
got at least four Boracays and he has be en to the top 10
beaches of the world one of which is in the Philippines
and it is located in in Palawan, not in Aklan
On and on, he stacked the cards up against my country which
he perceives is going down the drain with its political
turmoil and seemingly endless search for identity.
is quick to point out, however, that Malaysia is not utopia,
what with its past two racial wars, the sometimes ruthless
Federal Reserve Units (FRUs), its occasional harsh treatment
of prolific writer and political activist Cecil Rajendra
who happens to be his cousin, and a host of the usual human
foibles you would find flashed in the New Straits Times.
But compared to the Philippines, Malaysia is a paradise.
he said hes definitely going to the Philippines --
lock, stock and barrel. And for that, his friends tell him
hes nuts. For they say what is so special about a
country which has historically tended to take pride in its
Western heritage, instead of identifying itself more with
its Asian sisters and brothers? Why leave a country which
turned him into a jet-setter and a co-owner of a company,
and which gave him two residences and a Ford pick-up truck?
And if he is to leave why not set sights on Ireland where
he spent his college days or at the Northern Territories
of Australia where he has been so often?
But he says theres just something about the Filipino
people that discounts the odds stacked against choosing
to live in the Philippines. It puzzles him when poor Filipino
folks manage to find something to smile, laugh and joke
about even in the face of adversity. It intrigues him seeing
the Filipino masses display ultra-practicality
in their frantic efforts to survive with scarce resources.
It tickles him seeing the tricycles and the other teeny-weeny
yet unique inventions of the Filipino mind, drawing materials
from a garbage dump called necessity.
it inspires him sensing a strong value system among Filipino
families. He is touched when a mother, upon seeing her three-year
old sleepy head stumble into her tiny, roadside carinderia
(eatery), drops everything shes doing and embraces
him all the while softly asking, What is it, my dear?
Do you need anything? Have you eaten already? It
means a lot to him noticing Filipina domestic workers in
his country straining every nerve to earn and save just
so they can send much-needed cash to their expectant families
back home. Thats why he said, I will give
medals to Filipino women Filipina mothers should
be gi ven a Congressional Medal They need to be given
more respect I will never cross my Filipina maid!
why should these little scenes affect him so much? Well,
he tells me in his own country many of those who are materially
blessed wear long faces all the time and are often scared
by a rumor of a stock market meltdown; many
have lost their sense of initiative and creativity in their
enjoyment of government dole-outs; busy parents seem unable
to find time to cuddle their kids; many seem to have lost
any interest in spiritual pursuits; and not a few people
have everything yet paradoxically have nothing at all
so after weighing his options, he is now planning to sell
some properties, emigrate to the Philippines, use his expertise
in agri-business and bio-security to help a few secure a
sustainable form of livelihood, and help support some local
missionaries overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of the harvest
didnt matter if he will miss the smokeless Malaysian-made
Proton cars, the absence of incessant honkings along the
jalans, the serenity of his neighborhood at Petaling Jaya,
the black garbage bags neatly stacked at the foot of trees
and posts by the roadside unmolested by scavenging dogs
and people, etc. What seemed to matter to him most is fully
focusing on doing and experiencing things that really matter.
was only a four-day visit to Petaling Jaya, but it meant
for me and Aldous Echegoyen a lifetime of learning. Malaysias
discipline and development made us salivate with envy and
teary-eyed with grief over the squalor our country is in.
The self-sufficiency of the 23-year old PJ Church of Christ
made us yearn to see more indigenous and self-sustaining
churches in the Philippines. Yes, there is more to tell.
Perhaps, a book to write.
we will have you know in this piece that during those five
days, a church inspired us to sustain and develop our current
local missionary efforts and a Malaysian brother treated
us with respect and love and has also helped us have a deeper
realization of having neglected to see, as it were, the
beauty of the lotus flower atop the murky waters -- that
we can be awed at the 1,483-foot Petronas Towers without
forgetting that there is something about the Filipino spirit
that towers above that stainless steel-clad skyscraper.
for this we are grateful to Salvador and Tony for making
the trip possible. Terima kasih banyak-banyak. Thank you