Letters of Youth


/ 8 May 2021

When I was a kid—around 4 or 5, I would usually walk around the streets of my hometown, Obando. The streets were usually filled to the brim with garbage brought about by recent flooding caused by a typhoon—be it weak or strong. Our roads were frail, so they would easily succumb to natural disasters.

Accompanying the garbage circulating our town’s streets, there were also stray dogs that would fright and bark strangers at sight. Piles of manure stacked upon each other with their foul smell whipped upon by the resident’s noses. There were rotting materials—food ingredients, plastics, organic substances, even dead cats that would decay on the muddy paths. Obando is rather known for being a relatively poor community. Our house was by a small lake that actually served as the source of income for many. Many Obandenos were fishermen and thereby relied on the waters for a living. This reliance and abundance in bodies of water was also the reason why Obando was prone to flooding.

This was the situation of my humble hometown; however, with the wrappers of candies, the plastics, and piles of manure all around, there was this one thing that was visually evident. It was clear. The people were hardworking.

As I continue to walk around the streets, something amazes me. People in this poor community were not poor at all. In essence, they are rich. Rich in dedication, passion, and faith. You would see one vendor who has a family of five to feed selling coconut juice by the sidewalk. You would see an old man around his seventies selling custard to continue living. You would see a kid running his mother’s small store of local junk foods and candies that sell for a peso each, passionately waiting for someone to buy their products for survival. And, there was even this one time when the streets were flooded, and the intelligent and intuitive minds of the residents were able to create a boat out of plastic bottles and empty sacks they gathered.

Now, what am I trying to say here? That Obandenos are hardworking, that unlike us, they strive? No. That isn’t the message here.

I began to realize something: they are poor, yet they are rich—that the natural life has brought them is the only reason why they remain poor. Many would-be caught about by the stigma that usually goes as follows: “Poverty is eradicated only when the poor actually begin to strive.” Here’s the thing. It isn’t their fault they were poor in the first place, it is the natural state of their life. Yet it true that a handful of people that started from humble beginnings has succeeded later in life, it is not the case for the majority. Obandenos are the living proof that poor people do work hard, that they do strive and dedicate themselves to their jobs in order to earn a living. However, sometimes, hard work is just not enough. It is the sad truth. Sometimes, we just get bounded by our roots and are unable to prosper further because of what life has imposed on us as our nature.

I hope we realize one day the reason why we exist. Each and every one of us has one common mission. That is, to see and realize what kindness truly means.  In this age, the definition of kindness could be misapprehended as a norm. Although common deeds such as helping an old person cross the street, placing trash in the right locations, and respecting other people are genuinely kind, kindness still varies from person to person. The true meaning of kindness only comes in when you get a glimpse of a societal problem, gain an opportunity to help, and choose to do so. In my case, I see that my people are simply just stuck, and are in a constant struggle to defy the laws nature has chained them to and can never reclaim what life they deserve unless I help them. Today, my family relentlessly conducts feeding programs, Christmas events, and providing of school supplies to local communities.

How about you? Have you already found what truly is “kind?”