|Many are still left behind|
Finally, after sixteen blessed years of living in Winnipeg, I decided to cross the great Pacific Ocean last February to return to the home I “left behind.”
However, I can say that I simply left the Philippines physically; since my passion for the country and our people has always remained wherever I have gone. My stay, just a mere ten days, many would consider as too brief for the length of time I have been away. From my personal point of view, such is the furthest from the truth. I don’t think additional weeks or months would have given me the perspective that I now have following my return. For this, I am truly grateful.
My goodness, what a beautiful country and people we have! During our trip, we were treated to some of the best places in the Southern Tagalog region. Los Baños, Laguna, our hometown, boasts some of the best hot spring resorts in the country. There’s also the magnificence of Mount Maria Makiling. Our relatives also took us on road trips to tour many spots in the provinces of Laguna, Batangas and Cavite (my father’s home province).
We also went to the “mega malls” in Metro Manila – the Trinoma Mall in Quezon City where many of the artistas apparently shop and the famous Mall of Asia in Pasay City. The place is huge! I looked it up on the web: Mall of Asia’s maximum capacity is 4.2 million!
Another highlight was the exhilarating experience of “flying” via the Tagaytay Ridge Zipline (overlooking the Taal Volcano), going from one cliff over to the other at the speed of 60 kilometres per hour, 300 feet off the ground!
Beyond the sights and sounds, I was incredibly proud of how our countrymen and women were working hard in each of their roles contributing towards the independent functioning of the nation. Some may argue how truly “independent” the Philippines is given the nation’s dependence on foreign trade and other social and economic forces, but this is beside my point. The Philippines, for better or worse, is a self-governing nation. As such, there should be a sense of pride after all we have gone through in our history.
There were some things that I will truly never forget because they touched me at a personal level. Despite of the vibrancy that places and people of the nation exude, I must write about the stark realities that our friends and families living there are still experiencing on a daily basis. It is not my intent to tarnish the beauty of the country but to remind us that there are still those left behind who may not even have the luxury to realize they are dwelling in a great country because they cannot afford to look beyond their next meal. It broke my heart to see a family of four – a mother and three young children – with their legs bent, sitting on the sidewalk at ten o’clock at night, just half a kilometre from the luxurious Trinoma Shopping Centre. Were they hungry? Did they sell enough cigarettes or candies to at least go to bed without their stomachs grumbling? What could the mother be possibly telling her children before they settle for that night? That tomorrow would be better day? Did she tell her children never to lose hope?
In Los Baños, Laguna, I met a beautiful, young girl, no more than twelve years old. She asked me, “Kuya, bili na po kayo ng sampaguita, sampung piso lang.” (“Would you please buy sampaguita flowers, they’re only 10 pesos.”) Beyond her tender stature, her eyes expressed a fierce determination to take the responsibility of an income earner in their family. Did she still play with her dolls at home? After all, she’s just a child.
You and I know that life is unfair. Given the right opportunity, I believe those who are willing to make the sacrifices, can maximize their potentials. Sometimes, the unlikeliest of the unlikely make it because something or someone along the way has paved the path for them to make it. As a matter of fact, you may know some of them. They may be in your family or you may be one of them. We live in Canada, one of the best countries in the world. We have made it. There are those barely making it. Many are still left behind.
Marck Salamatin, BSc. (Maj.), RN, BN is a Registered Nurse working for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA). He currently co-hosts the PSN Community Connect Radio Program every last Saturday of the month from 9 pm to midnight on CKJS Radio 810 AM. Please visit the show’s profile on facebook. You can Marck at firstname.lastname@example.org