Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Good Life

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.

Charles Dickens

If you ask a lot of people, you will probably get a consensus that the year 2009 was a dismal year. Everybody couldn’t wait for 2010 to arrive and hope that it will be a better year. Well, last November 27 brought a bit of good news from the United States when the start of the selling season showed positive signals. Sales were up slightly than last year of the same day. It is what they call Black Friday, so-called because they hope that sales on that day will signal that the end of the year will put them “in the black.” In accounting terms, it means they will end the year profitably instead of a loss.

In our case, we were not talking about sales at the end of the year but natural disasters. We probably lost count of the number of storms that battered the Philippines in the last three months of 2009. All we remember is Ondoy, which was the first storm that submerged the capital. And before the country even recovered from it, other storms arrived to add to the misery. Filipinos all over the world, including Toronto, mobilized to send help in every way they can. And Filipinos everywhere opened their hearts and their wallets. After all, we are not “poor” here in Toronto.

Fr. Regulo Imperial of Prince of Peace Parish in Scarborough, said our definition of poor is different from other countries. Here, even if we have airconditioning, heater, water and basic necessities, we consider ourselves poor. Maybe it’s because we can’t afford to go on vacation. Or maybe because we can’t afford to replace our 10-year old car. In other countries, poor is when they don’t even have a house. Poor is when they don’t even have food to eat. So, worrying about airconditioning or a vacation is not on their list of worries. To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, “the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” I am sure they will not believe that we still have problems now that we’ve left the Philippines. But let us remember, we were like them once. We believed that our problems will be over once we are here and earning dollars. Compared to the rest of the world, including the poor people in the Philippines, our problems don’t really amount to a hill of beans.

Having said that our problems are not that big, there are times when it is us here in North America that needs help from our families back home. In the United States, some unemployed Fil-Ams are being helped by their relatives from the Philippines to tide them over these difficult times. It is probably not the first time it happened. I have heard a story of a reverse-remittance 10 years ago when I started this newspaper. The media is probably just reporting it now and connecting their story with the recession. When the person abroad recovers financially, he or she will be sending money back home again on a regular basis.

Bicolanos in Toronto breathe a sigh of relief that Mayon volcano did not blow up as expected. When the new year kicked in, Mayon volcano simmered down and evacuees returned to their homes. Last December 19, the Bicol Canada association, led by Rafael Nebres already anticipated a busy start for 2010 for Bicolanos in Toronto in anticipation of the Mayon volcano eruption. Now, even as Mayon simmered down, Albay Governor Joey Salceda warned villagers returning to their farms on the foothills of Mayon to remain wary of lava flows or heavy rains that could dislodge volcanic debris from the slopes. In August 2006, the eruption caused no immediate deaths but the following December, a passing typhoon unleashed an avalanche of volcanic mud from the mountain’s slopes that left 1,000 people dead.

Nevertheless, the storms put a damper on the spirit of Christmas 2009 and was celebrated on a sombre note in the Philippines. People’s houses are still submerged three months after storm Ondoy. Then, add the Mayon volcano becoming active at Chrismastime and you understand why people were not as festive as before.

It is now March and big organizations are already gearing up for a busy summer. FCT, PIDC, Kalayaan, Making Waves will be having their events. Add to that is the new event being planned a company called JRem.

In May, Philippine elections will be held. We can only pray and hope that whoever gets elected will run the country honestly, efficiently and just.

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