By Hou Li Wei, Clarence
The dry season of Guimaras has been prolonged and there was barely a rain in the past four months, except for the occasional, violent rainstorms that come and go abruptly. Land and the raindrops greet each other like the enthusiastic hugging, kissing and weeping amid the reunion of two wanderers, and the two will part within the blink of an eye.
The draught delayed planting of rice, vegetables and the flowering of mango trees, one of the major cash crops on this island. This is why when we found Rose, our client in her 8 hectare mango farm right in the middle of mango season, she was oddly busy with roasting a piglet, and the elegant mango tress wearing a pompadour of leaves stand still behind her, having a fever in the breezeless heat, feeling sorry for their childlessness.
We helped Rose to prepare some food for her goats as an act of kindness and an hour later we sat down in her restaurant not far from the farm and had a conversation about her business.
The details of her business should be kept confidential and would be a boredom to you, my dear readers. To our delight, Rose has a good command of English and she is aware of what is happening around the globe, although getting internet has been a painful effort on the island. Her farm is organic and she knows how to emphasise on it to charge a premium. She’s well travelled and understands that global warming is threatening her business. She also has good connections in the government, which proves to be the core of doing business in Philippines. At the moment she’s on the way to export her products, which we are going to help with, along with some other issues.
After the visit, I had an interesting lunch talk with my teammate Metis (Thank you Metis), a science student. She related poverty alleviation to the force analysis in physics (My physical knowledge abandoned me six years ago so please forgive me if I get some concepts wrong). Apparently a system cannot change itself without an external force–for instance you can never lift yourself–however, when we apply such force to the system, which is consisted of different parts with frictions between them, there will be relative displacements between the parts within the system, some parts move faster and some slower. The balance of the system is broken. For example, there are at least four large farms on Guimaras Island and our team is only Helping Wonder’s Farm. Supposedly, with the help of our consultancy, Wonder’s Farm would gain a more favourable position, meaning its competitors would be relatively worse off. Our consultancy comes free (I am sure we are definitely paid in other senses) so can be regarded as a charity act, a boxy rain that falls precisely on a certain land, leaving his thirsty fellow an inch away untouched. By intruding into this island with the mission of bringing equal opportunities, are we upsetting the delicate equilibrium within the island itself? Such puzzle worries me.
In terms of life, things have been going great. My classmates have already described in their blogs how beautiful the beaches are and how hospitably our host families behaved. The local people are happy with what they have, celebrating a life spent in primitive living conditions. Their spirits, however, are no less sophisticated than ours. They go to church every Sunday morning, they spend frugally and earn honestly. My host Risa, mother to three healthy sons, gets up at 4am everyday, cooks and does laundry for the whole family with always a smile on her face. Her elder two sons are a little bit skinny possibly due to slight malnutrition and too much basketball playing (arguably the only form of entertainment on this island). But when these two handsome little men were in their robes assisting the priest during mass, I feel they are as good as any well-fed and well-read clergymen in the richer side of the world.