The weather here in Guimaras is hot, and the sunshine burns our skin just like in Hong Kong. But the scorching sunshine seems to be more powerful here, maybe it’s because the lack of skyscrapers as shields. On the land far away from Hong Kong, you can observe some interesting features. Some of the crucial elements that shapes the modern lifestyle we have in Hong Kong exist here as well, while some of them are missing.
We landed at Iloilo, and then took boat to Guimaras. My first impression of Iloilo was “wide”. Compared to Hong Kong international airport, Iloilo airport is small and low. Not only the airport, the city itself, is low and wide, with a slight sense of relief. You won’t see tall buildings that densely occupied the land of Hong Kong island, which compressing the living space of people, in Iloilo.
Upon arriving in Guimaras, the difference is more apparent. You won’t see big buses and cars on the island, there’re only tricycles and jeepnis every where. Not all the roads on the island are covered by asphalt or cement, and sometimes the roads are too rough that your smartphone just hops out the pocket, slips through the seats to the ground as the tricycle jolts over the road. There’s no flush toilet and no hot bath. Many of them don’t even have taps and running water, and even if there are, it is easily out of water. Sometimes you may find it annoying that flies are everywhere, but locals seem to get along with flies pretty well. Most importantly, it is hard to find places with well functioning wifi and air conditioner, which are two of the icons of the modern life we have back in Hong Kong, in most of the places on the island.
This place is, to a large extent, really different from Hong Kong, besides the materials used in daily life. People greet you and smile to you as you pass by, no matter they know you or not. The trust and friendliness presenting in their eyes and smiles are pleasant and warm. They look happy, happier than people in Hong Kong that always in a hurry and seldom take a rest. The scenery is amazing as well. The clear sky, white cloud, and the blueness of the sea are intoxicating. This is a beautiful island, and the beauty can be found in the old church on the pick of the mountain, the warf filled with pump boat, the countless twinkling stars in the night sky, the scent of delicious mangoes, and people’s hospitality as long as their generosity.
But such beautiful place with adorable people cannot escape from the consumerism and some of problems happening in “developed” countries as well. To some extent, it is not that different from Hong Kong. You can get coke or sprite everywhere, and trashes float in some parts of the beach or sometimes scatter over the roads. This is more apparent in Iloilo. The SM city, a big mall in Iloilo, is very similar to the malls in Hong Kong. Some of products are even more expensive than in Hong Kong. Along with the Starbucks besides it, SM city forms a perfectly westernized image, which appears to be a bit unfit for the surrounding landscape, and way different from the island of Guimaras. This may be a sign indicating a possible trend of exacerbation of the urban-rural gap.
The “modernized” image represented by SM City may be the inevitable tendency of the globalization (or westernization?) that is dominated by the multinational firms and rich class, and promoted by middle class. In my opinion, there are already some hints of the problems manifested. Although one may argue that it is the rise of middle class having enough buying capacity and demand that stimulate the emergence of things like SM City, the downside brought by capitalism and consumerism should not be dismissed.
As a developing country, the urge of acquiring capital is understandable, and the desire of a westernized (modernized?) life and consuming pattern may be popular as well. But whether the uniqueness of the culture and people’s lifestyle on the small island can be preserved without becoming the victim of the wave of capitalism, there may still be a long way to go.