By Amina Hui
Can’t believe 12 days have passed! It’s already my second week here in Guimaras. With some nice chats with the Filipinos, I reflected upon living in a developing country and that transformed my world view.
To be frank, before heading to Guimaras, I thought that staying in Guimaras would be very tough, as I feel like I am a spoiled child back in Hong Kong. My parents are worried that I cannot adapt to the food here as well as incapable of doing various household chores. Well, I also cannot believe how much I can achieve here.
Sahyrah, a member of my homestay family, is a twenty-year-old girl. She takes care of me and my roommate a lot. After some chats, we knew that she finished her diploma in business administration (marketing) in the college in town, and is now waiting for the job offer from the bank. As a 19 years old girl, I ask myself: What if I am living in Guimaras, like her? What if I did not have the chance to go to HKU? How much can I achieve in this rural area? The answer is, I don’t know. It’s like Sahyrah is already responsible for taking care of her family and mature enough in facing adversity. Me, on the contrary, still getting used to the life here and searching for the meaning of life. I don’t have to shoulder the burden of the family, nor living in an underresourced community that transportation infrastructure is not yet developed, in Hong Kong, everything is just within an arm’s length.
In Hong Kong, I live in New Territories and it takes at least an hour for me to travel to HKU. Frankly, I am quite unamused by the tedious transportation and changing MTR lines all the time, not to mention the frequent delay of East Rail Line. Yet, after I come to San Lorenzo, I totally understand what the tedious transportation is – for most of the municipalities, it takes at least 45 minutes for me to get there. As my client business is Neptunes, which is located in Buena Vista, I need to spend 50 minutes of motorcycle ride to get there, and the fare is quite expensive. If I want to save money by taking jeepney and tricycle, I need to spend at least 2.5 hours to get there. The driver will only start driving when the jeepney is filled with passengers, yet it takes a century for a jeepney to fill. Sounds frustrating? But the Filipinos here are amazing – or simply because they have no choice – high school students travel to Buena Vista to study everyday! There is no high school in Cabano and the nearest one they can attend is situated at Buena Vista.
Sahyrah was one of them, and she told me that it was an annoying journey to go to school, but in order to grasp the schooling opportunity, they have no choice but embrace it. Also, as they cannot afford the tuition fee of the university, most of them can only go to work to earn a living. The average education level is lower. Life is hard in a underresourced community, especially when the government is corrupted and provide insufficient subsidy to the underprivileged. In this regard, I feel like Hong Kong is many steps ahead of the Philippines, and a credible government is vital for the betterment of the society. However, voting for a suitable person to be the President require a certain education level in order to make an informed decision. Therefore, every time when I walk pass the election advertisement, I feel sarcastic. So, travelling to school for long hours does not really matter, if you can ‘earn’ something from it, in this sense, that would be knowledge.
Three days ago, I went to Iloilo to go shopping and stayed there for a night. It is fairly easy for me to differentiate between a relatively developed city and a rural area. As Sahyrah mentioned her brothers work in Iloilo, I am actually quite interested to see the lives there. First, there are lots of vehicles on the streets and there are much more tourists than in Guimaras. Second, the people there seems very interested in us, in an awkward way. Third, the air quality is very bad in iloilo city.
It is not hard to know that people can only earn a living as a motorcycle or tricycle driver when they are not well-educated. Streets are filled with tricycle drivers seeking passengers. Also, I observed there are tons of auto repairs shop or furniture manufacturing shops in iloilo, near the pier to Buena Vista. When I tried to go to Robinsons Place from my hotel, I can totally feel why the drivers wear a mask. The air quality is really bad. I think the Filipinos may want to improve the situation, yet, they do not have the power to do so. I guess this is the major problem in the developing countries – the power is not released to the people, and people have no proper and effective way to reflect their opinions to those who have power to amend the situation. Living and working in a developing country is certainly more challenging than in a well-developed city like Hong Kong. There are lots more uncertainties involved in everyday lives and business operations. Nobody knows how the policy will change nor its benefits to the people.
After all, I feel that people here are not doing something they like, but just they have to do so to earn a living. As a Hong Kong teenager receiving proper tertiary education, I strongly feel that I should treasure everything I have – including the resources available, the freedom, the stable political environment and the well-developed infrastructure, and bear in mind that never take anything for granted. We ought to make good use of the resources and contribute to the society afterwards. There are many people yearning for lives like us. We should be more open-minded and be receptive to the differences between people from different countries. Try to know their stories and have more interactions before making any comment on the others. I am really grateful to be invited to join their birthday celebration as this is an impeccable way for me to understand their cultures and hear their stories.
The lives of working far away from home can be tough. Be thankful for what we have and together we can make the world a better place.