By Gary Time files, and the journey is going till the end. I have lived in Laktawan for about two weeks, and I only have one week left. I am grateful about everything that I have experienced until now, and I think that I will never forget them.
I have to confess that I have no clear ideas about people in developing countries and in the Philippines before I come here. Although I have some knowledge about their situations from books and news, to a large extent, I only have just distant and rough impressions. The Philippines is an island country south to Taiwan. The northern part of it is called Luzon, and the southern part is called Mindanao. They speak Tagalog and English. They were colonized by Spain and US before. The economic growth of it is quite impressive these days, but still the people here are very poor. I don’t know that the central part is called Visayas. I don’t know that there are actually more than one thousand languages in the Philippines, and the people here actually speak Ilongo, another language, not Tagalog. I have little understanding of Filipino history before I come here.
I start to understanding their complex history and languages in hope of being more close to them. I would like to say that it is only some of my observations and guessing and I have no intention of offending people here. Long before I came here, I have read the book called Imagined Communities written by Benedict Anderson, which is about how the nations emerge and why people fight for nations. Although I cannot really understand every paragraph he wrote, accidentally, I experienced in person the “boundaries of imagined communities” he described here. People in the northern and central part think about the boundaries of Filipino differently from those in the south. According to the conversation with my host family, I guess that people here tend to think Mindanao Muslims are like strange and naughty brothers who try to escape from the big family and they actually have no clear ideas about why Mindanao Muslims long for independence so much. The ubiquitous banners about nation and maps of the whole country in the school and street also show an eager of pursuing unity and territory integrity of Filipino government, like “Let us build up a nation through education” in the Calaya elementary school, “I am Iloilo proud to be Filipino” in the pavilion on the street of Iloilo and the word “patriotism” on the wall of school in Iloilo. I think maybe the difference of religions cause some misunderstanding between Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines, but one thing needs to be pointed out: there are also other religions like Roman Catholic existing in Mindanao, and we should not fall into the trap of single and simplistic narrative again.
I also don’t know how the people exactly live also until I come here. Even it is not on purpose and I am quite aware of this misunderstanding, sometimes I still fell into a surreal imagination of the people in developing countries. That is, they all have the same miserable situation with no toilet, no TV, and maybe even no lights. I finally truly escape from this myth after I come here. People here lead different lives, but they all have integrity and fortitude to face adversities in life. Laktawan depends on fishing and my business owner, Berna lives on retail sales and business insurances. Laktawan people respect the ocean very much and treat it as Mother. I really admire their attitudes toward the ocean, and I think people in Taiwan should learn from them. Although Berna faces the strain of capital, needs to raise children and serves as an insurance agent, she still makes her business grow. Besides that, I think there is one thing worth noting: the miracle of microfinance is actually exaggerated. The interest rate is still too high and the terms specified for loan repayment lack flexibility. It may have its own positive effect, but not as a magic bullet.
Perhaps this is the most precious lesson I have learned since then. I start to truly recognize and respect the complexities and diversities of lives with experiencing the daily lives of others, and delve into the true situation instead of imagining it by myself.