Kids playing at the seashore after school
Once in the past, there were three brothers in the village, and all of them dreamed of being a sailor when they grew up. The oldest one is named Anson, and the rest two are twins called Bob and Carl. Anson is much older than his two younger brothers, so his journey also began much earlier. He set out from the river right in front of their house, which took him to beautiful lakes, grand canals constructed by the empire, the splendid waterfall where their national hero had killed a gigantic monster，the moat surrounding the majestic and mysterious castle of the king, and finally the vastest ocean where he found the treasure of Atlantics in the depth of the sea.
Every time when Anson came back to the village, he will flaunt the wealth he had gained from the new adventure, and brought numerous most amazing and charming stories to his two younger brothers. Motivated by the legendary journey of his brother, Bob felt so urged to see the Atlantics as soon as he could, so he directly sailed to the giant and broadest ocean. Just like the old man fighting with sharks in Hemingway’s novel, Bob, forged by the violent waves on the sea, soon became one of the best sailors in his country, with the hardest bone and the sinewiest body. However, the dangerous swirls, savage killer whales, and the endless ups and downs with the tides made him depressed and oversensitive, and the loneliness of ocean sailing also made him whiny and homesick.
In comparison, Carl found that his favorite scenery always lies in the hometown, so he chose to work as a ferryman in the little lake beside their house. Taking villagers from bank to bank every day, he became the best story collector in the village knowing everything inside the community, with which he could always help heal Bob’s homesickness when he came back home.
The three brothers, as you may guess, represent the western Europe/ America, China and the Philippines in my point of view respectively. As a student from China, a country also being an emerging economy, I couldn’t help but keep comparing it with the Philippines in my time staying here. Both as developing countries, China and Philippines have quite different destinies. The former, just like Bob, experience a “leap forward” in a generation’s time, but inside the country there are innumerable conflicts, chaos, anger and frustration accumulating fast; while the latter, just like Carl, have his people experiencing a more peaceful and rather static form of life.
“You Chinese are so business-minded and hardworking, this is why the Chinese are so rich here” and “They are very hardworking, but they don’t look happy” are the two comments on Chinese that I have heard most frequently here. I don’t think they are necessarily true. Chinese people are not necessarily more hardworking than other ones, instead, only the most hardworking group of Chinese will sail to other countries and make a living there. And it’s hard to tell whether they are poorer in happiness or spiritual life as well, because they often value the welfare of their parents/ whole family more than themselves’, and they dare to dream big when imagining the future.
The thing that I’ve harvest through my 3-week experience here, however, is that I’ve became willing and ready to appreciate the art of life in another philosophy, such as keeping perfect balance between work and leisure, running business for quality of life instead of purely for cash inflow, strong sense of community tied by the religious belief, and the rejoicing of singing and dancing till the late night. I’ve became accustomed to the pace of life here, which is slow but peaceful and filled with warmth between people; and I love to see the villagers smiling at me saying “Maiyou Moondag!” (“Good morning!”) and the children chasing us will giggles and grins. But I know that the short 3 weeks are just an adjustment of breath for me (maybe a deep inhaling), after which I will soon jump back to tight schedules, neon lights and hurried footsteps in Hong Kong.
However, I still want to make some difference in this place, because as I knew more and more about the local society, I realized that the story of Carl can have many other different versions. For example, maybe Carl doesn’t enjoy the mundane life in the village at all, and he hate the gossips and rumors spreading among the passengers taking his ferry, but he is too uneducated to sail to the waters far away (maybe his parents spent all the money to educate his two brothers); or Anson and Bob’s journey are both funded by charities while he has never received any aid; or the distribution of labor is ill-designed among the three brothers, where Carl is forced to provide food supply to his brothers; or Carl is cursed by a strange disease called “class confrontation” (or “historical problem”), which causes his left hand to keep slapping his right arm, so he can never be admitted to marine schools in the township.
A little girl standing in her mother’s clothes store
All these versions can be the stories of Carl, since you can see many Filipinos very ambitious but just lacking enough knowledge and money to achieve their dreams. Fortunately, however, you can also see that the free flow of knowledge and information around the world are influencing the next generation here very fast, and the internet are easier and easier to access for the children and teenagers even in this remote mountain village, which will be a power of enlightenment and progress for this so far still quite secluded land. My idea of what we are doing here is to accelerate this process, by introducing the use of new technologies to them, conveying the new business practices commonly used in more developed areas, etc. Luckily, through our efforts in these three weeks, small business owners are accepting new ideas, such as product diversification and marketing strategies, and have started to utilize them to make concrete changes. Though the achievement of every single person of us is tiny, I believe that the continuous practice of this kind of programs (gathering the endeavor of hundreds) will mean something big in the long run.