By: Dora The Mouse
When I was a child growing up, I’ve seen poverty and misery at a very young age. I experienced hunger and deprivation like everybody else around my neighborhood. Those were the years when one can not really comprehend what poverty really like until you experienced it. When it rains, it poured rain into my house. When I was cold , there was no sweater to keep me warm. When I was hungry, there was no food to eat . When I was sick, there was no medicine to ease my pain. My grandmother will kill a chicken to see what is inside the chicken and diagnose my illness. When I go to school, there was no breakfast to nourish my brain. When I go home from school, there was no food on the table. When I go to church, I did not have shoes on my feet. I go barefooted. One time, my late father bought me a pair of shoes three sizes more than the size of my feet. I cried and told him that the shoes are too big for me. He told me to put some old newspaper inside and it will fit me. He told me that my feet will grow into it. Three years later, my feet really grew into it and I stop putting newspaper inside my shoes. When I cry for help, there was nobody there to help because everybody was helpless too. Years later, when I was 10 years old , we still suffer from hunger . My cousin and I will sit under a mango tree after a day’s work in the rice field talking about our aspirations in life. Everybody wants to be rich like what we see in the movies. We dreamed about driving beautiful cars, big houses and pretty dresses with matching shoes, all the candies and chocolates we can buy. It was fun to dream big dreams but can I really do it in real life? Everybody just shrugged it off because we were poor and can not even afford to go to high school how much more in college. As a ten year old kid, I thought, life was a daily struggle to survive. How much more going to college and fulfill my dreams. It was a big dream for a ten year old kid. I didn’t have a clue how and where to start. But our poverty and the hardships I went through while growing up gave me a very good lesson in life that I carried through out my adult life. It gave me inspirations to work hard, set a goal and go for. DO NOT GIVE UP! My late father said. Life is like a wheel sometimes you are up there and sometimes you are down here. Right now we are down here poor and struggling. Try and work hard. Whether you succeed or failed at least you tried than not trying at all. In other words, give your best shot and go for it in full throttle.
Many years later, I reached the age wherein I was ready to tackle whatever is in the future for me. I work hard, I mean, really hard. You can imagine, working during the day and go to school at night. No vacation, no outing like any other young adult does. I was stubborn like a tiger and nothing can stop me to reach and attain the goal I set for myself. A few years later, I finished college and work hard until I reach the very top of the ladder. I have a good position at work, earned good money, bought anything money can buy, like my dreams with my cousins when we were young and sitting under the mango tree. Bought the latest sport car, went to the best restaurant in town and bought the latest designer clothes with matching bags and all. Took care of my relatives and made their lives more comfortable but I still wasn’t happy. The material things that surround me were a temporary pleasure. There was something missing in my life that I tried to search and understand. I tried to be spiritual and search my heart and my soul. What is it? I was restless, searching aimlessly, where is happiness? My heart is empty of that inner contentment and peace. I HAVE EVERYTHING MONEY CAN BUY, BUT IN ACTUALITY I HAVE NOTHING.
MY SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS. I traveled and went to far places to search for that elusive HAPPINESS. It was a lonely road. I’ve seen poor people on the sidewalk begging for food, a mother with a child in her arms sitting and trying to breastfeed her child but the child continued to cry. I know that the woman probably does not have enough milk. She herself looks emaciated and hungry. I’ve seen little Nipa Huts with holes on the roof like we used to have many years ago. I saw this man age 35 years old but look 55 because of long years of carrying heavy gravel by the sack. I’ve visited a local elementary school and the old Principal told me that the children fetch their drinking water from the river nearby and asked me if I could donate a water pump. I promised him that I will donate a water pump . I spoke to one of the school children that caught my attention for he was very quiet in the corner. Asked him if he ate his breakfast, and he replied, there is nothing to eat but I still go to school. This reminds me of long ago when I was his age going to school hungry. I told him maybe he will have lunch and he replied, if there is any food. What if there is no food, I asked, then I go to sleep. Why sleep? Why not play? I don’t have the energy to play. By the time I finished my interview with him, I was the one crying and the little boy was just looking at me with bewilderment in his eyes. I’ve visited a local hospital in Pawa( Gotladera Memorial Hospital) and saw the plight of the patients waiting for help. If they don’t have the money to buy the medicine and medical supplies that was prescribed, then , I guess, they will just go home without any relief of his/her ailment. I encountered a very old man walking along side the road, limping and in agony. He told me that he has “rayuma” but can not afford to buy the medicine for pain. Apparently, his children a son and a daughter both died a long time ago. There is nobody there to help him in his old age. He makes his living by planting camote and camoting kahoy but his rayuma is getting worse now. He is worried what will happen with him when he can no longer get out of the house to work. I looked at him in his eyes, he was crying. I held his old wrinkled hands and whispered to him, Help will come soon and left with a heavy heart. When I reached my house, I send him some rice and medicine for pain.
Why? why all these poverty? What is the government doing ? Where are our leaders? It had been twenty years since I left my barrio. I did not see any progress. Nothing. I saw the same people that I used to play with years ago, the sign of hardship in life was very visible. Their sad look in their eyes, the several lines in their brows and faces, the missing teeth for lack of dental care, the emaciated look, the hardened hands from years of working in the field. These were my friends and when I saw them, I feel very sad. The government has to do something and do it NOW!
THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINES IS OVER. After a long search for that inner peace and contentment that I was missing in my life, I finally found it. It was right here in my heart all along. The poverty and hunger I went through when I was a child was the driving force to seek the reasons of my restlessness and unhappiness. I want to know why? All the successes that I gained and the honors I was bestowed from my dedication at my work was just a piece of paper. My heart was still empty. I felt like a restless soul, searching, wandering aimlessly in the open field, where all I can see was vast space of empty fertile land with no grass growing, it was like my life, empty and hollow. From the lonely path I was traversing , I finally found the happiness I desperately sought. It was the realization that YOU CAN NOT BUY HAPPINESS AND MONEY IS NOT EVERYTHING.
WHAT MONEY CAN DO. I finally found the happiness, contentment and peace I had been looking for. It was my unfulfilled passionate desire to do something to alleviate the sufferings of the poor people that I love. I used to be one of them. but I didn’t know how and where to start. It didn’t dawn to me until I talked to this elementary school boy with those big brown sad eyes. It reminded me of the time when I was his age, hungry and poor. It’s when I saw the old man limping along the road. The young man with a sack of gravel (graba). I embarked on a mission to help the poor and never expected in my wildest dream that the respond was a tremendous success.
So, what is it? It’s been there for many years and had been serving the poor people for a long time. Maybe it already served some of you but you don’t know who is behind the scene for I don’t seek glory or praise. I am just happy and contented doing it and thankful to God for guiding me find my niche and giving me the courage and wisdom to do my mission in my small humble way.
I dedicate this article to my late father who taught me the power of pray, love, compassion, humility, hard work and never give up.
Dora the Mouse