A few images that linger: the thick cloud of smog that lay over the city’s skyscrapers, the countless children waking up and folding their cardboard after a night’s rest under a bridge, a man sitting on a bench looking so unclean, as if he had been coated in charcoal, or the unclothed baby crawling after his mother who is washing clothes in the puddles of water that line the streets.
In a place where anonymity is common and busyness is the way of life, human beings lose sight of their neighbor. The kind of life the city offers doesn’t allow one to see properly – you move too fast, you spend too easily, and you forget too quickly those in need.
This past weekend, Sarah, Ate Rose and I traveled to Makati City (just outside Manila) to visit CARICA, an organization that seeks to educate the Filipino people on the horticulture that permeates their land in order to use such plants and herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes. Entering one of the major cities in the Philippines after being in the barrios of Sariaya was quite awakening. It was as if we entered a world where no eye contact was acceptable, a “protect your own” mentality was encouraged, and everyone seemed as if they somehow knew exactly where they were going and needed to hear nothing on their way as their headphones quieted the world around them.
It didn’t take long to miss the rural world of Talaan. It didn’t take long to know that I could never play what felt like the “game” of the city. I could never fall in line as if I was inside the maze of Pacman and completely tune out the world around me because the “world” that’s ignored is human beings.
I found a sense of irony in the weekend. There we were visiting and learning from this organization whose teachings could be so beneficial to a people who live on a land like the Philippines that is so rich in natural resources while in the midst of the this major city that had lured so many to its “promise” of wealth and taken captive so many others.
The ethic behind CARICA is one that sits in stark contrast with the environment in which they find their main offices. An effort to return a people to their land, both geographically and resourcefully is a major endeavor. As we moved from jeepney to jeepney and walked on the sidewalks in Manila, I couldn’t help but see a people who needed to be told how they could get back “home”. Fathers in the city working away from the families for weeks at a time, children abandoned to the shelter of a bridge, and women left with no access to proper sanitation. It’s sobering for the mind to take in and a reality that can’t be too quickly dismissed.
Written by: Alison Loope