silent night



too little, too many

It doesn’t take much to make children laugh and smile.  We see their beaming faces everywhere, with not a care in the world.  They seem to live in a world of their own, full of fun and happy moments.  But it’s not always a happy story with a happy ending.  It rarely is.


Elizabeth is 8 years old and doesn’t talk much.


Her sister Michelle, however, lives a life that could have been the opening script for some TV soap opera.  She is 12 years old and is the eldest daughter in a family of 7 children; second oldest if one were to include the eldest child who died during infancy.  She would have been  in a family of 9 children if another one of her younger siblings survived a crippling disease at the age of 4.

She goes to school, but only for a day or 2 in a week.  She is still in Grade 2 and is expected to stay in elementary school for many more years unless she drops out of school completely.  Her mother just gave birth about a month ago and so she has been tasked to do the household chores which her mother cannot take care of at the moment.  Her father is still nursing a stab wound from 2 years back due to an altercation with her uncle and cannot do any heavy lifting.  Their source of income comes from selling brooms at P100 apiece, of which a large portion goes to buy rice that only lasts a few meals, maybe not even for a day.  Life is difficult.


Both of them were drying straws on the side of the highway.  Cars whiz by at blinding speed carrying people who are always in a hurry to get to or from home, never noticing the little people who live along the periphery, the little people whose biggest challenge in life is to survive the day with food in their stomach, clothes on their backs and roof above their heads.


This is the path leading home, only it’s not the kind of home that you and I know.  It’s not even a house.


It has always been said that children are a blessing.  Maybe for some but not for all.  With a difficult life like this, who is enjoying the blessing?  Not the parents who have to work more than two lifetimes just to get their family out of poverty, and certainly not the children who are not responsible for the difficulty they have been born into.  When will it be more important to consider the quality of life rather than the quantity?  They are not a bunch of straw that can be left on the side of the road to shrivel under the sun.



September is here and so starts the Christmas preparations in the Philippines.  We’ve missed this last year, let us not be denied of this celebration this year.


Christmas decors are put on display and vendors are very sure that someone will need a replacement for the ones that have been lost.


It’s never too early to start looking forward to happy times again.  Yes, Virginia, there will be a Santa Claus this year.



The ice bucket challenge was all over the news for the past 2 weeks, and it still is.  The intention is noble and the gimmick is catchy.  Thankfully, I live in a part of the world where filling up a bucket of ice water is by itself a challenge.

This craze has already hit Metro Manila, it being the most affluent part of the country.  Celebrities are outdoing each other in this challenge.  I hope they are doing it for the right reasons and not for the media mileage.  I hope that they donated to the cause that went with the challenge.

I would like to preempt my friends not to nominate me to this challenge.  It’s not because I’m not up to the challenge, but because there is a more urgent need of donations here at the home front.  Ever since super typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda hit Eastern Visayas, one organization has been working tirelessly to provide relief and shelter to those who were at the brink of losing hope.  Now, more than 8 months later, their work still continues, and the scope has gotten bigger.  From food relief, temporary shelter and temporary classrooms, this organization is now embarking on providing permanent homes to those affected by the super typhoon.

This organization is called Tzu Chi.


This was the rice distribution last July 17.  I write about this only now because I thought it was too late to post something that was already covered in the official Tzu Chi Philippines newsletter a month ago.  That was until the ice bucket challenge became viral.  I felt that this too deserves news mileage and millions of people benefit from the work this organization does, myself included.


At the start of every Tzu Chi activity is a beautiful prayer that sets the tone for the day ahead.  Tzu Chi is mostly run by volunteers, from housewives to heads of multinational companies.  (click here  to listen to the song)


After a short talk, everybody lines up to receive their coin banks and newsletter.


Having received aid from Tzu Chi during their times of need, each recipient has become aware of how much help their contributions will give to others during disasters and other emergencies.  All donations go directly to the calamity fund.


Each person will have his or her own coin bank, with it a suggestion to put a coin each day as a reminder to do something good every day.


The able bodied can carry their own rice, while the women are assisted by local volunteers who carry the sacks to where the women can take a ride home.  These volunteers do this without expecting any form of payment except gratitude from those whom they have helped, and they also receive their sack of rice.


At another venue, a different batch of recipients from another part of the city.  People willingly donate whatever they can afford to Tzu Chi.  No donation is too small nor too big.


One can only be awed by how a small group of volunteers can manage to make an orderly exit for a large group of people without needing to shout nor use force.


Each volunteer has a ready smile, a courteous bow, a kind word or a kind touch.  They know how to connect to people because they themselves were once victims of a calamity.  It takes one to know the needs of another.


The distribution, viewed from the top.


Love from Taiwan.  Love from a fellow human being.  Spread the love.

Thank you, Tzu Chi.

I take this opportunity to challenge everyone to make a donation to the Buddhist Compassion Relief, the Tzu Chi Foundation.  Here is the link to their site.

third wheel

Sundays have just become more complicated.  Do I stay in bed and sleep until late in the morning, or take a walk around the neighborhood, or ride a bike?  I definitely wouldn’t mind getting another day off to enjoy these simple pleasures.


They have become friends just a few minutes ago.  She is from Samar and is waiting for her mom’s hair rebond to be done.  She and her mom won’t be going home tonight. He is from the neighborhood and that’s his bike.


This is one cool handmade trike made from scrap, and I wouldn’t mind riding this if it would fit me.  Anybody out there who can lend me a penny farthing?

kids’ corner

Sabang District, August 17, 2014.  It is now 9 days and 9 months after Haiyan/Yolanda and this place is experiencing a rebirth.  Houses are sprouting like mushroom and the population density is rapidly increasing.  Soon it will be back to what it was before.


There is a season for the games children play and the toys they bring out, and this is the right time to go “around the world”.  I’d better take a step back or else the world will come crashing into the camera.


An obligatory group shot of the neighborhood kids.  Taking group photos of kids is one way of letting the adults know that I come in peace, especially when almost every adult male in this community has a lot of tattoos on them.


I think it’s time to sort photos like these, especially from earlier and happier times, not that this isn’t a happy photo.  And I will be needing prints this time.


Rubber bands are these kids’ form of currency.  It can be stretched to fit any budget.


Place your bets!  Color coded dice on a makeshift color board.  Somebody has to teach them how to save money so they can have a better life.


“When can we have our print?”

Soon, I hope.




slow day

The regular Sunday activities are slowly returning as people (city dwellers, mostly) have more or less settled back into their old routines.  While there are still many things to be done, houses to be relocated, jobs to be created, livelihood training to be taught, Sundays will always be days of rest and recreation.


Chess also happens to be a spectator sport, especially when there are bets on the table.


What’s better than switching channel between commercials?  Having one television for each channel.  Now if only the rest of the hundred and one television sets are fixed…


Teach a man to fish and he’ll go hungry if the fish aren’t biting.


lock and key

These crafts will still be around in the next decade or two, even in this world of throwaway stuff and disposable lives.





white elephants

Rainy day today, 2 typhoons this week.  Both of them missed us.  What a relief considering that a lot of the typhoon Haiyan survivors are still living in tents while the rest who have not been relocated have already erected their new houses along the shorelines, on the same site where they once stood, to be washed away again come the next disaster, which I hope doesn’t happen in this lifetime or the next.  By the looks of things, the government is stuck in endless meetings and has come up really short in terms of decisive action.


Art imitates reality, just not today.  For sure there will be glorious sunsets in the days to come, and sunrises too.


The show is over. This herd will be thrown in the back of a truck and shipped to the next destination.


With the elephants out of commission, he’ll have to settle for whatever target is available.  If only he realizes that there are so many white elephants he can shoot at, he probably would’ve spared Winnie the Pooh.

street smart

How do you keep street kids out of trouble?


It might run counter to common sense to trust these wily kids with anything, but if there’s anything they could use, it’s trust.  Most of them are smart and hardworking, and if given guidance and education, they are the types who will most likely succeed.


No, he is not stealing the ice blocks that have just been loaded into the fishing boat.  That is ice that couldn’t be accommodated in the hold and would have just been left to melt under the sun.


They certainly understand teamwork.


And they don’t hesitate to dive in when the situation requires it.


There seems to be  a tacit understanding between these kids, the ice delivery crew, and the boat crew.  The kids are given some of the ice for free or in exchange for their help, to sell to the refreshment stalls in the surrounding area.  The money they earn will hopefully augment their family’s earning.  Most importantly, as one delivery crew mentioned, it keeps these kids off substance abuse that is prevalent in the area.



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