What Makes Us Share…till it hurts
(I and my group)
By Apolinario Villalobos
The “us” in the title refers to the four of us in the group. The two are based in the United States, but come home every second week of November for our sharing project that commences every third week of November and strictly ends on the first week of December. On the other hand, I and the other one are locally- based.
Many of those who know us still don’t understand why we “meddle” with the lives of others by helping them. One of my friends even went to the extent of sending me a message last year when he read my blogs about Baseco Compound in Tondo. His message read, “hayaan mo na sila, kasalanan nila kung bakit sila naghihirap…mamumulubi ka lang sa ginagawa mo”. I did not bother to reply to that message…but from then on, he seems to have detached himself from me. The other member of the group who is based locally, too, had a misunderstanding with his wife until their eldest son interfered…in his favor, so from then, his wife sort of just supported him. The two others, who are based abroad are lucky because aside from being supported by their families, they are also able to collect donations from friends who came to know about our projects.
My opinion is that it is difficult for others to really understand how it feels to be impoverished because, either, they have not been through such, or refused to admit that they were poor once, out of pride. I do not know if some of you experienced the pang of hunger for having not taken breakfast and lunch while attending classes. I do not know if some of you have experienced wearing underwear twice your size – being hand-me-downs from rich relatives. I do not know if some of you have experienced catching ice cubes thrown by a friend, instead of being handed even a sandwich by him during his birthday. I do not know if some of you have experienced making toys out of milk cans from the garbage dump, etc. etc.etc. I have experienced those when I was young.
My other colleague in the group and who is based in Manila, admitted to have been a scavenger when he was young. He also shared how every morning before going to school, he stood by carinderias and ate the leftover food on the plates of customers. As a scavenger, he and his brothers cooked “batchoy” out of the food they scavenged from the garbage bins of Chinese restaurants. He also unabashedly admitted to having worked as a call boy when their father got sick to earn quick money to support his two younger brothers and one sister (they were left by their mother). He got lucky when he landed a job as a messenger/sales clerk of a big hardware store in Sta. Cruz (a district in Manila City). Good fortune smiled at him, when the daughter of his employer fell in love with him, which made him part of the family business.
The third in our group, a doctor is the luckiest because at an early age he got adopted by a rich and kind couple who were US Green Card holders. But while growing up in Pasay, he was close to the less fortunate in their neighborhood. He is married to the daughter of their laundrywoman who is now operating a small catering business in the States.
The fourth in our group found his way toward us through the doctor, as he was the latter’s neighbor in the States. He shared that he grew up in a farm in Bicol and also experienced difficulties in life, as he and his siblings would cross a shallow river and hiked two kilometers to reach their school. He was introduced to our “operations” when he got curious, so he joined us in 2009, after promising to abide by our rules – no photo taking, wearing only slippers, t-shirt and shorts when on the road to share, and no giving of true name or divulging of real identity to the beneficiaries, as well as, willingness to partake of what our friends in slums eat.
What makes us click together is that, as if on cue, we practically forget who we really are every time we start hitting the road just before sunrise, to share. We would sometimes call each other unconsciously, by our assumed names…but we do not consider such slip as a joke, because we are those names every time we mingle with our friends to share. For those who insist on knowing us, we ask them to just remember us by our acts, and not by our face and name.