Recently, while I was in my Economics 102 class, my professor discussed her time in the Philippines. She spent 2 months with her family before she transitioned to her junior year of college during the summer of her Sophomore year. This was a part of our lesson on differing “economic growths” amongst countries. She told us that she had always been interested in listening to the news and reading news articles on global affairs. This would certainly be a lesson I never forgot.
Certainly then, she must have expected that her trip to her family’s home country would be one of exciting encounters and experiences.
However, the moment they landed in Manila (the capital of the Philippines), her reality was shattered. Her family and her could already see the heavy military presence roaming throughout the airport and the capital city’s streets. She remembered vividly picking up a newspaper during the walk and reading about some governmental issues growing worse by the day.
This experience had happened in 2011-2012. Indeed, times in the Philippines have changed since then. Tragically, in some ways, life in the Philippines has become similar to many other “developing” nations in the world. The economy is lagging a bit. As a result, many working-aged individuals find it increasingly difficult to find permanent and somewhat consistent work.
She also read about the drug problem the Philippines faced and how the government was handling the situation. In truth, the government in the Philippines was dealing with this problem in a very “direct” manner. The military had been given orders by the then-President Benigno Aquino III. He had informed the military to “gun down” any drug trafficking and drug users caught in the act.
Indeed, this kind of dictation of extreme orders was not taken lightly. It was seen as quite an upset throughout the Philippines. However, many people understood that the implications of such a strict mandate.
In time, my professor saw both the good and bad sides of the Philippines. She remembers fondly though on the good. As it were, my professor reminisces on how the people in her family’s home village were always working hard. How her family was always finding meaning in their interconnected lives.
She remembers how connected she felt with these people. She even enjoyed going to the local village’s “water pump” to gather buckets of water for her family and neighbors. She felt as though she had a deeper connection with not only her family but also her community. To be looked up to and praised by elders and children was something she remembers with a kindred heart.
Perhaps the lesson in her time living in the Philippines is that she finally understood what it meant to live a life full of purpose.
You see, even though we are blessed in the states with the possible opportunities we may achieve, we severely lack any concrete community in our society. There is a lack of a more profound purpose, even though we may hate to admit it. Even if America may have more security in terms of job prospects, it doesn’t necessarily equate to happier lives. Of course, no country is perfect, and in these times of darkness, we must choose what we desire more.
That’s why there’s that old saying: “Would you rather be dirt poor and have all the unconditional love in the world? Or, would you rather be filthy rich and miserably lonely?” It’s a question we must all ask ourselves at different stages of our lives. I believe people, for a time, choose to be filthy rich. Only when they understand the actual values of life do they usually give up their material wealth for the dream of true happiness.
Another reality is that some Americans earn a lot of money when they’re young and invest some of that hard-earned money into long-term assets or other investments. Only after they accomplish whatever sense of monetary security or comfort do they then choose to work lower-demanding jobs. This helps such people focus on what really matters in their lives eventually: their family.
You see, life in the Philippines may not be anywhere near as “economically productive” as America, but let’s face the facts. America and the other 1st world countries are losing their “well-paid” workforce faster than ever imagined. In some regards and respect, we see a workforce paid lesser and lesser with every passing year. Nevertheless, the quality of living is undoubtedly still high compared to many economically impoverished countries such as South Sudan, Venezuela, and countless others.
Still, we cannot be so foolish enough to think we are “above” the competition. We are indeed, like any other country, susceptible to loss and growth. No matter what happens, though, we must remember that we are all a part of a community.
Of course, I also understand the other side of the argument. Many people may not feel aligned with this kind of thinking – and for a good reason on their behalf. Competition in the job market is fierce; beyond any reasonable or rational demand. It’s pretty disheartening to know that we are forever competing against our fellow men and women. It leaves little to no room for sympathy or compassion. In fact, it creates an environment of blood-thirsty psychopaths who understand all-too-well the alternative fate.
But, life is not all peachy after all; and some truths are better left unspoken.
So with that stated, I will end this post on a happier note. Remember, no matter your current situation or plight, you and I understand that what truly matters, in the end, are the memories we create in this lifetime. It is about the hard work we put into creating a life worth living, not about the hard work alone. Life is about making the best of the cards you were dealt from the beginning.
No matter what you go through, remember that you must sleep with the knowledge of your actions at the end of the day. Because in truth, nobody in the world is a winner. The only “winners” in life are those who understand the importance of love and growth, who understand that pettiness is just a pastime of wasted energy and potential.
Whether you choose to be economically strong or surrounded by people who genuinely love you, life is but a stage upon which we all play a part. Don’t lose sight of what you truly desire in life. Remember that you must make necessary sacrifices to attain any semblance of economic riches and glory.
But in the end, was it worth it all? Was that success worth the otherwise love and compassion you would have otherwise felt if you worked hard and led a life full of humbleness?
The answer is different for every human being, and thus, only you and God alone must make that decision. Whatever you do, know that none of us leave this world without a few scars here-and-there. May your day be one of the good intentions, for the light of night is upon us once more…
Forever in Your Debt,
Leon R.M. Auguste