anecdote 9 – THE GYPSY GIRL



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THE ESSENTIAL FILIPINO take two
THE GYPSY GIRL
Author’s note.
THE ESSENTIAL FILIPINO take one DISCOVERING DREAMS,
the original, which was published March 2010, drawing a lot of Internet reactions, is also given below.
to nomads and wanderers
the best way to fight violence
is with a calm peaceful spirit
to nomads and wanderers
material survival is peripheral
spiritual survival is essential
It was rush hour. I was riding a jeepney in Alabang. A young girl, about 15 years old, hopped in. She had dirty clothes and un-shamppoeed hair. She gave an envelope to each passenger, now a new trend in begging. It was better than the hard-sell stretching of a hand. When a passenger did not accept the envelope, she simply put it on his or her lap. I found that irritating and rude. To avoid getting the envelope, I waved my hand and gave a non-verbal facial expression to show my disgust. She just smiled, turned away, and finally sat behind the driver.
She sang a strange song softly, hardly audible in the din of traffic. But I knew from the tune that she was a red-blooded sea gypsy of the Badjao tribe. I have been to their area as a journalist. They come from remote islands in Southern Palawan and the Sulu sea, the backdoor to Borneo. Extreme poverty has forced the Badjaos to the big cities hundreds of kilometers away to beg. Badjao children swim in the violent swirl of giant ships maneuvering in urban ports to dive for coins thrown by passengers.
The driver cursed and shouted at her to get out of the jeepney. He hit the steering wheel violently in anger, and made a move as if to go down and drag her out just to scare her. The girl simply smiled, not embarrassed, and stood her ground. She was used to being treated that way in the cities. Her gentle spirit was beyond the reach of the angry driver. No one could hurt her unless she willed it. The cruel outside world was at the tips of her finger. She stopped singing out of respect for the angry driver. She had no grudge against him. The angrier the driver, the calmer she became. No one could touch her soul. The other passengers looked at her with amazement. My irritation instantly turned into awe.
Finally she stood up. I frantically searched for a coin and found a five peso piece. I gave it to the Princess of the Sulu Sea, no envelope. She hardly looked at me and simply nodded slightly to show her thanks. Other passengers started filling up the envelope with coins. It was a big haul, if I may say. One old lady gave her a twenty peso paper bill, a jackpot for a beggar. The driver did her a big favor.
And so it was that thoughts lingered as I walked home. I had done extensive research on Badjaos years ago. Together with the Agtas of the Cordilleras, they were the last remnants of a vanishing race of pure nomads, people who have not shed off their wanderlust. They are the Filipino’s ancient forgotten heritage. The Agtas were the nomads of the mountains. The Badjaos were the nomads of the sea. The Princes was the nomad of the city.
I saw the glint of wanderlust in the Princess eyes. I could sense her adventure spirit. She could not have come here hundreds of kilometers from where she came from without money if she was not adventurous. Badjao children normally stow away in crowded passenger ships. In a sense, she was caught between two forces, two conflicting worlds – her spiritual world of nomadic hunter-gatherer survival and the material world of income survival she knew nothing about.
Among the Eskimos of the Aleutian islands, the nomads of the icy tundras, survival dictated that the first to eat were the hunters right in the kill zone. They got the best part of the still-warm meat and ate it raw and bloody. Among the Badjaos of the Sulu Sea, the survival logic was the exact opposite. The hunters were the last to eat the fish catch, after the women and children had their fill. For the Princess, survival was pooling all they could beg for among her small group into an evening banquet of rice and, say, almost rotten tomatoes with salt. They live for the day. Long term meant a week and they do not even think of that. One step at a time, that was how they survived.
The Badjaos were so peaceful that if warlike Tausugs or Samals encroached on their turf, they simply left. I saw this in the Princess when confronted by the violent driver. The Badjaos valued peace and freedom more than the land. They will not fight for it. They had no sense of territory because their ancestors were bred for eons by vast unchartered seas. Now that the world was getting crowded, they have not adopted to territory and are in crisis. They roam freely forever and become victims of crowdedness. They have no place to go, yet they like it that way, even though they have become extremely poor in a crowded world of settlers. The material world was peripheral to their spiritual survival.
Badjaos live in makeshift houseboats. In Sitangkay, a tiny island close to Borneo, they run during a storm to the ‘safety’ of their boats rather than the safety of the land. The only time they stay on land was to bury their dead and to play basketball in the courts of the Christian settlers. The Princess, I would surmise, huddles with a small group of her kind in the empty dark sidewalks behind the big mall. I see them there sometimes.
Once I asked a Badjao boatman how long it would take to get to our island destination. He dipped his hand into the sea, feeling how strong the current was, then pointed to the sky, something like 2 p.m. I guessed. Crude but ingenious celestial and ocean-tide navigation. Pure nomadic wisdom.
Anthropologists have gained little headway in learning about the Badjao mystique. They are hard to educate or influence. They are not really stubborn, only different in the way they view the world. They are children of the universe.
There are valuable lessons the Princess gives us in our extremely materialistic world of cellphones and computers, of anger and violence. The Princess is a beautiful girl inside with a radiant smile, a soft song, a peaceful spirit money cannot buy. Do not be fooled by the external, by her dirty dress or un-shampooed hair. She is a Princess. We just have to somehow understand her.
in our superiority complex
we want to educate ancient people
about civilized society
we forget that they can educate us
in their ancient wisdom
THE ESSENTIAL FILIPINO part one
discovering dreams (prayer31 in http://www.sisterraquel.com)
_________________________________________
you must empty your cup
so He can fill it
you must give away your riches
so He can enrich you
a british journalist breezed into manila
with an assignment to write
about ‘the essential filipino’
he smiled confidently over his easy assignment
relishing the free tour as complementary reward
for three days, he ran around searching
he rejected the business district of makati
which reminded him of cold and calculating london
he went to historical places in intramuros
but saw only a glimpse of the past not the present
next he tried the native cuisine at market market
delicious yes, but nothing on the essential filipino
he was getting not only tired but also nervous
that he has not found his ‘easy’ story yet
time was running out, he had to go back in two days
he wasted the next day on inconsequential probes
into malls, churches, monuments
on his last day, he wrote his editor saying that
no one can possibly write about the essential filipino
in so short time, he asked for an extension
he was expecting a week, the editor was kind
but he was given only one lousy day extension
in desperation and panic, on his last day
he took a wild stab at marketplaces
in singalong, he sat on a curb too tired to think
then he realized his mistake
he was looking for places not people
the thought hit him like a terrorist’s bomb
the essential filipino was a person not a place
how stupid could he be, he thought
sitting on the curb in exasperation
he began looking at faces that passed by
he noticed a boy selling fishballs from a rolling cart
he had a torn shirt and was barefoot
what attracted him was not the fishballs
the boy gyrated like michael jackson
unmindful of the noisy crowd around him
the journalist approached him
noticing the earphones he wore
he instantly realized it was loud music
music that drowned the noise
and transported the boy into his inner garden
the journalist had to scream
in order to bring him back into the real world
the boy removed the earphones
*****************
JOURNALIST
Hey, what are you doing?
BOY
Fishballs, sir, wanna buy?
JOURNALIST
Nice earphones, huh?
THE BOY GIVES THE EARPHONES TO THE JOURNALIST, WHO PUTS THEM ON. HE INSTANTLY REMOVES IT, ALMOST FALLING FROM THE DEFEANING ROCK MUSIC. THE BOY SMILES AND PUTS THEM BACK ON.
JOURNALIST
Hey, wait, we’re talking.
THE BOY REMOVES THE EARPHONES AND HANDS HIM THE TINY MP3 PLAYER FROM HIS POCKET. THE JOURNALIST EXAMINES IT.
JOURNALIST
Where did you get this? This is expensive, first-class mp3 player with first-class earphones. They don’t match your air-conditioned shirt.
HE FLICKS THE HOLE IN HIS SHIRT.
BOY
I saved income from selling fishballs for one whole year just to buy that. Nice huh?
JOURNALIST
Why don’t you buy a new shirt and shoes?
BOY
No need. Not important. Waste of hard earned money. Clothes don’t make me happy, only music.
JOURNALIST
You kill yourself selling fishballs the whole day for a year just to buy those?
BOY
Why not? What would you buy? What is your dream? Me, this is my dream, but it is no longer a dream. It’s real now. I don’t need shirts and shoes, just a dream of dancing to music. What is your dream anyway?
AT FIRST, THE JOURNALIST IS AT A LOSS FOR WORDS BECAUSE HE REALLY HAS NO ‘DREAM’ IN MIND, OR PERHAPS HIS DREAM IS TO FILE A STORY, THAT IS ALL, BUT THAT IS NOT REALLY A ‘DREAM’. A DREAM MUST BE SPIRITUAL AND FOREVER, AS IMPLIED IN THE BOY’S WORDS.
JOURNALIST
I guess I have no dream. Or yes I have a dream but it is not a good dream.
BOY
Too bad. You must be very sad. Buy yourself an mp3.
JOURNALIST
But that is not my dream.
BOY
So what is your real dream. There must be something you really really like.
JOURNALIST
I have been working so hard to survive that I forget what I really really like. My life is work work work.
BOY
But I also work work work. You must find your true dream and go for it.
******************
and so the british journalist
was beginning to discern the essential filipino
he was amazed how in his dire poverty
the boy rejected the very materialism
that was gradually destroying affluent society
the essential filipino was a free spirit
who was poor and happy all at once
perhaps it came from his insular environment
or from his distant past, his austronesian roots
of nomads in tiny boats roaming the vast seas
the journalist took out a notebook
and started writing frantically
the boy peered into his writing, trying to read
and said aloud ‘essential filipino … free spirit
spiritual dreams … nomadic boat people …
*****************
BOY
(Grabbing the notebook.) I know this is your dream. You just don’t know it. What you write here is your dream.
JOURNALIST
(Stunned at the boy’s perception.) I … I … I guess so.
BOY
It is not a guess. You know it. Once you know your dream, you must go for it, or else you will be very sad and soon you will die because you know you have no more reason to live for. You must go for a dream or die. You cannot live just to live, can you?
JOURNALIST
Guess not. Thank you for telling me my dream.
ALMOST IN TEARS, THE JOURNALIST HUGS THE BOY AND GIVES HIM A HUNDRED PESO BILL. THE BOY IS STUNNED.
BOY
What for?
JOURNALIST
Because you help me find my dream that was right in front of my nose all this while.
BOY
Yes, you cannot see things that are too near. You have to move back to see.
JOURNALIST
Go, buy yourself more music.
**********************
it took thirty minutes for the journalist
to write his story at his hotel
in ten electronic milliseconds
the story was at the editor’s desk
the editor replied
‘this is the best story yet for a long time
our staff writers write about absurd things
what you wrote is an important wisdom
for the affluent world from the impoverished world
stay there for a month and write me more’
the journalist had a field day
his dream, like the boy, was now a reality
he would hang around with street vendors
later, he moved to the countryside
and wrote about the wisdom of farmers and fishermen
he immersed himself in the essential filipino
poor, happy, equipped with a different kind of wisdom
unknown in the affluent world
he married a kalinga native and wrote a book
a best seller entitled ‘discovering dreams’
it was a poorlittlerichboy
selling sticks of fishballs for six US cents each
which ignited his soul
the essential filipino whose ancient wisdom
was hard to find in civilized places he knew
eastwind
_________________________________________
where goodness abounds
there also is evil lurking
to sow confusion and hatred
where evil abounds
there also is virtue lurking
to sow harmony and peace
the tension between good and evil is everywhere
we perpetrate one or the other
the destiny of the world is up to each of us
_________________________________________
mahatma gandhi’s principle of non-violence
revolves around the concept that –
peace is a more powerful weapon than war
a smile is more powerful than a sneer
a whisper is louder than a scream
the calm is in the eye of the storm
and total darkness recedes
when a single candlelight glows
_________________________________________
we pedestal great men, creating semi-gods
like michael jackson and john lennon
not knowing the fame and fortune we bestow
would devour their spirits and consume them totally
of what use is the tall pedestal
men tell us to scale
when we would grow into giants
and fall with a resounding crash
better to be a happy unknown ant
than a sad noted giant
there is virtue in anonymity
and folly in popularity
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THE LORD REIGNS IN CYBERSPACE
amdg

Published by Anton

Anton worked for the biggest multinational company in the Philippines for 12+ years, straight out of college, before becoming a full-time Online Entrepreneur. He was the Chief Information Officer of Procter & Gamble Philippines when he finally quit his day job and decided to take his blog, Our Awesome Planet, to the next level in 2008. OurAwesomePlanet.com, which he started in 2005, is the number #1 food and travel media in the Philippines with over 500,000+ followers and thousands of readers, and is still organically growing. His advocacy is to promote the “Food and Travel Secrets in the Philippines” and to inspire Filipinos that living in the Philippines is truly awesome! He was recognized as Go Negosyo's Inspiring Young Filipino Entrepreneur Award in 2010. He was featured in Go Negosyo's 7th book: "Go Negosyo's 50 Inspiring Stories of Young Entrepreneurs" in 2011. In 2015, Anton Diaz received the first Tourism Star Award for media by the Department of Tourism for his valuable contribution in promoting Philippine cuisine and destinations through his blog Our Awesome Planet thereby encouraging tourists to visit and taste the best in what the Philippines has to offer. Our Awesome Planet is recognized as one of the Top 50 Travel Blogs in the world!

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