THE ESSENTIAL FILIPINO inspired by a true character * eastwind journals

Inspired by a True Character
eastwind journals
Spiritual Nuggets
total darkness recedes
when a single candlelight glows
This is the story of a veteran British journalist who learns lessons from a boy, a fish ball vendor that the author met in the Singalong marketplace. He inspired this anecdote. The journalist is assigned to write for a London magazine about “The Essential Filipino”.
A senior British journalist breezes into Manila with an assignment to write about The Essential Filipino. From his 30-year experience, this is peanuts. He relishes the free tour as complementary reward.
For three days, he runs around searching. He rejects the business district of Makati, which reminds him of cold calculating London. He goes to historical places in Intramuros (ancient Spanish walled city), but sees only a glimpse of the past, not the present. It was more of a tour, not investigative journalism. There must be something else, something deeper. He was getting tired and nervous, that he has not found his ‘easy’ story yet. Time is running out. He has to go back to London in two days.
He frantically wastes the next day on inconsequential probes into malls, churches, monuments. On his last day, he calls his editor, saying he needs more time, pleading for a one week extension. His editor frowns and gives him one lousy day.
In desperation, on his last day, he takes a wild stab at the busy dirty crowded Singalong marketplace. He sits on a curb, too tired and desperate to think. Then he realizes his mistake. The thought hit him like a terrorist’s bomb. The Essential Filipino is a person not a place. How stupid can he be, being a tourist not a journalist. It is staring at him right on the face.
He begins looking at faces that pass by. He notices a barefoot boy selling fish balls from a rolling cart. He has a dirty torn shirt which reads “I (heart) New York”, but instead of a ‘heart”, it is a hole.
The boy dances, mimicking quite accurately Michael Jackson’s famous gyrations, complete with a straw hat, unmindful of the noisy crowd around him. The journalist approaches him, noticing his earphones. He notes that it is the loud music that drowns the noise and transports the boy into his inner garden. The journalist screams at him, and pulls on his shirt to bring him back to solid earth. The boy removes the earphones
JOURNALIST – Hey, what are you doing?
BOY – Fish balls, 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 deafening Michael Jackson music. The boy smiles and put his earphones back on.
JOURNALIST – Hey, wait, I’m talking to you.
The boy removes the earphones and hands him the tiny mp3 player from his pocket.
JOURNALIST – Where did you get these? These are expensive mp3 player and earphones. It doesn’t jive with your shirt. Did you steal these?
The journalist flicks the hole in his shirt.
BOY – No, not steal. I saved income from selling fish balls for one year. Nice huh?
JOURNALIST – Why don’t you buy a new shirt and shoes?
BOY – No need. Not important. Waste of money. Clothes don’t make me happy, only music. Your shirt makes you happy?
The boy flicks the sleeve of the journalist’s shirt.
JOURNALIST – You kill yourself selling fish balls the whole day for a year just to buy those?
BOY – Why not? What would you buy? What is your dream? Me, my dream is now a reality. I don’t need shirts and shoes, just the dream of dancing like Michael. What is your dream?
JOURNALIST – I guess I have no dream. I mean, all I do is write stories to survive. Or yes I have a dream, but I don’t know what it is yet.
BOY – Yet? 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. Let me tell you how to have a dream.
The British journalist begins to discern The Essential Filipino. In his dire poverty, the boy rejects the very materialism that is gradually destroying affluent society. He is awed by his deep perception of life, this poor and seemingly uneducated boy.
JOURNALIST – (Scribbling wildly as he speaks.) The Essential Filipino is a free spirit who is ‘poor and happy’ all at once, in the words of Ernest Hemingway in his book Fiesta. Perhaps it comes from his insular environment, or from his distant past, his Austronesian roots of nomads in tiny boats roaming the vast Pacific.
The boy peers into his writing, trying to read, and says 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 – I … I … I guess so.
BOY – It is not a guess. You have found your dream, a dream inside you that you just don’t know. Once you know your dream, you must follow it, or else you will be very sad, and soon you will die because you have no more reason to live. You cannot live just to live, can you?
JOURNALIST – Guess not. Thank you for telling me my dream.
Instantly, the boy gives him his catharsis. Almost in tears, the journalist hugs the boy and gives him a hundred peso bill. The boy is stunned.
BOY – This is too much.
JOURNALIST – No, it’s too little. You help me find my dream that was right in front of my nose all the while. That’s worth a million pesos.
BOY – (Laughing.) Okay, give me a million pesos. Yes, you cannot see things that are too near your nose. 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 the lobby of his hotel. In ten electronic milliseconds, the story is at the editor’s desk in London.
EDITOR – (Over the phone.) Congratulations. This is the best story yet you’ve done. Journalists often write about absurd esoteric things, but what you wrote is down to earth, pure wisdom for the affluent world. Stay there for a month and write me more stories about The Essential Filipino.
The journalist has a field day. His dream, like the boy’s, is now a reality. He would hang around with street vendors, write about the happiness of small people. He is fascinated by a vendor, selling the heads, blood, and intestines of chicken for 10 US cents per barbecue stick, all smiles, not a care in the world. Later, he moves to the countryside and talks to farmers and fishermen, writing about how simple and enjoyable life is for poor people.
He learns of the creativity of fishermen, cooking rice on the vertical exhaust pipe of the fishing boat motor. By the time the boat reaches the open sea, the rice is cooked. They place live anchovies on the rice for lunch and drink gin to keep warm. They improvise snorkel plywood fins (only on one foot) that move the diver faster than regular rubber fins. They do not have an oxygen tank. Instead, they have the boat’s ‘anchor’, an LPG tank, which they suck for oxygen every 3 minutes.
He immerses himself in The Essential Filipino, poor, happy, full of improvisation, equipped with a different kind of wisdom unknown in the decadent rich nations. He marries a Kalinga native and writes a book entitled ‘The Joy of Poverty’, which makes him famous in England and America.
Total darkness recedes when a single candlelight glows
where goodness abounds, evil lurks
to sow confusion and hatred among the good
where evil abounds, goodness lurks
to bring forgiveness and inner peace among the evil
mahatma gandhi’s principle of non-violence
revolves around the concepts 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
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 we bestow
devours their spirits and destroys them
men we pedestal fall in a big crash
better to be a happy unknown ant
than a sad famous gi-ant
there is virtue in anonymity
and folly in popularity
For the terminally sick, say a healing prayer
with Fr. Fernando Suarez
or with Sr. Raquel Reodica, RVM

eastwind posters 09 and 15
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