eastwind journals – June 5, 2021

By Bernie V. Lopez,

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My cousin tells me this story about his new neighbor who just bought a house. It was a luxurious and elegant bungalow, almost new, hardly used by its former owner, who was always abroad. He bought it for 11 million pesos, but he spent another 5 million renovating it. It turned out, the house was better off untouched. The design was so simple and elegant, but he made it a complex labyrinth. It lost its luster.

He overhauled the beautiful garden, cutting down trees that gave plenty of shade – a balete (ficus), two kaimitos (star apple) and a host of dwarf coconuts, which bore inedible but ornamental fruits as orange as the sunset. He replaced the trees with a lot of shrubs that dried up fast in the heat.

Perhaps he just had no taste, but there was something deeper. He had too much money and did not know what to do with it. He was trading seaweeds (agar-agar) for exports to China, and made his windfall in just a year. He was a noveau riche (French for ‘newly rich’), who had no idea how to spend his wealth. The old rich do not flaunt their wealth. Life was simple and elegant for them. But for the newly-rich, life was a complex frenzy of sometimes changing what was good and replacing with what was bad. Someone must teach them the virtue of simplicity.


When I was in New York, I had a Filipino friend who bought an expensive pad on the New Jersey side near the Hudson River with a fantastic view of the Manhattan skyline. A 3-km scenic elongated park, where kids biked and elderlies sauntered, hugged the river bank. He threw many parties, boasting of his paradise. But it was a knee-jerk purchase.

He failed to realize that he was about to retire, and the amortization was just too big. He was blinded by the romantic view, which he got tired of after just a month. He failed to see this even though he was a Financial Analyst for a movie production outfit. A year after retirement, he was forced to sell the pad at a big loss to avoid bank take-over. He ended up in an old house in a remote village in Rhode Island.

Before purchasing his paradise, he refused an offer to buy a simple, cheap but elegant house in Roosevelt Island, a fascinating romantic place in the heart of Manhattan, complete with a cable car, insulated from its hustle and bustle. It was a tiny heaven surrounded by hell. He later regretted not buying it. Simplicity is a virtue.


I met a French backpacker who spent his last lifetime savings to buy a pristine island off Mindoro Occidental. He said, “This is it, paradise.” He had to marry a Filipino bar girl to maneuver around the law banning foreigners to buy land. He ended up being under the saya (skirt), run by a dominant wife, and had to pay a lot of ‘taxes’ for licenses to the greedy local government.

When he learned I was also a backpacker once, he poured his heart out to me over a case of beer and a lot of sobs. I told him you can buy an island but not happiness. Why are people so stuck with the material? Happiness is of the heart, not of the pocket. (Read the complete story –


I have a very rich Filipino friend who was obsessed with cars. He had eight cars and three SUVs, including a Benz, Ferrari, and Porsche. When I told him he could be happier having just three cars and a foundation for the poor, he said, “Pakialam mo (none of your business). I have the right to spend my hard-earned money the way I like.” Next day he apologized, but bought another car, perhaps to spite me. Simplicity is a hard virtue to have for the rich.


I friend told me, “Too bad, they could not see the forest, only the trees. They all missed the big picture.” A general can see the entire war with a helicopter view from his tent a hundred kilometers from the front lines, while soldiers see mud and blood at ground level. Perspective is power that sees that simplicity is indeed a virtue.

In Uffington, England, a mammoth white horse 110 meters long was carved from limestone on a mountain side by ancient people 3,000 years ago. It was discovered only when the airplane was invented. Sometimes, when you are too close, you see nothing. You have to step back to see the big picture.

You can buy a house but not a home, a clock but not time, an island but not inner peace, pleasure but not love. Spiritual things just cannot be bought.

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By Bernie V. Lopez,

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Blogger – ex-Columnist (Inquirer) – Healing Ministry – ex-Professor (Ateneo U) – Documentary Producer-Director (freelance, ex-ABS-CBN) – ex-Broadcaster (Radio Veritas) – Facebook “Bernie V. Lopez Eastwind” / Pages “Eastwind Journeys and Journals” and “Mary Queen of Peace”.


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